Monday, September 12, 2011

Discovering The Jam

So last week, I spent an unhealthy amount of time talking about how The Smiths played an important role in my my early adolescent identity and how that indirectly led me to the Mod thing. I figure I should probably follow that up with how I discovered the band that would replace The Smiths at that stage in my  life.

In the 8th grade, after I was put on the correct path towards Modtopia (a story for a future blog post), what little I knew about Mods was all I talked about to anyone who would listen. (And as you can tell, things haven't changed since.) I felt like I had discovered something that NO ONE else in the world knew about... well, at least no one at Giano Intermediate School.

So imagine my surprise when, after blathering on and on about how Mods wore army jackets before punks to this kid in home room, he responded that his older brother was a Mod! At first, I thought that this guy was completely lost on what I was talking about. How could his older brother be a Mod? They were extinct as far as I knew. Then, he went on to tell me that his older brother was even fan of a band called The Jam. THE JAM?? Now I knew this kid was mixed up!

Now, let's journey back to the late '80s when this conversation took place. Ahh... the late '80s, a time when guys wanted the Richard Marx hairstyle, 'bad' still meant 'good', and this song was a hit:

In addition to this song, the term 'jam' could also be used in the following contexts: "Hey man, I wanna mack on those girls. Let's jam!" and "Have you heard the new Pebbles song, Mercedes Boy? That jam is bad!" Also, Lisa Lisa and the Cult JAM were HUGE. So, this kid talking about his alleged Mod older brother who liked a band called The Jam just didn't sit right with me.

The following week, this same kid showed up in his older brother's red sweatshirt with the following logo in puffy white lettering:
How on earth could this 'tagged' logo be 'Mod'? I just didn't buy it. This guy just did not know what he was talking about... The 'Jam' being Mod? Pssh! (Now, you want to know the sad fate of this Jam sweatshirt? The kid ended up CUTTING THE SLEEVES OFF and using it as a P.E./gym shirt!)

The next time I came across The Jam was almost a year later, when I was a freshman in high school. I was record shopping at Aron's Records on Melrose, when I came across The Jam's This is the Modern World LP.
I was still very skeptical about this band so I had to study the record a bit. Let's see... they weren't wearing suits... but one of the guys did have a pin of The Who on his sweater. Hmm... the album was called This is the Modern World... hmm... no graffiti art on the cover... then I turned the record over and oh my god they were actually wearing suits just like the Mods used to!

So, I bought it, along with my first Specials LP and first Madness LP (but I'll save those for a future ska post) and brought it to my grandmother's where I was staying. Early in the 9th grade, I still associated Mod music with a more punky/new wave sound, so when I heard those first chords and Paul Weller shouting, "THIS IS THE MAW-UN WOOLD," I was sold!


  1. Bravo! I first became aware of The Jam in 1979 when I went to the home of a new kid in school who had a bedroom wall covered with photos of rock n roll/punk/new wave bands, one of them stuck out;a color photo of three guys on Carnaby Street in Union Jack suit jackets with one of them sporting Roger McGuinn style granny glasses. The new kid and I became good friends (he'd never actually heard The Jam)and we saw further cool pics of them in "Creem" magazine and both saw them play live on ABC TV's "Fridays" in the summer of 1980 and it was all over for me....

  2. Haha! I love that he hadn't even heard them before putting that photo up.

    I hope they release 'Fridays' at some point on DVD and not just the music performances.

  3. My introduction to The Jam was through my best friend Ed Piffard in 1979, who worked with me at Farrell's. He had a stack of some great 45s from the UK by bands such as X-Ray Spex, Stiff Little Fingers, and The Jam's "Down In The Tube Station at Midnight" b/w "A Bomb in Wardour Street". I was hooked immediately and went and bought their first four records including the new one Setting Sons, still my favorite of their albums. I remember when they were on Fridays and what a huge deal that was for me and my friends. They were also on American Bandstand in 1980 doing "Heat Wave"! Luckily I got to see them in 1982 at Perkin's Palace in Pasadena but wish I had been in the know enough to have seen their 1977 and 1978 shows at the Whiskey and the Starwood in LA. We lucked out at the Pasadena show because we got word about a daytime sound check and a friend of a friend let is in to watch that and meet the band! It was terribly exciting because that was the biggest turnout of mods at any event up to that time we had seen. Weller could never understand how a mod scene could exist in America though (he explained in interviews how it's a British movement that American kids couldn't really understand it).

