The Best Years Of Your Life

When you were a kid and grown-ups told you that school was the best years of your life you always thought they were talking rubbish. Didn’t they know how much you hated school and couldn’t wait to be an adult with all the privileges you thought came with it?

Now I’m a grown-up myself I understand that it was really just wistful jealousy on their part. They would have loved to go back to a time of no responsibility themselves (while also idealizing it) and were pissed off that we didn’t seem to appreciate how golden our existence was. That’s why George Bernard Shaw said “Youth is wasted on the young.”

So of course this Panorama documentary from 1977 looks like a transmission from a golden era to my adult eyes. I was 15 that year and this is almost exactly what my school was like — but without girls sadly — right down to the teacher who would bore us all shitless by playing classical music in morning assembly. 

But I’m not too blinded by nostalgia not to notice how chaotic and rowdy the lessons are, and how frazzled and tired the teachers seem. I didn’t see those things at the time.

This is hardly the most obscure song I’ve ever posted here but over the years it has become one of my very favourite Paul Weller songs. I used to consider it a little throwaway but now I’m older I appreciate more how it captures the fleeting joy of being young before “you find out life isn’t like that”. Weller was only 21 when he wrote this. Was he wise beyond his years or has he always been an old man?

Download: When You’re Young – The Jam (mp3)

Something for The Weekend

With Britain being wrecked by two old Etonians this song is now more documentary than allegory.

Haven’t watched any live Jam videos for a long time and it was a pleasure to be reminded how bloody great they were. I made the right choice of favourite band when I was a teenager.

Lucky Dip

Download: Worlds Apart (Demo) – The Jam (mp3)

Paul Weller’s sketches were better than a lot of songwriters finished articles. I can see why he never finished this one though, and instead used part of it for “Strange Town” where it was much improved.

The Girl That Paul Built

When Paul Weller broke up The Jam in 1982 they were the biggest band in Britain which gave him a lot of clout to do what he wanted. Besides forming The Style Council, he had a go at being a pop mogul by starting his own record label called Respond and put an ad in Smash Hits looking for a girl singer to join this Motown-wannabe of his. One of the young hopefuls who answered that ad was 17-year-old Essex girl Tracie Young — or Tracie! as she was initially known on her record sleeves – who made her singing debut on The Jam’s final single Beat Surrender.

Like Joanna and Susan in The Human League, Tracie was an “ordinary” teenage girl (who could sing) with the appeal of the pretty local lass who had a Saturday job in Boot’s and danced around her handbag at the High Street disco in the evenings. While you probably wouldn’t attempt to chat up Kim Wilde at a disco — too cooly Bardot glam — Tracie was a girl you might fancy your chances with. On Top of The Pops she looked like the siren of the Sixth Form in her denim jacket, pencil skirt, and white high heels and was voted “Most Fanciable Female” in the 1983 Smash Hits readers’ poll.

She was no shrinking violet pop puppet though, and had a row with Weller over his production of her records, especially The House That Jack Built which he sped up and put a lot of tinny synths and drum machines on. He wanted her to sound like a modern pop star, not “a little soul girl” in his words.

While I agree with Weller, the production was a bit naff but that didn’t stop her first two singles from being hits. Unfortunately the other acts on Respond like The Questions and A Craze didn’t do so well and by the time Tracie’s debut album Far From the Hurting Kind came out in 1984 she wasn’t having hits either and it only got to #64 in the charts which is a real shame as it’s a rather good album.

Download: Soul’s On Fire – Tracie (mp3)

With the lack of hits Weller lost interest in Respond and the label went belly up in 1986 leaving Tracie at Polydor where she recorded a second album No Smoke Without Fire which was never released. Pop career over, she had a family and then a second life as a radio presenter.

But last month — huzzah! — that second album finally saw the light of day a mere 30 years after it was recorded. I’ve not heard the whole thing yet (hasn’t been released in the States) but I do have extended mixes of some of the singles that are on it. How these weren’t hits is beyond me, Invitation especially shows what a great singer Tracie was becoming. One of the bonus tracks is the b-side curio 19 which takes Paul Hardcastle’s hit and turns it into an anti-vivisection protest song.

Download: Invitation (RSVP Mix) – Tracie Young (mp3)
Download: I Can’t Leave You Alone (Pick n’ Mix) – Tracie Young (mp3)
Download: 19 (Wickham Mix) – Tracie Young (mp3)

Nice to know that Tracie is doing well these days and didn’t become some pop casualty — she was a bit too sensible for that. Some of us are still carrying a little torch for her.

Something for the Weekend

Wham, Bam, thank you, The Jam!

Revolver was a terrific show but it seems to be a bit forgotten now when talk turns to great music television of the past, probably because it was broadcast late at night (due to its “controversial” punk content) and only lasted for eight episodes. But me and my sister watched every one of them, it was brilliant stuff, especially Peter Cook taking the piss out of the bands and the audience.

Sorry, Smithers-Jones

I got laid off from my job last week which was a bit of a shock as I really didn’t see it coming. They used words like “restructuring” and “reorganization” which I guess is the corporate version of “It’s not you, it’s me”.

So I am now unemployed. On the plus side I should have more time for blogging.

Download: Smithers-Jones (Single Version) – The Jam (mp3)

The First Time I Felt Old

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.

Download: Precious – The Jam (mp3)
Download: Move On Up – The Jam (mp3)
Download: Boy About Town – The Jam (mp3)
(Live at Wembley, December 2nd, 1982)

Another reason why I had no right to feel superior to those kids: When I was their age I was into ELO.

Picture Post

Download: The Punk and The Godfather – The Who (mp3)

If they took this picture now Paul Weller would be the old man, but who would be the young turk standing next to him?

What’s it all about?

The sentimental musings of an ageing expat in words, music, and pictures. Mp3 files are up for a limited time so drink them while they're hot. Contact me: lee at londonlee dot com





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