A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (15)

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON MONDAY 5 MAY 2008

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Oh…..I’m going to be in bother for giving this a chart placing as low as #15. Especially as I’ve used dozens of past postings to tell the world of my adoration for The Jam.

This was the first band that I ever got infatuated with. They were the first band that I ever queued up for tickets overnight, lying on a cold and wet Glasgow pavement in a sleeping bag.

The minute the record shop opened on the day the band released a new single or LP, I was waiting to go in and buy it. My part of the bedroom wall in the room that I shared with my brothers was covered in posters of The Jam.

On day when I saw a friend’s wall had all the picture sleeves from the singles stuck to his bedroom wall, I went home and did the same. My shrine to Buckler, Foxton and Weller had to be better than that of anyone else I knew.

The break-up of the band didn’t send me into a sulk. Instead, I thought this was a chance to watch and enjoy each of their new bands and wait for the inevitable reunion (got that last bit spectacularly wrong, didn’t I???)

Even when The Style Council broke up and interest in The Jam was at a low, I could still be relied to keep talking about them to anyone who was interested. I think it was 1992 when myself and a mate were 40% of the audience at a theatre-show at the Edinburgh Fringe, all about the story behind the formation, success and break-up of The Jam. The other 60% in the audience were Sean Hughes, Phil Jupitus and some mate of theirs who probably worked for Channel 4 or the BBC…

No other band gave me such agony choosing which single to select for inclusion in the run-down. It could easily have been In The City which introduced me to them at an early stage. Or Down In the Tube Station At Midnight, a song that on release I thought would always be my favourite record of all time. Just as equally, Strange Town and When You’re Young are singles that mean so much to me – often because with The Jam, the B-sides were just as good as the single, and this was very much the case with The Butterfly Collector and Smithers-Jones respectively.

In the end, after much agonising, I’ve gone for Going Underground, and I’ve done so because it was the song that allowed me to say, to the watching world and all those who had cast dispersions on the band, YOU WERE WRONG, AND ALL THE TIME I WAS RIGHT.

In 1980, singles didn’t enter the charts at the #1 position. Instead, they came in somewhere in the 20s and that got you onto Top of the Pops. The single would sell well on the back of this TV appearance, would climb a few places and then again the following week into the Top 10. The second TOTP appearance would follow, and if it was different enough from the first one and Radio 1 was still playing it, then the Top 5 and a chance at #1 would follow. It was always a 3-4 week cycle to hit the top slot.

Going Underground broke all the rules of the game. It flew in at #1 and stayed there for three weeks.

Critics of the band said it only did this as the initial copies of the single came with a limited edition live EP, and thus fans rushed out and bought it immediately. The fact that The Jam would repeat the straight in at #1 on two more occasions soon disproved that theory.

Going Underground is my favourite Jam single for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it proved that in March 1980, The Jam were by far and away the biggest and most popular band in the UK – despite which, the band still managed to make long-time fans feel they were still something special.

Secondly, it was an attack on the Thatcher government’s policy of increased spending on nuclear weapons, and as a member of CND (weren’t we all in those days), this song seemed significant in spreading the word to a wide audience.

Thirdly, the B-side was another brilliant Jam song. So brilliant, it was originally intended as a double-A release, only the printing press got it wrong. Allegedly.

Finally, it did in fact come with a great live EP which didn’t bleep-out the swear words on The Modern World……

mp3 : The Jam – Going Underground
mp3 : The Jam – Dreams Of Children
mp3 : The Jam – Away From The Numbers (live)
mp3 : The Jam – The Modern World (live)
mp3 : The Jam – Down In The Tube Station At Midnight (live)

This was another single that I lost in the Edinburgh flit. But it was one that I chased up on e-bay not long after I got the USB Turntable and re-kindled the interest in vinyl.

So why only #15 in this rundown? Well, its just too good to be at #16 or lower…..

NB : This 45 was of course featured just a few months ago in my look back over all the singles ever released by The Jam.  Click here for a reminder.

ONE MORE REASON WHY JANUARY 2016 HAS SUCKED

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Today was meant to feature the latest in the series of singles by The Style Council but this is what I’d rather share with you today.

Some of you will know that this particular blog, which sprang into action in July 2013, is the descendant of The Vinyl Villain which ran with more than 1,000 postings (many of which were from guest contributors) between September 2006 and June 2013 when it was closed down by Google without any advance warning.

The one thing the two blogs have in common is the ability to bring total strangers together and turn them into close friends, even if they never ever get to meet in person. The common bond of course is a love of music and the fact that there are people out there who share similar tastes and whose fandom for certain singers, bands or even certain songs piques an interest.

