The Jam

The Jam was an English rock trio that released six albums between 1977 and 1982 on Polydor. They scored eleven UK Top 20 singles, including the No. 1’s “Going Underground,” “Start!,” “Town Called Malice,” and “Beat Surrender.”

Members: Paul Weller (guitar, vocals, bass), Rick Buckler (drums), Steve Brookes (guitar, 1972-76), Dave Waller (guitar, 1972-73), Bruce Foxton (bass, vocals, guitar, 1973-82)


The Jam’s origins date to 1972 when Woking youths Paul Weller and Steve Brookes held jam sessions after school: a practice that lent the group’s name. By late 1973, Foxton and Buckler — both three years older than the founding pair — came on board and The Jam entered the Woking live circuit.

In 1974, sixteen-year-old Weller took an interest in the UK pop era that directly predated himself. After close study of the mid-sixties mod aesthetic and beat-combo sound, he adopted these traits into his music and presentation. This iconoclastic approach distinguished The Jam as they conquered the London club scene during the mid-seventies. As progress unfurled, Brookes departed and The Jam carried on as a trio.

During the first half of 1975, The Jam were a resident act at Michael’s Club in Woking. On July 5, they played their first London show at the Fulham Greyhound.

In the spring of 1976, The Jam played the London haunts Hope and Anchor, Windsor Castle, and The Kensington. In August, they played an afternoon outdoor show at Newport Court in London’s Soho district, where singer–guitarist Joe Strummer of the recently formed Clash became an early supporter.


In February 1977, Polydor A&R Chris Parry attended a Jam show at the recommendation of scenster (and later Pogues frontman) Shane MacGowan. Parry — a onetime drummer of Kiwi popsters Fourmyula — was eager to sign a new wave band and made recent offers to The Sex Pistols and The Clash. Parry signed The Jam to a four-year, four-album contract and linked them with veteran producer Vic Coppersmith-Heaven.

Coppersmith-Heaven began as an engineer on mid-sixties titles by Unit 2 + 4, Marianne Faithfull, and the Zbigniew Namysłowski Quartet. During the psychedelic era, he engineered Cat Stevens‘ second album and produced titles by The Attack, Skip Bifferty, and Tinkerbells Fairydust. Recently, he produced albums by Alquin, Gravy Train, Popol Ace, and Snafu. For the first Jam single, he selected a song that Paul Weller conceived with the working title “In the City There’s a Thousand Things I Want to Say to You.”

In the City

The Jam released their debut album, In the City, on May 20, 1977, on Polydor. It features ten Paul Weller originals, including their first single “In the City” and the early fan favorites “Sounds from the Street,” “Away from the Numbers,” and “I Got By in Time.” The album also contains two sixties covers: the “Batman Theme” and the Larry Williams R&B chestnut “Slow Down.”

Musically, In the City balances brisk punk (“Art School,” “In the City,” “Takin’ My Love”) with updated mod rock (“I’ve Changed My Address,” “Sounds from the Street,” “Time for Truth”) and includes R&B–beat (“Non-Stop Dancing”) and jangly harmony rock (“Away from the Numbers”). Lyrically, Weller embraces the city buzz and tackles serious topics like estrangement (“I Got By in Time”) and unaffordable housing (“Bricks and Mortar”).

1. “Art School” (2:02)
2. “I’ve Changed My Address” (3:31)
3. “Slow Down” (Larry Williams) (2:39)
4. “I Got By in Time” (2:07)
5. “Away from the Numbers” (4:03)
6. “Batman Theme” (Neal Hefti) (1:31)

1. “In the City” (2:19)
2. “Sounds from the Street” (3:14)
3. “Non-Stop Dancing” (2:28)
4. “Time for Truth” (3:10)
5. “Takin’ My Love” (2:15)
6. “Bricks and Mortar” (2:37)

Sessions took place in March 1977 at Stratford Place, London, where Vic Coppersmith-Heaven engineered In the City and co-produced the album with Chris Parry.

In the City sports a photo of The Jam by Martyn Goddard, who photographed the band in matching mohair suits against a subway wall with a spray-painted group logo by Polydor art director Bill Smith. Goddard’s photography also appears on 1977 sleeves to albums by Charlie (No Second Chance), Jigsaw, Mike Heron, The Movies, and The Real Thing.

“In The City” appeared three weeks ahead of the album on April 29 as an advance single backed with “Takin’ My Love.” It reached No. 40 on the UK Singles Chart. In the video, The Jam mime suited on a dark-lit soundstage with boards of monochrome photo collages. The lens zooms in on Weller during the pick-slide solo. The Jam also shot a video for “Art School” (sans suits) on a bright soundstage where extras paint the background and Foxton kicks an amp, which explodes on contact.

The Jam mimed “In The City” on the May 19 broadcast of the BBC music program Top of the Pops, which aired a mix of videos (Heatwave – “Too Hot to Handle”), dance routines (Legs: The Trammps – “Disco Inferno”), and studio-mimed hits by Linda Lewis (“The Moon and I”), Carole Bayer Sager (“You’re Moving Out Today”), The Jacksons (“Show You The Way To Go”), and a transmitted soundstage clip of the current No. 1 by Rod Stewart (“The First Cut Is the Deepest”).

In the City reached No. 20 on the UK Albums Chart. Polydor sent a copy to the address of onetime mod luminary Pete Townshend, who sent Weller a letter of thanks and said that he’d already bought the album.

“All Around the World”

On July 15, 1977, The Jam released “All Around the World,” a clarion call backed with the Foxton exclusive “Carnaby Street.”

“All Around the World” (2:26) Paul espouses new wave ethos (“there should be a youth explosion”) and counters nihilism with faith in reinvention (“What’s the point in saying destroy? I want a new life for everywhere”). He also reconciles tradition with the drive to innovate (“You can’t dismiss what is gone before, but there’s foundations for us to explore”).

Carnaby Street” (2:28) Bruce laments the Soho shopping street that once served as the epicenter of Swinging London. He romanticizes the mod-era Carnaby (“Remember how great it should be, shops are full of fashion”), spurns the prevailing mid-seventies style (“Why should we accept the change and buy clothes of today?”), and urges youth to take style into their own hands (“Kids repel the change and bring back the street”).

