The Jam Exhibition – Somerset House

Posted on August 7, 2015

I went to see The Jam exhibition with my youngest son today at Somerset House in London, which, if you don’t know, is just over Waterloo Bridge and a few hundred yards eastbound on the edge of the River Thames.

I was very young when I first heard The Jam, courtesy of my elder brother Graham, who had bought their début album In the City in 1977, an album that immediately impressed me as on the track Time for Truth, lead singer Paul Weller said “Fuck off!”

Once the novelty of hearing music with swear words had worn off, I grew to love that album, probably because it seemed so young and raw in comparison to the dull self-indulgent music such as The Moody Blues, played by mother, and bands like Nazareth and Rainbow played by my other, even elder brother, whose music taste is still a source of bemusement.

As my chosen peers and I got older, The Jam were more or less a soundtrack for our lives that involved kicking footballs around, playing space invaders and taking bus trips to Basingstoke or Reading, grey suburban overspill towns that were strikingly similar to Woking, the home town of The Jam. 

Seeing my brother buzzing with a head full of speed after coming back from Jam gigs had me longing to see them when I was old enough but as quick as The Jam escalated, in 1982, they were gone for good. Today, I finally realised, as someone who has long shaken of the bias of youth, that it was the best thing that could have happened; their last two singles, Bitterest Pill and Beat Surrender were awful songs and were a good reason to quit and be remembered as a great band of a generation, rather than turning in to some corny Butlins act.

The Jam could never have been an old band to take seriously, because their songs were about youth movement; they couldn’t keep plodding on like The Rolling Stones, it would have been a tragedy.

A Few Pics from today’s visit to The Jam exhibition

Seeing all the old collection of memorabilia was really interesting and filled with nostalgia, especially seeing all the old music magazines and record sleeves that I once owned but have sadly disappeared over a series of house moves in my early 20’s when vinyl records were no longer deemed fit for purpose.

What was really great though was my youngest son, Harry, seeing an exhibition of something I have long blabbed on about, boring him senseless in the process. Harry’s reluctance turned to fascination as he read through all plaques explaining in detail what was behind certain events, including the touching dedication towards The Jam of John Weller (Paul’s father) an ex-amateur boxer, turned jobbing builder/taxi driver/promoter.

Today, it dawned on Harry how The Jam were the soundtrack for a suburban generation of incredibly young and loyal fans, who even today, with middle-aged spread stretching at their Fred Perry polo shirts, looked at each other as if they were in the same little secret club, following a band that sung solely for them in suburban masterpieces such as Wasteland, To Be Someone and Saturday’s Kids.

John Weller got it spot on with his introductions at Jam gigs, because, between 1977 and 1982, The Jam were…”THE BEST BAND IN THE FUCKING WORLD.”

*The Jam exhibition at Somerset House runs until the end of August 2015. It was £18:00 for the both of us.

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