Posted August 7, 2006 by Mike Mineo in Features

The Jam and some toast…

In the midst of the British punk explosion in the late 70s, every one of those risin bands seemed to have at least one hit in the USA, whether it be The Clash, The Buzzcocks, or The Sex Pistols, they all were at least recognizable overseas. The only reason I can think of why The Jam never had initial American success was that they sounded too traditionally British. For example, The Clash were led by simple but catchy power riffs with lyrics, that while often were incomprehensable, were fun to sing along to for the hell of it. The trio of Paul Weller (guitar/vocals), Bruce Foxton (bass), and Rick Buckler (drums) created a much more defined sound with more lyrical and musical depth. Weller often wrote about the English working class, and while music inspired by tales of the working class were popular in America at the time (Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits), Weller was much more vague in his usage of words. His later lyrical focus often dug into British politics, which was an even further turn-off to foreign listeners. Their success in Europe was outstanding though, as they reached the Top Ten a numerous amount of times. The Jam eventually reached their proper respect across the sea after they disbanded in 1982 and are arguably the most influential punk band to form in the late 70s. After their disbandment, Paul Weller formed The Style Council and after a few mediocre albums, set off on a solo career which has become quite successful. Foxton and Buckler have both been involved in solo efforts as well, with Foxton also notably being involved as the bassist in the revival of Stiff Little Fingers.

Speaking of Bruce Foxton, I forgot to mention that he is my favorite bassist. His bass lines seem to lead every song with fantastic musical vision, as they complement the songs perfectly. I realize that Peter Hook may be considered one of the best bass line writers of the particular era, but I tend to personally disagree. From the simple yet effective ‘Monday’ to the fury of ‘The Place I Love’, Foxton was the man who made me want to pick up a bass. Every single song is played so brilliantly, and it helps that Buckler was an effective drummer as well. My two favorite albums from The Jam are Sound Affects and All Mod Cons. Both were recorded in their prime and it clearly shows. From Sound Affects, ‘Man In The Corner Shop’ is one of the most underrated songs from the band, and it shocks me that the song was never a single. The song is a perfect example of Weller’s lyrical awareness of the working class, as I mentioned before. Weller emphasizes that “God created all men equal”, though society does not reflect that at all. ‘Start!’ is another example of a simple but classic bass line by Weller, while ‘Set The House Ablaze’ is a bit of an epic, streching an unusual five minutes. Through its chaotic ride, it comes through very nicely as one of The Jam’s tracks that reflects their name, as the song sounds like one big bursting jam session. All Mod Cons demonstrates a more mature sound, such as the brilliant ‘Down In The Tube Station At Midnight’. The song represents political fear and chaos, narrarating a family man who gets held up by a bunch of madmen in the tube station on the way home from work. The song is definitely fun to sing along to, and don’t be surprised if you wish to do just that after a few listens. ‘The Place I Love’ has a very sweetly played chorus, as Weller plays with the topic of depression and anti-social qualities, with ‘David Watts’  is a Kinks cover (thanks Ana) being in a similar flair. The vocal melody reflects that simply of the keys, as Ray Davies’ original lyrics reflect that of jealousy in society. The Jam released six studio albums, and I highly recommended each one.


The Jam – Monday



The Jam – Man In The Corner Shop



The Jam – Start!



The Jam – Set The House Ablaze



The Jam – Down In The Tube Station At Midnight



The Jam – The Place I Love



The Jam – David Watts



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Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine. Send your music to [email protected].