Back in 1979, as a 12-year-old caught up in the mod revival, I joined an older brother to see The Jam at Wolverhampton Civic Hall. I have a cinematic memory of Paul Weller’s paisley shirt emerging through the fog as the psychedelic hue of ‘Butterfly Collector’ bathed the stage. Dressed in my favourite Fred Perry and desert boots, I stared in awe at Weller’s bowling shoes and Bruce Foxton’s feathercut hairdo. And as I looked around me, I found a group of similarly wide-eyed, sharply dressed young kids equally fuelled by testosterone and teenage rebellion.
Raised on our older siblings’ punk records, we had found a band to call our own. ‘I’m always amazed at how young our audience was,’ said Paul Weller in the foreword to the book ‘Thick as Thieves’. ‘I thought I was young, but looking back, a lot of our fans were just 12 or 13.’ Gigs were always electrifying and often frightening. As Weller remembered: ‘The sea would part in the middle and blood and beer would fly.’
It wasn’t just about teenage release though, it was about education. NME interviews with the band were dissected for routes into this cool, metropolitan world, leading me to the works of everyone from Steve Marriott to Percy Bysshe Shelley. Through brilliantly acerbic political songs like ‘Little Boy Soldiers’ and ‘Eton Rifles’ I developed a hatred of war, greed and Thatcherism that never left me – even after David Cameron claimed to be a fan of the songs. And although my Fred Perry size might have changed, more than 30 years on I still get the same rush of excitement at the intro to ‘Strange Town’.
Read about the new exhbition The Jam: About the Young Idea.
Previously: Why I love Neil Young