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Boppin'

The Everlasting First: The Jam

Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock ‘n’ roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it’s the subsequent visits–the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time–that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every love story still needs to begin with that first kiss.


Anyone who knows me also knows who my favorite bands are: The BeatlesThe Ramones,The FlashcubesThe Monkees, and The Kinks. There are dozens and dozens of worthy acts that I love almost as much–I am proud to be a pop music fanatic and obsessive–but I think I’ve made it clear that this fantastic five sits permanently up there as my Top, my Coliseum, my Louvre Museum, et al.
The Jam used to be right up there with those Beatles and Ramones, too. While I certainly never stopped loving The Jam, they’re not as ever-present in my mind as they were a few decades ago. But in the late ’70s and early ’80s, The Jam rivaled The Ramones for the coveted title of Carl’s favorite rock ‘n’ roll group.

My introduction to The Jam was inauspicious, to say the least. One afternoon in the Fall of 1977, I was lounging in my freshman dorm room, listening to Brockport’s campus radio station WBSU. I listened to WBSU, like, all of the time, constantly pestering the student jocks to play more of the new punk/new wave stuff I wanted to discover–BlondieThe DictatorsThe Runaways, and the above-mentioned Ramones brudders–and also more of the ’60s stuff I loved, from The Raiders (“Let Me!”) and The Dave Clark Five (“Any Way You Want It”) through The Monkees (the station owned the only copy of the group’s Changes LP I had ever seen, though some of the BSU jocks flatly refused to ever play anything by The Monkees).

But this particular afternoon was a singularly revelatory WBSU session, as I heard The Flamin’ Groovies (“Misery”), The Vogues (“Five O’Clock World”), and The Knickerbockers (“Lies”) for the first time. And the station also played a brand-new song by a punk group out of England, performing a cover of “The Batman Theme.” As I heard the song play, I wrote in my journal: “1977 and Batman’s a punk. Progress.”

And that was the first time I heard The Jam.

From small things mama, as Bossman Brucie would later say. If I seemed dismissive at the time, I think I was nonetheless intrigued. The Jam next crossed my consciousness in October, when TV’s The Tomorrow Show took a look at this punk rock thing that was driving some of these mixed-up kids crazy, with the pogo dancing and the safety pins and the anarchy and the use of impolite language. Tomorrow Show host Tom Snyder promised “a punk-rock jam,” but he was himself mixed-up; what he meant was that his guests would include The Jam’s Paul Weller, along with Joan Jett from The Runaways, and Kim Fowley, The Runaways’ former manager. I don’t remember much about this show, other than a sense of no love lost between Jett and Fowley, and the fact that I’d already developed a serious crush on our Joanie (“crush” in the sense that I wanted to hug her and squeeze her and call her Gorgeous; my girlfriend Sharon was neither impressed nor amused). I have a vague recollection that Weller was serious and focused, and that he knew what he was talking about, but the precise details are lost in the cluttered hallway of my memory. I really oughta at least try applying a feather duster to that place some time.

I’m not exactly sure of the sequence of events after that, of how I went from The Jam? to THE JAM!! I do know there were four specific songs involved: “In The City,” “I Need You (For Someone),” “The Modern World,” and “All Around The World.” I can’t tell you where or when I first heard any of these, but I can tell you that the first two were staples of The Flashcubes’ live set. I saw the ‘Cubes for the first time in January of ’78, and it was immediately clear that any songthey did was okay by me. I bought the U.S. Polydor 45 of “I Need You (For Someone)”/”In The City,” and played it often.  I picked up import singles of “The Modern World” (a track I think the ‘Cubes also used to cover) and “All Around The World” when I worked at Penn-Cann Mall in North Syracuse that summer. I was hooked. Guitarist Weller, bassist Bruce Foxton, and drummer Rick Buckler had created exactly the sort of modern world I wanted to inhabit.

