I went to The Jam exhibition in London over the summer, a real indulgence of nostalgia on a sticky hot day. It reinforced to me the power of Paul Weller's cultural influence on my teenage upbringing, the vast range of musical and political nuggets he helped me absorb during those incredible formative years.I'll get my moan out the way first. The sound from each individual room blasted out so loud you were never far away from competing tinny blasts of Town Called Malice or Funeral Pyre. But then comfort zones were never part of the Jam experience. Weller always challenged your ideas and safe preconceptions. He was always keen to unsettle your assumptions - including his dismissal of punk posturing by the throwaway line that they would be voting Conservative in 1979. In so many ways the exhibition took you back to Jam gigs where feeling safe and comfortable was never part of the deal. They were a boiling, heaving mass of adolescent fury and emotions. Some solid bonds, but the flames grew higher too.
I took two quite staggering points away with me that I never knew before. Paul Weller's school report where his lowest mark was in music. The second was the sheer force of personality of John Weller, his father. Sure, I remember him introducing the band, but a short film and the clippings really highlighted his powerful role in pushing the band and his son.
Just like I mentioned when I reported from a From The Jam gig in Preston a few years ago, I was as fascinated by the audience of fellow Jammers. I was there in a dark suit and clicky brogues, as described by Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail earlier in the day, but there were well turned out geezers in Sta Press and Ben Shermans, Fred Perry and Levis and a few in suede desert boots. Then there was Peter York milling about, looking as dapper as he always does.
But The Jam was so much more than just a great band and a look, I loved how Weller opened my eyes to ideas too. So I was pleased that due prominence was given to Orwell books and Shelley's poetry as there was to the musical influences and the clothes.
It's at Somerset House in London and has been extended until the end of September. I'm sorry it's taken me a month to write this up, but I've been dreaming of a quiet life, the one you'll never know.