The Jam -Debut Tour, California Ballroom, Dunstable, 9th July, 1977

Revisiting-The-Jams-riotous-performance-of-In-The-City-from-1977

In action

 

This was my first ever punk gig. An avid reader of the music press it was quite clear that something was happening . I lived in provincial Bedford at the time, there were no venues putting on punk gigs. Being still at school posed a number of problems. Financially things were tight. Educationally my parents wouldn’t let me go on a school night, and physically getting to venues was a challenge. A Saturday job at Sainsbury, my friend Pete passing his driving test, and a Saturday night gig at nearby Dunstable solved all of these problems. The Jam, supported by Chelsea for £1.75 it was to be.

 
I went not as a Jam fan, they were pretty much unknown apart from the “In The City” single, but as an eager music fan, keen to experience sounds for my generation, not the hippy one. That single, with its B side the distinctly unpunk “Takin My Love” was the only Jam music I knew. The audience were not die- hard punks or mods, nor were they the travelling London/ Home Counties crowd. The stereotypical punk was not fully formed yet beyond London. We were there to experience what the media hype was all about, almost everyone aged 15- 19, most schoolkids.

 
The California Ballroom itself was a legend in its own right. It survived on disco nights and soul bands, particularly, American ones. Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, and the Four Tops had played there earlier that year, the Commodores the year previous. Punk was still relatively new. This was only “The Cali’s” fourth ever punk gig, but the rollcall for the year so far was impressive, The Damned / Adverts, The Stranglers/ London, and most infamously the last night of the White Riot Tour featuring the Clash/ Subway Sect/ Slits/ Prefects, fortunately that had been five weeks earlier. Enough time had elapsed for the place to be repaired… Wayne County & The Electric Chairs were the only other punk band to play the Cali, two weeks after The Jam.

 
Support band Chelsea were surprisingly good. Despite the loss of Tony James ( Generation X, Sigue Sigue Sputnik and Sisters of Mercy) and William Broad, aka Billy Idol, James Stevenson on guitar and Gene October on vocals were a formidable, talented and credible combination. With their debut album still two years away their set was brief but sparky with atypical punk titles like “Decide”, “Government” and “Free the Fighters” augmented with a rather good cover of “Many Rivers to Cross” and a searing “Right to Work”, which vied with “In the city” as the best song of the night.

 
Several beers necessitated an interval visit to the Gents. I did what men do, stand at the urinal, and gaze aimlessly at the wall. When I became aware of a sharp dressed feller in a ( Burton?) suit at the next trough. A surreptitious sideways glance confirmed that it was indeed the same man who was on the cover of the single I had bought a few weeks previous. “Alright, Paul” I ventured with as much cool as I could muster with our cocks both ejecting cheap lager. “Yeah, man” came the muttered reply. So started and finished my only encounter with Paul Weller.

 
At first glance a fifteen strong set list seems pretty impressive for a band on their debut tour promoting their debut album. However, no song lasted for more than three minutes, most were closer to two. It was all over in 45 minutes – and they played “In the City” twice. Great song though…

 
From their first recorded gig at the Hope and Anchor London , barely a year before on May 8th,1976, they had played over fifty shows. Although they were light on repertoire, they were strong on live performance. The energy, volume, speed and attack were pure punk. The songs and performance less so. The Rnb and Mod attitude differed from the aggressive political punk of Chelsea. Weller was obviously more nuanced than October in both star quality and song choice. The Jam were different from the start. What was apparent was their instant connection with the fans and Weller’s defiant claim that ‘this is the new art school’. And so it proved to be. An exhilarating, sweat drenched, synchronised pogoing evening never to be forgotten.

1.I’ve Changed My Address
2.Time for Truth
3.All Around the World
4.London Girl
5.Sounds from the Street
6.So Sad About us
7.In the City
8. Slow Down
9. Takin My Love
10.Slow Down
11.Bricks and Mortar
12.In the City
Encore
13.In the City
14.Batman Theme
Encore
15.Art School

Leeds University, 19th November, 1977

 
I next saw them only four months later in front of 2000 fans at a sold out Leeds University Refectory.  Everything had changed. Punk was already morphing into New Wave, and The Jam were in pole position to capitalise on that with a growing live reputation, an established first album, a second album released the day before this gig,  slavish press coverage in the NME and MM, and radio coverage by John Peel.

 
At that time I was going to two or three punk gigs a week. The Jam had moved away from that sound and any association with the movement. Weller had the foresight, and talent, to deliver that change. Ironically the covers list anticipates the Style Council for anyone with 20/20 hindsight. They were slick, they were professional, and they were just an album away from commercial stardom with the third album All Mod Cons.

 
It was an in between moment. Frankly, they were not as good as many of their contemporaries at that time, but subsequently few of the same contemporaries could match their song output and commercial success for the following four years. I guess it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Set List
I’ve Changed My Address
Carnaby Street
The Modern World
Time for Truth
So Sad About Us
London Girl
In the Street, Today
Standards
All Around the World
London Traffic
(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave
Sweet Soul Music
Bricks and Mortar
In the City
Back in My Arms Again
Slow Down
In the Midnight Hour
Sounds From the Street

Encore:
Takin’ My Love

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