Next to the Clash, the Jam are considered one of the most enduring band to emerge from the British punk scene. Gradually earning the respect and admiration of the British press, a huge following in the United Kingdom and Europe, and a cult following in the United States, the Jam were eventually dubbed by Vic Garbarini of Musician “the British pop phenomenon of the early 80s.” Contemplating the group’s rise to prominence, Weller commented in an April 1979 interview with Ian Birch of Melody Maker, “It’s taken four years of hard work and believing in ourselves and not listening to other people saying we’re shit or something. It’s a question of maturing, growing up fast,” asserted the songwriter. “I tell you… a great quote I saw in the paper the other day comes from Stevie Wonder’s song ‘Uptight.’ The line says ’No one is better than I, but I know I’m just an average guy.’ That really sums it up, as far as I’m concerned. It’s a question of saying we’re just the same as everyone else, but we have ou r pride and self–respect and we know we’ re good. As far as I’m concerned, we’re the best… but anyone can do it.”
However, unlike many of their contemporaries, the Jam stretched beyond the social idealism and angst of the punk scene. Ultimately, the music and songs themselves, ratherthan the issues, mattered most, and Weller, the primary songwriter, penned tunes drawn from such unlikely and diverse influences as the Small Faces and Curtis Mayfield. For these reasons, the group enjoyed enormous success in its homeland, and many believed the Jam to be the only British rock band since the Beatles to define its times so well. From the group’s debut release in 1977, the Jam displayed an increasing versatility and were well on the way to embracing worldwide acceptance. “The band don’t want to be ‘big’; they crave it,” insisted Birch in 1979. Therefore, it came as a surprise in 1982 when Weller abruptly broke up the Jam at the peak of the band’s popularity. Subsequently, Buckler formed the Time in the United Kingdom with guitarist Kenny Kustow (former member of the Tim Robinson Band) and released a number of singles during the 1980s, while Foxton made an attempt at a solo career which produced the album Touch Sensitive for Arista Records in 1984. In 1986, he founded the short–lived group 100 Men. Weller, however, continued to stretch his artistic development, forming the soul–funk–jazz group the Style Council soon after leaving the Jam and enjoying a successful solo career beginning in 1992.
Throughouttheir time together, media attention centered around the Jam’s lead singer and guitarist, Paul Weller, born John William Weller on May 25, 1958, in the working–class town of Woking, Surrey, England. Raised inthe place of his birth on Stanley Road, Welleryears later wrote poetry and lyrics that commented on the strong sense of community that reigned in the neighborhood. Without many opportunities for formal training, Weller, inspired by the rock music of the day, was nonetheless drawn to music early on. “The whole reason I started playing music when I was 12 or 13 was because of the Beatles,” he told Adam Sweeting of Melody Makerin 1984, “so I was brought up on all that and I did believe in it.”
The roots of the Jam can be traced back to 1972, when Weller started playing with school friend Steve Brooks at local working men’s clubs. By 1973, the band also included Nigel Harris and Dave Waller. However, between the years of 1975 and 1976, the lineup was significantly altered, and Weller remained as the only original member. After Brookes, Harris, and Waller left the Woking–based foursome, Rick Buckler and Bruce Foxton stepped in as replacements. The new trio, now consisting of Weller (who performed most of the lead guitar and vocals and wrote most of the songs), Buckler, and Foxton, were the Jam for the next six years. Around 1976, at the dawn of the punk era, the band moved to London and broke into a circuit of clubs that nurtured the growing scene. In 1977, in the wake of the Sex Pistols’ rise in popularity, the Jam secured a contract with Polydor Records and embarked on their first major tour,
Members include Steve Brookes (left band C 1975) ; 1XRick Buckler (joined band c. 1975), drums;Bruce Foxton (joined band c. 1975), bass, vocals;Nigel Harris (left band C 1975), drums;Dave Waller (left band C 1975), bass;Paul Weiler (born John William Weller on May 25, 1958, in Woking, Surrey, England; married Dee C. Lee, 1986; children: John), guitar, vocals.
