The Roxy - Covent Garden 03/03/1977
PEOPLE TRY TO put us down just because we sound like The Who.
WEEAHHOUA HEEOOARRG HEIEIOUAHEE EEEEEEEEEEEEEE!
That was a particularly vicious blast of feedback.
And there goes some more.
WHEEEEAIIOUGH AYWHHIOOOOOOO OOOOOOOOOOOOO OOOOOOOO!
Can't the man at the controls do something? Can't the band do something?
Oh well, I must make a mental note never to use a PA set up like the Jam's, should the need arise.
That system of theirs has effectively killed this gig stone cold dead. And at this gig they needed all the help they could get.
We're down in the strange subterreanean world of London's Roxy Club on a Friday evening. There are Punks everywhere. The dress is exotic, although there are few tonight as over-dressed as the mob from Finchley who are to be found at every Stranglers or Damned gig within a tube ride of N4.
The tall, spectrelike figure dressed in full Nazi regalia is here as are ALL the Sex Pistols and delegations from the Damned, the Clash and Johnny T and the Heartbreakers. But the blanket-pinned hardliners have either taken a turn down the road to stare at the Vibrators or else they've stayed at home to tear T-shirts. They probably don't like the The Jam that much. Too unorthodox. Or too orthodox. It depends which way you look at it. But please do take a look at it.
ON THE ROXY'S small stage this three-man Jam is dressed identically down to the last raspberry. Three black Burtons' suits with six straight legs. Three white shirts and three black ties. Eveything is clean and neatly pressed like High Energy Hollies.
Punk Chic Value Rating: Slightly more than they would have scored had they been in the least bit 'hippy'. But slightly less than they would have scored had the bass player's hair been a good three inches shorter. Below Five on the Safety Pin Scale.
Now take a listen to the music the boys are playing.
Right. It's quite recognisably music. It relies not on that relentless roar of righteous indignation that is your normal trademark style punk. There are definite melodies there. Strain the feedback and you'll probably recognise a tune or two. 'Heatwave'? That was a Martha and the Vandellas hit on Tamla in the early Sixties, wasn't it? 'Do You Like Soul Music?'. Arthur Conley did that, I remember. Well, buggermee! That's one I'd forgotten about. 'Ride Your Pony' by Lee Dorsey. Nice. Nice. These guys are more Beat Group than they are Punk. These guys are pretty damn good.
And sadly, although they've been playing for the last forty minutes with all the power and drive and ardour expected of a New Wave band the majority of the audience has still to be convinced that these three country boys are anything more than average.
And another particularly vicious blast of feedback hammers one more nail into a coffinlike nightmare.
I WOULD NOT have been in The Jam's shoes for the world. Okay, so every band plays a bum set occasionally. There's always a rogue somewhere on the road.
But you don't expect him to strike on the very night when a reporter from the country's most influential music paper (SOUNDS, dummy!) has come down to prepare an article on you. You don't want a struggle on a night like that.
The Jam almost lose the fight. The lead guitarist has been breaking strings all night long and another one has just gone. The PA howls again and his face, shining with sweat, sets hard in stoic desperation. It's well past twelve and the kid is almost dropping on his feet anyway. He has spent the last 48 hours cooped sleepless in a cramped London studio. Demo recording, for the Jam's new record company, Polydor.
He picks up his spare guitar, an old and exceedingly, decrepit Rickenbacker semi-acoustic which is red for all to see and untenable for all to hear.
And the next thing you know The Jam plough into a winner with foot down hard and the brakes off. A real haymaker of a number.
It's one of their own. It will probably be their first single on Polydor. A thing called 'In The City' and enough of the crowd applaud it to merit it a success. It's soon followed by one more. This time the fantastic 'Changing My Address' which has an almost country intro, a light taste of Thin Lizzy in the verse, every 100 per cent proof Sixties rocker imaginable distilled in its chorus and a key change at the end that would have graced 'My Generation' with pride.
That's not feedback, that's me getting my rock's off and catching my breath. I mean what would you say if you saw a band playing as under par as this but still matching the best around? And a band with so much potential it hurts. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH: Probably.
Which is also, what I said when the feedback broke into my train of thought like a steamtrain through a tunnel.Killing this gig stone dead.
"I'm really into the Mod thing. I just like the image, you know. I even got a scooter that I buzz around on at home."
Introducing 18 year old Paul Weller, lead guitarist, lead singer and lead songwriter of The Jam. The string breaker extraordinaire.
"I did my first gig when I was fourteen, just me and another guy at a church social. The other two joined about three years ago and we been playing ever since. You know, Social Clubs, Chelsea Football Club do's and so on. We've always been the Jam and we've always worn uniforms. I believe people like to see some kind of uniformity on stage, it makes more impact. And we've always done the Sixties thing too. Mersey-beat and that. But it's not really nostalgia. I'm too young to remember what it was like then. It's only in the last couple of years that I've been buying records from that period. The Who's first album was the one that really did it. I haven't heard anything today that is as advanced as that, album. Good British Pop Rock and Rhythm and Blues it is. 'My Generation' is as relevant now as it was back then."
Paul is slim and quiet off stage, with short fair hair cut Mod style and the classic inner city good looks of Pete Townsend, Roger Daltrey and the Flamin' Groovies' Chris Wilson all rolled into one for the danger and delight of the ladies.
Bass player and occasional vocalist Bruce Foxton is the Paul McCartney of the group. He's handsome, to say the least, and he plays fine bass. He says he used to be a lead guitarist and it shows in his hard driving lines that are more melodic than they are harmonic. He also doesn't class the Jam as a Punk band.
"New Wave? yes. But only 'cos we're a young band playing to young people. It's like a throwback to the Sixties, isn't it, with the Who about twenty playing to kids about the same age. We're like the Who in many ways. They weren't really devoted Mods were they? But that thing helped them along at the time. We're not into Politics and stuff like the Clash and Generation X. We're on the verge of the Punk scene but we're also attracting people who are into the Sixties as well."
Bruce works for a printer down in Woking, Surrey, where all three live and it was he who designed The Jam's eye-catching period piece logo. But he has been taking so much time off recently to gig with the band that he reckons he's heading for trouble with the boss.
Drummer Rick Buckler is in it up to here already.
"Yeh, I'm an electrical inspector. I check over the wiring and things on this medical equipment that gets sent all over the world. But I turned in on Thursday morning – I already missed Wednesday completely, right – and I told the boss I was going straight home and I wouldn't be in the next day either! He was really mad. When I tell him about the dates we got to play in Belgium next week he'll probably give me my cards. Still, I don't care. It's a poxy old job anyway. I'd rather be riding around in the van eating those baked beans you can get with the little sausages in them. We like those don't we lads?"
There's a fourth member of The Jam. That short, stocky grey-haired gent in the corner. Paul Weller's Dad. Mr Weller Senior doesn't play anything at all. He's the manager, soundman, truck driver and troubleshooter. In fact he's just about everything anybody's old man should be.
"He's great, is Paul's Dad," says one of The Jam's friends come makeshift roadcrew. "He doesn't mind if we muck about in the back of the van or anything. He joins right in with us. It's a lot of fun."
But not on a gig like this Roxy one. The Jam finish their reprised versions of 'In The City' and TV's 'Batman Theme'.
The feedback is louder than the applause tonight. Unfortunately there is still one more question that I want to put to Paul Weller, but it seems neither the time nor the place to ask it.
You see, rumour had it that Paul set light to a copy of that Punk publication Sniffin Glue on stage at the Marquee one night. The fanzine was apparently unkindly disposed towards our three Woking wonders.
Chas de Whalley, Sounds, 5 March 1977