Record Machine: All Mod Cons – The Jam

My love for The Jam is massive and unyielding. Paul Weller as the tobacco-saturated, post-punk frontman, Bruce Foxton as the rambling, grooving bass player — I fell in deep for their songs upon first listen. Because of my age and because of my geography, I didn’t appreciate The Jam until around 2007 or so. During the mid-Aughts, I decided to explore the tributaries leading to my favorite ’90s British bands. I’m so glad I did.

All Mod Cons by The Jam (1978)

We know that all of my musical roads lead back to Noel Gallagher. Shamelessly, I attest to paying attention to Paul Weller in his many incarnations because Noel has worked with him since the ’90s, either by appearing with him live or by appearing on his solo albums, and the two are great friends. Noel has covered “To Be Someone,” which appears here on All Mod Cons.

To be someone must be a wonderful thing
A famous footballer a rock singer
Or a big film star, yes I think I would like that

I realize should have stuck to my guns
Spit me out just like a bastard son
And I lost myself
And I know that it was wrong and it cost me a lot

Noel’s plaintive, slow version breaks my heart and makes me want to write, but we’re not here to talk about him, exactly. (Even though, let’s be real, I am always here to talk about him.)

All Mod Cons is The Jam’s third album, released in 1978. It includes a cover of The Kinks’ “David Watts,” which is quite good. The edition I have appears to be the UK one, since Side 2 opens with “Billy Hunt,” and not “The Butterfly Collector,” as occurred on the US release. I tend to prefer “The Butterfly Collector” because it’s so bloody mean and I find that interesting. “Billy Hunt” is more about impending revenge, where “The Butterfly Collector” is vengeful just by existing.

Pop culture tends to think of the 1980s as the birth of the music video, but of course, MTV had to get a lot of these videos from somewhere in 1983, and many came from the UK. The Jam had a promo video for the closing track on All Mod Cons, “Down in the Tube Station at Midnight.” It has an outstanding bassline and the ever-satisfying Woah-ohs in the chorus:

When I bought this album at Jackpot! Records in Portland, Oregon, for a moment, I thought I already owned it. The Jam had become such a large part of my musical life by that point, and I’d already purchased other albums (we’ll get to those in future columns), so it seemed odd that I wouldn’t own this classic. I stared at the cover, read the song titles, and tried to picture the records I had at home. The store clerk asked me if I needed any help. I said, “I’m trying to remember if I already have this.”

“Only one way to know for certain,” he said with a grin.

Was he trying to make the sale anyway? Of course. Do I need much encouragement to ring up a giant bill at music shops? Absolutely not. I spent nearly $70 that afternoon, $11 of which went towards All Mod Cons.

Later, my husband answered my text, “No, it doesn’t look like you already have it.”

Clearly, this album and I were meant to be.

All Mod Cons by The Jam (back cover)

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Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

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