It was a song that led to a blogger called Helpless Dancer (HD) to get in touch back in 2008, and after a very pleasant exchange of emails, this is what he ended up writing on his blog:-

Music and Dumbarton FC – Two Passions Collide

For a long time I have been searching through my boxes of stored CD’s looking for a CD Single by The Supernaturals which had a B-side entitled “High Tension At Boghead” to no avail.

Recently I have been checking out and enjoying the Vinyl Villain blog which features a massive amount of Scottish related music and as a last resort I posted a comment asking if by any chance they had the aforementioned track and to my great pleasure it has been posted today so many thanks VV!!

I should explain that the song is directly related to HD’s football team, which as you’ll have surmised from the title of his post is Dumbarton FC.

High Tension At Boghead is a strange but enjoyable wee number telling the tale of a young boy’s first venture to a ‘big’ football match, an occasion he found rather underwhelming but thankfully there was enough happening around the ground to keep him amused.

The picture at the top of this post is the rear of the main stand at Boghead, a ground I had the pleasure of visiting a few times and which has a particularly happy memory as being the place that I took a child to his first match – the son of my best mate (RIP) who at this point in time had left Raith Rovers to play for Ayr United at the tail end of his career.

Dumbarton FC left Boghead Park in 2000 and moved a few hundred yards away to a new ground by the banks of the river which flows through the town.  The old ground is now occupied by housing but it has of course been immortalised in song:-

mp3 : The Supernaturals – High Tension At Boghead

HD subsequently became a regular contributor to the blog via the comments section, as indeed did Son Of The Rock another music fan with a love for Dumbarton FC (or perhaps the other way round!!). I actually ended up going to a couple of Rovers v Dumbarton matches with SoTR, always thoroughly enjoying his company, but a couple of plans to meet up with HD fell through on my part.

HD’s blog came to a halt in mid 2011, some 18 months after the very sudden death of his wife at the young age of 49; it was clear to those of us who were reading his stuff that listening to a lot of his favourite music had just become too painful. He was the sort of blogger who wore his heart on his sleeve and the way he wrote about his love and adoration for his late wife was very moving. When he closed down the blog he indicated that archive postings would remain open which is why I’ve mean able to maintain a link over on the right hand side under the section ‘Old Friends No Longer Active In The Field’

The sad thing now is that HD himself has passed away at the age of 55 – very suddenly and very unexpectedly.

And it was only a week or so after his after his death that I’ve been able to join some dots and realise that HD was in fact not just a fan of Dumbarton FC, but one of those hardy souls who devote all their spare energy to their team. In this case, HD had risen from being a fan on the terraces to the position of Chief Executive at his club, a role that also saw him provide sterling service to the game in Scotland as a whole.

The realisation came from reading his obituary in a newspaper which mentioned that he had been widowed back in 2010 which was just too much of a coincidence for me not to delve a bit deeper. For the first time in ages I went back into his old site and there it was, just below the posting announcing he was closing down the blog, vital info that you could catch him on Facebook under his real name of Gilbert Lawrie.

The realisation hit me quite hard for the simple reason that on at least ten occasions over the past few years I will have been sitting a matter of yards away from him at football matches and had many an opportunity to introduce myself and say hello….and I really regret that it never happened. After all, over the years I’ve met a fair number of folk who I got to know initially through blogging, and to a man and woman they have been the most wonderful and warm people imaginable.  HD/Gilbert would have been no different.

The tributes for Gilbert Lawrie last week were many for he was incredibly popular in the small world that is Scottish football. At least one of the formal obituaries which appeared in a local paper made reference to his love of music and in particular that he was a fan and avid collector of all things by The Who. The conversation we would have had about Paul Weller would have been fascinating.

This one is for a good mate who I never ever met, but who I’m proud to say I knew.

mp3 : The Jam – So Sad About Us

RIP Helpless Dancer. The music and football worlds are poorer places without you.

THE STYLE COUNCIL SINGLES (4)

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The huge success of the first three singles by The Style Council, particularly the Top 3 chart position of Long Hot Summer, was clear evidence that Paul Weller wasn’t ever going to need to reform The Jam.

While some fans were really struggling to move on and accept the new band, I was one of those who thought TSC were producing some great stuff, albeit I was more than baffled by the overly pretentious sleeve notes that really made little or no sense at all.

