• Rob Butterfield


The album that sparked an obsession with the mod culture.

As mentioned in my ‘vinyl junkie’ blog (25th Feb 2019) I recall pretty much every record I purchased during my teen years. So, here’s another post about one of those albums that made a real impression on my life.

In the City by The Jam was a life changing album for me. Even today when life needs a good kick up the arse this is my go-to album. Fast, furious, angry and full of so many memories. This wasn’t just a favourite album of my youth, it was the start of an obsession with the band and the mod culture they stood for.

I’d bought the album whilst on my summer holidays in Bournemouth in the summer of 1977 - a few months after it’s release in the May of that year. I couldn’t wait to get home from the holidays and stick it on the turntable. Bloody hell this was an exciting album. At the time of its release, Phil McNeil from the NME stated that Weller's songwriting "captures that entire teen frustration vibe with the melodic grace and dynamic aplomb of early Kinks and The Who." It certainly struck a chord with this soon to be 15 year old.

From the powerful opening chords and “1, 2, 3, 4” of Art School the album takes you on a non-stop journey of youthful angst and aggression with just a little respite in the melodic yet forceful Away From The Numbers, before closing side one with the somewhat discordant but at the same time satisfying Batman Theme.

Side 2 doesn’t ease up either with the opener being the title track and first single In The City. The remaining five tracks prove to be a discerning commentary on the political landscape and culture of the late 70’s. The whole album subtly hints at what an accomplished songwriter Weller will turn out to be. I was hooked and would be destined to buy every single and album they released until their acrimonious break up in October 1982.

It would be a full year after buying In The City that I got to see the band live for the first time. Coincidentally enough it would be whilst on holiday in Bournemouth again in the summer of 1978. Me and my mate Andy would head off to the Village Bowl for what can only be described as an epic night. We actually got to chat to Paul (Weller) and Bruce (Foxton) in the bar too before the gig – I got them to sign a Joker playing card I kept in my wallet (I have no idea why I kept a Joker playing card in my wallet!). The gig was just pure energy from both the band and the audience. I’d never experienced anything like it before; the stage presence of this power trio was immense and the fans showed their appreciation like a pack of wolves enjoying their latest kill – I was right in the thick of it, it was bloody fantastic!

In the following years I would identify myself as a mod thanks to the Jam. Sharp tonic suits, Fred Perry’s, the obligatory army surplus parka – as well as forming/joining a mod band called The Scene/The Seen who had a modicum of local success for a year or so.

I’d also get to see the Jam a few more times: Reading University in Feb 1979, Rainbow Theatre London in May 1979 and the Poole Arts Centre in November 1979. We also ‘nearly’ got to see them when they played a secret gig at The Marquee in Wardour Street under the name of John’s Boys. So secret was the gig that when we arrived there were queues down the street and we failed to get in. Instead we headed off to the Notre Dame in Covent Garden to see, I think, The Merton Parkas, The Lambrettas and another band that I can’t recall. We ended up getting chased through the streets by skinheads after that gig and unfortunately a couple of my mates took a bit of a beating. We had a few tussles as mods, it went with the territory – it seems nonsensical and mindless looking back but it was all part of the scene.

To this day I’m still a fan of Paul Weller, the Modfather. I’m undecided on the merits of the Style Council but there’s no doubting the talent of the man. Personally, I’m not sure that there’s been anything released by Messrs Weller, Foxton and Buckler that has made an impact on me like In The City did.

And I know what you're thinking. You still think I am crap. But you'd better listen, man, because the kids know where it's at!

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