As I commented to editor of this very website the other day, they don't make them like that anymore. Yes, I know, sad old cliché used by sad old pundits to talk about how everything's gone to the dogs. Which we already know. But in the case of the Jam, you have to say it's true.
Consider this: From June 1977 to December 1982, they released the following: a) Six albums; b) 16 UK singles, all charting in the top 40, 12 in the top 20. Plus two other singles which charted from import sales, including Just Who Is The Five O Clock Hero hitting #7
Also consider: of those 16 singles, nine were non-album tracks. Plus every single had at least one original b-side.
Basically, the Jam maintained a level of releasing consistently great singles/albums matched only since by the Smiths. Of course, you can throw around names of people who've written as many songs, but how many managed to become to combine the above point with actually selling records as the likes of Weller, Morrissey/Marr, Lennon/McCartney or Ray Davies?
Lesson over. 25 years on from the Jam's first releases, we've already had a spate of new compilations and reissues and now we have this, a DVD of all their promo clips alongside a batch of live TV performances and a few documentaries. Across two DVDs there's much fun to be had. Enjoy watching bassist Bruce Foxton's mullet morph into various shapes, the hilarious video for later hit The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow) in which Weller later noted "I looked a right cunt in that!", and the so funny it hurts interview on Swedish TV sometime 1981, in which Paul Weller confirms his reputation as being a bastard to interview:
INTERVIEWER: In Sweden, 'The Jam' means jelly... but that isn't what you mean, is it?
PAUL WELLER: (obviously bored) No.
INTERVIEWER: So what do you mean?
WELLER: It doesn't matter. Ask me a serious question.
After all this he goes on to introduce single Funeral Pyre as "Chicken In A Basket". Cringeworthy and highly comical at the same time, this event clearly illustrates that being fed-up with fame wasn't invented by Thom Yorke.
More fun can be had with further early TV performances. Marc Bolan camp as a row of tents on his own TV show (cut short by his death), Tony Wilson as eloquent and long winded as ever, and Peter Cook hosting a programme with a studio full of rent-a-punks. Current day music television has a lot to answer for compared to this. Zane Lowe can only dream of sounding as pompous and self-righteous as someone like Wilson.
On a musical note, a big interest is seeing the bands sound change over their recording career. Early live footage of the Jam playing at Manchester's legendary Electric Circus venue shows a dynamic, explosive three piece playing 100 MPH Punk/R&B; numbers in a sweaty, cramped club. Skip forward five years to one of their final TV appearances and the sound has changed into the soul-tinged approach, complete with horn section, backing singers and Organ player.
Any criticisms of the DVD are aimed at the compilers. Several of the live performance track listings are horribly jumbled up while the 'new' documentary is basically made up of footage from the other (from the time) similar programmes, bar narration from DJ/Fan Gary Crowley. Without any new interviews with Weller, Foxton or drummer Rick Buckler (or indeed anyone associated with the band), the whole thing has a taste of 'quickly put together' about it. Foxton and Buckler always have something to gripe about Weller - why not round them up for another bitch?
Look over these minor faults and the DVD remains nothing less then essential for any Jam fan. And could anyone else but Weller get away with pink pin stripes?
The Rating: 9/10