Source of pride, this pic. My daughters are holding mugs. But they are not just any old mugs. They are mugs purchased at the Jam retrospective at Somerset House. They are Jam Mugs!
I have a terrible fear. It is that Paul Weller’s defining turn-of-the-eighties band was exactly that ― turn-of-the-eighties. By the turn of the century, when my two little ones were starting to twinkle in their father’s eye, the Jam were long gone as a band. But is their music long gone too?
There is no doubt that they were, in the words of the slightly-biased John Weller, Paul’s dad, “THE BEST F***ING BAND IN THE WORLD” when they played live, released singles, and wore sweatshirts with that Spitfire roundel on them. The classic Strange Town, for example: “Found myself in a strange town, though I’ve only been here for three weeks ― I’ve got blisters on my feet.” Or Down In The Tube Station At Midnight: “They took the keys, she’ll think it’s me.”
But my editor at BBC Radio 2, Phil Jones, recently counseled me against believing that the songs of any band had a right to survive. “Even the Beatles may be gone in a hundred years,” he said. “That’s what happened to a lot of Victorian writers.” I disagree on the Beatles, who have last fifty already without even breaking a sweat. And I disagree on Thin Lizzy, who exist under the One-Song Rule: If you write The Boys Are Back In Town, it doesn’t matter what else you do. You will live eternally on the radio.
But the Jam? Will we still play Going Underground in a hundred years? Will we still feel the power of Weller’s anger, when we have forgotten all the people he was angry at? I am not so sure. After all, the leader of the band himself thought the sound was dated before he hit thirty. Paul Weller “didn’t want to sing those songs when I’m not in my twenties anymore.”
So I am doing my bit to keep the Jam alive. To make their flame burn eternal, like the Beach Boys or Bach. I bought these two mugs. “They were expensive, dad!” said Anna, 8, reproachfully. They may not even use them. But it was worth £9.95 to give each child a memento of the band that was, briefly, the best in the world. And to stop them disappearing for ever.