The Jam were an English punk rock/mod revival band active during the late 1970s and early 1980s. While they shared the "angry young men" outlook and fast tempos of their punk rock contemporaries, The Jam wore neatly tailored suits rather than ripped clothes, and they incorporated a number of mainstream 1960s rock influences rather than rejecting them, placing The Jam at the forefront of the mod revival movement.
They had 18 consecutive Top 40 singles in the United Kingdom, from their debut in 1977 to their breakup in December 1982, including four number one hits. As of 2007, "That's Entertainment" and "Just Who Is the 5 O'Clock Hero?" remained the best-selling import singles of all time in the UK. They released one live album and six studio albums, the last of which, The Gift, hit number one on the UK album charts. When the group split up, their first 15 singles were re-released and all placed within the top 100.
The band drew upon a variety of stylistic influences over the course of their career, including 1960s beat music, soul, rhythm and blues and psychedelic rock, as well as 1970s punk and new wave. The trio was known for its melodic pop songs, its distinctly English flavour and its mod image. The band launched the career of Paul Weller, who went on to form The Style Council and later had a successful solo career. Weller wrote and sang most of The Jam’s original compositions, and he played lead guitar, using a Rickenbacker. Bruce Foxton provided backing vocals and prominent basslines, which were the foundation of many of the band’s songs, including the hits "Down in the Tube Station at Midnight", "The Eton Rifles", "Going Underground" and "Town Called Malice".
The Jam formed in Woking, Surrey, England, in 1972. The line-up was fluid at this stage, consisting of Weller on guitar and lead vocals together with various friends at Sheerwater Secondary School. They played their first gigs at Michael's, a local club. The line-up began to solidify in the mid 1970s with Weller, Foxton, guitarist Steve Brookes and drummer Rick Buckler. In their early years, their sets consisted of covers of early American rock and roll songs by the likes of Chuck Berry and Little Richard. They continued in this vein until Weller discovered The Who’s "My Generation" and became fascinated with Mod music and lifestyle. As he said later, "I saw that through becoming a Mod it would give me a base and an angle to write from, and this we eventually did. We went out and bought suits and started playing Motown, Stax and Atlantic covers. I bought a Rickenbacker guitar, a Lambretta GP 150 and tried to style my hair like Steve Marriott’s circa ’66." Eventually Brookes left the band, and was not replaced. Up to this point Weller had been playing bass and Foxton had been the band's second guitar player; he persuaded Foxton to take over bass duties and developed a combined lead/rhythm guitar style influenced by The Who’s Pete Townshend as well as Dr. Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson. The line-up of Weller, Foxton, and Buckler would persist until the end of The Jam’s career.
In the following two years, The Jam gained a small following around London from playing minor gigs, becoming one of the new lights on the nascent punk scene. In many ways, however, they stood out from their punk peers. Though they shared an "angry young men" outlook, short hair, crushing volume and lightning-fast tempos, The Jam wore neatly tailored suits where others wore ripped clothes, played professionally where others were defiantly amateurish, and displayed clear 1960s rock influences where others were disdainful (at least ostensibly) of such music (which had been a major influence on the "stadium rock" and "prog rock" of the 1970s). Indeed, the band were tagged by some journalists as "revivalists". They were signed to Polydor Records by Chris Parry in early 1977.
All Mod Cons (1978)
In March 1978, the Jam released "News of the World", a non-album single that was both written and sung by Foxton. It charted at #27 in the UK, and was the band's second biggest hit to date. This was the only Foxton solo composition to be released as a Jam A-side. When the band went back into the studio to record a third album of primarily Foxton contributions, their songs were dismissed by producers as poor, and they held off recording an album in hopes that Weller would once again find inspiration. "News of the World" is now used in the opening theme of the BBC television show "Mock the Week".
Returning to his hometown of Woking, Weller spent much of his time listening to albums by The Kinks and coming up with new songs. The Jam released their next single, the double A-side "David Watts"/"'A' Bomb in Wardour Street". "David Watts" was a cover of the bouncy Kinks classic; Weller and Foxton traded lead vocals throughout the song. "'A' Bomb In Wardour Street" was a Weller original. One of their hardest and most intense songs, Weller cursed the violent thugs that plagued the punk rock scene over a taut two-chord figure. It became their most successful 7" since "All Around the World".
It wasn't until their next single, "Down in the Tube Station at Midnight", that The Jam really regained their former critical acclaim. The song was a dramatic account of being mugged by thugs who "smelled of pubs and Wormwood Scrubs and too many right-wing meetings." Around this time, The Jam slimmed their team of two producers to one, Vic Coppersmith-Heaven, who helped develop the group's sound with harmonised guitars and acoustic textures. In 1978, the Jam released their third LP, All Mod Cons, which included three previously released tracks among the 12 in total: "David Watts", "'A' Bomb In Wardour Street", and "Down in the Tube Station at Midnight". (It also contained two songs Polydor had previously rejected for single release, the manic "Billy Hunt" and the acoustic ballad "English Rose".)
- In the City (1977) #20 UK
- This Is the Modern World (1977) #22 UK
- All Mod Cons (1978) #6 UK
- Setting Sons (1979) #4 UK, #137 US
- Sound Affects (1980) #2 UK, #72 US
- The Gift (1982) #1 UK, #82 US
- Snap! (1983) #2 UK
- Compact Snap! (1985)
- All The Choice Cuts (1990)
- Greatest Hits (1991) #2 UK
- Extras (1992) #15 UK
- Wasteland (1992)
- Beat Surrender (1993)
- The Jam Collection (1996)
- The Master Series (1997)
- The Very Best of The Jam (1997) #9 UK
- The Sound of the Jam (2002) #3 UK
- The Best Of The Jam - The Millennium Collection (20th Century Masters) (2003)
- Gold (2005)
- The Jam Story (2006