“All Around the World” reached No. 13 on the UK Singles Chart. The Jam mimed it on the July 21 broadcast of TotP, which also featured in-studio appearances by John Miles (“Slow Down”), Queen (“Good Old Fashioned Loverboy”), the RAH Band (“The Crunch”), and videos by Fleetwood Mac (“Dreams”) and Donna Summer (“I Feel Love”). TotP twice re-aired “All Around the World” in August amid summer hits by Candi Staton (“Nights on Broadway”), Deniece Williams (“That’s What Friends Are For”), The Floaters (“Float On”), Space (“Magic Fly”), The Stranglers (“Straighten Out,” “Something Better Change”), and Television (“Prove It”).

This Is the Modern World

The Jam released their second album, This Is the Modern World, on November 18, 1977, on Polydor. It contains eight Paul Weller originals and one co-write (“In the Street, Today”) with band friend and poet Dave Waller. Side One contains two Bruce Foxton numbers: the speedy “London Traffic” and the jangly “Don’t Tell Them You’re Sane.”

Musically, This Is the Modern World hews closer to The Jam’s beat-era roots with mid-tempo mod rock (“Standards,” “Here Comes the Weekend”) and Rubber Soul-esque balladry (“Life from a Window,” “Tonight at Noon”). Weller’s lyrical topics include self-exultation (“The Modern World”) and teenage runaways (“London Girl”). The album closes with a riff-laden cover of the Wilson Picket R&B classic “In the Midnight Hour.”

1. “The Modern World” (2:31)
2. “London Traffic” (1:49)
3. “Standards” (2:29)
4. “Life from a Window” (2:52)
5. “The Combine” (2:20)
6. “Don’t Tell Them You’re Sane” (3:40)

1. “In the Street, Today” (1:31)
2. “London Girl” (2:40)
3. “I Need You (For Someone)” (2:41)
4. “Here Comes the Weekend” (3:30)
5. “Tonight at Noon” (3:01)
6. “In the Midnight Hour” (1:54)

Sessions took place between August 25 and September 21, 1977, at Basing Street Studios, London with Vic Coppersmith-Heaven and Chris Parry. With one exception each, both soundmen reserved their 1977 schedules for The Jam. Coppersmith-Heaven teamed with Mike Hugg (ex-Manfred Mann) on the 1977 Polydor single “Sheer Enjoyment” (b/w “Jinx On Me”), credited to Full Alert. Parry produced the Polydor single “You’re Cold!” (b/w “All I Can Do”) by The Jolt, a Scottish new wave mod trio influenced by The Jam.

This Is the Modern World sports a group cover photo by sixties rock photographer Gered Mankowitz, whose sixties credits include albums by Marianne Faithfull, Nirvana, The Rolling Stones, Traffic, Tramline, and Spooky Tooth. For Modern World, he photographed The Jam under a London underpass, where items of note appear on Weller (mod arrow sweater) and Rick Buckler (Union Jack button). Veteran photographer David Redfern took the back-cover shot, which captures The Jam live on stage with Foxton midair before Bill Smith’s spray-painted logo backdrop. Original copies have doodles on the LP labels and inner-sleeve by illustrator Conny Jude.

The album’s semi-title track, “The Modern World,” appeared on October 28 as an advance single backed with live covers of sixties soul hits by Arthur Conley (“Sweet Soul Music”), The Supremes (“Back In My Arms Again”), and a partial rendition of “Bricks and Mortar” performed on September 11 at the 100 Club.

“The Modern World” reached No. 36 on the UK Singles Chart. The Jam mimed it on the November 3 broadcast of TotP, which featured an in-studio appearance by David Bowie (“Heroes”) and videos by Queen (“We Are the Champions”) and Status Quo (“Rockin’ All Over the World”).

This Is the Modern World reached No. 22 on the UK Albums Chart. The Jam preceded its release with an October US tour, which his Los Angeles (Oct. 8–9: Whisky-A-Go-Go), Boston (Oct. 10, 13: The Rat), and New York (Oct. 15–16: CBGB).


“News of the World”

On February 24, 1978, The Jam released “News of the World,” Foxton’s broadside against the slanted, sensationalized corporate news media. It’s backed with Weller’s “Aunties and Uncles (Impulsive Youths)” and another Foxton exclusive, “Innocent Man.”

“News of the World” (3:31) Bruce spurns the UK tabloid weekly News of the World (1843–2011), which also inspired the title of Queen’s most recent album. He notes how the British lay public view the Sunday tabloid as their “key to the world” and insists that “more than often it’s just a comic, not much more.” He dismisses its articles as the work of “little men tapping things out; points of view” and insists that “their views are not the gospel truth.” He urges people to look “between the lines” and insists that “the truth is in what you see, not what you read.”

Aunties and Uncles (Impulsive Youths)” (2:40)

Innocent Man” (4:20)

The Jam filmed the video for “News of the World” on the roof of Battersea Power Station, which appears at a distance on the cover of the 1977 Pink Floyd album Animals. The “News” clip pans up, down, and out with frequent zoom-ins on Weller’s Rickenbacker fretwork. The Jam mimed “News of the World” on the March 9 broadcast of TotP, which also aired hits by Generation X (“Ready Steady Go”), Elkie Brooks (“Lilac Wine”), Eruption (“I Can’t Stand the Rain”), Hot Chocolate (“Everyone’s a Winner”), and videos of the breakthrough hit by Blondie (“Denis”) and the debut of Kate Bush (“Wuthering Heights”).

Scrapped Album

In the spring of 1978, The Jam demoed Weller and Foxton originals for a third album. Chris Parry rejected the songs and told them to write new material. Meanwhile, they embarked on a 21-date North American tour as the opening act for Blue Oyster Cult. The March–April tour began in Bridgport, Conn. (3/16: Harvey Hubbles Gymnasium) and wrapped in San Jose (4/16: Exhibition Hall).