I returned to Brockport for my sophomore year in the fall of 1978. By then, the previously-cited girlfriend Sharon was already three or four heartbreaks ago. In early October of that semester, I aced some test or paper or somesuch, and felt I deserved a reward; so it was down to The Record Grove, where I purchased a copy of The Jam’s second LP, This Is The Modern World. I went back to my dorm, and put it on my roommate’s stereo, the volume set somewhere north of lethal. God, I loved this record on first spin. Just about everyone considers it The Jam’s least-noteworthy effort, but it’s always gonna be special to me. “The Modern World.” “All Around The World.” “I Need You (For Someone).” Then on to the tracks I didn’t already know: “Standards.” “Life From A Window.” Wilson Pickett‘s “In The Midnight Hour.” I couldn’t play Side One loud enough.

My next-door neighbor, on the other hand, thought it was already a wee bit too noisy. I hadn’t even met this chick yet, but she pounded on our mutual bedroom wall, imploring me to turn that goddamned racket down already. I grumbled, cursed, but complied. Ever the gentleman, that’s me! I did eventually meet this girl next door later that month. Her name was Brenda. Wonder whatever became of her…?

(And yes, she still thinks I play that goddamned racket too loud.)

The Jam didn’t exactly fall beneath my radar after that, but I didn’t get their next album, All Mod Cons, until well after the fact. Someone–either my then-current roommate Tom or my future roommate Paul–played “Down In The Tube Station At Midnight” for me on his WBSU show in the spring of ’79; I liked it, I guess, though it didn’t have the exuberance, the immediacy of the Jam tunes I already loved. It was…mature. It would take some getting used to.

By the time I adjusted to the idea of a more grownup-sounding Jam, the group hit me with a new album, Setting Sons. What an amazing record this was! I rarely listen to whole albums nowadays, but I owe myself the pleasure of giving this another complete spin soon. Supposedly originally created as a concept album–a dirty phrase in the post-punk world of 1979-1980–Setting Sons succeeds as a stunning song cycle, simmering with the charred embers of shattered idealism, discarded friendships, wistful memory, and defiant hope. I regard Setting Sons as The Jam’s masterpiece.

The Jam’s follow-up album, Sound Affects, was nearly as good, highlighted by “That’s Entertainment,” an unforgettable number that Weller is said to have written following a pub crawl; the track would have been worthy of The Kinks. The “Going Underground” single was another winner, and The Jam were firmly ensconced near the Toppermost of my Poppermost.

And then they were gone. Another album (The Gift), and a pair of 1982 farewell singles, “The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow)” and “Beat Surrender,” and Weller pulled the plug. The Jam never caught on in the States at all, but they were huge stars in Great Britain, and they quit at the height of their success. I never had much interest in Weller’s next project, The Style Council, but I have to concede neither he nor the rest of The Jam owed me anything. They’d already shown me the modern world, and all around the world: in the city, down in the tube station at midnight, lost in a strange town, Eton rifles beneath a burning sky, gone underground to a town called Malice. That’s entertainment.

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Boppin'

10 Songs

10 Songs is a weekly list of ten songs that happen to be on my mind at the moment. Given my intention to usually write these on Mondays, the lists are often dominated by songs played on the previous night’s edition of This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl. The idea was inspired by Don Valentine of the essential blog I Don’t Hear A Single.

THE B-52’s: 52 Girls

When I was in college, there was a girl (whom I’ll call Roxy) from somewhere downstate in the dorm room kitty-corner from mine. Roxy felt her musical taste was jarringly outta step with that of our peers at our school. I felt her pain; I was roughly as much of a musical oddball as she was. Roxy liked punk and its anti-mainstream ilk, and she had no use for the prevailing Deadheadedness that was the preferred soundtrack of our fellow students. We weren’t exactly friends, but I was one of the very few sympathetics she encountered. I was impressed that she had seen Sid Vicious at Max’s Kansas City. And she was one of the first people I met who liked The B-52’s; in our dorm in 1979, before “Rock Lobster” became an alt-pop staple and long before “Love Shack” became a hit, Roxy, my roommate, and I seemed to be the only prospective members of any hypothetical Perry Hall B-52’s Fan Club. 

