One of England's finest, The Jam entered my life with a great debut album and a gig at Derby's Kings Hall that ranks amongst the very best I've attended. It's a hard job choosing my 10 favourite tracks, but an enjoyable one. Feel free to list your own picks in the comments below.
1/ 'Down In The Tube Station At Midnight'. "I first felt a fist, and then a kick. I could now smell their breath. They smelt of pubs, and Wormwood Scrubs and too many right wing meetings". The song they always used to finish with before the encores, and my own favourite. Weller conjures up all manner of chills with this frightening tale of menace on the London Underground. Brutal and brilliant!
2/ 'A' Bomb In Wardour Street'. "If this is freedom I don't understand, 'cause it seems like madness to me". How right he was. Now, our streets are unsafe to walk at night, unless you have a guardian A looking over your shoulder. This track is pure dynamite as Weller spits out lyrics with the venom of a cage of Puff Adders. Far-seeing, and even more disturbing now.
3/ 'Going Underground'. "And the public gets what the public wants, but I want nothing this society's got". Weller on the attack again with this scathing indictment of governmental evils. Open your eyes now as then.
4/ 'Strange Town'. "I look in the mirror but I can't be seen, just a thin clean layer of Mr. Sheen looking back at me oh oh, ohoooooooh". Glorious anthem and just about the best song ever written about the loneliness of London.
5/ 'When You're Young'. "But you find out life isn't like that. It's so hard to comprehend, when you set up your dreams to have them smashed in the end". Part of their 'Golden Run' when every single was absolutely perfect, and every gig reached out and sucked you into a better place for 100 minutes. Savage, and beautifully written.
6/ 'That's Entertainment'. "A smash of glass and the rumble of boots. An electric train and a ripped up phone booth. Paint splattered walls and the cry of a tom cat, lights going out and a kick in the balls". Poetry set to music. Still gets to me, and that's what Weller intended.
7/ 'Town Called Malice'. "Stop dreaming of the quiet life, cos it's the one you'll never know". Memories of Woking for Mr. Weller, and A Love Supreme(s). Dynamite!
8/ 'The Eton Rifles'. "Sup up your beer and collect your fags, there's a row goin' on down near Slough". A call to arms for any impressionable young men who longed to take it to the upper-classes. By this time, they really were a force to be reckoned with.
9/ 'Thick As Thieves'. "We stole the love from young girls in ivory towers, we stole autumn leaves and summer showers. We stole the silent wind that says you are free, we stole everything that we could see". Stack this one up with Jonesy's 'Stay Free'. Great vocal and some of the most alive lyrics you'll ever hear.
10/ 'Butterfly Collector'. "There's tarts and whores but you're much more. You're a different kind cos you want their mind". You got hate mail! This song (b side of 'Strange Town') was always one of the highlights of their shows. You really would want PW on your side; even more so after listening to the lyrics on this.
11/ 'David Watts'. Ok, I am a dull and simple lad, cannot tell ele-ven from ten.... couldn't leave this one out. Cheers to Ray Davies, and to Paul and the guys for making it even more special.
I was lucky enough to see The Jam live on 14 occasions. Their 2 nights at Leicester De Montfort Hall will always reside in my top gigs list, and although I felt great sadness when they split, the memories they left behind are to be treasured.