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In 1978 The Jam released one of their best albums, "All Mod Cons", Paul Weller had indeed improved immensely as a songwriter and guitarist. That album contained a very British feel about it, writing about things such as the class system, getting mugged in an underground station, fame and the trappings of fame.
All Songs written by Weller except, Smithers-Jones(Foxton) and Heatwave(Holland, Dozier, Holland).
Listening to "All Mod Cons" and "Setting Sons" back to back, you could catagorize them as part 1 and part 2, before The Jam sound was to enter into the eighties with a change in direction. This album was intended to be a concept album before the idea was scrapped, although some of the songs, such as "Little Boy Soldiers" , "Thick as Thieves" and "Burning Sky" still remained.
The album kicks off with a phone ringing and goes straight into the slightly humorous but sinister "Girl on the Phone", a song about dealing with being famous and having a stalker, who knows everything about the person in the song; from every book the person has read, to his leg measurements and the size of his penis.
The next songs theme seems to reoccur more than once on the album; "Thick as Thieves". This is a song about how people grow up and have different ideals, when they were once really close, one of The Jams finest tracks .
The heavy guitar orientated "Private Hell" is up next; a song about a grandmother who's kids have left home and got on with their lives, whilst she is stuck at home in a boring marriage with her husband slowly sinking into depression.
"Little Boy Soldiers", a fine track that always reminds me of The Beatles "A Day in the Life", as it seems like two songs splurged together. It is about how governments don't bother about the people, and as soon as there is an outbreak of war they want people to enlist and fight for their country. The song ends with the harsh reality of war that you could end up coming home in a box, with a medal and a letter to say we won! The song also ends with a long piano note, that seems to go on forever before it segues into...
The whimsically uplifting love song "Wasteland", this is an often forgotten great. A recorder is played throughout this love song set amongst the backdrop of run down council estates where children play surrounded by tyres and rusty bicycles. The thing I love about this song is it is the only song I have ever heard the words "Monolith monstrosities councils call homes", discarding the new stage of high rised council houses, which were so prominent throughout the seventies. That brings us to the end of part one of the album.
Side two kicks off with the last of the scrapped concept album tracks; "Burning Sky". This is a song revisiting the theme of "Thick as Thieves", this time the lyric is written as if the singer was writing a letter to one of his old childhood friends. He goes on to mention that his ideals have changed in life "they are fine when you are young, and I must admit we had a laugh but that's all it was and ever will be" and how he is putting his highflying career above meeting his old school chums.
Next up is a reworking of the finest song Bruce Foxton has ever written; "Smithers Jones", originally a B-side of the single "When You're Young", it is reworked here with a cello instead of the bass line. The song tells the tale of an office worker, who has a meeting with his boss (Hoping to get the promotion), but only to find out that he is being laid off and the only person who ever wins is the boss, who is only interested in profits.
"Saturdays Kids", a song about the lives of the average teenager, going through life drinking in pubs, taking drugs, working in Tescos and Woolworths, "wearing cheap perfume, cos it's all they can afford", holidaying in a caravan and having sex in a Ford Cortina.
The Jams only single to be taken off this album and their first top ten hit(A hint that the best was yet to come); "The Eton Rifles", a story about a right to work march where some of the protesters, thinking a bunch of posh schoolboys would be no match for them, had a fight with the public schoolboys at Eton, who had been jeering them as they marched past and came off worst. This song also marks the end of Paul Wellers contribution to the album as the next track is a motown song, which was also covered by one of Wellers favourite bands; "The Who".
"Heatwave", a quick up tempo number to close the album, with Merton Mick Talbot on keyboards, the first collaboration with Paul Weller on record, before reuniting with him when The Jam split and Weller formed "The Style Council", but that's a different story altogether.
To summarise this is one of THE best albums to come out of the seventies, when bands consisted of guitars and drums. It is hard to imagine when listening to this album that it was made by a three piece band, as the sound is absolutely outstanding and, by todays standards, to replicate these tracks it would take 4 or 5 band members. I would highly recommend this album to anyone who is a fan of guitar bands and is sick of the droll X-factor/boyband/girlband rubbish you get nowadays.
I remember getting into music seriously as a 13 year old. It was 1982. Some older lads next door and at school liked the Jam so that was good enough for me. Their image was cool and their songs were written for teenagers. I borrowed, bought and taped whatever I could. Of all the Jam material I got my hands on, and I think I managed to collect most of it within 6 months, this was my favourite. This was the collection of songs that i identified most with. This was the music I couldnt get out of my head and the lyrics I totally got into. Its a wonderful fealing when you really start getting into something, it becomes the soundtrack to that period of your life. I remember playing this record to friends and them buying it and the feeling of satisfaction that gave me. I missed the Jam. They split the year after I heard this record for the first time. Never saw them live. Never had to wait for their next LP. Never rushed out to buy their next single. So how does this record sound today. It sounds old but not dated. The songs here are a true collection. They belong together. Its only a short LP and most of the songs are 3 minute wonders. Thick as Thieves.....did Paul Weller ever write a better song. Wasteland. Ahhh. Nostalgia isnt what it used to be. I know Eton Rifles is probably the most famous track here but it almost doesnt belong amongst these other forgotten masterpieces. I think this was where Paul Weller left his London obsession behind a little and drew his thoughts from within. He started to question his feelings and those created by friendships. He was only a young man when he wrote this record but there seems to be an inner confidence and insecurity all at the same time. I dont think he ever had this again. Within a very short space of time, he was at number one with Going Underground in 1980 and the Jam were suddenly the nations favourites. NME polls belonged to them. Although I think their other material is excel
lent, this is that awsome moment when the early promise and brilliance (3rd LP All Mod Cons was their most citically aclaimed) turns to confidence and achievement. This LP sits between All Mod Cons and the chart toppers of Going Underground, START, Town Called Malice and Beat Surrender as magical musical moment. A moment when three gifted young men realised they had something very special and they were about to move upto a completely different level. The music here is a celebration. It seems to celebrate how far they had come and how far they were about to go. In a similar sort of way, Oasis's Whatever single was the same sort of thing. Although absolutley huge at the time, they were just about to move to World domination with Morning Glory and this in between LP's single is a look how far we've come celebration and a nothing can stop us now taster for the future. I know Ive not exactly reviewed this LP here. So here goes, Its guitar based pop with a late 70's new wave edge, sensitive at times but still retaining the angry young man tone of the times. This is the work of a gifted young songwriter at the peak of his creativity. This is the last great LP of the 70's. If you've stayed with me until this far down, I expect you already know that. Please add some comments and let me know what you think of this record. I was very sad to see there were no reviews of it. Cheers
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Girl On The Phone
2 Thick As Thieves
3 Private Hell
4 Little Boy Soldiers
6 Burning Sky
8 Saturday's Kids
9 The Eton Rifles