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Liner Notables #6: The Jam – Dig The New Breed

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Why, it seems like only yesterday [cue harp and wavy, out-of-focus visuals] when you could pore over an album's liner notes and not have to squint to garner an embarrassment of riches and a treasure trove of tidbits…  

“ELECTRICALLY RECORDED LIVE – play it on all phonographs” reads the cover of Dig The New Breed, a lovely parting gift from the Jam in the form of a career-spanning live LP of more substance than Style Council.

The instructional tip of sorts comprises a ton of tongue-in-cheek sanctioned sass sustaining the kind of flippancy found in a couple earlier ad campaigns for other artists. “The ’80s – We’re For It!” proclaims Devo without equivocation of their dawn-of-a-new-decade release, Freedom Of Choice. “20 New Songs – All Different!!!” touts Columbia Records for Elvis Costello’s Get Happy!!!” Furthermore, the logical extension of such impertinence saw titular tomfoolery in a Sugar album Bob Mould called File Under: Easy Listening.

Whatever the trend, by the time the Jam came along there was also a tacit, if not tranquil understanding that, in addition to the pan-phonographibility of an LP, one should play one's album loud. But could record commentary be read out loud? It would almost seem to be demanded with Dig The New Breed as main Jam man Paul Weller, in a three-part harmony of shared liner-notational endeavor by the trio, tries to set the tone with a spirited and fast-forwarded flashback and incantation:

    A brief six years! Sweaty frantic Red Cow residency, 1st week 50 people, 2nd week 100, by the 4th week a queue around the block! SWITCH the Marquee with Shane, Claudio and Adrian dancing on stage to the confusion of the usual Marquee hippies! SWITCH the first tour, traveling in this red Cortina for hours and having to learn to walk again when you got out! SWITCH Dunstable and that hotel?! SWITCH QUICKLY! Making the first LP in 5 days or something, vocal tracks done in a lift! SWITCH Actually being on Top of the Pops!! SWITCH…

Now, that’s entertainment! Not so much, though, when it comes to the appreciative but prosaic stiff-upper-lip offerings from the other two members of the pioneering British — and so very, very British — punk band.

Bassist Bruce Foxton alludes to, in a generalized manner, memories and emotions running high, then goes on to virtually demand that the Jam be treated with RESPECT. Uppercase, almost Aretha-style R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Then, before offering his indebtedness and thanks to the trio’s long-time backers, Foxton declares that “Loyalty from the fans has always surprised and amazed me. Traveling around the world to give us the support we badly needed in places such as the States.”

Drummer Rick Buckler proves to be even more a master of fractured and fragmented sentence structure. In arguing that Dig gives more than “‘just an account of songs played live,’” or is a “‘Greatest Hits’ type album,” he discloses that “I have never been a great fan of live albums that try to emulate a studio recording with a cast of thousands, but instead a more basic and honest account.”

Um, let’s make the…

    “…SWITCH the Sound Effects tour. SWITCH ‘81 was a ‘orrible year for songs! SWITCH cracking up over the GIFT LP, I wanted it perfect, but settled for good, oh well! SWITCH the noise those Japanese kids make, fantastic! SWITCH Chicago gig, brilliant! SWITCH What have I learnt? BELIEF IS ALL!”

Thanks Paul, though we believed all along, it's good to hear commitment so vigorously and distinctively expressed, and see doubt and apprehension succumb to the "beat surrender" with such steadiness. After all, "as it was in the beginning, so shall it be in the end." 

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About Gordon Hauptfleisch

  • Vern Halen

    The Jam had their moments, but I don’t think they’re remembered in the same way as their comtemporaries – maybe in Jolly Olde England, but Stateside, I think they never had the long term impact of the Pistols or the Clash.

  • Steve

    Well, though I’ve never been a huge fan of The Jam (I liked maybe 2 or 3 of their last songs), I must say, given the choice between the Pistols, The Clash and The Jam, I would go with the Jam any day!

    However, I must confess, out of all the stuff Paul Weller has done to date, The Style Council is still my favorite, though I would never argue they were classic or epoch making in any way. Just easier on the ears.

  • http://www.gohah.blogspot.com Gordon Hauptfleisch

    The Jam were a little like early Kinks (after they were banned from touring the US for a few years), with themes and lyrics essentially Brit-centric, too much so for full American appeal. They have their highs and lows for me, but “Beat Surrender” is definitely a transcending highlight I never get tired of.

  • http://blog.myspace.com/tinkie101 tink

    Always loved the Jam, due in part to a huge crush I had on Paul Weller…that somehow never translated to liking Style Counsil.

    But to have to choose between them and the Clash? Both were great to see live but comparing them musicially is like apples and oranges…glad that I like ‘em both!

    Thanks G for a great musical flashback!

  • http://www.gohah.blogspot.com Gordon Hauptfleisch

    Thanks tink: Many people, including me, could never get into the Style Council, either. I only knew one person who did, and I think it was because she was so gaga over Weller, that it did (unlike you) translate into blind fandom.

  • SFC SKI

    Part of the problem with bands like The Jam, as well as The (English) Beat was that they were breaking up just as they were starting to get noticed in the US. It’s hard to believe now, but lots of Brit bands toured the vast interior the US in relative obscurity years before they broke big in the US.

    The Jam were such a great band, and so amazing in that a trio could have such a full sound. Bruce Foxton is in arguably one of the best bassists of that era. Thank the PTB that You Tube exists so I can watch concert videos by bands I never got to see live.

    Style Council was a solid disappointment, IMO.

  • http://www.gohah.blogspot.com Gordon Hauptfleisch

    I saw English Beat open for the Clash and it was a great concert, of course. English Beat was well received, and generally they were gaining in acclaim (I worked in a record store and their sales kept getting better for all their output). And you’re right–just as they were getting more notice and sales, it was General Public all of a sudden. A good-enough pop band, but since Dave Wakeling lived a gew miles away on the San Diego coast, I stopped thinking of them as English anything.