By Dennis Hartley
(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on October 3, 2015)
When former British PM Margaret Thatcher died in 2013, Digby did a great post about how the populist backlash against Thatcherism provided fertile ground for the Agit Punk movement in the UK (I wrote a companion piece on Thatcherism’s likewise effect on film makers). One of the best bands of that era was The Jam.
Formed in 1976, the three lads from Woking (guitarist/lead vocalist Paul Weller, bassist/vocalist Bruce Foxton, and drummer Rick Buckler) exploded onto the scene with their seminal album, In the City. The eponymous single became their signature tune and remains a punk pop anthem. While initially lumped in with contemporaries like The Sex Pistols and The Clash, the band was operating in a different sphere; specifically regarding their musical influences.
What set Weller and his band mates apart was their open adulation of The Beatles, The Who, The Kinks, The Small Faces and the Motown sound. At the time, this was heresy; as astutely pointed out in The Jam: About the Young Idea (a rockumentary that premiered on Showtime this week), you had to dismiss any music released prior to 1976, if you wished to retain your punk cred.
In the film, Weller recalls having a conversation with Joe Strummer of The Clash, who told him (in effect) that all of Chuck Berry’s music was crap. “Oh Joe…you don’t really mean that,” Weller replies rhetorically into the camera.
Also on hand are Foxton and Buckler, who still register palpable sadness while recalling their reaction to Weller’s unexpected announcement to them in 1982 (at the height of their greatest chart success) that he was quitting the band to pursue new musical avenues.
Weller is philosophical; he argues it’s always best to go out on top (as Neil Young said, it’s better to burn out than fade away). Director Bob Smeaton (The Beatles Anthology) does a marvelous job telling the band’s story, sustaining a positive energy throughout by mixing in a generous helping of vintage performance clips. This is a must-see for fans.