Tuesday, May 20, 2008

TVD's Wellerweek | Day Two

After the success of All Mod Cons, The Jam toured Europe early in 1979 and the US in the spring. They returned to the studio in the summer to record their next album. This time, Weller wrote many of the songs at night in the studio, introducing them to the rest of the band to work out the next day. In October, The Jam released a single, posted below, called “The Eton Rifles,” which broke through the Top Ten all the way to number 3 on the charts. Inspired by news coverage of Eton students jeering left wing Right To Work marchers, the song’s lyrics illustrate Weller’s class sensibilities, while musically the song highlights The Jam firing on all cylinders – especially the fierce drumming of Rick Buckler. An anthemic song, Weller has returned to playing “The Eton Rifles” this spring for the first time in over a quarter century, saying, "the time is right again... I thought I'd never play that song again, but it's just as powerful now, just as relevant, as it was in 1979." Setting Sons, their fourth LP, came out in late-November 1979. Setting Sons rose to 4 in the charts and The Jam closed out the year on an extensive 30-day tour of the UK.

The end of February and early March 1980, The Jam was back in the US playing a string of dates including a sold-out Palladium in New York City. The tour was cut short when, in Los Angeles, news reached the band that their latest single, “Going Underground” entered the UK charts at number 1. They returned to England to celebrate. A few dates in spring and early summer, followed by a tour of Japan in July and then the band was back in the studio to record their next album, Sound Affects. After which, they embarked on a 40-plus UK and European tour from late October to early December to support the new album. I provide this info to show just how relentless their schedule was in those days – tour, record an album, and go back on the road to support it. Weller has called Sound Affects a cross-between The Beatles’ Revolver and Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall. It reached number 2 in the British charts and featured “That’s Entertainment” and a groovy selection of psychedelic pop songs. My favorite from this album, posted below, is “Man In The Corner Shop.” Seeing Weller play this last year during his three-night residency at Irving Plaza in New York was amazing - everyone singing along. Brilliant!

Another series of European, Japanese, American/Canadian, and English tours during the first half of 1981 for The Jam. Two number 4 singles and benefit gigs for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) with Gang of Four, Fun Boy Three, and Bananarama later in the year. Weller’s political views (especially his disgust for what Thatcherism was doing to Britain) were coming to the fore and he was quoted in the press practically daily. At 23 he was being hailed as the spokesman for his generation. Musically, his interest in soul and funk informed his decision to add a horn section to The Jam’s CND shows. The release of the chart-topping single, “Town Called Malice” on January 29, 1982, illustrates where Weller was at in 1982. Posted below, “Malice” is a Motown-inspired swinger, with lyrics about unemployment in a working class town.

The Gift, The Jam’s sixth album was released in March 1982 and reached number 1 on the charts. Of course, a world tour followed. Upon his return from a July vacation, Weller let the others know he had had enough. He wanted to leave The Jam. While Bruce and Rick were devastated, The Jam was committed to a new single for September and a tour of England and Western Europe. Maybe they also hoped Paul would change his mind. In any event, the band recorded “The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow)” on July 16 and the song reached number 2 after its release on September 10. Posted below, I confess to loving everything about this song, especially the strings and backing vocals.

“Shopping,” also selected below, was recorded in October 1982, and turned out to be one of the last songs made by the band. Its breezy jazz-infused stylings foreshadow the musical direction Weller would head in The Style Council. Still, as evidenced on “Shopping,” Rick and Bruce continued to make great contributions to the sound. The bass playing on this song is fantastic. Indeed, while Paul Weller is justifiably remembered as the driving force of The Jam, Rick and Bruce were also so vital and obviously extremely talented.

The rumors that the band was splitting were confirmed with a public statement on October 30, 1982. Nevertheless, the band gave their fans a chance to say goodbye with a brief farewell jaunt around the UK in late November and early December. Dubbed the Beat Surrender Tour (after their final single "Beat Surrender," which entered the charts straight in at number 1) it culminated in an emotional finale on Saturday, December 11, 1982, at the Conference Centre in Brighton. Then it was over. The biggest band in Britain was no more.

The Jam - The Eton Rifles (Mp3)
The Jam - Man In The Corner Shop (Mp3)
The Jam - Town Called Malice (Mp3)
The Jam - The Bitterest Pill (Mp3)
The Jam - Shopping (Mp3)

(Release dates, chart positions, and tour info from The Jam’s Direction, Reaction, Creation)