The Making Of “The Eton Rifles” by The Jam

Weller, Foxton and Buckler tell the story behind their classic single

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“It was obvious from the start ‘Eton Rifles‘ was a great tune. For me, it was always a parody of the shooting club at Eton School who were actually called the ‘Eton Rifles‘. Growing up in Woking, you were aware that the school was nearby and these kids were being taught how to fire guns. It seemed crazy – a very militaristic view of education. I’d go and pick up my girlfriend at the time – who’s now my wife – in Guildford and you’d see the boys from Eton walking around in top hats and tails. It was a long way from the uniform at the local comprehensive.

“Musically it was step on from ‘Strange Town‘ and ‘When You’re Young‘. They were about the alienation you feel as a teenager but this was different. It was a lot more menacing. Why it remains relevant is because Paul never lectured the audience. All the songs are about him observing what’s going. I think he saw what was happening with Thatcher getting into power; ‘Eton Rifles‘ is a pop at the establishment. It was a time of trade unions and power cuts. In some ways it all seems so long ago. But then you look at David Cameron and you realise the old school tie is still in control. It hasn’t changed.”

“After All Mod Cons we were on a roll. It was fantastic, really: Paul was on form and we were together as a unit, things were going great. I think the first time I heard ‘Eton Rifles’ was when we went into rehearsals. Paul had an acoustic demo of it and, unless the grey matter is deceiving me, we worked out our own parts – there was definitely some creative input from all three of us.


“I played the bass part on my Rickenbacker as usual, but Vic came up with this idea of a distorted chord to go over the top, which starts the song off. I liked it because it was a darker tune – we were moving toward ‘Funeral Pyre‘ which is another one I really like. All the recording was done pretty quickly. It would be done in two or three takes – we’d done all the hard work in pre-production.

“There was a lot of drinking in the studio. We were a bit like The Small Faces; three parts pissed. We didn’t play with a click trck in those days, so all the songs sped up. You can hear it on the record.

The Eton Rifles Choir were friends of Paul’s. They were a group of lads from Essex who used to hang around outside the studio. Paul invited them in to provide the backing vocals one afternoon – it was singing of sorts!


“I can’t say ‘Eton Rifles‘ is always on my turntable, but I often hear it in the car on Virgin and Radio 2. Very fond memories. We were totally top of the tree, enjoying the success, with a lot more to come.

Why we split so early is ridiculous.The last tour was almost too much. We could still be playing dates on the farewell tour now!”


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