On August 24, The Jam played the 18th National Jazz, Blues & Rock Festival, a three-day event at the Showgrounds in Reading. The weekend lineup featured purveyors of folk (Albion Band, Lindisfarne), rock (Foreigner, Gillan, Nutz, Spirit), jazz-funk (Pacific Eardrum), and new wave (Bethnal, Gruppo Sportivo, The Motors, Squeeze). The Jam closed Day 1 (Friday), which also featured sets by The New Hearts, Radio Stars, Penetration, Sham 69, and Ultravox. Their set included seven songs from their just-completed third album.

All Mod Cons

The Jam released their third album, All Mod Cons, on November 3, 1978, on Polydor. It contains eleven Paul Weller originals and a cover of the 1967 Kinks classic “David Watts,” which appeared as an advance single with the taut mod rocker “‘A’ Bomb in Wardour Street.”

The Jam expand their sound on All Mod Cons with heightened tonal clarity between instruments. Weller takes a tactile guitar approach on “Mr. Clean” and “In the Crowd,” both marked with clean, staccato figures. Bruce Foxton’s crisp, fluid bass drives the closing epic “Down In the Tube Station at Midnight,” The Jam’s second Top 20 single. The two play counterpoint on “To Be Someone (Didn’t We Have a Nice Time),” where Weller’s leads circle and cut through Foxton’s “Taxman”-like bass line.

All Mod Cons also demonstrates their increased stylistic range, which now includes bossa nova (“English Rose”), jangle rock (“The Place I Love”), Beatle-esque guitar pop (“It’s Too Bad”), and acoustic balladry (“Fly”). The only nod to their raucous prior output is “Billy Hunt,” a brisk, fuzzy rocker that opens Side Two. Weller’s topics include daydreamers (“To Be Someone”), class tension (“Mr. Clean”), and subway violence (“Down in the Tube Station at Midnight”).

All Mod Cons” (1:20)
To Be Someone (Didn’t We Have a Nice Time)” (2:32)
Mr. Clean” (3:29)
David Watts” (2:56) originated as the opening track on the September 1967 Pye release Something Else by The Kinks, written by Kinks frontman Ray Davies. The Jam’s version features vocal trade-offs between Foxton (verses) and Weller (bridge). The song’s piano riff and rhythmic cadence resemble “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” a January 1967 single by The Rolling Stones.
English Rose” (2:51)
In the Crowd” (5:40)
Billy Hunt” (3:01)
It’s Too Bad” (2:39)
Fly” (3:22)
The Place I Love” (2:54)
‘A’ Bomb in Wardour Street” (2:37)
Down in the Tube Station at Midnight” (4:43)

Sessions took place between July 4 and August 17, 1978, at RAK and Eden Studios with Vic Coppersmith-Heaven. Weller plays the keyboard parts.

Coppersmith-Heaven worked on All Mod Cons in succession with the RCA release Hour Glass, the debut album by Johnny Warman. This is the final Jam album with an associate production credit for Chris Parry, who recently signed Siouxsie & The Banshees to Polydor and secured another new act, The Cure, for his indie upstart Fiction Records.

All Mod Cons credits two additional soundboard engineers: Roger Béchirian and Gregg Jackman. Béchirian 1977–78 credits include albums by Graham Parker, Jona Lewie, Lene Lovich, and The Shirts (self-titled). Jackman engineered the debut album by Squeeze and the all-star K-Scope by Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera. A third assistant engineer, Phil Thornalley (then 18), later joined The Cure.

All Mod Cons has cover photography by Peter “Kodick” Gravelle, who pictured The Jam in a white rehearsal space with mosaic hardwood flooring. The back cover shows corresponding instruments in place of the absent members. Weller’s sunburst finish Rickenbacker guitar (midair) sports a sticker for punk rockers The Boys. Kodick also photographed 1978 sleeves for The Only Ones, The Rich Kids, and Snatch. Original copies of All Mod Cons contain an inner-sleeve with assorted Jam mementos and lyrics to the album’s songs barring “English Rose,” which Weller deemed superfluous without the music.

“David Watts” and “‘A’ Bomb In Wardour Street” appeared ten weeks before the album on August 18 as an advance double-a-side. It reached No. 25 on the UK Singles Chart amid renewed interest in sixties-era Kinks. (1978 also saw covers of the early Kinks signature “You Really Got Me” by Robert Palmer and Van Halen.)

The Jam mimed “David Watts” on the August 24 broadcast of TotP, where Weller appeared in a yellow blazer and round grannie shades (ala John Lennon). TotP twice re-aired the song amid late-summer hits by 10cc (“Dreadlock Holiday”), Blondie (“Picture This”), Buzzcocks (“Ever Fallen In Love”), Commodores (“Three Times a Lady”), Dee D. Jackson (“Meteor Man”), Herbie Hancock (“I Thought It Was You”), Hi-Tension (“British Hustle”), Leo Sayer (“I Can’t Stop Loving You”), The Manhattan Transfer (“Where Did Our Love Go”), Rose Royce (“Love Don’t Live Here Anymore”), Stephen Bishop (“Looking for the Right One”), and The Three Degrees (“Giving Up, Giving In”).

On October 13, “Down In the Tube Station at Midnight” appeared as the second advance single, backed with two non-album cuts: the Who cover “So Sad About Us” and Foxton’s “The Night.”

So Sad About Us” (2:36) is a song by Pete Townshend that first appeared on the December 1966 Who album A Quick One. The Jam recorded this as a tribute to Who drummer Keith Moon, who died the prior month. A vintage Moon photo appears on the back sleeve.

The Night” (1:49)

“Down In the Tube Station at Midnight” reached No. 15 on the UK Singles Chart. TotP aired the song on its October 19 broadcast amid autumn hits by Donna Summer (“MacArthur Park”), Frankie Miller (“Darlin”’), Public Image Ltd (“Public Image”), The Rolling Stones (“Respectable”), Sham 69 (“Hurry Up Harry”), and the current No. 1 by The Boomtown Rats (“Rat Trap”).

All Mod Cons reached No. 6 on the UK Albums Chart. On its 1978 Best Albums list, the UK music weekly New Music Express ranked All Mod Cons No. 2, ahead of Top 5 entries by Elvis Costello (This Year’s Model) and Talking Heads (More Songs About Buildings and Food).


