You know that feeling when you’re rummaging through your old record collection? For some of us that means leafing through a heap of vinyl albums, old and familiar cover art, perhaps looking a little tired at the edges? I find that searching for oldies doesn’t work for me this way and that’s why I struggle in second-hand record stores with the myriad of titles to mull over. What does seem to happen
with me is that I get a tune or a band/artist in my head and I just HAVE to then find it – one way or another. This happened most recently to me with The Jam and in particular an album track entitled I Got By in Time from their debut album In The City.
In 1977 music was changing fast. It’s well documented how the old bands were quickly becoming passé with younger music fans. Groups like Genesis, Yes and even the likes of rock gods like Led Zeppelin were suddenly being regarded as dinosaurs, flabby, overblown and distant from the fans. In their place came people such as The Sex Pistols notably and other people such as The Damned and The Buzzcocks. Even more significantly a vanguard of other bands who came to transcend the ‘punk’ tag with their huge, original and fresh talent and commensurate record sales. These bands exemplified by The Clash and The Jam, who were never really punks but conveniently tagged as such, led rock music into the 1980s and on.
Those bands were so exciting at the time and it’s still easy to feel that rush of adrenaline that they brought those of a record buying age in that era. It was indeed ‘my’ time for music although previously I had been into bands that were slightly of a prior age group such as The Who, The Stones et al. I still am in some respects but The Jam and the Clash were from my time as opposed to those others who were from a time that was my elder sister’s.
I Got By In Time
“Saw a girl that I used to know
I was deep in thought at the time
To recognise the face at first
‘Cause I was probably looking at mine
Well she was the only girl I’ve ever loved
But my folks didn’t dig her so much
I was young
This is serious
To me she was the world (she was my world now)
I thought I’d never live without her,
But I got by in time“
Putting your finger on these new bands was not necessarily an easy matter in 1977. TV coverage was not wholesale and radio play was fairly limited. The media in their lovable way had served to create a nasty smell around punk music, largely fuelled by The Sex Pistols x-rated appearance on The Bill Grundy show – an incident that appears fairly tame nowadays upon viewing. Very soon the term New Wave came to be bandied about and arguably The Jam were often considered as part of that genre.
What I actually liked about them firstly was their echoes of The Who. The Mod idiom was coolly, genuinely and faithfully followed by Paul Weller along with Rick Buckler and Bruce Foxton. Quadrophenia the album by The Who had come and gone in 1973 with the movie still to come. it all accentuated Mod culture, but whilst other bands clothing and culture seemed copyist to my perception, The Jam were the real thing – the band to take Mod into the 1970s and onwards.
“Saw a guy that I used to know
Man he’d changed so much
I think it hurt him to say ‘hello’,
‘Cause he hardly opened his mouth
Yeah well he was my best friend a few years ago
We were young
We were full of ideals
We were gonna pull this whole world
But something happened
I didn’t know why
But that’s the way that it goes.
I bought In The City, The Jam’s debut album a couple of days after it had been released at my local Virgin store which was incredibly, only corner shop sized in those days. On King Street, Nottingham, the store soon relocated to nearby Clumber Street but not before becoming nationally infamous when that year, window adverts for Never Mind The B*llocks by The Sex Pistols were objected to by a local WPC and the manager of the store arrested for it.
In The City sounded so amazing to me when I put it on the deck for the first time. All ringing chords and frenetic and energetic riffs blasted out by this tight, tight three-piece. Nor had I ever heard Motown tracks belted out with such fierce energy and commitment either, the Detroit label being a sixties Mod favouritism of course. The Jam were such an antidote in 1977. It was famously the year when Saturday Night Fever was launched. The year after Grease became another musical movie to avoid if you were male and had any pretensions to cool at all. It was no hardship distancing yourself away from that stuff for me and the friends I kept. The hardest thing was avoiding having to take a girlfriend to see either of those movies and not listening to it incessantly on the radio.
The Jam came along and rescued us from all that insipid and over-commercialised stuff that was the bane of our lives and was in every nightclub at that time. No wonder in 1977 I decided that rock pubs were my deal rather than putting a tie on for five minutes and hooking up with a girl outside some rank and vacuous nightclub to gain entry. I have often thought back to those days and considered I would have spent even less time in those hideous places if I were to do it all again.
And all the bonds you make between ya
Can be broken any time you want now
Please tell me if my philosophy’s wrong
I’ve got to know the truth
I don’t mean to offend anyone but,
You know it’s something that I do, oh-oh-oh“
So, back to 2008. I’m in the home. I’m reading. Then some sounds comes to me and I hear those unmistakable chords again. Paul Weller thrashing his Rickenbacker and spitting out lyrics with an unholy passion. Young and angry, brash and aggressively assertive. The Sound of 1977. The way I felt and the way many of my friends in that era felt. Paul Weller, his manner and his words spoke for us and our generation. He still does and man it’s good to know that he’s still out there.
“So nice to see you tonight,
And I’m so glad that you came
Some of the people standing outside, say
Sure feel the same
Yeah my point is in a round about way
Given time he’ll always forget
‘Cause the memories
That … me on
To me everything (you’re everything now)
And it always will be mine, yeah
And no one can take them away“
The Jam – In The City (live)