Friday, March 22, 2013

Personal Situations: My Road With The Jam 1979-1982

I recently got around to collecting a book on The Jam called  "Thick As Thieves: Personal Situations With The Jam" which is a fans eye view of the band via personal recollections, photos, memorabilia etc . Reading the impressions of others got the gears in my teeny brain moving and I decided to put mine down in print.

The Jam story for me began in Autumn 1979 when a new kid arrived at school in my 8th grade class.  We became friendly and the first time I went to his house his room was covered floor to ceiling with photos and clippings and posters of all sorts of bands.  Among them was a color photo of three guys in Union Jack suit jackets standing defiantly. One of them had granny glasses like Roger McGuinn. Now I had liked 60's music (The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Herman's Hermits, The Monkees, The Animals, The Byrds, The Searchers etc) since 4th grade and was pretty much a devout musical Anglophile.  These guys were clearly British.  They were called The Jam. My friend, it would transpire, had never heard of them but got the picture from a magazine of full page photos of "punk rock" bands (the reverse side of the photo were four rough looking chicks called The Runaways). Years later he gave me the famous picture which I have to this day, full of staple holes from his wall and masking tape residue from mine (see a scan of it below). Next, if I recall correctly I bought an issue of a rock n' roll magazine called "Creem" with my then faves The Knack on the cover.  Inside were articles on The Jam AND another band I'd heard on TV (via "Saturday Night Live") The Specials.

I would not hear The Jam until July, 11, 1980 when they performed "Start" and "Private Hell" (which in the "keep the TV volume low so as not to disturb my sleeping parents" atmosphere thought they were singing "I'm In Hell")on ABC TV's legendary sketch comedy show "Fridays". Powerful. Paul Weller wore dark green tinted round glasses and thrashed a Rickenbacker, chosen guitar of heroes The Beatles, The Byrds, etc. Sure the bassist looked like David Cassidy but the drummer was mean looking and had the highest hairline I'd ever seen. Countless times I'd bring his pic to the barber who'd tell me "Be thankful you'd don't have such a high hairline like him because he'll be bald before long". They moved around the stage, not staying still for a second.  In my life I'd hear the occasional lack luster Jam live performance.  This was not one of them. Weller and Foxton's vocals were tight and the band's playing was like a well oiled machine.  The following day I bought "Setting Sons". My parents had painted my room that day and to this day I can't listen to that album without thinking of being 13 and in that dark, feverishly hot room overcome by paint fumes, fascinated by what I'd heard. I found a huge Jam badge(see below) at a local t-shirt/badge/head shop and got a t-shirt of them (a horrible red print of three frames of barely discernible figures with "The Jam" in black stencil over the top of the muddy images.  My next Jam t-shirt was better, the three cartoon faces knotted together by their ties from the label of the "This Is The Modern World" LP label. Soon I'd have dozens of Jam badges, and patches (which I still have, preserved in a box in my dresser like some family heirloom or religious relics). The next thing I tracked down by The Jam was their LP "Sound Affects" which here in the States came with a freebie white label promo of "Going Underground" b/w "The Dreams Of Children". Which suited me just fine as I'd been knocked over the moon having seen the video for "Underground" on a short lived half hour music video show hosted  by the late Bob Welch called "Hollywood Heartbeat" (I kid you not!). Soon thereafter I acquired a cut out (top right corner missing) US pressing of "All Mod Cons".  I had to wait till the Summer of 1981 to go to the U.K. to purchase a double gatefold LP of "In The City" and "This Is The Modern World". I was Jam mad.  More great singles, "Funeral Pyre" (first heard live on NBC TV's late night talk show "The Tomorrow Show" where they'd also done a funky version of "Pretty Green" where Weller added bits of Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough") and "Absolute Beginners". Then in early 1982 I bought a 12" E.P. with a live track titled "A Town Called Malice" and on the flip a drawn out disco jam called "Precious".  I was very confused.  For the first time in my life I'd heard a Jam record I didn't like and couldn't understand.  When "The Gift" came out the dilemma continued. 