Long Hot Summer and all the other tracks on that EP had been on very heavy rotation, and I was thrilled to read that the follow-up single was going to be called A Solid Bond In Your Heart, simply as I remembered that The Jam had, a couple of years earlier, given that very name to one of their UK tours. So I was expecting something really special….a song that would somehow blend the chic sound of Long Hot Summer and the funk/pop of the later singles by The Jam.

Instead, I found myself listening to a single that had the most appalling saxophone sound all over it. I remember playing it something like three or four times in a row looking for something to like about it….I mean Zeke Manyika  was drumming on it so there had to be something my ears could pick up on…..but no, that bloody awful saxophone dominated everything. I was bitterly let down by it. It sounded as if was a record written by George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley

But clearly I was in a minority, for it was a record that sold very well, climbing to #11 in the pop charts.

mp3 : The Style Council – A Solid Bond In Your Heart

To be fair, I really liked the b-side which to this day is one of my favourite TSC compositions:-

mp3 : The Style Council – It Just Came To Pieces In My Hand

And I suppose I really should finish things off by shoving up the third track that came on the 7″gatefold sleeve version of the single….but I’ll warn you, that saxophone features prominently:-

mp3 : The Style Council – A Solid Bond In Your Heart (instrumental)

The Jam’s earlier version eventually appeared as a track on the Extras CD released in 1992 and then a slightly extended version was included in the Direction Reaction Creation boxset in 1997.

mp3 : The Jam – A Solid Bond In Your Heart (extended)

Seemingly a contender for the final ever 45 by the band, it was a late call instead to go with Beat Surrender.

Part 5 of this series will return in the new year with a tune that was, IMHO, a return to form.

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #52 : THE JAM

So having got all the singles out-of-the-way, I thought I’d be completely self-indulgent and try to pull together a decent ICA without any of the songs that ever appeared on the 45s – and that includes those which were featured live versions on bonus discs. Despite the fact that well over 40 songs were ruled out from the outset, it still proved a challenge to settle on these particular two sides of vinyl.

Side A

1. Art School (from In The City)

Time hasn’t been all that kind to the first two LPs which is why the opening track of their debut is the only one to make the cut. This was seen as a potential single by Polydor Records with a promo video (of sorts) being filmed on the same day as In The City. Most bands would have gone for a second single to boost the sales of the debut album but given that Paul Weller was writing songs at a prestigious rate at the time, and that he was desperate to get the new material out as quickly as possible, then any thoughts of Art School being a 45 were shelved. It’s a more than decently energetic tune, with a lyric that basically said punk/new wave was the modern-day equivalent of art schools where you could dare to be different and challenge the traditional ways of thinking. These were also of course the type of establishments where so many well-respected British musicians of the 60s and early 70s had started out….

2. Thick As Thieves (from Setting Sons)

It is astonishing to look back and realise that Weller was barely 21 years of age when he wrote the songs that made up Setting Sons, the band’s fourth and most ambitious album. There’s no doubt that in his head he wanted to pull together a concept album telling the story of three childhood friends whose lives don’t go the way of their youngdreams with everything changing after them fighting but surviving a war. The concept wasn’t fully realised, possibly being down to him deciding it was an ‘unpunk’ thing to do or perhaps it became just too big a challenge in too short a timescale.  It’s a real pity and begs the thought ‘if only….’ for the foundations that were laid down, as exemplified by Thick As Thieves, make you think that the result could well have been a record forever feted to be near the top of the all-time classic lists.

3. Billy Hunt (from All Mod Cons)

Another great anthemic Jam song that many had marked out as a potential 45.

Billy Hunt is actually a pitiful figure of disaffected youth when you analyse it. He hates the idea that he is always getting picked on by everyone, unafirly in his mind, and he dreams of somehow inheriting the powers of fictional film and TV characters and taking his revenge after which he’ll happily head down to a pub that has strip shows for entertainment. He’s not exactly answering the call to arms that so many punk bands were making at the time.

Incidentally, I always thought that the character Ziggy Sobotka from Series 2 of The Wire is a 21st Century Billy Hunt….

4. Little Boy Soldiers (from Setting Sons)

A song like no other in the history of the band and perhaps the new wave era’s equivalent of Bohemian Rhapsody – or at least that’s how I initially felt when listening to this as a 16-year old back in 1979. It was earnest and it was thought-provoking stuff but above else it was unsettling, thanks in part to its constant changes in pace and rhythm but also as a result of the doom and gloom nature of the lyric.

