- Mark Radbourne
I'm a former hospital radio/club/mobile DJ, avid record collector and amateur musician (playing guitar, keyboards, recorder, harmonica and percussion.) I've even filled in on bass guitar for a couple of local bands as well (although that was quite a few years ago). Also interested in Motorsports, Wrestling/Mixed Martial Arts and Classic Television and Radio from the 1960s - 1980s.
Why am I on here? Well, I'm just trying to make some sense of life before it's too late...but who cares anyway?
Monday, 30 September 2013
THE JAM - "In The City" (Polydor) (1977)
With the announcement that Universal are releasing a limited edition vinyl box set featuring all The Jam’s studio albums from 1977 - 1982, I thought that it would be a nice idea to look back at them. So with the stereo all set up, we start with the band’s debut effort, released right in the middle of the punk/new wave explosion of 1977.
“Art School” was a clear statement of intent from the word go. Powered by Paul Weller’s guitar work, and ably backed up by bassist Bruce Foxton and drummer Rick Buckler, the opening track set the pattern for the album - which basically reflected the band’s then-current live set. This was Weller basically saying to his audience “you’ve got the chance to express yourself - don’t waste it”, something taken to heart by other bands such as The Clash et al.
“I’ve Changed My Address” takes the usual “boy meets girl” theme and turns it on its head - was the main character scared of commitment perhaps? Well, he “knew the time to leave had come when you pointed out your ring”. This scenario is probably the sort of story which wouldn’t be out of place on a typical episode of “The Jeremy Kyle Show”. Add in a few Who-style feedback effects for good measure, and you could have had a possible second single (Weller wasn’t keen on taking loads of singles from albums so there might have been a missed trick there.)
After a fast-paced run through of the Larry Williams favourite “Slow Down”, and “I Got By In Time” - a tale of a chance reunion of old friends, Weller hits top form with “Away From The Numbers”. Clearly looking to prove that there was more to The Jam than the 200mph R ‘n’ B style numbers on the rest of the LP, the track’s main protagonist is looking to find his own identity by “breaking away from the chain”. It’s a good all-round effort, with Foxton’s backing vocals coming over clearly and confidently, and Buckler’s drumming sounding solid throughout. “Batman Theme” closes out side 1 - nothing too spectacular here so I won’t go too deep into this one.
While side 2 kicks off with “In The City”, “Sounds From The Street” could make a nice companion piece - while the former makes its point “about the young idea”, the latter revels in a scenario where we see “young kids digging, young bands playing”, with Weller’s and Foxton’s vocals meshing together nicely. Nostalgia plays a part in the next song, “Non Stop Dancing”, which takes you back to those Northern Soul all-nighters at venues like the Wigan Casino.
Things get serious though with “Time For Truth” as Weller asks “Whatever happened to the great empire”. Listeners get a final chance to “rock out” in the form of “Takin’ My Love” before sending things home with “Bricks And Mortar” - although Weller paints a bleak picture of a world where homes are being destroyed “just for the sake of a parking space”. (and a song that wouldn’t be out of place these days given the current housing situation).
As a debut album it’s a solid effort, but nothing too spectacular. The best was surely yet to come, but a patchy follow-up album “This Is The Modern World” came out before the end of the year which adversely affected the band’s fortunes. But that’s another album, for another time…