Pete on the Jam (Part 1)

L. Bird pkeets at
Sun Dec 19 19:38:02 CST 2004

I'll try this again, since I don't see Part 1 in the archives.  This is an 
article from Time Out Magazine, 1982.

Time Out Magazine - Pete Townshend on The Jam Heroes And Junkies - March 
12-18 1982

With The Jam's star on the ascendant, Pete Townshend of The Who asks if 
will spoil Paul Weller

    The last time I met Paul Weller was in a now defunct nightclub called 
Club for Heroes. It's partly because he was there that I'm not embarrassed 
to tell you about it. Steve Strange had dimmed the lights and a bunch of 
bedraggled rock stars huddled around a table attempting to form sentences 
while people rushed around getting us all drinks. About an hour later I woke 
up in hospital, discovering that I had over-imbibed to the extent of nearly 
killing myself.

    I am sitting here wondering whether Paul Weller was there, among 
hairdressers and art students, on a kind of reconnaissance or really trying 
to take part. I felt strangely sympathetic towards him. I knew that London 
nightlife had no appeal to him, and yet I suspected he was lonely. That much 
as he would love to sit at the bar of his local, he probably couldn't. Paul 
Weller is a Hero, a British Hero.

    The Jam's last two singles and albums have jumped straight to number one 
in Britain's charts. Their list of achievements chart-wise is staggering. 
And yet this success isn't like that of The Beatles in the 1960s when every 
record they made shot straight to the top. Jam fans are thinkers and musical 
reactionists, who tend to reject all politicians pretty much out of hand. 
They choose to dress in the rather sober style of the mid-1960s rather than 
adopt the peacock styles of the avant garde and they listen very earnestly 
to the words written by their spokesman. There is no bitterness in Weller's 
writing that isn't fully shared by his fans. Everything that is wrong with 
the world is someone else's fault. God is not in his heaven, and if he is 
then he isn't doing a very good job of handling the population explosion, 
political corruption and global disintegration.

    I read recently that Paul Weller has given up night-clubs, booze and 
drugs, and I suppose they do all go hand in hand. He is quite clearly a man 
of principle, but isn't he rejecting the only group of people who can really 
understand his frustrations? Has a musician ever changed any part of the 
world? Weller seems willing to deal only with Britain at this stage; he 
leaves America to the Americans and is apparently so disdainful of the 
States that it causes him pain to even talk about the place.

    But what is happening in Britain that Weller, or anyone who writes `pop 
songs', can affect? The incredible response of young record buyers to the 
serious and pessimistic work of The Jam suggests an answer. Weller and The 
Jam, like many others who choose the music world as their channel for 
expression, have to get used to the fact that they can only really 
effectively reach the young. `Youth', Weller calls it. He wants to see life 
and vigour pervading the hordes of kids faced with dole queues and 
thick-skinned capitalists. His audience want to share his dream.

    If anything it is this response to Weller's typically British 
sardonicism that raises my hopes for Britain's future. Weller faces the 
grimness of the world without fear, but also without mercy; and yet he is a 
musician. He enjoys being in the public eye, suffers from it to an extent 
I'm sure, but clearly loves making music, being in a band and getting people 
dancing. Below the surface of Weller's writing is a sense of irony and 
gritty sarcasm that makes the listener think twice before taking a stance on 
what they have heard. Making anyone think twice is especially valuable 

    The Jam also represent an antidote to London's volatile Art-Rock scene. 
There has never been for instance, a Club for Heroes in Newcastle, while 
Birmingham's Rum Runner (which has connections with Duran Duran) is the 
closest provincial equivalent. The Jam appeal to British youth on a national 
level. They encourage kids to stop worrying about the global wobble and 
start dealing with affairs at home. London is full of no-hopers who have 
turned to a type of artistically inclined decadence that Europe hasn't seen 
since pre-war Berlin. While the `lucky' few snort cocaine, kinds in Toxteth 
and Brixton are struggling to scrape together the money to buy glue. Yet 
both groups of people are fighting boredom and futility in their own way. 
Weller quite consciously tries to represent a kind of Being that manages to 
be aloof and proud in the middle of ennui. He is also very aware that he is 
under a microscope. I have never come across any other artist or writer so 
afraid of appearing hypocritical; he is genuinely concerned that anyone who 
identifies with his feelings should not be let down. He has no large 
expensive car, shuns large houses and, I suspect, attempts to use his money 
wisely (if he knows how to do it I wish he'd write a song about it - it 
would do us all a world of good). But he is a Star. He himself carefully 
engineers what kind of Star and in what kind of stratosphere he shines; 
never too grand, never too remote.

    Most of all, The Jam are concerned to remain energetic. There is 
theatrical energy in Adam & The Ants; but theatre is not the theatre of The 
Jam. Weller is scathing of much current pop music because of its 
preoccupation with theatrical mannerisms. He hates anyone who does anything 
only for money, and I think this might explain why he hates America so much: 
their worship of the dollar is still a national secular obsession.

    Meanwhile I wonder what Paul is wearing today? Does he still get his 
shirts made for five quid by Susan from Manchester? Has he ever been into 
Ebony and tried on shot silk trousers? I know he hasn't got a big car, but 
does his father have a big car? Is he happy with his girlfriend, will they 
get married? (She buys a great round of drinks I must say. Having been on 
the wagon myself for a few months I'm feeling very trendy in the exalted tea 
total company of Paul Weller. But Adam Ant doesn't drink either? Does that 
spoil everything?)

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