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)

Nine Below Zero remastered ‘Don’t Point Your Finger’ & ‘The Third Degree’

Following the remastered re-release of Nine Below Zero’s debut album  ‘Live At The Marquee’ in 2012, and ‘A to Zed – The Very Best of’ compilation on Zed Records in 2013, Universal has released remastered copies of Nine Below Zero’s first two studio albums ‘Don’t Point Your Finger’ and ‘Third Degree’.  Both releases come complete with a second disc of bonus material.

Nine Below Zero were formed in 1977 and over a couple of years built up a loyal following in and around London as they became known for their high tempo, energetic blues rock live performances. In 1979 they were signed to A&M Records and somewhat fell into the current wave of Mod Revival, with the likes of The Jam.

Capturing their raw, live energy, their debut album  ‘Live At The Marquee’ was released in 19980.  But it was with their first two studio albums that Nine Below Zero peaked both critically and commercially.

Don’t Point Your Finger (1981) was recorded in 12 days at Olympic Sound Studios in Barnes and produced by the legendary Glyn Johns.

Don’t Point Your Finger by Nine Below Zero
Don’t Point Your Finger by Nine Below Zero

Lead singer & guitarist Dennis Greaves says, “We were walking in the footsteps of some of the all-time greats. Led Zeppelin’s first album was recorded there, along with “Who’s Next” and “Beggars Banquet” by The Stones. It was the most inspiring experience”.

Nine Below Zero went on to support both The Who & The Rolling Stones.  The double CD release includes a live performance recorded for the BBC in 1981 at The Granary Club in Bristol.

The Third Degree by Nine Below Zero
The Third Degree by Nine Below Zero

The Third Degree was released in 1982 and included the single 11+11 which was performed on the first episode of cult TV show, The Young Ones. This was to be the bands final album with A&M and spent six weeks in the album chart. David Bailey, renowned photographer of The Beatles, The Stones and the Kray Twins (to name a few), took the photograph for the album front cover artwork.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZVYqrUfdHo

Nine Below Zero originally recorded the album with Glyn Johns, at his studio in Sussex. But A&M rejected the recording stating it was too raw. The band went on to re-record it with Simon Boswell.

Glyn Johns’ original recording is available here as a bonus disc, along with the original release of the album.

Dennis Greaves says “I think it will be interesting for fans to see how a series of songs can sound so different and how the production process affects the finished article”.

Don’t Point Your Finger’ and ‘The Third Degree’ by Nine Below Zero are released through Universal.

Spizz – Where’s Captain Kirk? – the Very Best of Spizz

Where’s Captain Kirk? – the Very Best of Spizz
Where’s Captain Kirk? – the Very Best of Spizz

In 1978 Spizzoil released two lo-fi EP singles 6,000 Crazy and Cold City on Rough Trade Records following a John Peel Session in August 1978.  In the great tradition of punk / post punk pseudonyms, the duet was known simply as Pete Petrol & Spizz. The Cold City EP included the wonderfully playful Platform 3, my favourite song of all-time to include vocals, guitar and kazoo.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azfXnLrRqJc

In 1979 the two went their separate ways and Spizz (Kenneth Spiers) formed Spizzenergi, a full group that provided a better outlet for his songwriting skills. The first Spizzenergi single was the brilliant Soldier, Soldier with a great cover version of Roxy Music’s Virginia Plain on the b-side. The single received the coveted NME Single Of The Week. They toured with the likes of Siouxsie & the Banshees and with the release of their second single, Where’s  Captain Kirk? (which also received Single of The Week in Melody Maker), looked poised to become the latest new wave band to crossover from cult indie status to find riches and fame with commercial success.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGBS1G9cO-U

Where’s Captain Kirk is a perfect indie pop song and was released in December 1979.  A great infectious tune, witty well written lyrics and a catchy title that hasn’t dated at all. But probably due to the lack of marketing and promotions afforded by Rough Trade, the single didn’t provide Spizz with his big break.  Instead it became a new wave cult classic, was the first ever #1 in January 1980 in the newly formed UK Indie Singles Charts; and was apparently described by John Peel as “… the best Star Trek associated song.”

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivZ3q5NFXpY

Spizz kept to his word that he would change the name of the band every year, and in doing so Spizzenergi changed their name to Athletico Spizz 80.  They released just one single, No Room / Spock’s Missing in June 1980, before signing a major deal with A&M and releasing Hot Deserts just one month later. Again, the expectation for commercial success loomed big for Spizz.  But their debut album, Do A Runner peaked at #27 in the UK Album Charts and with it the window of commercial stardom appeared to close. The following year, still signed to A&M, the name was changed to Spizzles; and by 1982 Spizz had appeared to run out of energy and good ideas as he returned to Rough Trade in the guise of Spizzenergi 2.

Good ideas aren’t always good marketing ideas.  Everyone appears to err towards Spizzenergi when talking about the wonderfully gifted Kenneth.  It’s by far the best name, in my opinion, and the two singles and 1979 Peel Session probably captured the very best of Spizz. He is once again performing live as Spizzenergi and there are rumours of a new album studio album in 2014.

Cherry Red Records compilation Where’s Captain Kirk? – the Very Best of Spizz is a great compilation mostly made up of the best tracks from those early singles including Spizzenergi b-sides, Virginia Plain & Amnesia.  But unfortunately doesn’t include Platform 3 or any other songs except for the title tracks of the two Spizzoil singles. This compilation includes 20 tracks, all but four come from the period 1979 – 1982.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIwjcU4_OQI

Where’s Captain Kirk? – the Very Best of Spizz

1.    WHERE’S CAPTAIN KIRK?
2.    NO ROOM
3.    SOLDIER SOLDIER
4.    SPOCK’S MISSING
5.    AMNESIA
6.    MEGA CITY 3
7.    JUNGLE FEVER
8.    CENTRAL PARK
9.    RED & BLACK
10. THE MODEL

11. THE SUN NEVER SETS…
12. HOT DESERTS
13. RHYTHM INSIDE
14. EFFORTLESS
15. VIRGINIA PLAIN
16. 6000 CRAZY
17. COLD CITY
18. WORK
19. ON MY OWN
20. WHERE’S CAPTAIN KIRK? (ENHANCED LIVE FOOTAGE)

Where’s Captain Kirk? was also released as a fan club only Christmas single in 1992 by R.E.M.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pat7YyrJ9t0