OK, I was sure that I was going to leave school, head off to university and find myself some sort of job  linked to whatever qualifications I manged to get but I knew quite a few folk who were hell-bent on joining the armed forces and seeing what happened from there….none of them of course even remotely considered that in doing so they were putting their young lives at risk. I wanted so much to give every one of them a cassette with this song on and ask them to have a serious think about things….

5. Boy About Town (from Sound Affects)

It doesn’t do well to dwell for too long on the implications of Little Boy Soldiers otherwise you’ll end up depressed, miserable and worried about where the world is heading, so it’s important to bounce back with a great bit of pop music that puts a a smile on your face and makes you leap off the settee/chair/bean bag and flip your 12” piece of vinyl with its classic red Polydor label over to the other side for another fifteen or so minutes of class.

Side B

1. Happy Together (from The Gift)

Let’s get this party pumping. This is one where Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler really come into their own, driving the song along at a tremendous pace and in the bass players’s instance adding an essential backing vocal. The ending where Paul Weller chants out NOW!!!!!!! Is one of my favourite moments on any Jam song – single, b-side or album track.

2. Saturday’s Kids (from Setting Sons)

And let’s keep things moving along apace with this paean to growing up in a working-class household.

At 16, I had no idea what the line ‘stains on the seats – in the back of course’ was all about. Nor did I know who smoked Capstan Non-Filters (Embassy Regal? yup….that was my dad’s choice of habit) and for Selsey Bill and Bracklesam Bay you would have had to substitute places a little nearer home or insert Blackpool which around half of Glasgow seemed to migrate to in the last two weeks in July back in the mid-70s.  Otherwise it was a song that resonated with me and even now I can recite every single word of the lyric.  But I do accept that, with its descriptions of things that aren’t part of modern society then it’s a lyric very much of its time and so probably won’t resonate much with today’s kids….except perhaps the bit about hating the system. Some things just never change.

3. To Be Someone (Didn’t We Have a Nice Time) (from All Mod Cons)

It will seem strange hearing this out of context with it not being preceded by the title track of All Mod Cons.

As a teenager, there’s just no possibility in your own mind of there being any downside to being famous and rich from getting paid wads of money for doing something you loved like football or music. And yet, here’s someone who I’m looking on as a bit of a role model (despite the fact he’s only 5 years older than me  – although at 14/15 that is such a huge age difference) warning me off. All these years later, and the growth of celebrity and its associated frenzied media feeding makes me glad that I’ve got myself through life without ever reaching the giddy heights of being a someone – I’d never ever want to get as angry or as pissed off with my lot as Mr Weller was in 1978.

4. Man In The Corner Shop (from Sound Affects)

There’s something intrinsically sad about this mid-paced number which I’ve always thought is a hidden gem of a song.

I’ve never thought its central message was that everyone is born equal; nor do I think Paul Weller thinks that to be the case and so his tongue is very much in his cheek when he sings those particular lines. The sadness come from the fact that neither of the factory worker or shop owner are happy with their lot and both believe the grass on the other side is a much more favourable shade of green. Even sadder isturning your thoughts to what was likely to have happened to the protagonists in real life over the subsequent 2-3 years….a factory closure and redundancy for the blue-collar worker and the end of the family business for the shop owner as the supermarkets take over?  Most likely…..and and as for the factory owner….well, he was never really ever any better off than the other two….maybe just a little bit richer in financial terms. In other words, the central message of Man In The Corner Shop is really quite simple……………………….

Life Sucks.

5. The Gift (from The Gift)

Just as Art School as the opening song on Side A of the first album served the purpose of announcing the arrival of a new and exciting band, so the final song on Side B of the final album serves the purpose of providing us with a very fine sign-off.

Go and shout it from your roof mountain top – The Jam were a fucking ace combo and one of the greatest things to happen to music in my generation.

mp3 : The Jam – Art School
mp3 : The Jam – Thick As Thieves
mp3 : The Jam – Billy Hunt
mp3 : The Jam – Little Boy Soldiers
mp3 : The Jam – Boy About Town
mp3 : The Jam – Happy Together
mp3 : The Jam – Saturday’s Kids
mp3 : The Jam – To Be Somone (Didn’t We Have A Nice Time)
mp3 : The Jam – Man In The Corner Shop
mp3 : The Jam – The Gift

That’s the last of The Jam for the time being……

 

THE JAM SINGLES (18)

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R-6925464-1429642603-4814.jpegOn 30 October 1982 it was officially confirmed that The Jam would be splitting up at the end of the year.  Prior to that there would be one last single and dates on the winter tour of the UK would be fulfilled.  The news was greeted with some dismay but no real shock as the songs were now a long way removed from how they had started out and it was clear that Paul Weller wanted to go in a totally different direction from Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler.

