I grew up with Bruce Foxton and played in a couple of bands with him when we both lived on Sheerwater Estate in Woking and the pair of us went to Sheerwater Secondary School. I first came to Canada in 1974 and over the next few years travelled back and forth between Canada and the UK whilst attempting to get my immigration papers. During one trip back to Woking in 1976 I met up with Bruce who told me he was playing in a band called The Jam, and was I interested in playing keyboards. I agreed to a couple of rehearsals at Sheerwater Youth Club and that was where I first met Paul Weller.
I remember being impressed with the amp he was using and he told me, with a wink, it was on loan from Rick Parfitt of Status Quo, who also grew up on the Sheerwater Estate. After a couple of weeks rehearsals we went into an 8 track studio to record the following three songs: Soul Dance, Back In My Arms Again and I Got by in Time, which I still have on an old Emitape X1000 60 minute cassette tape. These versions later appeared on bootlegs and I Got by in Time was later re-recorded and appeared on In The City.I recall playing live on three occasions before I left England and returned to Canada. On one memorable occasion we played together in Dunstable, opening for the original Sex Pistols with Glenn Matlock on Bass, followed by the 100 Club opening for The Vibrators and finally Upstairs at Ronnie Scott's. About a month after I left the band I was in the Birch & Pines, the local Sheerwater pub, when I heard Radio Luxembourg playing, from behind the bar, a very familiar song. When it finished the DJ said it was the new single In The City from a band called the Jam who had just signed with Polydor. The following day I read about it in Melody Maker and by the end of the next week I was back in Canada, where I remain to this day.
So why did I leave? To be honest having been involved in music whilst in Canada ( just a few years behind the music scene in the UK ) I didn't really appreciate what was going on music wise in the UK, and by then my heart was set on living in Canada anyway. However I went to see The Jam, and met up with them again in 1979 when they played in Toronto. By then, like everybody else, I could fully appreciate the music they were playing then.
As a footnote, I was in LA last July with my 8 year old daughter when I drove past a little club just around the corner to the hotel we were staying at. I saw on the marquee the name Paul Weller who was playing there the following Friday. As I read his name out loud my daughter asked "Who's he Daddy?" I told her he is a great musician and that I was fortunate to play with him for a few months back in my home town in England, many years ago. She asked if we could go and see him but unfortunately I had a commitment in Toronto and we were due to leave town the day before the gig. She then asked me what I would say to him if we did meet him. I told her that I'd ask him if Rick Parfitt ever got his amp back. I have been reading the 'On This Day' section on your site and obviously went straight to 1976 and have seen the the gigs I played at. It was nice to see a mention of a keyboard player the band were experimenting with for the Pistols gig and that it hadn't been forgotten. I was sure the 100 Club gig was opening for the Vibrators and not the Derelicts, but it was a long time ago, and by your chronology it was probably a few months after I left that I heard 'In The City' on the radio in the pub. Also not to have any illusions about myself, although I left the band, I know they didn't give a toss and obviously the Jam without a keyboard player was for the best in the end. They were a fantastic band.
Bob Gray - Toronto