The Jam, from my view, live at The Trenton War Memorial, May 1982

Lucky for my 15 year old self The Jam were playing an all ages gig at a concert hall in my great state capital Trenton, NJ.  My dad dropped my pal Rudie and I off at the Trenton War Memorial for the gig (large theatre where they usually have symphonies, ballets, plays, ack!!) early (though not early enough to have caught their soundcheck). We wandered in (doors wide open, no one on them) and had evidentally just missed The Jam's soundcheck. We made our way down this long hall towards the backstage area (as evidenced by all the industry suits in out of date clothes scarfing up buffet food) and a large West Indian man (who we later learned was "security") stopped us and said we weren't allowed beyond the area without a pass. We protested a bit and frustrated his patience. Along came this solid older rough looking fella with a graying quiff and Jam t-shirt. He nodded to the large gent and put his hands on our shoulders and introduced himself as Paul's dad and the band's manager. He asked if we'd be "good lads and hang out by the side exit door and maybe I'll see if I can get the lads out for an autograph, I can't have you back here, Bruce is in his underpants and I've got 50 c*nts from Polydor around" (said well in earshot of them!). We hesitated a bit then he said something like "C'mon be good lads and help me out" shook both our hands, said enjoy the show (after asking if we had tickets, which we did) and off we went. We never met The Jam but did notice Rick Buckler walk off the bus through the side door, we were too shocked to speak to him, both because we were star struck and at 15 years old taller than him AND he had this funky Devo t-shirt on! He looked at us and understood and grinned and nodded and said "How ya doin' lads". Paul's dad did not introduce the band the night as we had expected, we were instead "treated" to an intro by a late night cable TV music show host who's name I forget (who was later bludgeoned to death Bob Crane style...).  I was deaf for two days after, seriously, I heard a high pitched whine for the first day at least, that's how loud The Jam were in the second row (we were in like row 15 and having noticed empty seats up front, grabbed them and no one cottoned to what we'd done)!  I used to have a scrap of notebook paper that I'd diligently copied their set list down on, but that's sadly lost to time, but they played a great, tight, well executed set that opened with "Running On The Spot".  Bruce played an acoustic guitar on "That's Entertainment", Paul played about 6 different Rickenbackers and a Telecaster on "Precious".  They did most of the tracks from "The Gift" and I remember a rousing "David Watts" with Bruce clapping his hands held aloft working the audience into a participation frenzy.  I'm sure there's a setlist online someplace.  I have a few pics that a friend of a friend took from the gig but I don't want to step on his toes by publishing them here without his consent.
My first Jam badge, placed on a Levi's jacket for scale reference.

Sadly the end came a bit too soon for my liking but in retrospect I was guilty of blind devotion to later Jam era things that now don't gel well with me.  We've trod that road already earlier here. But I will have to say that I never followed a band like The Jam.  I bought every record I saw by them (when I could afford to).  When Polydor reissued their 45's I traded all of my 60's Stones LP's for the lot when a friend offered the deal (those Stones LP's were beat to shit, I'll never know why he did that, generosity I guess). True I became an even bigger fan of The Small Faces and The Action, but The Jam were the last contemporary band I really followed like a sports team or a religion.  I'm glad they were around for me and though I don't listen to them with the intensity that I once did, they still have a place and their music is still, for the most part, enjoyable and relevant to me.

"Oh No Just Another Teenage Jam Fan": the author at home 1983

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March's Picks

Bonus cut from the deluxe edition of the Thin White Dame's 27th studio LP and in the view of us here at "Anorak Thing' his first decent platter since 1980's "Scary Monsters..".  Bouncing along somewhere between Berlin era territory with a hint of happy go lucky 60's influenced 80's pop (think The Times or Mood Six), yes I think I rather like this one!

2. RED PRYSOCK-"Hand Clappin'"
Picked up on this sax led instrumental from an amazing 3 CD set of instrumental cuts from the mid 50's/early 60's called "The Backbeat of Rock N' Roll", granted there's a lot of track overlap on this but 75% of it I did not own. Money well spent.

3. REGGIE KING-"You'll Be Around"
Dreamy, B-3 Hammond drenched soulful little tune from the new Circle Reggie King comp "Looking For A Dream", not at all unlike the "Brain/Rolled Gold" era Action, not very surprising as his former band mates are playing on the track!  as I've babbled before this new CD comp far exceeds his somewhat patchy untitled 1971 solo album by miles.

4. ENNIO MORRICONE- "Abolicao"
I picked up on this baroque, choral track from a dreadful 1970 Marlon Brando film ("Burn") that I watched on Netflix instant view whilst stricken with bronchitis.  It's a little more "trippy" than the usual Morricone or maybe it's because I was under a fever when I first heard it!  But it still sounds pretty cool.

Jangly, but somehow disjointed folk rock from these lysergic California eccentrics from their essential debut LP "Part One", one of my favorite U.S. 60's albums of all time.

