(c’72-’82) Paul Weller (vocals/bass), Steve Brookes (lead guitar), Rick Buckler (drums), and Bruce Foxton (guitar).

Filming Funeral Pyre on Horsell Common, Nr Woking, 1981.

[Ed – Couldn’t ignore forever, but we’ll look almost exclusively at The Jam’s early years and their time in and around Woking.]

In late 1970 Buckler had formed Impulse with his twin brother Pete on Bass. Also in 1970 Foxton played a Woking gig with early Jam drummer Neil Harris. 14 year old Weller and Brookes had played a short gig at The Albion, Woking (opposite Woking Station) on 26 Feb ’72. The Jam forming the next month in Woking with Weller on bass, Brookes, Dave Waller (guitar) and Buckler; all friends from Sheerwater Secondary School. The ‘Lunchtime Jam’ took over Mr. Avery’s music room at lunchtimes. Initially they were a covers band, winning the ‘best group’ category of the Community Centre’s talent contest, on 12 May ’73, with Chuck Berry’s “Reelin’ & Rockin'”. They also won a battle of the bands at the Wilfred Noyce Centre, Godalming in ’73.

At Michael’s Nightclub, Woking in 1975

The first gigs were at the youth club on the Sheerwater Estate, in April ’73, and at Michael’s nightclub, a ‘seedy’ local club above a burger bar on Goldsworth Road. Having auditioned for the weekend gig slot on 22 Jan ’74; the band went on to hold the residency there from 26 Jan ’74 to Sept ’75. Other venues followed such as a high profile gig at the high security HMP Coldingly, Bisley, on 17 Nov ’74 where they shared a dressing room with the drag act; a Boxing Day gig at the Hare & Hill Club in Ottershaw and their regular slot at Woking Liberal Club in Walton Road, starting 31 Dec ’74. On 10 Jan ’75 the band auditioned for EMI in the Woking Working Men’s Club and were rejected.

The early years…

In August ’73 the four members (Weller, Brookes, Buckler and Waller) recorded “Blueberry Rock” and “Takin’ My Love” at Eden Studios, Kingston-Upon-Thames; as recommended by Vic Black. They left with a master tape and had a literal handful of Emidisc acetates cut on a Neumann lathe at Len Farley’s one man Fanfare Studios, Guildford. These were sent to a number of record companies to no avail. One of these acetates sold at Christie’s for £4,320 in 2007; the label for which listed “Takin’ My Love” as a joint Weller-Brookes composition. Weller gave “Blueberry Rock” to Squire.

“Some Kinda’ Lovin'” was on the A-side. This acetate was recorded at Fanfare Studios, London on 17 November ’73, not released and only a handful pressed apparently.

3 Oct ’73 they entered studios on Finchley Road to record an early demo of “Some Kinda Loving” and “Making My Way Back Home”. On 10 Dec ’75 the band went into Bob Potter’s (he owned the Atalanta Ballroom, Woking) studio in Mychett and self-funded the recording of “Again” and re-recording of “Takin’ My Love”. They returned on 28 May ’76 to lay down “Left, Right and Centre” and “Non-Stop Dancing”. This last session was engineered by John Franklin on Joe Meeks equipment. They also recorded “Soul Dance”, “Back In My Arms Again” and “I Got By in Time” in ’76 on 8-track with Bob Gray on keyboard. These tracks can be found on some bootlegs, but were part of the many demos the developing band touted around the majors.

During this time the band lineup had a few changes: June ’73 sees Paul Buckler joining, who starts being called Rick (his middle name) to avoid confusion with Weller (who prefers Paul over John, his given name). In early ’74 Waller left and on 8 May 1974 auditions were held for a second guitarist in a Woking Pub. Bruce Foxton is asked to join the band with the line-up solidify sometime in ’75 with Weller, Brookes, Foxton and Buckler. Brookes left the band in July ’75 after injuring his thumb carrying an amp out of The Greyhound, Croydon. Hasty auditions for a new guitarist and keyboardist (including Brian Viner a guitarist from Lightwater) a few days later are held in The Red House, Woking, but Brookes was not replaced. Weller took lead guitar and Foxton switched to the bass. In ’76 – when Weller was reportedly using an Amp ‘borrowed’ from Rick Parfitt – they add Bob Gray, who’d played in a few bands with Foxton, on keyboard, he leaves in November that year after only a few months and once again The Jam are a three piece.

