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.
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.
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.
So here’s the band that “rescued” me from artists like Chris Rainbow. I sometimes wonder where and who I’d be if I hadn’t heard “Down In The Tube Station At Midnight” when I did. Punk and post-punk opened up so much more than just your ears, it expanded your horizons in all sorts of directions. It was like a revolution in everything you thought and did. Would I have gone to art school and become the person I am without it? I don’t think so.
In a nutshell, The Jam were my generation’s Beatles and Paul Weller was our John Lennon. That didn’t make Bruce Foxton our Paul McCartney though. He only wrote a few songs which were mostly a bit naff and cliched, but (apart from his obvious best effort “Smithers-Jones”) I’ve always liked “Carnaby Street” which isn’t a particularly brilliant song either but it sounds terrific with The Jam at their young and thrashy best.
This was the b-side of their 1977 single “All Around The World” and at the time Carnaby Street was a dump trading on past glories, full of crappy shops flogging cheap tat for gullible tourists who had come to experience “Swinging London” not knowing it was long gone. In the song Foxton sees this as a metaphor for the decline of England in general. The street has moved back upmarket since then and so have old Mod brands like Ben Sherman which are still trading on the past only with much higher prices, which in many ways is another metaphor for England today.
As a little something extra for the weekend here is the lovely “Life From A Window” which is a real pearl among the swine of their poor “This Is The Modern World” album. This is probably Weller’s first proper “grown up” song, dropping the slogans about youth explosions and the kids (man) in favour of a dreamy wistfulness like Ray Davies in one of his “just leave me alone with my thoughts and a cup of tea” moods.