Even more than “Rock Lobster,” “52 Girls” was my early B-52’s favorite, a chugging milkshake of catchy, spastic pop. Roxy’s frustration with her four-cornered surroundings likely contributed to her decision to hightail it outta there; she didn’t finish the semester, and may have been gone within the first month. The following spring, my roommate and I helped to put on a successful Punk Night at a bar in town. Maybe Roxy shoulda tried to stick it out?

For dramatic purposes, the role of Roxy shall be played by singer and actress Debbie Gibson.

BLUE OYSTER CULT: This Ain’t The Summer Of Love

BOC’s best-known tracks are “Don’t Fear The Reaper” and (later on) “Burnin’ For You,” with maybe an honorable mention for “Godzilla.” My favorite remains “This Ain’t The Summer Of Love,” a lean and efficient LP track from Agents Of Fortune (the album that gave us “Don’t Fear The Reaper”). I learned of the song through my doomed high school pal Tom, prompting me to purchase my own battered, used copy of the album in time for college. During my freshman year, Side One of Agents Of Fortune was as much a go-to slab of vinyl as my Sex Pistols and Monkees records, and “This Ain’t The Summer Of Love” in particular fit well alongside my steady diet of RamonesTelevisionJam, and Dave Clark Five. My friend Ronnie Dark mentioned Agents Of Fortune last week, and that was sufficient motivation for me to play this great track once again.

THE DARLING BUDS: Let’s Go Round There

The Darling Buds’ 1989 debut Pop Said… is the only album I can recall buying just because Rolling Stone magazine told me to. A review of the record in RS name-checked The Ramones, The Buzzcocks, and Blondie in its attempt to describe the group’s sound, and I was sold on it, unheard, right then and there. I think I made the purchase before hearing “Let’s Go Round There” on MTV‘s 120 Minutes, a show I committed to VHS every Sunday night, and it certainly became my favorite Darling Buds track (edging out “The Other Night” and “Hit The Ground”).

THE JACKSON FIVE: I’ll Be There

Simply exquisite. This is such a magnificent pop single, and it rates a chapter in my (theoretically) eventual book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1). Enjoying the innocent sound of the young Michael Jackson requires a disconnect with the (credible, I think) accusations of his crimes as an adult. If we can make and maintain that separation of art and artist, The J5’s “I’ll Be There” offers sheer, sweet joy. A friend advised me last week that it’s probably okay to make that separation, especially in this instance of records made decades before MJ’s alleged misdeeds. He’s probably right. Your mileage may vary.

THE KINKS: Dedicated Follower Of Fashion

When I was in the process of becoming a Kinks fan at the age of 16 and 17 (circa late ’76 and into ’77), “Dedicated Follower Of Fashion” was a mystery track. I had seen the title listed in reference works, but it wasn’t a Kinks song I knew, like “Lola” or “You Really Got Me,” “All Day And All Of The Night,” “Tired Of Waiting For You,” “A Well Respected Man,” or even “No More Looking Back” from Schoolboys In Disgrace.  I recall hearing Status Quo‘s “Pictures Of Matchstick Men” on the radio, and wondering (with no real-world justification) if that might be “Dedicated Follower Of Fashion.” I have no memory of where, when, or how I finally heard “Dedicated Follower Of Fashion,” but I do remember that I was initially underwhelmed by it. 

Well, that reaction sure changed over time. In the summer of 1979, the first time I saw the fab local combo The Dead Ducks, my pal Joe Boudreau and I bellowed along with the Oh yes he IS! as the Ducks covered the song. Many, many years later, I have a specific memory of strolling through a shopping mall with my wife and daughter as “Dedicated Follower Of Fashion” came on the sound system. Just as I’d done as a teenager, I began to bellow along, Oh yes he IS! My then-teen daughter was mortified. Hmph. It’s as if she didn’t think her Dad was in fashion.

KISS: Anything For My Baby

“Anything For My Baby” is an LP track from the 1975 KISS album Dressed To Kill, the record that gave the world “Rock And Roll All Nite.” The song was written and sung by Paul Stanley, but for some reason Stanley all but disowns the tune. I’m unashamed in my continuing affection for some of KISS’s work, and “Anything For My Baby” would be a candidate for my all-time KISS Top 10.

