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The 10 best songs by The Jam by Rick Buckler

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The live shows are the dominant memories I have of those five years with The Jam, because we did so many, and I have lots of fond memories of touring. After that, it’s mainly memories of fleetingly getting into the studios and recording stuff. But the enduring overall memories of that time are all the firsts, because it was all such a continual rise. So getting signed for the first time, getting the first single out, getting the first album out, being on Top of the Pops for the first time, getting our first Number One – they’re the things I recall the most. It seemed to just snowball all the way through from 1977 to 1982. We worked incredibly hard throughout that period. It’s just a real shame that it ended probably a little too soon – certainly for myself and Bruce (Foxton, bass and backing vocals).

Paul (Weller, guitar and vocals) said he wanted to leave in the summer of 1982. He said that he was on a treadmill and he wanted to get off. It seemed like a ridiculous reason to break up the band, but we could understand the pressure. We were all under pressure from the record company (Polydor) to produce the product and promote it by touring. The more successful you become, the more demand there is on your time and your resources. But I think looking back on it, we just didn’t have the managerial strength to stand up to the record company, who were calling most of the shots back then. But hindsight is a wonderful thing, as they say, and we did try to talk to Paul. We said, ‘Why don’t you take a year out and do something else. Let’s take control of our career a bit more.” But unfortunately he’d made his mind up, and that was that. So we worked our way through that final tour and released a live album (Dig The New Breed) to get us out of the record contract. And then it all sort of finished in December of ‘82. 

I’m obviously very proud of everything that went on during that period though, and of everything that we achieved. But let’s take a trip down memory lane and see what comes to mind…

10. ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS (single, 1981)
We released this song as a non-album single just before The Gift came out. It’s one of my favourite recordings. I actually did the photo shoot for the sleeve cover, which is also why I’m fond of it. We were always pushing to get a different take on something for a three-piece band, which is why we added stuff like brass in the studio. And I think it worked. We’d often go off on little tangents and explore the possibilities of what we could do, and I like Absolute Beginners because it’s so punchy. 

**9. GHOSTS **(The Gift, 1982)
This one I like because it offered a real drumming challenge. It could’ve probably been done with just an acoustic guitar, because the whole track is so fragile and translucent – just like a ghost. So from a drummer’s point of view, I thought I’d do the minimum and make it as thin as possible. And if you listen to the song there’s very little in there. I’m proud of the fact that I approached the song in such a minimal way and managed to work within its parameters. 

8. STRANGE TOWN (Snap!, 1983)
A really driving song, married with the lyrical content of finding yourself as a stranger in a strange town – I just loved playing this one live. It always went down really well, and I’ve got some great memories of the live side of it. The video is probably one of the worst ones we ever did though. There’s an art form to music videos that we never really got, but they were only ever a promotional tool for us, and never really our forte. It’s interesting to look back on though. 

7. MAN IN THE CORNERSHOP (Sound Affects, 1980)
I think this is one of our best overall songs all round. I think the lyrics are great. It’s a lovely little story told in a three-minute package, and it’s just an ideal song for me. I don’t know whether it’s the ultimate Jam song, but it’s certainly a favourite of mine and when I talk to the fans they seem to take to this one too. There’s something in the song that I’m sure people can relate to as well. 

6. TALES FROM THE RIVERBANK (Snap!, 1983)
It’s certainly an atmospheric song this one, and definitely a tip of the hat to Ray Davies and The Kinks. It’s such a British song as well. There’s a certain sensibility with writing songs, where you tend to try and musically create what’s happening in the lyrics, and you have to really listen to what’s going on. I always find myself getting totally absorbed with what’s going on with this one, and I love it for that reason alone.

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