6. PRINCE LA LA-"I'm Gettin' Married Soon"
Next to British 60's mod/r&b and British 60's psych my fave genre is that late 50's/early 60's American r&b that is a little bit jazz and a little bit soul . Back in the late 90's I started a CD-R series I shared with my friends of the stuff, whose moniker became the title of this blog.  Nearly a decade and a half later I'm still into it.

7.ROD STEWART-"Why Does It Go On"
Brilliant bit of orchestrated, heavily produced social commentary from Rod The Mod (first heard by these ears on a dodgy LP comp of his early 60's material called "Rod The Mod" on Xmas Day 1983 (from the same shysters who put out "By Appointment", my first S.F.'s LP, with VERY dodgy artwork, see pic above!). The flip side of his 2nd solo 45 (the equally thought grabbing "The Day Will Come") it still rates as one of my faves of his.

8. THE EVIL EYES-"Mr. Mystified"
Brilliant rare as hell 1967 Swedish 45 by a band who perfectly merge mid 60's beat with some very Who/Creation styled influences unearthed on one of the brilliant "Who Will Buy These wonderful Evils" CD compilations of 60's Swedish rock n' roll.

9. GARNET MIMMS-"Thinkin"
There are so many great Garnet Mimms tunes out there, this one is my fave at the moment.  It's a ballad but on the chorus it picks up with a cool little lick and the female backing vocaliss come in and it all just works, like it always does.

10. THE UPS AND DOWNS-"Perfect Crime"
This track is one of the crown jewels of Eddie Piller's 1986 Countdown Records Aussie's only LP comp "Countdownunder: Party At Hanging Rock". I recently thought about it and had forgotten that I'd sold the LP along with a host of other mod related 80's stuff in the late 90's to mod mad Japanese on E-Bay.  Luckily iTunes had this jangly little ditty.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Mod Cash-in?:The Incas

Scan c/o
Scan c/o
THE INCAS-One Night Stand/I'll Keep Holding On  U.K. Parlophone R 5551 1966

It's mystery time boys and girls.  I haven't a clue who these guys were, what their story was or how it was that a (presumably) British band covered a track each by two (then) current mod heroes The Small Faces and The Action on one 45.  This post also marks one of those instances where I'm writing about a 45 I never owned with scans borrowed from the coolest record website in the world (whom I regularliy contribute scans to). 

I first heard The Incas version of The Small Face's debut LP cut "One Night Stand" many years ago on a CD comp of dubious sources (but high quality nonetheless) called "Rare Beat Tracks Volume ?".  I found them in my handy "Record Collector" price guide and saw that the A-side was a tune called "I'll Keep Holding On".  What were the odds it was The Marvelettes/Action tune?  A few days ago a friend passed me Volume 14 of an even more dubious CD comp series called "Beat Club" (down loadable from a certain website that we neither condone nor publicize).  Contained within said disc was The Incas doing "I'll Keep Holding On".  It was indeed The Action tune, I call it that because it's a note for note carbon copy of The Action's interpretation of the Marvelettes number. It was released on the same label as the Action, 11 months after their version.  Neither version are bad, of course neither can compare to The Small Faces or Action tracks but I find it amazing that someone chose to cover a track a piece from each and issue it.  Was it a deliberate attempt at a "mod" cash in?  Was it the band's idea?  Or producer Mike Berry's? (Berry was certainly never one to play a part in a good old "studio only" band, in fact he did so later with The Shepperton Flames, which you can read about here).  If any of you readers out there can solve this mystery we'd certainly like to hear!

Hear "I'll Keep Holding On":

Hear "One Night Stand":

Reader Steve scarf wrote in and said:
The Incas were a popular local band in Scarborough, Yorkshire, UK. Same town and same time at which Allan Palmer was singer with a local band called The Mandrakes. A few years later Allan Palmer became Robert Palmer and the rest, as they say, is history
Signed by a London agent in 1966 The Incas had their shot at fame a few years before Palmer.
I think only three of them took the leap and went to London.
Chris Bagnall, vocals, Bob Woodyatt and Bri Thompson on guitars.
After spending eight or nine moths in London and releasing one single they returned to Scarborough.
Chris and Bri are no longer with us but Bob Woodyatt is still playing locally to this day.
Best regards,"

Friday, March 1, 2013

Mod Jazz: Not Just For Uppity Jazzbo's Anymore

Two interesting jazz takes on songs we know and love, The Hipster Image's "Make Her Mine" and Paul Weller's "Bull Rush".