“Strange Town”

On March 9, 1979, The Jam released “Strange Town,” a modulating rocker about foreign shock. The b-side, “The Butterfly Collector,” is a slow, danceable mood rocker with a staccato guitar pattern over a stark sonic backdrop.

“Strange Town” (3:48)

“The Butterfly Collector” (3:11)

In the “Strange Town” video, The Jam emerge from the London Underground and perform on a dark stage under bright lights and a flashing marquee of Bill Smith’s band logo. Rick Buckler wears a blue blazer and striped tie. Paul Weller sports a pale tunic.

“Strange Town” reached No. 15 on the UK Singles Chart. TotP twice aired the song amid spring hits by The Cars (“Just What I Needed”), Chic (“I Want Your Love”), Dire Straits (“Sultans of Swing”), Lene Lovich (“Lucky Number”), M (“Pop Muzik”), Siouxsie & The Banshees (“Staircase Mystery”), The Skids (“Into the Valley”), and Violinski (“Clog Dance”).

“The Butterfly Collector” appears in lieu of “Billy Hunt” on US second-issue copies of All Mod Cons.

“When You’re Young”

On August 17, 1979, The Jam released “When You’re Young,” an uptempo harmony rocker with crackling basslines; backed with Foxton’s “Smithers-Jones.”

“When You’re Young” (3:13)

“Smithers-Jones” (3:00)

“When You’re Young” reached No. 17 on the UK Singles Chart. In the video, The Jam perform for school children on a gazebo in Queens Park, North West London. The Jam mimed “When You’re Young” on the August 23 broadcast of TotP, which also aired summer singles by Cliff Richard (“We Don’t Talk Anymore”), The Crusaders (“Street Life”), The Flying Lizards (“Money”), Joe Jackson (“Is She Really Going Out With Him?”), The Planets (“Lines”), Roxy Music (“Angel Eyes”), Sister Sledge (“Lost In Music”), and Spyro Gyra (“Morning Dance”).

Setting Songs

The Jam released their fourth album, Setting Sons, on November 16, 1979, on Polydor. It contains eight Paul Weller originals, including the advance single “The Eton Rifles,” a rock anthem that became their first Top 5 hit. Side Two features a Rigby-esque chamber pop arrangement of the earlier Bruce Foxton b-side “Smithers-Jones.”

Setting Sons sees The Jam embrace epic rock (“Private Hell”), psychedelic pop (“Burning Sky”), and Kinksian folk (“Wasteland”). Weller expands his compositional syntax on “Little Boy Soldiers,” a through-composed epic in three parts.

Producer Vic Coppersmith-Heaven renders the band with boosted clarity, as evidenced on the opener “Girl on the Phone,” a kinetic rocker with echoes of The Police. The album closes with a brisk cover of the Martha & The Vandellas classic “Heat Wave,” performed in their former mod-rock style.

Weller planned to make this a concept album about three schoolboy friends and their separate journeys through adulthood. Though scrapped, several tracks (“Thick as Thieves,” “Private Hell,” “Saturday’s Kids”) relate to the concept.

Girl on the Phone” (2:55)
Thick as Thieves” (3:38)
Private Hell” (3:49)
Little Boy Soldiers” (3:32)
Wasteland” (2:50)
Burning Sky” (3:30)
Smithers-Jones” (2:59)
Saturday’s Kids” (2:51)
The Eton Rifles” (3:57)
Heat Wave” (Holland-Dozier-Holland) (2:24)

The Jam recorded Setting Sons between August 15 and October 10, 1979, at Townhouse Studios in Shepherd’s Bush. They welcomed contributions from Members saxophonist Rudi and Merton Parkas pianist Mick Talbot, a future music partner of Weller (credited here as “Merton” Mick). Musician Pete Solley (Fox, Les Fleur de Lys, Paladin, Procol Harum, Snafu) scored the “Smithers-Jones” strings. The “Smithers” cello and timpani (and “Wasteland” recorder) are credited to the Jam Philharmonic Orchestra.

Coppersmith-Heaven produced Setting Sons in sequence with songs by Rudi’s band The Members (“Offshore Banking Business,” “Killing Time”). This is the first of two Jam albums engineered by Alan Douglas, a soundman on 1977–79 albums by Camel, Cozy Powell, Easy Street (Under the Glass), Gryphon (Treason), and XTC (White Music). The assistant engineer, George Chambers, worked concurrently with Fischer-Z (Word Salad), The Ruts, Simple Minds (Life In a Day), and XTC (Drums and Wires).

Setting Sons shows a medium-shot of The St John’s Ambulance Bearers, a 1919 bronze sculpture of wounded WWI soldiers by Benjamin Clemens. Photographer and later filmmaker Andrew Douglas photographed the sculpture (housed at London’s Imperial War Museum) for one of his first album-sleeve credits, which also include 1979 visuals for Bruce Woolley & The Camera Club, Eddie & The Hot Rods, Merton Parkas, and New Musik.

The back cover of Setting Sons shows a white pit bull on a beach beside a Union Jack chair. The inner-sleeve has an image of ground-strewn soldier regalia and lyrics against a sky-blue monochrome close-up of the pit bull image. Original copies have LP labels with a British knight on horseback (Side 1) and cannon soldiers (Side 2).

“The Eton Rifles” appeared on October 26 as an advance single backed with the non-album “See Saw,” a song that Weller first gave to The Jolt, whose version appears on their 1979 Polydor EP Maybe Tonight.

See-Saw” (2:35)

“The Eton Rifles” reached No. 3 on the UK Singles Chart; their first of eight Top 5 hits. The Jam mimed it on the November 1 broadcast of TotP, which twice aired “Eton Rifles” amid autumn hits by Dynasty (“I Don’t Want to Be a Freak”), Earth Wind & Fire (“Star”), Kool & The Gang (“Ladies Night”), Sad Cafe (“Every Day Hurts”), Secret Affair (“Let Your Heart Dance”), Sparks (“Tryouts for the Human Race”), Thin Lizzy (“Sarah”), and The Tourists (“I Only Want To Be With You”).

Setting Sons reached No. 4 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 14 in New Zealand. The album made the middle-third of the US Billboard 200. American copies reverse sides One and Two and add “Strange Town” on Side Two.