THE MONKEES: For Pete’s Sake

From The Monkees’ 1967 album Headquarters, their third LP but the first where they were allowed to be the musicians in the studio. The song was co-written by Peter Tork and Joseph Richards, it was used as the closing theme during the second season of the group’s TV series, and it shoulda been a single. At this year’s GRAMMY telecast, a snippet of “For Pete’s Sake” played when Tork’s face appeared during the memorial segment honoring artists we lost during the previous year. We were born to love another, this is something we all need. Frankly, I’d expected the awards show to use a more familiar Monkees hit, either “I’m A Believer” or “Daydream Believer,” and I’m delighted that the producers made the right choice instead.

THE SOFT BOYS: I Wanna Destroy You

If I had heard The Soft Boys’ 1980 album Underwater Moonlight some time contemporary to its release, it would have been one of my favorite albums of that decade. Instead, I didn’t hear it until its CD reissue on the Matador label in 2001. I did hear the group’s classic Underwater Moonlight track “I Wanna Destroy You” somewhere in between, probably from Dana (who played it again on this week’s show). But my introduction to the song itself predates that spin, and is about as weird as it gets. In the ’90s, former teen pop star Debbie Gibson was said to be involved with the producer of Circle Jerks, the hardcore group perhaps best known for “Golden Shower Of Hits,” their thrashing covers medley of cheeseball blechh like “You’re Having My Baby.” Realizing a match made in Perdition, Gibson sang backup on Circle Jerks’ cover of “I Wanna Destroy You,” and even joined them on stage to perform the song at CBGB’s in 1995. Well, that all sounds ducky so far, right? I’m not sure if it was a one-off where she jumped on stage to join those Jerks in concert, or if it was staged as an MTV event, or what. But I learned about it in a report on MTV News, and I submit that no one else had a weirder introduction to this song than I had.

TIN TIN: Toast And Marmalade For Tea

A throwaway line in my Sunday hype for this week’s TIRnRR inspired a need to include this on the show. Some time back, when Dana and I were attending an acoustic show by The Flashcubes‘ Gary Frenay and Arty Lenin, Gary and Arty performed a cover of “Toast And Marmalade For Tea,” then defied us to name the original artist. In yet another stunning display of the boundless mastery of pop information that drives This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, we…yeah, we didn’t have a freakin’ clue. Heads will roll, my friends, heads will roll. Oops–eyes will roll. Sorry, I read that wrong. Man, it’s good thing Dana and I have tenure.

The palpable Bee Gees vibe of “Toast And Marmalade For Tea” is partially attributable to the fact that the record was produced by Maurice Gibb, who also plays bass on the track. But I’ve retroactively decided that it wasn’t Tin Tin at all; it was Debbie Gibson, using a time machine to go back and make a record before she was even born, disguising her voice so she sounds like two guys from Australia. Of course.

Toast and marmalade for tea…FROM THE FUTURE!

STEVIE WONDER: I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)


This song comes from Stevie Wonder’s 1972 album Talking Book. My point of entry for this wonderful number comes via the 2000 film adaptation of Nick Hornby‘s High Fidelity. The song is used so effectively in the movie’s climactic scene, and it’s been lodged in my consciousness ever since. My entry for this song in The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) likewise serves as the book’s climactic chapter. I hope you get to read it someday.

By Carl Cafarelli

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Quick Spins

Chrissie Hynde & Valve Bone Woe

Chrissie Hynde & Valve 

Bone Woe Ensemble 

Valve Bone Woe (BMG)

http://www.chrissiehynde.com

This is the jazzy pop record that rocker Chrissie Hynde has always threatened to make. Focusing on the late 1950’s through the early 1960’s, it’s a pleasant record that isn’t overly fussy, which is welcome relief these days. An emotional voice lending its own beauty, as well as its own flaws.

The Kinks’ “No Return” sounds even more samba-like than the original, and Brian Wilson’s “Caroline, No” gets turned into a sultry torch song. Sinatra’s “I’m A Fool To Love You” takes on a whole new elegance in Hynde’s hands. This is a very special moment in a long and fascinating career.

By Dan Pavelich