Originally covering Little Richard, Chuck Berry and other American Rock ‘n Roll bands, The Who’s “My Generation” is credited with changing the bands direction. Foxton had an apprenticeship (which ended about the time at the band’s initial record deal) at The Unwin Brothers Printing works in Old Woking and until it was demolished for upscale “apartments” Jam stickers could be found plastered all over the building. On 5 February ’77 the band supported Little Bob Story at Crawley College. Ten days later they were signed to Polydor Records for 6,000 pound by Chris Parry. On seeing the cheque, John Weller informed Parry that the band didn’t have a bank account. A quick trip to the Polydor’s bank and the funds were handed over in ten pounds notes. The Jam were still not full on headliners as their 21 May ’77 gig supporting The Clash, along with The Buzzcocks and Slits, at City Hall, St. Albans illustrated. That same year there was a, now rare, home turf gig on 22 July in Guildford to raise funds for the Sheerwater Youth Club.

On 2 March ’78, supported by Black Slate and Can’t Be Bad, they were at Music Machine, Camden. On 13 June the Nikkers Club, Keighley rented the bigger Victoria Hall in town to host The Jam. 6 weeks later. on 30 July ’78 they were back at the Civic Hall, Guildford, a gig reviewed by Adrian Thrills for NME and where “The Place I Love” and their cover of The Kinks “David Watts” were given their live debut. The Guildford gig, with Squire in support, was the first date of the mini ‘The Seaside Tour’ to coincide with the release of the “David Watts” / “A Bomb” single; going for four more dates in Torquay, Plymouth, Bournemouth, and Swindon. This was all leading up to the 25 August 78 and The Jam’s headlining the first day of Reading Rock Festival.

15 February 1980: The Jam at Woking YMCA. Picture courtesy of Neil Barker

They played a free gig at the Woking YMCA Centre on 15 Feb 1980 supported by The Purple Hearts and Department S ([The Jam were] “the only headliners to give us a decent sound check” said Department S). This was followed the next day with an appearance at Sheerwater Youth Club with Dolly Mixture and The Questions doing the warm up. This was filmed for the BBC 2’s “Something Else” arts series. Woking band Panther supported the band at their next Guildford Civic Hall appearance on the 11 December ’80. In early ’81, the promo video for “Funeral Pyre was shot at Horsell Common, near Woking, with the sandpit which had earlier featured in H.G. Wells ‘The War of the Worlds’ used for the location of the bonfire featured on the official music video.

The Jam photographed during the Funeral Pyre video recording session on Horsell Common. Source: David Wright

On Valentines day ’81 The Jam played The Cricketers, Westfield (A gig this writer witnessed from afar), supported by The Jam Road Crew. “Every mod who could get on a scooter was there,” said Steve Carver. “It was a disaster – just mud, blood and beer at the end. It was terrible and there were massive fights”. Ann Weller had a pint poured over her head; it was rumoured that Weller’s girlfriend Gill Price was thumped; Foxton was pulled over the bar by a barman who reportedly said “You wouldn’t look very good on TOTPs with a black eye, would yer?”. A phone was ripped off the wall and crates of glasses broken under foot and the police were called – all in all a quiet night at The Cricketers. Two more secret Woking gigs followed quickly after the riotous Cricketers event.

Weller, Civic Hall, Guildford, 7 July 1981

The Civic Hall, Guildford hosted The Jam once more, this time supported by Guildford band The Sleep, on 7 July ’81. The Weller, Foxton, and Buckler line-up lasted until The Jam’s demise in December ’82. Throughout, the band were managed by Weller’s father, John.

Weller went on to form The Style Council (c’83–’89) and then after a break embarked on a successful solo career in 1990. In ’96 he bought Black Barn Studios, Ripley. In ’83, Buckler set up a new band: Time UK and reconnected with Foxton in the mid-80’s in the band Sharp. When Time UK split he ran a studio in Islington and by the mid-90s he was back in Woking and in business as a carpenter. He returned to music in 2005 with new band The Gift playing The Jam’s back catalogue. Foxton joined this outfit in 2007 and it was renamed From the Jam, which Buckler quit in 2009. Two years later Buckler joined If, but the band was short-lived. Music management consultancy was Bucklers next gig which was utilized by the likes of Sarah Jane and The Brompton Mix. He has written several books about The Jam over the years. One of Buckler’s old drum kits ended up in service with Greg Turner in Five O’Clock High. Foxton pursued a solo career after The Jam split after which he played in several bands, including Sharp with Buckler, before joining Stiff Little Fingers, where he stayed for 15 years. In 2012, Foxton released “Back in the Room“, his first album in 30 years.