On Thursday 26 November the band began the farewell tour at the Glasgow Apollo.  Having camped out for tickets some months previously, long before the band break-up had been announced, I had a very hot and in demand piece of paper but there was no way I was giving it up no matter how much I was offered.

The following day, the band’s last single was released in standard 7″ a double-pack of 7″ singles and in a 12″ format.  It went straight to #1 where it stayed for two weeks:-

mp3 : The Jam – Beat Surrender
mp3 : The Jam – Shopping
mp3 : The Jam – Move On Up
mp3 : The Jam – Stoned Out Of My Mind
mp3 : The Jam – War

It was a gloriously upbeat end to the band’s career. Not their best single by a long way but still a decent ending. They had scored eighteen successive Top 40 hit 45s with two of these being via the very unlikely and unusual import-only route. The standard 7″ came with Shopping on the b-side while the double pack and 12″ offered the three soul covers that had been made famous originally by Curtis Mayfield, The Chi-Lites and Edwin Starr.

No other versions on offer today.  And that would be that except that I want to offer a little bonus.

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At the very height of their popularity, the band made a one-off recording available for publication called Flexipop which had the gimmick of offering an otherwise unreleased recording by some of the best selling artists of the day.  The Jam offered something very unusual indeed along with a different recording of a track from Sound Affects:-

mp3 : The Jam – Pop Art Poem
mp3 : The Jam – Boy About Town (flexipop version)

And that seems as good a way as any to bring the series to a close.

Next up for the singles treatment……The Style Council.

(Well it had to be didn’t it????)

Enjoy

THE JAM SINGLES (17)

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It might well have turned out to be the band’s penultimate 45 but even then it managed to achieve a couple of firsts, not least having a contribution from a female backing vocalist in the shape of Jennie McKeown of The Belle Stars (and NOT Tracie Young as many folk mistakenly believe) while the b-side had the very unusual combination of two tracks running seamlessly into one another, with the first song being a new original and the second a cover of an old R&B number….

mp3 : The Jam – The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow)
mp3 : The Jam – Pity Poor Alfie/Fever

Released on 10 September 1982, it was another surprise to fans in that this was more a classic pop number in the long history of break-up songs while the new original track on the b-side immediately brought to mind the theme tune of The Sweeney, a very popular and at the time ground-breaking TV cop show in the UK from the mid-1970s.

It reached #2 in the singles chart but it couldn’t quite dislodge Eye of The Tiger…….

It was going to be interesting to see where the band went from there.  But what happened next was a shock even if it had been on the cards for some time…

A couple of alternative versions are available courtesy of the Direction Reaction Creation box set.

mp3 : The Jam – The Bitterest Pill I Ever Had To Swallow (first version)

Rather different in tone and sound with much reliance on piano and no backing vocal from Jennie.

mp3 : The Jam – Pity Poor Alfie (swing version)

Totally different sounding (ie nothing like The Sweeney!!) with the bass guitar to the fore and a rather different vocal delivery. It also extends out to well over four minutes with a sax solo and major contributions on the Hammond Organ….

The Bitterest Pill wasn’t re-released in 1983 at time whan all the other old singles came out again, presumably on the grounds it was just too soon after the original release. However, it did appear again in 1997 as a CD single to promote the release of yet another compilation album where it was backed by the first version of the song together with The Butterfly Collector and That’s Entertainment.

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It reached #30 in the singles chart

Enjoy

THE JAM SINGLES (16)

R-1089268-1235096691.jpegMalice/Precious had been followed a month or so later by the LP The Gift which had given the band their first ever #1 album. The problem was the album only had 10 tracks with two of these having been the previous double-A sided single and there was reluctance on the band’s part to authorise any further releases in the UK.

However, such was the clamour for material that a single from the parent album, released only in Holland, sold in such amazing quantities on import that it reached #8 in the UK singles chart in July 1982.  The demand was partly driven by the fact that its two b-sides were previously unreleased material, one being a cover that reflected Paul Weller‘s ever-growing infatuation with CND while the other was a completely new composition:-

mp3 : The Jam – Just Who Is The Five O’Clock Hero
mp3 : The Jam – War
mp3 : The Jam – The Great Depression

Can’t offer any alternative versions of any of these today….standards are slipping.

And just like That’s Entertainment, the previous import hit, this particular 45 was later given an official UK release in the UK but it didn’t break into the Top 100…..

Enjoy