Thursday, 19 January 2012

The Jam: Made In Britain

BBC 6 Music’s documentary The Jam: Made in Britain tells the story pretty much as you’d expect. You could do without some of the celeb contributions – yeah, we know Noel … without The Jam, no Smiths; without the Smiths, no Roses … etc. Jonathon Ross’s rent-a-links tend to grate, but the band themselves contribute fully and there are interesting insights, particularly from Weller and Vic Coppersmith-Heaven, who produced the band through that astonishing run of singles and albums that took them from post-punk outcasts to (nod to the late John Weller) ‘The best fucking band in the world’.

I’m a sucker for a well put together music doc, even if the story is one that’s well told and a bit frayed at the edges. What makes it worthwhile, and this is no exception, is that odd flash of detail or insight that opens up or illuminates the music in a new way. Weller’s lack of confidence in his own writing during the recording of All Mod Cons is remarkable: he wanted to bin Down In A Tubestation and English Rose. And it’s there you realise the extent of Coppersmith-Heaven’s contribution, not only in the creation of the band's soundscape, but in driving Weller to greater things.

Sometimes you hear songs that are part of the fabric of your past coming at you slightly out of context; it can give them a fresh perspective. It happens here frequently - Away From The Numbers, Strange Town... And there are the clips that remind you of what a potent force The Jam were live. I’ve written plenty on that elsewhere on Electric Lullaby, but for a sense of what they were about and why they inspired such a dedicated following, The Jam: Made In Britain rates as a pretty good listen.


Having listened to the final part of the programme, it's evident that this is an old documentary re-broadcast. The story comes to a halt around eight years ago with a lingering sense of disappointment from all members of the band that they'd been in some way hard done by. Weller talks about the let down of the court case - Bruce and Rick took him to court in the mid-nineties and at the time of recording, the falling-out comes across as something of a betrayal of what the band stood for.

In leaving the story there, The Jam: Made in Britain misses an opportunity to bring things a little more up to date. You wonder, would a 90-second re-edit would have been so hard to drop in? And what might it have said? I guess it would have dealt with the emergence of Bruce and Rick in the slightly unsettling guise of tribute to themselves: 'From The Jam'. It would certainly have paid greater tribute to John Weller who died in 2009. It might have made mention of the way in which Weller pulls a song like Eton Rifles into his solo live set and re-invests it with new fire and passion. And you like to think it would have covered the fact the Paul and Bruce put the past behind them to record and play live again in 2010.

Thanks to Loz Harvey for the shout.
The Jam: Made in Britain is available on the BBC iplayer until: part 1 –24 January; part 2 – 25 January; part 3 – 25 January; part 4 - 26 January.

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