Paul Weller plays the electric guitar riff on “And Through the Wire,” a trebly post-punk cut on the third solo album by ex-Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel. The two parties occupied adjacent Townhouse studios with mutual engineer George Chambers. Gabriel’s album, alternately known as “melt,” appeared in May 1980 with appearances by Kate Bush, XTC guitarist Dave Gregory, King Crimson mastermind Robert Fripp, and Peter’s onetime Genesis bandmate Phil Collins.

“Going Underground”

On March 14, 1980, The Jam released “Going Underground,” an anthemic number about disillusionment with the political process.

“Going Underground” (2:53)

“Dreams of Children” (2:59)

“Going Underground” debuted at No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart, where it displaced “Together We Are Beautiful” by Fern Kinney and held the top spot for three weeks until The Spinners took the honors with their cover of the 1965 Four Seasons hit “Working My Way Back to You.”

In the video to “Going Underground,” The Jam mime against a white backdrop. Items worn include a houndstooth tie (Bruce), blue shirt (Rick), and a paisley scarf (Paul), and white socks with otherwise all-black ensembles. The video to “Dreams of Children” takes place in a similar white space, this time stewn with brown leaves and accordion light hangers. They wear the same outfits apart from Foxton, who pairs a blue suit with the black shirt and houndstooth tie.

Sound Affects

The Jam released their fifth album, Sound Affects, on November 28, 1980, on Polydor. It features ten Paul Weller originals, including their second consecutive No. 1 hit “Start!”

Sound Affects is the last of five Jam albums produced by Vic Coppersmith-Heaven, who renders the band with lean, edgy sounds fitted to the post-punk era. Weller delivers ballads that range from haunting (“Monday”) to ethereal (“Man in the Corner Shop”). Bruce Foxton’s bass-drives several numbers, including the “Taxman”-inspired “Start!” and the opener “Pretty Green,” a one-key number with psychedelic phasing.

The Jam find new inspiration on Sound Affects. “Dream Time” embraces the neo-psych of Liverpool’s new wave (Echo & The Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes). “Boy About Town” celebrates the brassy R&B of select Two Tone acts (Madness, Dexys Midnight Runners). “Scrape Away” takes the nervy, strident approach of the Leeds punk-funk school (Gang of Four, Delta 5). On the group-written instrumental “Music for the Last Couple,” The Jam engage in scratchy interplay akin to The Slits.

Side One houses the longest track, “Set the House Ablaze,” a smoldering rock epic with the sonic qualities of “Private Hell.” They close the side with “That’s Entertainment,” a folksy observational that charted as a European import single. Weller plays the album’s keyboard and sitar parts.

1. “Pretty Green” (2:37)
2. “Monday” (3:02)
3. “But I’m Different Now” (1:52)
4. “Set the House Ablaze” (5:03)
5. “Start!” (2:33)
6. “That’s Entertainment” (3:38)

1. “Dream Time” (3:54)
2. “Man in the Corner Shop” (3:12)
3. “Music for the Last Couple” (3:45)
4. “Boy About Town” (2:00)
5. “Scrape Away” (3:59)

Sessions first commenced on June 15, 1980, at Town House Studios, where the band recorded “Start!” for advance release. They returned to Town House in September–October to finish Sound Affects, which Coppersmith-Heaven produced in sequence with New Clear Days, the debut album by Jam proteges The Vapors. He subsequently worked with singer Johnny Warman, who signed to Elton John‘s Rocket Record Company.

Alan Douglas engineered Sound Affects amid New Clear Days and titles by Judie Tzuke, Lucio Battisti, and the Flash Gordon soundtrack by Queen. Assistant engineer George Chambers worked as a tape op on Drama, the 1980 Yes album recorded with the Buggles.

Sound Affects shows a photo grid of random images by Andrew Rosen and Martyn Goddard in grayscale and pastel hues (pink, teal, lavender). The back cover contains three stanzas of the 1819 political poem The Masque of Anarchy by English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. The inner-sleeve has lyrics interspersed with tinted studio pics (by Cut and London Calling photographer Pennie Smith) and a black-framed country lakeside group photo by Setting Sons photographer Andrew Douglas, whose work appears on 1980 titles by The Associates (The Affectionate Punch), The Cure (Seventeen Seconds), New Musik (From A to B), and The Psychedelic Furs.

“Start!” appeared on August 11 as an advance single backed with the non-album “Liza Radley.” The 7″ version of “Start” is trumpet-free and shorter (2:16).

Liza Radley” (2:31)

In the “Start!” video, The Jam perform in a dark room lit through window blinds. The camera pans from odd angles at Weller, who sports Lennon grannie shades with a ’66 Steve Marriott hairdo.

On the week of September 6, 1980, “Start!” became the second straight No. 1 song by The Jam on the UK Singles Chart, where they displaced “Ashes to Ashes” by David Bowie. TotP aired “Start!” five times amid late-summer hits by The Beat (“Best Freind”), Cliff Richard (“Dreamin”’), Gary Numan (“I Die You Die”), Hazel O’Connor (“Eighth Day”), Ian Dury & The Blockheads (“I Want to Be Straight”), Judas Priest (“United”), Madness (“Baggy Trousers”), Nick Straker Band (“A Walk In the Park”), The Piranhas (“Tom Hark”), Randy Crawford (“One Day I’ll Fly Away ”), Sheena Easton (“Modern Girl”), Split Enz (“I Got You”), Stevie Wonder (“Masterblaster”), and XTC (“Generals and Majors”). The Jam also performed “Start!” (and the Setting Sons track “Private Hell”) on the US sketch comedy program Fridays.

In January 1981, Dutch Polydor lifted “That’s Entertainment” as a second Sounds Affects a-side, backed with a live version of “Down in the Tube Station at Midnight.”

In the video to “That’s Entertainment,” The Jam perform stool-seated in a dark setting where far lights leave them alternately silhouetted and stripe-lighted. Weller strums his acoustic throughout. Buckler has only one snare drum.

Sounds Affects reached No. 2 on the UK and New Zealand album charts. It reached the Swedish Top 20 and Finnish Top 30. In North America, Sounds Affects dented the Canadian Top 40 and became their first album to reach the upper-half of the Billboard 200.


