The Jam’s new 1977 box set covering the band’s first eventful recording year over four CDs and one DVD reviewed by Claire Mahoney.
What do we remember about 1977? Well, Red Rum won The National for the third time, the Queen celebrated her Silver Jubilee, Marc Bolan died in a car crash and The Sex Pistols released ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’. But it was also the year The Jam began their recording career with Polydor and this five-disc box set by Universal Music celebrates the 40th anniversary of this defining moment.
Jumping on the back of the punk juggernaut, it was obvious The Jam were determined to plough their own musical furrow. For starters, they were wearing suits and ties and their lyrics already suggested that they had an agenda that wasn’t just about rebellion and throwing bottles of piss around.
Weller says he was already disillusioned by punk at this stage, realising that its initial message had become diluted into a bit of a media fad. ‘In the City’ nevertheless in retrospect is a punk album but its undercurrent of British 60s RnB and its obvious nod to its styling, always meant this band would have something else up their smarter-looking sleeves.
The releases that year from The Jam came at almost the same breakneck speed as their first recording. No sooner had they put out their first album, six weeks later they put out the single, ‘All Around The World’. Already there was a sense of the ‘new direction’ they sang about.
The momentum was kept up with a second album – ‘This is The Modern World’, which despite feeling kind of rudderless at the time, still offers some beautifully crafted and wistful songwriting from Weller – ‘Life From A Window’ and ‘Tonight at Noon’ – and it was what allowed them to fully find themselves with All Mod Cons just a year later.
The Jam always offered us up something new with every album but nowhere was the gear change more apparent than in this period.
The supporting 144-page booklet which comes with this box-set sets the story of this most prolific year perfectly with words by John Harris, cuttings, reviews and old promo shots.
Then there are the five CDs. Not only do you have the remastered first two albums (the second with an alternative cover shot by the brilliant rock photographer Gered Mankowitz – Grenfell Tower in the background), you also have a DVD of early promo footage, plus a CD of 11 demos made for the first album – six of which are previously unreleased.
The fifth disc is made up of a previously unreleased recording of a gig at the ‘Nashville’ and two John Peel sessions from the same year. You also get five quality postcards prints from an early photo-shoot thrown in – all for the tidy sum of £40.
Taken all together 1977 is a neat distillation of the drive and energy the took The Jam ‘away from the numbers’ and into the new wave of music that was to follow and is well worth the price.