Claire Mahoney is first through the door as The Jam’s About The Young Idea exhibition makes its debut at the Cunard Building in Liverpool.
Just around the corner from Liverpool’s Cunard Building, near the Pier Head, is a new sculpture oLiverpool’s most famous sons – The Beatles. The idea for the bronze was taken from a real photo shoot from 1963 and represents the fab four striding towards the river Mersey.
When you approach the sculpture from a distance, you have to look twice – so realistic is the silhouette against the skyline. This month, a new exhibition opens at The Cunard that celebrates another of the UK’s great bands – The Jam. And anyone who knows anything about The Jam, understands that without The Beatles, they would have been a very different band. In fact, they may not have even existed.
Last year the same team staged a similar, but smaller, exhibition on The Jam at Somerset House in London. So great was the response that the exhibition curators – Paul’s sister, Nicky Weller, collector Den Davis and Russell Reader decided to stage another one. But this is no spin-off. In fact, it makes the first exhibition seem like a mere stamp collection by comparison. Not only is it much bigger, with hundreds of new exhibits not seen last year, it is also better constructed and much more interactive.
You enter the show through a tube station tunnel before turning into the first room which is set up as like a live gig. Rick Buckler’s ‘great white’ drum kit sits proudly centre-stage, with images of live shows on giant screens behind. When I wandered in on the opening night, Paul Weller’s mum, Ann, was leaning on the stage, grinning broadly and tapping her foot while watching her son on screen. It was quite surreal – as if I had stumbled in on a private family moment. But that’s what a lot of this show is like. There are Paul’s old school exercise books, his sketches of The Beatles and his amusing attempts at a comic strip – starring himself as a young mod. There are also rooms sets that give a sense of Paul’s life growing up listening to the 50s tunes so loved by his parents. In short, this show really puts the band and their music in context. ‘Welcome to Woking’ it says on the walls and for a brief moment we are right there in Stanley Road.
The exhibition then moves through a series of rooms which use the The Jam’s albums as signposts. The spray-painted toilet wall provided a massive ‘selfie’ opportunity for fans at Somerset House. Here you can actually feature on the cover of ‘In The City’ with life-size cut outs of the band. The centre piece has to be the All Mod Cons room with its giant roundel and circle of mod mannequins and scooters – a nice homage for fans who turned to The Jam for fashion as well as musical direction. There are several seating areas in the show with racks of headphones where you can take a pew and enjoy sound as well as vision complete with interviews and rare footage. Perhaps the most moving though is the last room which is dedicated to the late John Weller, the band’s inimitable manager.
The exhibition, which will run until 25th of September, is all in all a fantastic collaborative effort between its curators and the band’s loyal fans who have donated so many items from their own memorabilia. But it is so much more than a collection of rather nice guitars and badges. ‘About the Young Idea’ captures the spirit of The Jam, which 34 years since they split, still resonates loud and clear with those lucky enough to have fallen in love with not just any guitar and any bass drum.
About the Young Idea
1 July – 25 September
Times 10.00 – 18.00
Tickets: Peak: £9.50, off-peak £5.00
More details and tickets available from the website.