How many really impactful, chart dominating bands can you think of that quit while they were at the very top? The Beatles, of course, then there’s ABBA (before their 2021 reunion), Adam And The Ants, The Police and Wham!. Have I forgotten anyone? Either way, it’s a rare breed indeed, no diggity.
To the chagrin of mods and spotters everywhere, on October 30, 1982, Paul Weller confirmed in a hand-written press statement that after 16 singles, six albums and innumerable tours, he was sending The Jam to join that intimate elite club, hungry to explore new musical horizons with what would turn out to be Mick Talbot and the Style Council collective.
“For our fans, at the end of this year, The Jam will officially disband, as I feel we’ve managed to do everything together as a band. I mean that both musically and commercially. I want everything we’ve achieved to count for something and most of all I would hate for us to be old and embarrassing like so many other bands are.”
Just six weeks later it was all over. Yet in that final month a half there was still a bit of work to do.
A few days later, the Woking wonders starred in their own mini-gig on the first-ever edition of the Channel 4 TV series that itself passed into legend, The Tube. At the end of November, they said their musical farewell with the stirring final single Beat Surrender, which became their third to go straight to No.1 in the UK.
The trio’s Beat Surrender ’82 mini tour was ably supported by newly formed Scottish rock combo Big Country; and, on December 11, the swan song culminated in an emotional goodbye at the famed Brighton Centre.
The Jam may have played their final show on England’s Sussex coast but it‘s at London’s cavernous Wembley Arena that they said goodbye to the lion‘s share of their followers. Connection wise, it‘s a shame that The Jam chose such a corporate location to say goodbye – but in the pre-Christmas period this was the only way that so many fans were going to get to see the band go out with a bang. Chuckle at that incredibly pompous introduction by what I assume is the band‘s biographer pal Paolo Hewitt, who thought it was a good idea to shout at the audience that about to come on stage was “the true soul sound of England”… in one of the country’s most soulless venues. But don‘t take my word for it, have a listen.
The week before, a rookie music journalist was sent by his new employers at Smash Hits magazine to interview the band and review the fifth and final night of the Wembley concerts, on December 5. His name is Neil Tennant of the yet-to-be Pet Shop Boys and this is his blow-by-blow account as published in issue 106 of the glossy pop rag, dated 23 December 1982 – 5 January 1983.
Saying goodbye to London.
Neil Tennant reports from Wembley Arena.
Do you remember the first time you played in London?
Paul: “I think it must have been the Greyhound in Fulham Palace Road, about 1975, when we were still a four-piece. We did mostly cover versions in those days, old Chuck Berry songs and R’n’B songs, although there used to be five or six of our own songs in the
set. It seems funny – we were talking about it the other night — we used to play to about five people down the Hope and Anchor and now we’re playing to all these people here.”
“Here” is the Wembley Arena, one of the largest venues in London and the kind of place that, at one time, you’d never have expected The Jam to play. But tonight it’s playing host to their last London performance, the final date of a five-night stint there.
Rick: “I think we’ve kept the atmosphere. It’s not really a very pleasant gig to do because you do get out of touch with the two-thirds of the audience you can’t see. We said we’d never play here and all that but I don’t think we could grasp how big we were or are.”
Predictably, audience reactions have been intense for most of the nights. As soon as The Jam take the stage with Beat Surrender, the place seems to shrink, as thousands of people jump to their feet, singing along and yelling.
The group have expanded to include a keyboards player, two horn players and a couple of back-up singers, resplendent in African head-dresses. The sound is hard and wide while the choice of songs ranges over the last five years – from Away From The Numbers to A Town Called Malice.
On stage you know what to expect from The Jam (and that’s one reason they’re splitting up, I suppose). Tonight, however, Paul’s hoarse voice, and fractured guitar, Bruce and Rick’s great pop rhythm section, are given an extra urgency because time is running out.
Paul: “We’re playing much better, all of us. I think we’re trying harder because it’s the last tour.”
There’s no need this time round for Paul to keep asking the audience if they’re getting his message, as he did on the Trans-Global Unity Express tour earlier this year; tonight the feeling sweeping between the group and audience is message enough.
The Jam and their fans care about each other. In the afternoon’s soundcheck, a whole group of fans were let in to watch; in the dressing room after the show they mingled with friends and family.
Rick: “Our fans are really good. They come up and say, like, ‘Thanks for the last six years’ and stuff, some of them they understand why we’re splitting up. We couldn’t have done it without them.”
After the celebration of A Town Called Malice and Going Underground, Paul steps forward to say “Without getting sentimental, I was going to say thank you for all the support you’ve given over the last six years. We leave you with The Gift.”
And that’s it for London, bar a quicky return to the stage when the three of them run on stage to give a bashful “thanks”, one by one.
Bruce: “I think we achieved something here that few bands could have done, more than I ever anticipated. I was well happy. I just wanted to stand there and soak it all in.”
Paul: “I still believe in pop music as a force of communication between people. Take this gig here; there’s two kids from Los Angeles come over here, there’s three Japanese girls comer over, some Dutch kids, French kids, Swedish people here. It’s like a United Nations — it’s brilliant. All those people of different cultures brought together through music. I don’t think there’s many other mediums can really do that. That’s why I really believe in it.”
1. Wembley Arena: a little bit bigger than the Greyhound pub, Fulham.
2. The backstage canteen (Neil Tennant bottom right). Paul: “I just sit around here before the gig. There’s nothing to do, Just wander around. Horrible.”
3. The sound check in the afternoon. Rick thoughtfully picks his nose.
4. (Left to right): Paul Weller, his girlfriend Gill, and his father manager John, sort out some business details (like whose turn it is to go to the launderette).
5. A peek inside the dressing room as Rick removes his pullover.
6. On stage.
7. Rick: “The audience reaction’s been very healthy, a bit emotional at times. On the face of it when you see all those people out there it seems silly that we’re splitting up but then again we’ve got our reasons.”
8. A dressing-room drink with Bruce and Rick after the show. Note that the chap on the right is clutching two drinks.
9. Bernard Wallace came down from Edinburgh to see The Jam. Then he persuaded someone to let him backstage. Now he’s had his photo taken with Paul Weller and it’s been printed in Smash Hits.
Edited by Steve Pafford
Paul’s house party: Pet Shop Boys have triad to remix Weller’s Cosmic Fringes… with mixed results is here