  4. Dean, you worked at Farrell's? That's even cooler than diggin' the Jam!

    I love this story but what bums me out is that I can totally see Paul Weller being all snobby about it. Well, Paul Weller, I can't understand how British kids could get into Ivy League... so take that! Nyah!

  5. Farrells!? Back before we were drinking age and near any decent diners my friends and I would go there when we were 18, Dave Woj of The Insomniacs and I still joke about "hanging out at Farrell's"!

    I was lucky enough to see The Jam at the Trenton War Memorial in May of '82, their last US tour. Years later it transpired that 3/4's of the people I met through music were there, it was New Jersey's "Woodstock". I was not aware of their soundcheck "policy" then but John Weller did politely eject us from the backstage area prior to the show and most of the people I've met all have wonderful soundcheck stories!

  6. Yeah, it was my second restaurant job. I started working there in my senior year in high school in '79 and worked there for two years as busboy and fountain for a short while, then waiter. Most fun job I ever had. We got away with murder! Two of the people I worked with fronted bands and actually performed in the banquet room after hours for the crew! One waiter thought he was Mick Jagger; he was a pretty good singer. Then my friend Ed had a punk band briefly. The only song I remember was "Fascist Cowboy", about Reagan of course!

  7. Modern World was a big let down after In the City. Weller had to make a much better group of songs for All Mod Cons to get The Jam back into the spotlight.
    1977 for me, a friends older brother was the US Fan Club President. He let us hear In The City and the rest is history.
    At the same time, he also exposed us to The Chords and The Undertones.
    The Chords if they had stayed together could have given The Jam a good run for the money, but they didn't. The Undertones on the other had put out an album that the late John Peel called "The Greatest Album in the History of the World" Peel also asked to have "Teenage Kicks" put onto his gravestone.
    Speed up to 1979 and Quadrophenia comes out, that was all we needed to seal the deal.
    At that time, the style of clothes was very similar to the "preppy look" button down shirts, penny loafers, levis. At that time we didn't have Ben Shermans, but we had Gant Madras, Fred Perry which you bought at tennis shops or at Marshalls, LL Bean, and one of the best store At Ease in Westwood Village. Ben Shermans made there way over here in the early 80's. The problem was limited quantity and outrageous prices. Thrift Shops were a popular place to shop, especially for cool wool coats, 3 button blazers etc... Londsdale made its way also after being seen by The Business, The Jam and various other bands in about the mid 80's unless you knew someone who was going to the UK or if you were able to go. I remember the Lonsdale shop was off Carnaby Street and you could miss it if you weren't paying attention.
    Unfortunetly that Fridays appearance of Start and Private Hell is their best TV appearance not the American Band Stand show which Weller clearly was not in the Mood to do.
    I saw them finally at the Perkins Palace show after the in store appearance at Tower Records on Sunset. KROQ had this cheesy "KROQ Toasts The Jam" promotion.
    With the internet I have made a lot of friends, reconnected with some old ones also.
    I am also friends with a photographer who was with the band in 81/82 Neil "Twinks" Tinning. He is responsible for the cover picture on The Gift. The original concept was for Running on The Spot, but as Neil put it, Weller looked like an idiot, and they scraped that idea. I have his limited edition book The Jam Unseen and the negatives are in that book and I get a big laugh out of it. Lots of stories also that Neil has told me.
    Scooters we have 5 still, something me and my wife have been doing since 82.
    All of this because of a 3 piece band which sang about mostly anglophile things which we yanks were not able to understand, but the music behind the lyrics was all we needed.

  8. Awesome story, thanks for sharing!

    Although Weller did sound snobby with his comment, it makes some sense. I would imagine feeling the same way if I saw kids in London dressing like L.A. cholos or gangsters with Dickies, top-buttoned Pendletons, those corduroy "house slippers" or knee-high white socks under Dickies shorts. It would certainly seem a little out of place, no?

    Nevertheless, all it took for some us American kids was infectious music mated with infectious fashion, and we were sold, especially at a time when we were looking for something different. Our love for the music and fashion was all that mattered to us.

  9. I will admit. I was turned onto the Jam by The Style Council. What can I say. My English friends hate me for it but, please don't tell anyone, I still love the Style Council.

  10. Lefty Limbo, I think your comparison to the cholos is totally on point. And thank you for bringing THOSE childhood memories back... yikes!

    Tintin, ain't nothin' wrong around these parts with Style Council love. (Granted, I am 50/50 on my dig of them.)

    And thanks for the great response, Anonymous! It's crazy to me how huge the whole Mod thing was in the 80s. And I get very jealous when I think of the goldmine you guys were sitting on with all the '60s stuff you could still find in thrift stores! Argh!