I never much liked going to CBGB. It was fitting that this dump was in the Bowery which back in the late 70s was far from what it looks like today. But, not only was CBs dirty and overcrowded, it wasn’t a friendly vibe. Patrons were more intent on looking and acting cool and being part of the scene rather than being a community of music fans.
Putting my apprehensions aside, I chose to go see England’s The Jam make their New York City debut. This would be the first of a two set, two-night Saturday-Sunday stand and was the close of their short maiden American tour. Short it was, it consisted of only two Los Angeles shows at the Whiskey and two at The Rat in Boston. (In between, they did make a brief appearance on Tom Snyder’s The Tomorrow Show for a couple of songs and a brief interview.)
The band had released their first LP, In the City, back in May, and in just a few weeks, would follow-up with This is the Modern World. Not all that familiar with their music, I was intrigued to see this hot new band play. I was also attracted to the show when I read a tidbit in the New York Post that my current fave, Bruce Springsteen, was a Jam fan and was possibly going to be at CBGB for the show.
There were no advance ticket sales for the club, so this meant getting there early to wait on line to get in. A friend and I got there early enough to be near the front of the line and for show time managed to get fairly close to the stage.
Bursting on stage in tight dark suits, white shirts and skinny ties, the three members of The Jam played faster than any band I had ever before seen in my life. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a good thing, and the music was not much more than a blur of noise. While the excitement level was high, it sure wasn’t a night to sing-along to your favorite songs.
Over the years, The Jam tamed their act a bit, and of course went on to huge success in their native land, while never really making much of a mark in the USA. I still wonder what that stranger I went up to thinking he was the recently-shaven Bruce Springsteen thought I was up to!
PS There’s quite a few copyrighted photos on the web from these shows and a soundboard recording circulates.
- I’ve Changed My Address
- Carnaby Streets
- The Modern World
- Time for Truth
- London Girl
- All Around the World
- Sounds from the Street
- London Traffic
- Bricks and Mortar
- In the City
- Takin’ My Love
- In the Midnight Hour (Wilson Pickett cover)
Paul Weller – vocals and lead guitar
Bruce Foxton—bass and backing vocals