“Funeral Pyre”

On May 29, 1981, The Jam released “Funeral Pyre,” a dark martial rocker with a semi-tone riff. The b-side is a cover of the Townshend composition “Disguises” from the 1966 Who EP Ready Steady Who.

“Funeral Pyre” (3:24) Paul uses the funeral pyre — an ancient public cremation and execution ritual performed on burning pyres (heaps of flammable material) — to analogize pyrophiliac glee and craven public spectacle. He sings of events where books burn, people laugh and “turmoil turns rejoiceful.” He offers firsthand accounts of the zeal and madness of such events:

And as I was standing by the edge
I could see the faces of those who led
Pissing themselves laughing (and the flames grew)
Their mad eyes bulged, their flushed faces said
The weak get crushed as the strong grow stronger

He reveals the ‘code’ of these pyres (“Bring what’s left of all your love for the fire, we’ll watch the flames grow higher”) but warns that you can’t leave with evidence of your participation (“if you get too burnt, you can’t come back home”).

In the “Funeral Pyre” video, The Jam mime at dusk under tall trees in Horsell Common near Woking, where Rick Buckler stands before an unaccompanied snare drum. People arrive with sticks and torches and set a bonfire, which grows behind the band as the song reaches climax. The single’s picture sleeve features Funeral March, an 1897 drawing by Norwegian expressionist Edvard Munch.

“Funeral Pyre” is the first Jam release with producer Peter Wilson, a soundman on 1978–80 titles by Sham 69, The Chords, The Angelic Upstarts, and The Vapors. He currently produced Polydor titles for The Comsat Angels, The Passions, and The Wall.

“Funeral Pyre” reached No. 4 on the UK Singles Chart. The Jam performed “Funeral Pyre” and the Sound Affects tracks “Pretty Green” and “Boy About Town” at Hammersmith Palais for a July 1981 broadcast of the BBC Saturday morning series Get Set for Summer.

“Absolute Beginners”

In October 1981, The Jam released “Absolute Beginners,” a brassy R&B number backed with the psychedelic “Tales From the Riverbank.”

Despite the upbeat mood of “Absolute Beginners” and the dark, reflective vibe of “Tales From the Riverbank,” the former derives its name from a dramatic literay work while the latter is named after an anthropomorphic puppet animation series.

Absolute Beginners” (2:50) takes its title from a 1958 coming-of-age novel by Colin MacInnes. In Absolute Beginners (one of Weller’s favorite reads), the teenage narrator (Blitz Baby) works his way into the field of professional photography while (in the span of four summer months) his father suffers failing health, his girlfriend leaves him for a marriage of convenience, and his London neighborhood is overtaken by racist hooligans. He eventually flees the county.

In the song’s verse, Weller delivers two quatrains that reflect Blitz’s idealism (“In echoed steps I walked across an empty dream”) and cold realizations (“I looked across this world, there was no one to be seen”), which cause his disillusionment (“This empty feeling turned and quietly walked away, I saw no warmth in life, no love was in my eyes”). Paul voices Blitz’s sense of futility (“I stared a century thinking this will never change”) and loss of valuable time (“As I hesitated, time rushed onwards without me”) as he plays safe (“Too scared to break the spell, too small to take a fall”). On the chorus, Weller (or Blitz) laments lost time but resolves to take action (“I need the strength to go and get what I want”). In the subsequent repeat of lyrics, he shifts the perspective from first person (I) to second (“You need the strength to go and get what you want”).

The video to “Absolute Beginners” cuts between two scenes: street footage (tinted monochrome) of Weller, Foxton, and Buckler running in three separate directions; and studio footage (saturated white) of The Jam cramped amid stage-set walls with a round clock that Rick smashes with his drum stick. Select words and sounds are represented on sight cards (comic and silent-movie style).

Tales From the Riverbank” (3:35) Weller uses scenic imagery (“the pastel fields… the water meadows”) to convey innocent dreams a his sense of longing for his childhood ideals (“a dream mixed with nostalgia… that Ill always hang on to”). He takes refuge at the tranquil riverbank that many visit to reflect on different emotions (“mixed with happiness – its mixed with tears”) through each passing lifetime (“life a death are carried in this stream”). Many go to ponder their ambitions at this “paradise found down by the still waters” and fuel their ambition “in the race to the rainbows end.” Others go to lament their disillusion (“we lose our innocence, we lose our very soul”).

“Absolute Beginners” reached No. 4 on the UK Singles Chart. The Jam mimed it on the October 22 broadcast of TotP, where they aired amid current hits by The Human League (“Open Your Heart”), The Police (“Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”), Gillan (“Nightmare”), and Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin (“It’s My Party”).

In 1986, filmmaker Derek Jarman directed a musical film adaptation of Absolute Beginners with appearances by Ray Davies, Sade, Tenpole Tudor, and David Bowie, who reached No. 2 on the UK singles chart with the movie’s soul ballad theme song.


The Jam opened 1982 with a new single from their autumn 1981 sessions. Paul Weller decided that their upcoming album would be their last.

The Gift

The Jam released their sixth album, The Gift, on March 12, 1982, on Polydor. It contains the upbeat lyrical soul-rocker “Town Called Malice,” their third No. 1 single. The album debuted at No. 1 and consolidated their rank as England’s top band.

The Gift expands on the brassy R&B side of Sound Affects (“Boy About Town”) and the recent “Absolute Beginners” single. Motown beats pace the organ-laden “Town Called Malice” and the guitar-driven rockers “The Gift” and “Running on the Spot.” On the latter, Rick Buckler shows his newfound knack for rapidfire fills (ala “Funeral Pyre”), also heard on “Trans-Global Express.”

The Jam hone their funk side on the Bruce Foxton instrumental “Circus” and the Pigbag-inspired “Precious,” a scratchy number with jungle nuances also heard on the “The Planner’s Dream Goes Wrong,” a tropical cut with steelpan.

Lyrically, Paul Weller tackles topics like midlife regret (“Ghosts”), self-loathing (“Carnation”), changing lifestyles (“Town Called Malice”), and working class plight (“Just Who Is the 5 O’Clock Hero?”)

