Youth explosion for dads and granddads – The Jam 1977

THE JAM ‘1977’
40th Anniversary Box Set

Includes remastered albums, unreleased demos and live tracks, photos and memorabilia from 1977. Scheduled for release on 20th October.

The Jam 1977
The Jam 1977

The passions of youth cast a long shadow, which helps explain both my excitement about this comprehensive collection of everything the Jam did in 1977, and why there is still a big market out there for anything to do with the Woking wonders.  Of course its not just  nostalgia for the music, which apart from the extras, most will have anyway , Its also the jolting back into life of the old habit of being a collector and completist.  The search for seven inch picture sleeves, limited editions and imports  –  icons and status goods for the smart, semi articulate and hard. For many it all started with the Jam   So yeah, this presses lots of old buttons and many of the Jam dad and granddad brigade will certainly have this on their Christmas lists.

For the initiated its sure to elicit a wistful smile.  The two albums that the Jam released in 1977 and remastered here are great to listen to again.  In the City, the debut, now has that big fat analogue and warm valve warmth that you get with the better remasters – while still retaining the spikiness and abrasiveness that was its original hallmark.  Apart from anything else this shows the songs in a new light.  The teenage Paul Weller who penned the half or dozen or so classics here was already displaying an unerring ability to connect with working class youth in a way that would later land him, much to his intense unease, with the reputation as spokesman for a generation.  But why not? Away from the Numbers is pure working class existential crisis for all the kids who felt like factory fodder, with Weller opining against the purist punk mod surf cool:  ‘I was the type who’d knocked at old men, who together at tables sit and drink beer. Til I realised I was really the same. So this means breaking away from the chain.’ For many like me who’d hardly read a book, this was a wake-up call to self reflection and new ways of thinking.

Paul Weller in punk fanzine, Sniffin' Glue in 1977

Other lyrical themes here (and across the rest of the box set) include the lure of London (In the City, Sounds from the Street), police violence (Time for Truth) and love/friendship (I Got By in Time).  But what recurs most is the sheer brilliance of being young and having something to say.  On In the City, for example, Weller sings that he wants to tell you about the young ideas of the golden faces all under 25.  On All Around the World the guitar break begins with a the boisterous shout ‘youth explosion’. As Paolo Hewitt says in his book The Changing Man, Paul Weller was constantly worrying about age.  He’s quoted as saying ‘all the bands I love made their great records when they were eighteen, nineteen and then they turned shit’.  If he didn’t make his mark by eighteen, he felt he would have to seriously consider packing it in and returning to playing pubs and working mens clubs in Surrey.  In The City single made the top 40 just before he turned 19.  The irony he is that whilst the Jam material is superb, the very best of Paul Weller, in terms of classic timeless songs, comes years later, when he learns to relax a bit.

And indeed, if this obsession with youth helps explain what’s going on here with this young man in a hurry, it also points to its limitations.  However brilliant this might sound there is a limit to how much time you can spend with an opinionated mid 70s teenager.

The Modern World is billed in the press release as the surprise of the package, the slightly unloved Jam album that time has been rather kind to.  There is some truth in this.  The remastering partly addresses some of the earlier justified criticisms that this album sounded like a rush job (putting out two full albums of mostly original material in the same year for Christ’s sake!).  Of course, the rush job accusations were also based on a feeling that some of the songs sounded like outtakes (Don’t Tell Them You’re Sane) b-sides (London Traffic), or frustratingly unfinished ideas (Life From a Window).  But whilst remastering can only go so far, what does stand out to the good, is the sense of musical progression.  The Jam were clearly on a musical journey, Songs such as the Combine and Tonight at Noon, the latter featuring an acoustic guitar and an Adrian Henri poem as lyrics, are a clear move away from the mainstream of punk/new wave towards 1978’s classic All Mod Cons.

