It was 7:15 in the evening on Friday the 3rd of December, 1982. I know because I still have the ticket.
I was at one the The Jam’s farewell shows at Wembley Arena and even though I was only 20 myself at the time I felt like one of the oldest people there as the hall seemed to be full of 14-year-old boys wearing cheap Parkas that looked like their Mum had bought them in Millets. It was like being in the audience for Crackerjack or an England Schoolboys football game, and for the first time in my life the words “bloody kids” came into my head and I had that awful feeling of smug superiority that I had been a Jam fan from way, way, way back, long before they were stadium-playing superstars – four years at least! Where were all these spotty little bandwagon-jumpers then, huh? Mucking about with their Tonka Toys probably. I had to fight the urge to grab one of them by the Parka and say “Of course, they were so much better at The Rainbow in ’78. I was there, you know” as if I was some grizzled old hippie droning on about Woodstock.
Several massive hit singles and a Mod revival had happened since that last gig and my mate and I both came to the the rather snotty conclusion that we understood why Weller was breaking up the group if this was their audience now — and selling out Wembley five nights in a row wasn’t very “punk” was it? — which is exactly the sort of condescending attitude you’d expect from a 20-year-old who thinks he knows it all (don’t they all?) But looking back now I feel bad for those kids, they were at the age when they were starting to get into music seriously and I can imagine how important The Jam were to them because I remember that feeling well myself. Paul Weller was your hero and you would hang on his every word for tips on what to wear, what to read, what old records to buy, even how to vote. And then — maybe in the same week you bought a George Orwell novel because Paul mentioned him in an NME interview — the bastard went and broke the band up. Who did that leave you with? Secret Affair??? That’s like losing a pound and finding a penny — well, 50p maybe.
I don’t remember much about the actual gig itself apart from Weller smashing up his guitar Pete Townsend-style after he tripped over his guitar lead and Bruce hanging around on the stage waving to the crowd at the end long after Paul had buggered off. But I do have a bootleg of the concert from the night before at Wembley which is about as close as I’ll ever get to recreating that magical night when I became an old git.
Another reason why I had no right to feel superior to those kids: When I was their age I was into ELO.