Film

The Story of the Jam, a Band That Had the Sense to Break up on Time

It's a great time to be a fan of The Jam and this 2015 documentary is but one reason why. Now issued with a full live concert from 1980, you can't lose.


The Jam

The Jam: About the Young Idea

Label: Eagle
US Release Date: 2016-01-22
UK Release Date: 2015-12-04
Amazon
iTunes

It’s a good time to be a fan of the Jam. There was the recent six-disc live boxed set titled Fire and Skill that came rolling out in late 2015 and this cradle to grave (and beyond) documentary about three lads who didn’t change the world but sure gave their countrymen (and women) something to shout about. That the band never really made a splash on American shores is one of life’s great mysteries considering that their predecessors, the Who, and their Britpop offspring gobbled up the attention that probably should have been theirs. To hear Jam man Paul Weller tell it, he wouldn’t have had it any other way. So be it.

The cradle part of this story goes back to the group’s formation in the early '70s in Woking; these were kids, including early members Steve Brookes and Dave Waller, who were slight anomalies, more obsessed with the Who than the stuff their peers were listening to the trio was of the punk era but not entirely punk. There were lyrics about class distinctions in the age of Thatcher, the usual paeans to girls and country, and a nod or two to the angst that drives most rock ‘n’ roll bands. Toss in a Kinks cover, some sensible clothes and some maximum R&B and that was the Jam. Well, partially.

There was an energy to the music that none of their peers really captured. The Clash is said to have had the attitude but the Clash didn’t have the same knack for melody or the same appreciation of soul; Johnny Rotten and his lot had the anger but not the staying power and no one from that era was half the songwriter that Paul Weller is. (The only band from the era that came close to touching the Jam was Doctor Feelgood and the classic version of that band didn’t last nearly long enough.) A true one-off in terms of his ability to distill the questions of the age in a power-packed single is as striking today as ever. That he found two men of equal dynamism to help tell his story in the forms of drummer Rick Buckler and Bruce Foxton is not as much a testament to fate as to his intelligence.

The film cuts between interviews with the band members, archival footage and fan testimonials from a variety of sources (no spoilers) and largely plays nice. The internal frictions that were certainly there aren’t aired the way they are in many such pictures and the normal round of rock ‘n’ roll clichés are dodged full stop. Weller, whom some might perceive as a bit nasty, is remarkably kind and even patient in the film, save for when the question of a possible reunion arises. (He won’t do it and for that we can all be glad.)

We are treated to the album-by-album approach here, though never lingering too long on any one record and we get to hear the story of the song “The Eton Rifles”, an absolute career high from Weller. Fans and critics debate the merits of this release and that and viewers will no doubt voice their dissent with certain opinions as appropriate.

The title of the film comes from a Jam-centered exhibition at Somerset House in London as well as a recent compilation of the same name but it’s also what carried the band along. This was the music of youth and it remains so even if its creators and original fans no longer do.

When the group came to an end in 1982, Weller moved on with his soul-centered Style Council while Foxton and Buckler had a slightly harder time of moving on. Weller’s time as a Style Council man was relatively short lived and he’s continued as a solo artist, issuing a number of top-quality albums over the past few decades. Foxton joined up with Stiff Little Fingers for a time, pursued a solo career, and toured with the Casbah Club featuring Simon Townshend, Mark Brzezicki and Bruce Watson and is of late a member of From the Jam, which also briefly featured Buckler who’d had his own Jam tribute act, the Gift.

The Blu-ray includes additional interviews and four live tracks, including two from a spell in New York City. A DVD in that package, titled When You’re Young, finds the band live in concert at Rockpalast in 1980 with a jaw-dropping 22-song set. A deluxe edition arrives with an audio version of that show and a 40 page booklet with plenty of eye candy.

Whether you’re just curious about the Jam or a seasoned scholar About the Young Idea, a film that has been masterfully crafted by director Bob Smeaton so that it gives us just what we need (no more, no less)

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Dancing in the Street: Our 25 Favorite Motown Singles

Detroit's Motown Records will forever be important as both a hit factory and an African American-owned label that achieved massive mainstream success and influence. We select our 25 favorite singles from the "Sound of Young America".

Music

The Durutti Column's 'Vini Reilly' Is the Post-Punk's Band's Definitive Statement

Mancunian guitarist/texturalist Vini Reilly parlayed the momentum from his famous Morrissey collaboration into an essential, definitive statement for the Durutti Column.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

What Will Come? COVID-19 and the Politics of Economic Depression

The financial crash of 2008-2010 reemphasized that traumatic economic shifts drive political change, so what might we imagine — or fear — will emerge from the COVID-19 depression?

Music

Datura4 Take Us Down the "West Coast Highway Cosmic" (premiere)

Australia's Datura4 deliver a highway anthem for a new generation with "West Coast Highway Cosmic". Take a trip without leaving the couch.

Music

Teddy Thompson Sings About Love on 'Heartbreaker Please'

Teddy Thompson's Heartbreaker Please raises one's spirits by accepting the end as a new beginning. He's re-joining the world and out looking for love.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Little Protests Everywhere

Wherever you are, let's invite our neighbors not to look away from police violence against African Americans and others. Let's encourage them not to forget about George Floyd and so many before him.

Music

Carey Mercer's New Band Soft Plastics Score Big with Debut '5 Dreams'

Two years after Frog Eyes dissolved, Carey Mercer is back with a new band, Soft Plastics. 5 Dreams and Mercer's surreal sense of incongruity should be welcomed with open arms and open ears.

Music

Sondre Lerche Rewards 'Patience' with Clever and Sophisticated Indie Pop

Patience joins its predecessors, Please and Pleasure, to form a loose trilogy that stands as the finest work of Sondre Lerche's career.

Film

Ruben Fleischer's 'Venom' Has No Bite

Ruben Fleischer's toothless antihero film, Venom is like a blockbuster from 15 years earlier: one-dimensional, loose plot, inconsistent tone, and packaged in the least-offensive, most mass appeal way possible. Sigh.

Books

Cordelia Strube's 'Misconduct of the Heart' Palpitates with Dysfunction

Cordelia Strube's 11th novel, Misconduct of the Heart, depicts trauma survivors in a form that's compelling but difficult to digest.

Music

Reaching For the Vibe: Sonic Boom Fears for the Planet on 'All Things Being Equal'

Sonic Boom is Peter Kember, a veteran of 1980s indie space rockers Spacemen 3, as well as Spectrum, E.A.R., and a whole bunch of other fascinating stuff. On his first solo album in 30 years, he urges us all to take our foot off the gas pedal.

Film

Old British Films, Boring? Pshaw!

The passage of time tends to make old films more interesting, such as these seven films of the late '40s and '50s from British directors John Boulting, Carol Reed, David Lean, Anthony Kimmins, Charles Frend, Guy Hamilton, and Leslie Norman.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.