Of the extras the In the City demos in particular nicely show off the musical chemistry that clearly existed between Weller, Foxton and Buckler in their early days.  Weller was always the star, but without this added ingredient they’d have been stuck in Woking.  These recordings also show the clear influence of Wilko Johnson on Weller’s guitar style. Writing year’s later one of Weller’s best mates Steve Brookes talked about seeing Dr Feelgood at Guilford Civic Hall in 1975.  Whilst much has been made of the importance to the Jam of seeing the Sex Pistols at the Lyceum, it is in fact this Feelgood’s gig that was far more important in the development of the Jam. Weller, apparently, falling for Wilko instantly.  ‘For anyone who hadn’t seen Wilko’s stage persona’ Brookes wrote, ‘it was like a mod killer zombie on crack. I rated the Feelgoods but Wilko had a really big effect on Paul – the clothes, the hair, the way he moved’. And here is the living proof.

The film clips are worth a special mention too.  The performance of All Around The World from Marc Bolan’s show on children’s TV will always be special for me.  It’s the first time I saw and heard the Jam.  Nothing was ever the same again.

The Jam 1977 tracklisting
Full tracklisting here:

Disc 1 – ‘In The City’ (original album remastered)
1. Art School
2. I’ve Changed My Address
3. Slow Down
4. I Got By In Time
5. Away From The Numbers
6. Batman Theme
7. In The City
8. Sounds From The Street
9. Non-Stop Dancing
10. Time For Truth
11. Takin’ My Love
12. Bricks & Mortar
+ single & B-side extras
13. All Around The World
14. Carnaby Street

Disc 2 – ‘The Polydor Demos: February 1977’
1. Art School (demo) #
2. In The City (demo)
3. I Got By In Time (demo) #
4. I’ve Changed My Address (demo) #
5. Time For Truth (demo)
6. Sounds From The Street (demo)
7. Non Stop Dancing (demo) #
8. Bricks And Mortar (demo) #
9. Takin’ My Love (demo)
10. So Sad About Us (demo)
11. Slowdown (demo) #
# = previously unreleased

Disc 3 – ‘This Is The Modern World’ (original album remastered)
1. The Modern World
2. London Traffic
3. Standards
4. Life From A Window
5. The Combine
6. Don’t Tell Them You’re Sane
7. In The Street Today
8. London Girl
9. I Need You (For Someone)
10. Here Comes The Weekend
11. Tonight At Noon
12. In The Midnight Hour

Disc 4 – ‘Live 1977’
John Peel sessions:
1. In The City
2. Art School
3. I’ve Changed My Address
4. The Modern World

Recorded 26.4.1977 – Transmitted 2.5.1977

5. All Around The World
6. London Girl
7. Bricks & Mortar
8. Carnaby Street

Recorded 19.7.1977 – Transmitted 25.7.1977

Live at the ‘Nashville’ – September 10th 1977 (previously unreleased):
9. Carnaby Street
10. The Modern World
11. Time For Truth
12. So Sad About Us
13. London Girl
14. In the Street Today
15. All Around The World
16. London Traffic
17. Sweet Soul Music
18. Bricks & Mortar
19. In The City
20. Art School
21. In The Midnight Hour
22. Sounds From The Street
23. Slowdown

Disc 5 – DVD
1. In The City (Polydor promo – May 1977)
2. Art School (Polydor promo – May 1977)
3. In The City (Top Of The Pops – Date: 19/05/1977)
4. All Around The World (Top Of The Pops – Date: 18/08/1977)
5. All Around The World (‘Marc’ – Granada TV)
6. The Modern World (Top Of The Pops Top Of The Pops – Date: 03/11/1977)
7. Bricks and Mortar (‘So It Goes’ – Granada TV Nov. 20th 1977)
8. Carnaby Street (‘So It Goes’ – Granada TV Nov. 20th 1977)
9. In The City (‘So It Goes’ – Granada TV Nov. 20th 1977)
10. Slowdown (‘So It Goes’ – Granada TV Nov. 20th 1977)
11. All Around The World (‘So It Goes’ – Granada TV Nov. 20th 1977)