Happy Together” (2:51)
Ghosts” (2:11)
Precious” (4:13)
Just Who Is the 5 O’Clock Hero?” (2:15)
Trans-Global Express” (3:59)

Running on the Spot” (3:06)
Circus” (2:11)
The Planner’s Dream Goes Wrong” (2:19) Features veteran Trinidadian steel drummer Russ Henderson.
Carnation” (3:28)
Town Called Malice” (2:55) Weller conceived the title as a play on the 1950 Nevil Shute novel A Town Like Alice.
The Gift” (3:08)

Sessions took place between October 1981 and February 1982 in London at George Martin’s AIR Studios London with producer Pete Wilson, who plays organ on “Trans-Global Express,” “Town Called Malice,” “Precious,” and “The Gift.” Additional work occurred at PolyGram Studios. The Gift features saxophonist Keith Thomas and trumpeter Steve Nichol, a multi-instrumentalist who played keyboards in Loose Ends.

The Gift credits three engineers: PolyGram’s Brian Robson (Thin Lizzy, Greg Lake) and AIR staffers David Woolley (Ali Thomson, Michael Schenker Group, UFO) and Renate Blauel, a soundwoman on recent albums by Akiko Yano, Chris Rea, Duran Duran (Rio), Japan (Gentlemen Take Polaroids), Marvin Gaye, Pete Townshend (All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes), Stephen Bishop and YMO members Riuichi Sakamoto and Yukihiro Takahashi.

The Gift has cover photography by Kevin Cummins, who captured each member in a running standstill position, presented as monochrome strips overlaid with colors (red, orange, green) and ben-day dots. The inner-sleeve has lyrics and blue-tinted medium-shots of each member, plus Thomas and Nichol. The back cover has a distant black-and-white side shot of the expanded band. Original UK copies came in a candy-striped bag.

“Town Called Malice” and “Precious” appeared on January 29, 1982, as the album’s advance double-a-side. It became their biggest-selling in Benelux, where “Town Called Malice” reached No. 4 in Belgium and No. 7 in the Netherlands. The Jam mimed the song on Belgian TV. In Oceania, “Town Called Malice” peaked at No. 14 in New Zealand and No. 15 in Australia. It almost broke them in the US, where “Town Called Malice” peaked at No. 31 on Billboard‘s Mainstream Rock chart and received medium rotation on MTV.

“Town Called Malice” went straight to No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart, where it overtook “The Model” by Kraftwerk and dominated three weeks of February before ABBA-soundalikes Tight Fit took the honors with their cover of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” a 1961 doo-wop hit by The Tokens.

In the “Town Called Malice” video, The Jam mime suited in a dark studio with soft-focus highlites, accompanied by Thomas and Nichol, who plays behind an organ emblazoned with a big bold band sign (THE JAM) in the All Mod Cons font. The Jam mimed “Town Called Malice” on the February 11 broadcast of TotP, which thrice aired the song amid February hits by Adrian Gurvitz (“Classic”), The Associates (“Party Fears Two”), Bow Wow Wow (“Go Wild In the Country”), Depeche Mode (“See You”), Haircut One Hundred (“Love Plus One”), Hall & Oates (“I Can’t Go for That”), Iron Maiden (“Run to the Hills”), The Stranglers (“Golden Brown”), and Bananarama & Fun Boy Three (“It Ain’t What You Do it’s the Way That You Do It”).

In late June, Dutch Polydor lifted “Just Who Is the 5 O’Clock Hero,” backed with two exclusive cuts: Weller’s “The Great Depression” and the Motown classic “War,” a 1970 hit for Edwin Starr.

The Great Depression” (2:52)

“Just Who Is the 5 O’Clock Hero” reached No. 8 on the UK Singles Chart as an import.

The Gift reached No. 1 on the week of March 20, 1982, and spent twenty-five weeks on the UK Album Chart. In the US, The Gift spent sixteen weeks on the Billboard 200, where it peaked in the upper-half. The Jam promoted the album with a March–June blitz dubbed the Trans-Global Unity Express tour.

“The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had to Swallow)”

On September 10, 1982, The Jam released “The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had to Swallow),” a melancholy string-laden ballad with backing vocals by Belle Stars frontwoman Jennie Matthias. It’s backed with “Pity Poor Alfie,” a brassy R&B original that segues into a cover of the jazz standard “Fever.”

The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had to Swallow)” (3:34) Paul sings out to a woman who left him for an affluent man (“In your white lace and your wedding bells, you look the picture of contented new wealth”). He laments his vulnerability to her manipulative ways (“the on-looking fool who believed your lies”) and his ongoing depression (“dying spark, you left your mark on me… I wish this grave would open up and swallow me alive”). He acknowledges his past naivety (“The love I gave hangs in sad coloured, mocking shadows”) and that she was never the right antidote to his preexisting emptiness:

When the wheel of fortune broke, you fell to me
Out of grey skies to change my misery
The vacant spot, your beating heart took its place
But now I watch smoke leave my lips and fill an empty room

As “autumn’s breeze blows summer’s leaves through [his] life,” he feels he could take the pill “for a hundred years [and not] feel anymore ill.”

In the video to “The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had to Swallow),” a trench-coated Paul Weller walks desolate streets and reflects on his lost love, shown in happy and sad flashbacks. He comes to the window of her current love, Bruce Foxton, where the couple chills with third-wheel Rick Buckler.

Pity Poor Alfie” (4:44) Weller narrates a woman who cries out to a man named Alfie. They had a clandestine affair during the Blitz (“every light was red and every sign said stop”), where they “escaped the test and the marathon run” and slept in the “noon day sun.” Now all she has is memories and “blood stained letters” since Alfie’s non-return from duty. (No relation to the 1966 Michael Caine film Alfie or its Bacharach theme song.)

“The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had to Swallow)” reached No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart, where it nested for two weeks under “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor and “Pass the Dutchie” by Musical Youth. Department S singer Vaughn Toulouse appears on “The Bitterest Pill” picture sleeve, where light beams through a cathedral window.

“Beat Surrender”

On November 26, 1982, The Jam released “Beat Surrender,” an uptempo Motown pastiche backed with the jazz-pop ballad “Shopping,” both Paul Weller originals. Peter Wilson produced the single, which features The Gift horn section on Side A along with Weller vocal protege Tracie Young.

