Boy About Town: The Jam as an upbeat pop band

There's more than you can hope for in this world - so cheer up, lads!

There’s quite a few different sides to Paul Weller’s songwriting for The Jam – the angry young man of “Going Underground”, the melancholy folk singer-songwriter on “That’s Entertainment”, the would-be Northern Soul artist on “Ghosts” and the the budding social commentator on “Town Called Malice.”  I like a lot of that, and some of it I like a lot, but when it comes down to it, my favourite songs by this band are the simple three or four chord, three minute bop tunes about love, music and being an excited kid, that are spread out across their six studio albums and on a few singles.

These tunes are all major key, up tempo, with melodic guitar riffs and often boppy horns as well, and are full of lines like “The kids know where it’s at” and “We got the gift of life” and my favourite, “There’s more than you can hope for in this world.” Mixed in with all that is an urgent desire to make the most of today, and a kind of bittersweet sadness about lost opportunity and fading youth. Maybe some of them were supposed to be light relief from their more serious tracks, but to me, they actually represent the best of this band.  No other band ever captured this mood in quite the same way.

Weller carries this “yearning kid” thing off perfectly, singing with a kind of eager boyishness and optimism that you could only really get away with if you were a teenager or in your very early twenties, and hey, let’s remember, he was! Their professionalism makes it easy to forget it but this band were babies, they’d had mainstream success at age nineteen and the band was wrapping up by the time Weller was twenty-three. No wonder he’s had such an interminable bloody solo career. Ahem…

Anyway, here’s the tunes I’m talking about. I’m not sure about a few of these but ten are rock solid.

  1. In the City
  2. Art School
  3. Sounds From the Street (?)
  4. It’s Too Bad
  5. Fly (?)
  6. When You’re Young
  7. Girl On The Phone
  8. But I’m Different Now
  9. Dream Time
  10. Boy About Town (mp3)
  11. Absolute Beginners
  12. The Gift

By the way, I’ll be posting a single of the Jam live in Japan at some point pretty soon. The live version of ‘But I’m Different Now’ is excellent.