The Jam’s In The City was released 40 years ago today
Once upon a long ago, I regularly played squash with The Jam’s first manager. Some even longer ago before that, I went to see The Jam in Port Talbot, South Wales, and caught only the encores, having tarried a while too long in the pub. Sometime after that missed gig, and certainly during the time I was playing squash with the ex-manager, I helped a friend move in to his new house in Woking. The second bedroom had a wall covered in graffiti and various mod references, including a beautifully realised ‘The Who’ logo, complete with RAF roundel and the arrow on the ‘o’. It turned out that this was Rick Buckler’s (drummer with The Jam) parent’s house, and this had been Rick’s bedroom. Oh yes – and I bought the novelty single Henry The Wasp by The Highliners because I thought it was drolly amusing. Rick Buckler plays drums with them.
The above is not, you may be forgiven for thinking, my attempt at combining ‘Would I Lie To You?’ with ‘The Unbelievable Truth’, because the truth is… it’s all true. Yeah, yeah, you’re thinking, but so what?
But soft, the 29th of April 1977 marks the day on which The Jam’s first single, In The City was released. It shot to number 40 in the, um, top 40, bouncing back off it like a gymnast on a trampoline… Not the greatest of (up)starts, but it did herald a string of eighteen top 40 hits, including this first one, over the next 5 years, with four reaching Number 1 at a time when such positions (and charts for that matter) mattered.
For me, In The City bears the hallmarks of everything I loved about The Jam: crisp, loud, driving, urgent. Bruce Foxton’s bass is right out front in the mix, the drums trampling over everything like a herd of organised wildebeest, and Paul Weller’s spitting his angry young man vocals. It was a formula that more or less sustained their recorded output – at least as far as the singles went – over their chart career, only the final two (The Bitterest Pill and Beat Surrender) beginning to hint at the direction Weller was to go in, influences of jazz and soul penetrating the hitherto solid punk-filtered mod-era sound that was the signature of The Jam.
I like In The City. A lot. Unlike many debut singles, it has the full and fulsome sound that would define the band. It hit the ground running, stating from the off that this was the sound and attitude to expect. So many debut singles sound weak, thin and under-produced. Not In The City, which comes at you like a train out of a tunnel and leaves you breathless in its slipstream.
From here, single after single did the same, whilst their albums grew more complex and technically accomplished without ever losing their power. Calling it a day at Weller’s behest and to the chagrin of Foxton and Buckler, they left at the top, their last album The Gift being an enormous commercial and critical hit and their last single another Number 1.
Few bands have so obviously left a hole that will never be filled; Weller has stated he would only reform The Jam if his children were destitute, so there’s more chance of finding rocking horse manure on the moon. Other bands, even The Beatles before the death of John Lennon, leave the faint whiff of hope, like the scent of perfume lingering in a recently vacated dressing-room. Even The Police and The Sex Pistols reformed for goodness sake! Not The Jam though, not The Jam.
Ah, but what if they did? Take a look at all those top 40 hits and you know that they could destroy us by just playing them from first to last. What a gig it would be: and I’d be bloody certain to get out of the pub and in to the venue in time to hear those first crashing guitar chords of In The City.
From our guest writer, Danny Jones. Danny entered the world at the start of the 1960s. They say if you can remember the 60s, you weren’t there. Despite being there, he has only the vaguest memories. He certainly didn’t experience the much talked about sexual freedom (his junior school was rather forbidding in that regard) and wasn’t even one of the twenty or so ‘5th Beatles’. Now retired from the rat race, since the rats began to overtake him, he spends his time attempting to look busy for his still rat-racing wife. She’s not fooled. Danny’s blog is currently moving and can be found somewhere between here and here.