The greatest British mod revivalists of their era, The Jam were fuelled by punk energy and a keen eye for social observation. Bassist and sometimes-lead vocalist Bruce Foxton brings his own homage to his former band From The Jam – back to Perth for one night only at Capitol on Saturday, 17 September. SHANE PINNEGAR finds the now-61-year-old rocker still a full of life.
Despite the music of The Jam being so quintessentially British, From The Jam have still found a very strong audience outside of England. Foxton puts it down to the songs.
The songs sound very contemporary still, on the radio – they still sound fresh and exciting, and you’re talking about songs about 35, 40 years old now and they still sound great on the radio.
After The Jam broke up in 1982, Foxton and Weller became estranged, only properly reconciling after Weller’s father and long-time Jam manager, John, and Foxton’s wife of 25 years, Pat, both passed away within a few months of each other in 2009. Was it a weight off his shoulders when they rekindled their friendship?
I wouldn’t say it was weight, it was just a lovely moment, Foxton admits. Like you mentioned about losing Pat, my first wife, bless her, and John, bless him, just made us realise how trivial our disagreement was all those years prior. A sad loss of time there really, when we could have been hanging out with each other or in touch – we weren’t speaking to each other which was a real shame. I was upset, disappointed that it had come to that, having enjoyed a lot of fun and success with The Jam.
I’m just relieved and pleased that we’re on speaking terms and when we do get together we have a laugh and a hug and a cup of tea, or whatever, and it’s a happy feeling. It’s lovely again, and a shame that we wasted a few years not speaking to each other.
The reconciliation has been so complete that Weller played on new record Smash The Clock. Wilco Johnson ex-guitarist with Dr Feelgood, and a man who has not only practically cheated death over the past few years, but is also in some of the most blistering form of his life also guests on the album.
Yeah, what an amazing man! Paul Weller and Wilco Johnson and Paul Jones playing on our record – you had to pinch yourself, really, that this was really happening. Incredible players and songwriters, and they’re sitting on the sofa in Paul’s studio playing the guitar on our record. It was incredible. We’re very lucky, and as I say, privileged. The Feelgoods – I went to see them in the early ’70s before I was in The Jam – and one of the tracks on the album is called Full Circle, and now we’ve [come] full circle and Wilco’s playing on our record. Amazing – and they did a great job!
Foxton still plays the old Jam songs with the energy and zest they’ve always had, and credits the music with keeping him young.
I think music makes you feel young generally, he says with a laugh, and it does make me feel young, I suppose, playing those songs. They were written when we were young and energetic and enthusiastic and positive, and I feel the same now. Each night we get up on stage and play those songs, nothing’s choreographed, and I do tend to find myself leaping up in the air at the same moment every night on a particular song! I don’t want it to come across as cheesy, it’s just that’s what happens when I get up on stage and play those songs, I just move around like an idiot – I can’t control myself!
The Jam may have come to international recognition during the British punk revolution which celebrates its fortieth anniversary this year, but the band actually formed in 1972 and were far better players than most of their punk contemporaries. Though being obviously stylistically and sonically different, Foxton says The Jam still felt an affinity with the first wave of punk bands.
Absolutely. The music business was really stale early ’70s, and it needed an injection of something, like a kick up the ass, and the Punk, New Wave, however you want to pigeonhole it, [bands] achieved that. We were young and bored with what was out there musically and it was just such an exciting time.
When Paul and myself went to the Sex Pistols, it just blew us away – it gave him a direction of where he and us wanted to be going. There was a lot of affinity – we didn’t wear the ripped t-shirts and the bondage trousers and the safety pins, etcetera, but we had a lot in common, yeah.