Kind of beggars belief that it has taken this long to highlight such an outstanding debut single as part of this occasional series

mp3: The Jam – In The City

I’d be lying if I said I can remember this being released on 29 April 1977 and it reaching No. 40 on the UK Singles Chart in May 1977.  I can’t even recall seeing it on Top of The Pops on Thursday 19 May 1977 (when it aired despite being outside the Top 40, sitting that particular week at #45).

Yup…..feel free to cringe at David ‘Kid’ Jensen‘s awful shirt and his half-arsed effort at playing air guitar.

It would actually be a couple more years before I fully cottoned on to The Jam, but when I did, they quickly became my favourite group in my mid-late teenage years as my tastes shifted increasingly towards new wave/post-punk. In The City is a tremendously energetic and exciting debut.

I didn’t, even in 1979 as I became familiar with it, get the comparisons with The Who, a band I only knew from their rather dull mid-70s releases such as Substitute and Who Are You?, or from staple songs of ‘The Golden Hour’ such as My Generation and Pinball Wizard, none of which had the attitude or vibrancy of The Jam. But, in my defence, I had a lot of learning/catching-up to do in years to come.

mp3: The Who – In The City

The b-side of I’m A Boy, their #2 hit from 1966, that had never been included (at that point in time) on any album and despite its relative obscurity, was a track which Paul Weller was clearly very familiar with.



  1. Yes, a good debut from The Jam. But Substitute was neither dull nor from the mid-70’s. It was released as a single In 1966, several months before I’m A Boy. And it’s a quality tune. Not sure if the line “I look all white but my dad was black” was provocative in the UK. It was in the States and had to be changed.

  2. I think the Jam did a pretty good job covering the Who’s So Sad About Us on the flip of Down in the Tube Station at Midnight. It’s a little tinny and played more like a ballad in the studio version, but the song was part of their live sets in ’77 and really moved. Off topic, but I think I might like the version by the Breeders even more.

  3. @JTFL: Substitute was, however, a top ten hit again in 1976 when it was re-issued to promote the greatest hits album “The Story Of The Who”.

  4. A song that was taken from possibly from the 1st post punk/new wave LPs to enter my house via a monthly mail order record service – the name of which escapes me. I’m guessing the LP arrived significantly later than the single as the mail order company wasn’t what I would describe as up – to-the-minute.

    As a debut single In The City is an absolute cracker. There’s – and I may well be talking out of my arse here – a punk inspired sophistication to it and for me it oozes just the right amount of confidence.

    Weller is someone, that throughout The Jam years, impressed my greatly as a lyricist and musician but – based on interviews – he was someone I really couldn’t stand. The arrogance of youth, perhaps? His and mine. OK. Maybe just mine.

    While I was gutted when The Jam split I admired and continue to admire that he never looked back.

    As ever, when it comes to Mr Weller, I’m conflicted.

  5. Clearly Weller had heard the Who track but as someone or other has said “Talent Borrows, Genius Steals”!

  6. Good debut, but, like JC, it also took me a couple of years to appreciate The Jam. Not sure I’m wrong about that, given the very retro Mod flavour of their early stuff (and that dumb – and regretted- “we’re voting Tory” quote from 77 or 78). Their imperial phase between Tube Station and Town Called Malice must be the best run of singles by any band (60s Scousers included), and Going Underground a brilliantly scathing demolition of Tory attitudes that happened to go straight in at number one. Mr Weller’s subsequent work has left me cold, but that’s my problem.

  7. Sorry to correct you on details, but Substitute was a mid 60s single by The Who, although a bit agin in the 70s when taken from the double LP compilation The Story of The Who. Why that single was chosen I have no idea, and lackluster as it may be, it gave you a false impression if you thought it represented their mid 70s fodder. I’ve always loved the directness and enthusiasm of In The City, a great debut. I wonder what would have happened had Polydor signed their first choice punk band, The Clash, as everyone expected at the time?

  8. @Dane: Another example of the different ways music was released in the UK vs. US. ‘Story of The Who’ indeed came out in ’76, but not in the States. Substitute was included on ‘Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy’, a collection of the band’s 60’s singles that reached number 9 in the UK charts. But that LP was released way back in 1971, so maybe it’s a bit old for the TVV crowd to remember. In the US The Who released the outtakes collection ‘Odds & Sods’ in 1974. The compilation ‘Hooligans’ came out in 1981, but only featured songs from the band’s 70’s catalog. It wasn’t until 1983 that The Who got a legit American ‘Greatest Hits’ LP. The lead track was Substitute.

    Re The Jam: The first two LPs were okay, but of course I never heard them as the band were unknown in the States. It wasn’t until an English friend gave me a tape with ‘Down In the Tube Station’ that I first learned of the band, and was immediately hooked.

  9. The Jam is my favourite band of all time. Setting Sons is their masterpiece. Although the inclusion of Heatwave is rather pointless. In the City is a great song unfortunately for me not a great lp. I’m sure plenty will disagree.

  10. My total guess is that the median age for TVV blog readers is late 50’s. Those who are slightly younger (early 50’s) were 13-15 when the Jam split so they were likely to listen to the albums when Weller was in the style council. I was just 15 when ‘Snap’ came out and I still think it is one of the best compilations out there. Side 3 was just non-stop brilliance..I think listening to it was the start of my musical education so thanks Weller, Buckler and Foxton!

  11. There’s something timeless, or maybe out of sync about In The CIty. Upon first hearing , it’s a great, sneering Punk song, but there’s an amphetamine quality that gives it a retro feel. Whatever it is, it still one of the strongest Guitar/Bass/Drums tracks of all time.

    My love for The Jam began with All Mod Cons, but within a week of owning it, I had In The City and This Is The Modern World. For a good few months I listened to little else and became so enamored of them they rivaled my love of The Clash.

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