The past two weekends have been ruined here in Central Indiana by snow and ice storms, especially last weekend. You see, my boys and their wives were supposed to head to Chicago for a weekend of fun, while my wife and I got to have our six-month-old granddaughter for the that time period. But, while the local meteorologists were all screaming some sort of “Snowmageddon,” we were thinking that we got screwed of this special time by the weather gods. Then, as what seems to be the usual in the whole of predicting weather, we got some ice, which is bad, but we missed the grand total of predicted snowfall of 5 to 8 inches by 4 to 7 inches! And, no amount of blowing will cause dangerous drifting of snow, just some pesky black ice, which can be a pain but is manageable. Needless to say, we were happy that the adult kids stayed home, but we so wanted to spend the weekend spoiling…er…taking care of our beautiful granddaughter that we were at a loss as to what to do with our selves. When you become part of a couple who is quickly approaching our 34th wedding anniversary, we always think back to that Bruce Springsteen concert in the Fall of 1985 when The Boss, while introducing “No Surrender,” spun a tale about a long-married couple looking at each other and saying, “Do I have to sit around here and look at your face again?” While we have used that line over the years of our marriage, it looks ring a little too close to home these days.
So, while we attempted to take refuge in a couple of college basketball games on TV Saturday, it did not help, especially when I would periodically revert back to Coach Keller and yell at the player with the ball to pass it to the open man or watch in disgust as another defensive assignment was blown. To calm down, I went over to help my wife work on our annual winter puzzle. But, that did not help for very long as my back began to scream in pain. So, it was off to the Music Room. While rooting around, looking for something I had not listened to in a while, I dug out my albums by The Jam. Which, got me reminiscing about my discovery of punk rock.
You see, growing up in the Midwest USA the radio stations tends to be conservative here, as I have bitched about before. So, while I was reading about some “cool” new artists in Creem magazine back in 1976 and 1977, I decided that I would make some purchases based on those old album reviews. Because of that magazine, I entered the punk rock world as a bright-eyed, acne-face, ultra-skinny, somewhat athletic teen. During that time, I purchased albums by the Sex Pistols, Blondie, Talking Heads, The Clash, Cheap Trick, Ramones, Elvis Costello, The Runaways and The Jam. It’s always an exciting time as a young person begins to develop their morals, ideals and musical tastes. That’s why those musical tastes stick with us, because we associate that time with excitement and naiveté. Little did I know at the time that Cheap Trick, Costello and Paul Weller of The Jam would be some of the more important artists in my life as they continue their artistic journeys to this very day.
Initially, I thought the Sex Pistols, Blondie and Talking Heads were going to have the longest careers. Boy, was I ever out of touch? The Sex Pistols imploded within a year of my purchase of their debut album. I should have guessed they were not in it for the long haul, but I was stupid at the time. Slowly, Blondie and Talking Heads did become main stream successes, but the weight of that success caused ego issues, which lead to their respective demises, though Blondie has since resumed their career, albeit in a much smaller capacity than before.
Still, the punk artist who has blown me away ever so consistently over the years has been The Jam’s mastermind Paul Weller. Now, The Jam never caught on in the States. It probably has to due with Weller’s lyrics being much like The Kinks’ Ray Davies’ lyrics, as they both spent much time commenting on and depicting lower and middle class English society. While many Americans were probably confused by the lyrics and the Anglo sayings, The Jam was becoming the biggest band in the UK during the late-Seventies and early-Eighties. So, while radio in the States was giving us a daily helping of the California sound, by the likes of the Doobie Brothers, Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles and Steely Dan, all terrific bands when played in moderation, but makes for the most boring radio sound when crammed back-to-back-to-back. I knew from my record collection that America was missing out on some very compelling music.
Still, what I most loved about The Jam was their R&B/Soul influence, that was missing in early cuts by the Pistols and The Clash (though they would eventually catch up to The Jam in that regard and eventually did surpass them, at least until they imploded as well). I loved the fact that The Jam spent their last album attempting to breakdown the wall between Motown and punk. And, they damn near succeeded in my mind. Sure, their last album, The Gift, released to much success in the UK, almost pulled off that feat, yet, they ultimately fell short. Thus, at that point, although Weller had one of the most underrated bassists of all-time in Bruce Foxton, he could not pull off the music he heard in his head. Thus, at the end of 1982, he announced that he was pulling the plug on The Jam.
Quickly, Weller formed another band, The Style Council, a very underrated band themselves for a variety of different reasons, with former Dexys Midnight Runner keyboardist Mick Talbot, as well as a young drumming prodigy, a then-eighteen-year-old Steve White and Weller’s future ex-wife and back-up singer Dee C. Lee and bassist Camille Hinds, who came on later. The Style Council was able to go places where The Jam could not. The new band was able to break free of the punk/power pop sound of the original band and go into a more sophisticated pop sound which was beginning to take over Europe in the early-Eighties. But, once again, The Style Council was too early for the States’ tastes and got very little airplay on Top 40 radio, while finding a home on the alternative rock and college rock radio stations dotting the country.
Today, The Jam’s influence can be heard. Just twenty years ago, bands such as Oasis and Blur were creating the Britpop sound which was definitely standing on the shoulders of The Jam’s work. Likewise, in the States, The Jam finally found their American counterparts in future Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Green Day. I love Green Day, but I have also been telling every student I ever had that the band just is an Americanized version of The Jam. So, what I am telling you, my friends that I am throwing all of my RRHOF efforts into two artists: Todd Rundgren and The Jam.
So, today, I would love to present to you My Ten Favorite Songs by The Jam. Then, go listen to them on Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, or whatever your streaming service of choice is, then tell me The Jam does not belong in the Hall of Fame. Go ahead, knock my copy of their Snap! CD compilation off my shoulder! I dare you!
- “Going Underground” (1980)
- “Town Called Malice” (1982)
- “Down in the Tube Station at Midnight” (1978)
- “Beat Surrender” (1982)
- “That’s Entertainment” (1980)
- “The Bitterest Pill (I’ve Ever Had to Swallow)” (1982)
- “The Modern World” (1977)
- “In the City” (1977)
- “‘A’ Bomb in Wardour Street” (1978)
- “The Eton Rifles” (1979)
So, Jann Wenner! Make the Walls of the Hall come tumbling down to let in The Jam in 2020! Enough is enough, and it’s time for a change! Put The Jam in the Hall!