An all-star cast pick the Modfather's greatest work


The Jam single (October 1977). Highest chart position: 36

Irascible and anthemic, The Jam’s third single sees Weller appropriate the riff from The Who’s “Pictures Of Lily”. A live favourite, thanks to critic-baiting couplet: “I don’t give two fucks about your review!” sadly censored on the 45.

Steve Diggle, Buzzcocks: “The Modern World” is up there with “White Riot” and “Boredom” as a call-to-arms. Weller was only about 18 at the time, but you wouldn’t fucking mess with him. On the White Riot tour, with us and The Clash, the first gig The Jam played was at the Edinburgh Playhouse Theatre. I remember it was one of those lovely old theatres with the long curtains – and the first thing I heard when I arrived backstage was “The Modern World”. It was a new song and hearing that intro from behind these old velvet curtains was pretty mind-blowing. The lyrics were special, too. Lines like “We don’t need no one to tell us what’s right or wrong” were what 1977 was all about. It’s that youthful kick in the face. I thought the Pistols, The Jam, Buzzcocks and The Clash complemented each other. That was the nucleus of punk. Weller was very intense. There was a bricks-and-mortar mentality about him. You could see he was searching for that voice. After those initial frantic songs, The Jam defined their own path, but “The Modern World” was part of that explosion, the punk-rock atom splitting.


The Jam B-side to “Strange Town” (March 1979). Highest chart position: 15
The first great B-side. A sinister acid-folk canticle (resurrected with Noel Gallagher at this year’s Teenage Cancer Trust gig), it was first indication of the bleak thrills to come on Sound Affects.

Serge Pizzorno, Kasabian: Growing up, I was aware of The Jam – my sister was a total obsessive! I started getting into electronic music, but kept my ears open. My dad bought the Wild Wood album and I thought “Wild Wood” itself was a killer tune. It was only when I looked at the sleeve that I realised this was the same guy who was in The Jam, and the penny dropped. It’s the darker tunes that interest me most. Everyone thinks of Paul as this Mod, all bright colours and slashing guitar chords, but there’s loads of really twisted stuff going on in his songs. I went to the Teenage Cancer Trust charity gig where Paul did an acoustic version of “Butterfly Collector” with Noel. It’s such a beautiful tune, really psychedelic. The lyrics are unbelievable: “There’s tarts and whores but you’re much more/You’re a different kind ‘cos you want their minds”. The guy can only have been 22 or something when he wrote that. It’s still just as powerful as it was then.


The Jam single (October 1979). Highest chart position: 3
Provoked by disgust at the reaction of Eton schoolboys to a passing Right To Work march, and dashed off during a rain-swept holiday in Selsey Bill, The Jam’s ninth single mixes atonal assault with visions of a very British coup.

Alan McGee: It’s a song about Paul’s hatred of the class system, and how people from middle- and upper-class backgrounds always look after their own. That line: “Hello, hurray/What a nice day/For The Eton Rifles” – is amazing. It sums up the contempt the ruling classes have for those beneath them. He’s using conversational lyrics to talk about the world in the same way Dylan did. Nothing’s changed since, sadly. It’s still there, even in rock music. You’ve got public school bands like Keane and Coldplay who offer up a limp-wristed version of what rock’n’roll should be, and people accept it. Compare what they come up with to lyrics like: “Sup up your beer and collect your fags/There’s a row going on down near Slough”. I rest my case. I saw Paul earlier this year in Los Angeles. He played all the greatest hits from The Jam and The Style Council and his solo stuff. It was the best I’ve seen him in years. Almost 50, and he’s still got it. It took me back to when I was a kid in love with The Jam. I wanted to be Paul Weller. Even with red hair, I wanted to look like him! He’s always been an unsettled soul, but that’s why he continually makes great music. I’d walk in front of a car for Paul Weller.

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