Formed band in Woking, Surrey, England, 1973; group moved to London and started playing club circuit, 1976; signed with Polydor Records and released debut album In the City, 1977; released last studio effort, The Gift, and disbanded, 1982; Polydor released all of the Jam’s 13 singles on the album Compact Snap!, 1983.
Addresses: Record company —Polydor Records, 1416 N. La Brea Ave., Hollywood, CA 90028.
opening for the Clash. Although the tour was a washout, the Jam issued their first single, “In the City,” in the spring of 1977, which reached the United Kingdom top 40. Following this, the Jam hastily recorded and released their full–length debut, also entitled In the City. Despite criticism that the album sounded too much like the Who, In the City peaked at number 20 on the United Kingdom charts, and by August of 1977, the band released a second single, “All Around the World,” which rose to number 13.
Following a sold–out headlining tour in their native United Kingdom, the Jam released their second album, This Is the Modern World, in December of 1977, and kicked off another British tour. Unfortunately, American fans were less enthusiastic. The Jam’s first American tour went ignored, while their second American tour turned into a disaster; they were made to open for the hard rock outfit Blue Oyster Cult and were often booed off the stage. Upon their return to England, the Jam nevertheless found themselves firmly solidified in the “mod revival” landscape of Great Britain and witnessed a string of hits over the next few years. In late 1978, the band released a more pop–based album, All Mod Cons, which reached number six in their homeland, but failed to chart in the United States. They followed this up with a more lyrically political collection entitled Setting Sons. The album, released in1979, hit the number four position in the United Kingdom, and finally charted in the United States at number 137. The group had two number one United Kingdom singles: “Start!” and “Going Underground,” in 1980.
In 1981, the Jam released the album Sound Affects, a more rhythm and blues, soul–influenced work than previous albums. Instead of focusing on social commentary, Weiler lightened up his songwriting and developed such noteworthy tracks as “Boy About Town” and “But I’m Different Now.” Despite the shift in musical and lyrical direction, the band retained their loyal following in the United Kingdom and gained a wider audience in Japan, though American support continued to allude them. In 1982, the Jam released their final studio effort, The Gift, on which the group merged rhythm and blues with funk and included highlights like “Town Called Malice,” “Precious,” and “Happy Together.” But just as the trio reached the peak of their career and soon after the release of The Gift, Weiler informed Foxton and Buckler that he was tired of the Jam. Fans and the music industry were surprised when the band announced they planned to break up. Following an emotional farewell tour in the United Kingdom, Weller immediately formed a newfunk–jazz group, the Style Council, then went on to enjoy an acclaimed solo career beginning in 1992. Although Foxton and Buckler continued playing with other bands and pursuing solo projects, they remained embittered that Weller had abandoned his longtime friends and had taken most of the credit for the Jam’s prosperity. In 1983, following the disbanding of the Jam, Polydor released all of the Jam’s 13 United Kingdom singles on Compact Snap!; all 13 songs re–charted in the United Kingdom top 100. Still unable to earn anything more than a cult following in America, the Jam remained popular and highly influential overseas.
In the City, Polydor, 1977.
Peel Sessions, Strange Fruit, 1977.
This Is the Modern World, Polydor, 1977.
All Mod Cons, Polydor, 1978.
Setting Sons, Polydor, 1979.
Sound Affects, Polydor, 1980.
Dig the New Breed, Polydor, 1982.
The Gift, Polydor, 1982.
Compact Snap!, Polydor, 1983.
Greatest Hits, Polydor, 1991.
Extras: A Collection of Rarities, Polydor, 1992.
Wasteland, Pickwick, 1992.
Live Jam, Polydor, 1993.
Beat Surrender (collection), Karussell, 1993.
Jam Collection, Polydor, 1996.
Direction Reaction Creation, Polydor, 1997.
Contemporary Musicians, volume 14, Gale Research, Inc., 1995.
musicHound Rock, Visible Ink Press, 1999.
Melody Maker, April 28, 1979, pp. 24–25; October 30, 1982; March 24, 1984.
Musician, April 1984; October 1992.
Rolling Stone.com, http://www.rollingstone.tunes.com (December 9, 1999).
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