Beat Surrender” (3:26) derives its title from the 1979 Anita Ward single “Sweet Surrender” and the British military phrase “Beating Retreat.” Weller and Foxton harmonize the chorus, which opens the tune with a command to boys and girls in the audience to surrender to their own beat (inspiration) now that The Jam have split. The lyrics assert instant clarity: Bruce croons devotion and uncertainty (“All the things that I care about… that I’m not sure about”); Paul belts out streamlined solutions (“are packed into one punch… sorted out at once”).

Shopping” (3:22) Bruce reluctantly tries to dress for a part but it “just don’t work,” possibly because his face is the wrong shape or the ‘high town” clothes are “not like the adverts all make out.”

“Beat Surrender” debuted at No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart, where it took the honor from “I Don’t Wanna Dance” by Eddy Grant and held the summit for two weeks. This was their fourth and final UK No. 1 hit. The single also appeared on 12″ (and double 7”) with the two originals on Side A backed with covers of soul songs by Curtis Mayfield (“Move On Up”), Barbara Acklin (“Stoned Out of My Mind”), and the pre-released Edwin Starr cover “War.” The back sleeve on all releases features liner notes by ‘The Boy Wonder.’


In December 1982, Polydor issued Dig the New Breed, a collection of fourteen Jam live numbers recorded between September 1977 and the April 1982 Scottish tour.



1 thought on “The Jam

  1. Original draft (2017-18)
    The Jam was an English trio that was active as a recording unit during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Led by the outspoken, musically eclectic, and lyrically exploratory vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Paul Weller, the band scored eleven UK Top 20 singles between 1978 and 1982, including four chart-toppers. Over the course of six albums, the band evolved from a traditional power-trio sound to embrace album-length conceptual themes, state-of-the-art production techniques, and a plethora of cross-cultural idiomatic elements.

    The Jam’s origins date back to 1972, when Woking youths Paul Weller and Steve Brookes held jam sessions after school — a practice from which the budding unit would soon derive its name. By late 1973, Foxton and Buckler — both three years older than the founding pair — had entered the fold and the band started gigging local venues.

    In 1974, 16-year-old Weller became fascinated with the period in UK pop that immediately predated his own awakening. After close study of the mid-1960s mod aesthetic and beat-combo sound, he adopted these traits into his music and presentation. This somewhat iconoclastic approach would help set The Jam apart as the band made inroads on the London club scene during the mid-1970s. Amidst these developments, Brookes departed and the band opted to carry on as a trio.
    Early Recordings

    Securing a deal with Polydor in the spring of 1977, the band linked with veteran producer Vic-Coppersmith Heaven, who would help the trio shape its sonic identity. The first fruits of this union was In the City, released that May. The title-track, with its brisk C-B-A-G descent — lifted from the “where they teach you how to be thick” sequence of “White Riot” by The Clash — launched the trio onto the margins of local pop fame.

    Despite its rough edges, The Jam’s debut displays Weller’s budding promise as a songwriter, most notably on the angular-chorded, harmonized effervescence of “Sounds From the Street” and on the lyrically poignant “I Got by in Time,” where the young singer reflects on lost love and friendship — the second verse presumably about Brookes. In terms of mood, the album evokes carefree and foreboding sentiments, as respectively indicated by the slow-paced leisure of “Away From the Numbers” and the urban headiness of the tumultuous, feedback-laden “Bricks and Mortar.”

    With the band firmly established in the London area, Weller — perhaps haunted by the confines of his Woking-based youth — was energized by his newfound metropolitanism. As one observer of The Jam’s 1978 Reading Rock appearance would note, the word “city” appeared in nearly every song in the band’s set during this period. But it wasn’t just cities that Weller hoped to conquer with his band, but the world at large, hence a trio of singles that bore the word “world” in the title — “All Around the World,” “The Modern World,” and the Foxton-penned “News of the World.” Alas, Weller would first need to master the album as an art form.

    Released in November of 1977, The Jam’s sophomoric This Is the Modern World LP found them testing multiple possibilities. Foxton’s sectional “Don’t Tell Them You’re Sane” demonstrates a formative grasp of epic form with its abundance of ringing riffs and fold-out movements. Meanwhile, the lilting chorus of “London Girl” demonstrates a growing melodramatic side on the part of Weller. Further surprises from the bandleader include the sus7 sweetness of “Life From a Window” and bold romantic overtures of “Tonight at Noon.”
    Artistic Maturity: All Mod Cons (1978)

    The early part of 1978 caught Weller in a writer’s block. Determined to prove themselves as an album-oriented band, The Jam spent most of that summer polishing tracks with Heaven. The first fruit of this activity was a perky, piano-swirling cover of The Kinks chestnut “David Watts.” This was followed by the band’s triumphant third album All Mod Cons, which covers various styles with multi-tracked tonal clarity from each player.

    The plaintive verses, roll-out bridges, impatient middle, and spinning outro of “In the Crowd” reflect Weller’s mix of contentment, ambition, and cynicism amidst the activity, noise, imposing billboards, and traffic clusters of the modern mecca. By contrast, the moody lurch that opens “Mr. Clean” frames the protagonist’s spiteful envy of his subject, who slips away to hedonistic dreams, seemingly unaware of the corporeal dangers in the midst — a contrast marked by the song’s abrupt shift from soft acoustics to slashing feedback during the middle.
    Rock Anthems and Concept Albums: 1979–1980

    Rising to the big leagues, The Jam kept fans occupied during the first half of 1979 with the bass-cracking “When You’re Young” and the swelling, dramatic “Strange Town.” The latter — with its middle-eight chordal reach and modulated final section — demonstrates a pattern that would characterize much of Weller’s compositions from here on out, where a humble verse/chorus structure pivots into a grandiose middle that nearly becomes its own song, only to infuse the final portion of the song-proper with a newfound epic quality.

    Epicism would characterize The Jam’s next single, “The Eton Rifles.” Opening with a crisp, spiralling bassline amidst a feedback-brimming distortion bed in Amin that rolls along through verses to an organ-rippling breakout, the song rocketed to no. 3 on the UK charts.

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