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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?

Sunday, 6 October 2013

THE JAM - “Sound Affects” (Polydor) (1980)

1980.  The dawning of a new decade.  Surely it couldn’t get any better for Paul Weller and co after “The Eton Rifles” and ”Setting Sons” both performed solidly in the singles and album charts respectively.  Well, we got our answer when “Going Underground”/”The Dreams Of Children” did the seemingly impossible -  by entering the charts at number one - the first single to achieve this feat since 1973 when Slade managed it with “Merry Xmas Everybody”.  (You have to give credit to Polydor’s marketing department here,  not only did they release the single on a Tuesday - which wasn’t the normal practice at the time - ensuring that it maximised sales, but also added a bonus three-track single recorded live in London towards the end of last year.

1980 also saw something of a change of sound for the band‘s next album,“Sound Affects“, influenced by bands like Wire, Gang Of Four, Joy Division, and, to an extent, Michael Jackson (Weller was once quoted as saying that the next LP was a cross between The Beatles’ “Revolver” and Jackson’s “Off The Wall”) so it would be interesting to find out how it all turned out come release time…

Starting with “Pretty Green”, and one of those insistent basslines from Bruce Foxton, it very nearly was a single if it wasn’t for Weller, standing his ground and insisting that “Start” was the better bet (more on that later). The song (about the power of money) is as solid an opener as you could find on any of the band’s L.Ps.  “Monday” is a bit of a departure though, as the guitars take on a jangly, slightly psychedelic quality which is also evident on the likes of “Man In The Corner Shop”, one of Weller’s “photographs of suburban life”, and another of those numbers that Ray Davies would have been proud of writing.

There are still elements of the old “Jam Sound” evident in tracks like “But I’m Different Now”, “Dream Time” and “Boy About Town” (the latter two adding the occasional brass section). “Start” meanwhile nicks elements from The Beatles’ “Taxman” (especially that bassline) and uses them to good effect - and gave the trio their second successive number one single - although for this version, the brass section again is called into service (pity it isn’t credited though).  “Set The House Ablaze” powers through at a furious pace.  Hang on though, do I detect the slight influence of Whistling Jack Smith (ask your grandparents) here.  “Scrape Away” and “Music For The Last Couple” are the closest the band come to that edgy sound that Weller had intended for the LP, while pride of place has to go to “That’s Entertainment”, an acoustic number which (so the story goes) Weller reeled off in a matter of ten minutes after coming home from the pub one night.  It wasn’t an official single, but it did get into the top 30 purely on import sales.  (Polydor would release it officially in 1983 in the wake of the band’s split, and again in 1991 to promote the “Greatest Hits” collection.)

It’s the group’s most adventurous effort to date, (Weller still cites it as his favourite Jam LP), but it took me a few plays to get used to the new sound when it first came out.  Sharp eared listeners would probably have noticed that a lot of the volume had been lost in the mastering process - in fact when it was remastered for a special edition CD, one reviewer went as far as to say that you could actually make out the tape hiss during the quiet parts.  Some of the songs seem unfinished but there’s plenty on the LP to warrant repeated listening.

There would only be two new singles released by The Jam in 1981 (“Funeral Pyre” and “Absolute Beginners”, which would both reach the top ten), but the following year would prove to be more successful.  However, 1982 would be the last year that the band would be active together - with Weller announcing that they would split at the end of the year.

So what would the band leave as a parting gift?  (Nifty clue about the title there).  We would find out the answer in March 1982.….