The Forty years ago – in RAC Studios, Paul Weller, Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler of The Jam were recording their 3rd album, All Mod Cons, which would go on to reach number six in the UK album charts. The album would push The Jam into the forefront of the British musical landscape with hits like ‘Down In The Tube Station At Midnight’, ‘David Watts’ and ‘’A’ Bomb In Wardour Street’.
Forty years on, I sit down with Bruce Foxton to talk about what he remembers from recording the album, as he sets off to perform the album live with From The Jam.
From The Jam comprising legendary former ‘The Jam’ bassist Foxton, vocalist & guitarist Russell Hastings, drummer Mike Randon, and Andy Fairclough on Hammond and piano, are to tour their ‘That’s Entertainment’ show this year. Audiences will see the band perform acoustic versions of a selection of songs from The Jam’s extensive back catalogue.
This intimate show is a rare opportunity to hear those songs in this stripped-down way. Bruce tells us “It’s a testament to a good song that they have stood the test of time and don’t need a full band and big production in order to work so well.”
Over the past 12 years From the Jam have toured relentlessly, having played almost 1000 headline shows in the UK since their inception in 2007. Throughout this time, they’ve gained a reputation for the kind of incendiary live performances that sealed the reputation of The Jam all those years ago.
“It doesn’t feel like 40 years and it doesn’t sound like 40 years,” says Bruce. Yesterday was the first rehearsal with lead-singer and guitarist Russell Hastings. “The songs yesterday in the rehearsal room sounded really fresh.” Having heard From The Jam live on multiple occasions, it is amazing how well the songs stand the test of time in the live arena, with songs like ‘Tube Station’ eliciting a frenzied cheer from an audience that clearly has a deep emotional connection to the song. “We’ll be playing the album in its entirety, but like Eric Morecambe, not necessarily in the right order,” Bruce laughs. “They’ll be all the hits in there too, that’s what got us to where we are today.” It’s refreshing to see an artist so at ease with their back catalogue of hits. Some acts shy away from them and others rely on them too much – but From The Jam have struck the perfect balance of honouring the legacy and emotion of the songs, with all songs still being played with as much passion, energy and excitement as when they were debuted.
All Mod Cons came at an important time for The Jam. After middling reviews for their sophomore record ‘This Is The Modern World’ “it was a make or break album for The Jam” as Bruce puts it. “We had the In The City album which came out to good exciting reviews, and we followed it up with This Is The Modern World, which I still really like and think there are some great songs on there, but the press…” Bruce tails of. “We felt they wanted ‘In The City 2’.” He lets out a small sigh. “Come the third album the record company were looking at us saying “we’ll see what the lads come up with”. If it was another This Is The Modern World I don’t think I’d be doing this interview with you…” Bruce chuckles.
Did you feel any pressure in the studio at the time when you were recording?
“We just had a really good feeling about it, we weren’t too bothered about it being a make or break album and putting too much pressure on us, so we just went in the studio to record a great album and I think we came out with it.” It’s interesting to hear Bruce speak about the recording process of such a seminal album so matter-of-factly, but the more I speak to him – the clearer it becomes that Bruce is modest, and would much prefer to praise the support of the fans and his co-collaborator Russell Hastings than to talk about his wildly successful personal achievements. “What keeps me and Russell going is we just love it. We love playing those songs and there is an audience for it. As long as there is an audience I’d like to think we’ll keep on doing it.”
The last I saw From The Jam was at Rewind Festival, where they played a blinding set of hits that left the crowd roaring with applause. “It was great! We’ve done a lot more festivals now so we’re much more comfortable with playing to an audience where not everyone is there to see From The Jam. I remember in 1978, we played at Reading festival and we just didn’t know how to deal with it in those days. The audience was vast and we were used to playing intimate little club shows so it was quite a transition to make between a club date and a festival date and we didn’t handle it very well. But 40 years down the line I’ve kind of got it now,” Bruce laughs with a wry smile.
So what’s next for From The Jam? After two extremely successful Foxton & Hasting albums (Smash The Clock, their last album reached the UK Top 20), Bruce says another one is in the pipeline. “We’ve got a lot of ideas for a new album, Russ and myself, on various iPhones. We have loads of ideas but what we don’t have is loads of free time. Because we’re so busy it’s hard to get some studio time, but it’s definitely something that WILL happen and hopefully if Paul is up for it we’ll do it at his studio.”
Bruce has been on record for a while now stating that he and Paul are on friendly terms, so I ask if he ever could imagine doing a more stripped back acoustic album much like Paul’s latest release? “The acoustic shows are really popular … so that’s something that we have considered. It’s a possibility at some point, that we’d do a From The Jam acoustic album.”
With their biggest tour to date ahead of them, it’s a testament to Bruce and Russell for making From The Jam a band not being pulled along by their hits, but pulling those hits into new and ever expanding global audiences.
From The Jam’s ‘ALL MOD CONS 40th Anniversary Tour’ plays at The Chinnery’s Southend on Friday 17th May, 2019. Tickets available from https://www.seetickets.com