Jam, The

views updated

Jam, The

Jam, The, one of the biggest bands in England during the late 1970s, who couldn’t parlay their homegrown success into American stardom (f. 1973). Membership: Paul Weller, gtr., voc. (b. May 25, 1958); Bruce Foxton, bs. (b. Sept. 1 1955); Rick Buckler, drm., perc. (b. Dec. 6, 1955). Paul Weller, Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler met in school in the London suburb of Woking. More mod revivalists than punks, their repertoire included songs like “Theme from Batman” and “In the Midnight Hour.” However, when the Sex Pistols hit they were in the right place at the right time playing the right kind of music. From their initial release, “In the City” they charted hits in England. Their first album, recorded quickly and named after the hit single, sounding like a crisper, punchier version of the early Who, went to #20 in England. They toured Britain and America. The English tour was successful, but in the U.S. they suffered from their lack of exposure. The Jam next recorded This Is the Modern World, released less than ten months after their debut. They toured America, inexplicably as the opening act for Blue Oyster Cult. While the tour exposed them to large crowds, they were crowds that couldn’t care less about a neo- mod band. The tour did nothing to raise the band’s profile in the U.S., so when All Mod Cons was released in 1978, it went to #6 in the U.K. but failed to chart in the U.S. The following year, they fared slightly better with the more political Setting Sons, which earned some play on the growing number of new wave stations and sent the album to #137 in the U.S., while it hit #4 in the U.K. This continued with the song “Start” with its blatant cop from The Beatles’ “Taxman.” Sound Affects became their most successful album in the U.S., hitting #72. With their 1982 album, The Gift, the songs had become considerably more sophisticated, representing an enormous amount of growth over a period of less than five years.

While the band was at the top of their game, Weller became frustrated with the musical limitations of the power trio. He was leaning more toward a jazzier, funkier sound and informed Foxton and Buckler that he didn’t think they could cut it. In 1981, they went on a farewell tour and went their separate ways. As a farewell, all 13 of their singles were re-released in England and all of them charted again. Their cover of “War” again earned some minor airplay on modern rock stations, but didn’t raise their profile in the U.S. Foxton recorded a solo album for Arista that sold dozens. Weller formed the Style Council with keyboard player Mick Talbot. Loosely framed in the image of Steely Dan, the duo added studio hands for recording according to the demands of the song. Lyrically, Weller wrote from a leftist agenda, which created a somewhat surreal effect couched in slick, R&B-oriented rock. Yet the less scabrous sound (as opposed to The Jam) reached the mid-1980s, post-punk audiences. Their 1984 debut album, called Café Bleu in Europe and My Ever Changing Moods in the U.S., peaked at #5 in England and rose to #56 in the U.S. on the strength of Weller’s first ever U.S. pop hit, the title track, which peaked at #29. It was his first and last Top 40 U.S. hit.

The duo did continue to have success in the U.K., however. 1985’s The Internationalist (known as Our Favorite Shops in the U.K.) spawned the British hit “The Walls Come Tumbling Down,” and covered Curtis May field and the Stylistics. The album topped the English charts. A live album, Home and Abroad, peaked at #8. With The High Cost of Loving, the Style Council’s sound became pronouncedly jazzier, and hit #2 on the U.K. charts, with the single “It Didn’t Matter” hitting the Top 10. However their next (and last) album, Confessions of a Pop Group, didn’t move fans or critics. Weller gave in to all his excessive instincts. Where he had launched his career based on short bursts of loud pop, this album contained a ten-minute orchestral suite called “The Gardener of Eden.” None of the singles hit. The group produced one more album, reflecting their growing interest in contemporary dance music. The record company shelved it, effectively putting an end to the band. Both Weller and the Style Council were dropped from the label. The band called it a day officially in 1990.

Weller returned to his roots for his solo recordings, starting with his DIY project, the Paul Weller Movement, a return to the raw R&B edge of the Jam with a neo-psychedelic bent. This followed through on his eponymous solo debut album. Littered with guest stars from the early 1990s British scene, the album rose to #8 in the U.K. His next album, Wild Wood, was even more diverse, entering the U.K. charts at #2 and winning several awards in Europe. The tour was captured on the next album, Live Wood. His 1995 effort, Stanley Road, sold almost a million copies in the U.K. alone, and Weller decided to concentrate on where his fans were, pretty much spurning America. He has released a couple of more records in the U.K.

Early in 2000, a tribute record featuring Oasis, Everything but the Girl, and The Beastie Boys, called Fire and Skill, demonstrated that, even nearly 20 years after their break-up, The Jam are still influential. Weller even contributed a tune to the record, but continues to stay mostly in England, where he enjoys the status of musical elder statesman extraordinaire, something like that bestowed on his own inspiration Peter Townshend.


In the City (1977); This Is the Modern World (1977); All Mod Cons (1978); Setting Sons (1979); Sound Affects (1980); The Gift (1982); Dig the New Breed (live; 1982); Peel Sessions (live; 1990). bruce foxton solo:Touch Sensitive (1984). style council:Introducing the Style Council (1983); My Ever Changing Moods (1984); Cafe Bleu (1984); Internationalists (1985); Our Favourite Shop (1985); Home and Abroad (live; 1986); Cost of Loving (1987); Confessions of a Pop Group (1988). paul weller solo:Paul Weller (1992); Wild Wood (1993); More Wood (1994); Paul Weller Live Wood (1994); Stanley Road (1995); Heavy Soul (1997).

—Hank Bordowitz