I never really listened to The Jam when I was younger; there was something about them that didn’t really work for me. A harshness, perhaps, an anger and attitude that felt at odds with the Britpop kid I was at the time, the one who preferred the rounded edges instead of the sharp, who still felt as if The Beatles was a weaker album than Rubber Soul or whatever. (No offense to those of you who prefer the Folk Beatles, of course.)
That Paul Weller was still around and making music at the time, and such a force in the scene still with albums like Wild Wood and Stanley Road, didn’t help; it felt oddly too retro to listen to The Jam in those circumstances, as if “retro” wasn’t at the very heart of the Britpop project as a whole. What can I say? I was young and stupid, as opposed to now, when I’m old and… well, still stupid.
All of this is to say that I’ve started listening to The Jam in the last week or so, inspired in part by Spotify making the suggestion, but moreso by the fact that I’d already been listening to a lot of Billy Bragg and The Specials, so it felt oddly period appropriate.
It’s an experience I would liken to discovering The Who or Harry Nilsson for the first time, in both cases things that happened long after the fact; I hear things that are at once New Favorite Songs or music that has always been in my life in one way or another, in large part because, indirectly, it has; I know the echoes of it from the bands I’ve been a fan of for years, who were influenced by all of this and ripped it off in several different ways.
Beyond simply enjoying the music for the sake of the music, there’s also the additional fun/reminder that music is a continuum, each song a part of a conversation that we’re only partly privy to. It’s humbling and surprisingly welcome to realize that we’re all dwarfed by history in ways like that, I find.