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THE JAM.ABOUT THE YOUNG IDEA

Movies, letters, fanzines, clothes, guitars and references to their 18 consecutive UK top 40 singles and more than 14 million discs sold worldwide. Until the end of September, Somerset House in London pays homage to The Jam, retracing the music of Paul Weller, Rick Buckler and Bruce Foxton.

If there is any band whose music immortalized the life of the disenchanted British youth at the end of the 70s and the beginning of the 80s, it is The Jam – without a doubt. A group that composed songs that are close to normal life, helping the people to manage their day-to-day life, from the breaking up with their girlfriend to an argument with their father, and also covering the need for money to buy some clothes. 33 years after Paul Weller decided to break up the band, the museum Somerset House has arranged a program called About the Young Idea, which is an excellent exhibition that offers a unique and personal tour of the band and its influence on music, style, politics and culture.

That’s Entertainment! The exhibition is not only interesting for enthusiastic fans of The Jam but rather offers a broader vision of the social and cultural history of Great Britain. It was conceptualized as homage to the cultural heritage of the band within the British pop culture. And it’s not just the music; the attitude of The Jam implied a rebirth of MOD aesthetics, which owes a lot to the band and especially to Paul Weller, who still is a fashion icon for many men.

The extensive and compacted exhibition is divided into rooms that are dedicated to the six studio albums, each of them designed with reference to the design of the covers. But it opens with one of the most decisive moments in the history of the band, the day in October 1982 on which Weller, at the time only 24 years old, decided to break up the band at the height of its fame and success because he didn’t want to grow old and be ashamed of what he had done. In the installation, the stage is depicted with all the instruments just as if the band had just left it to go backstage. This sweet-and-sour epilogue gives way to the genesis of the group, when three adolescents from Woking in the suburbs of London dream of being heroes one day, as said David Bowie. This room gives a fascinating overview of the youth of the band, through photos and memories among which you can see drawings by its future leader imagining himself in a band. The room shows how Weller and his band sounded more like the Everly Brothers in their adolescent performance, before a Sex Pistols concert caused their definite break-out.

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It is after that that the exhibition starts the exciting journey through the six years that took the group to its heyday, starting with the pistol-shot given for the publication of their debut single In the City, whose lyrics give the name to the exhibition.  The following rooms are dedicated to This is the Modern World (1977), All Mod Cons (1978), Setting Sons (1979), Sound Affects (1980) and The Gift (1982). In every one of them you can see lyrics, original clothes, personal photographs, archived materials, unedited music, videos, books with memories, letters and postcards, posters and fanzines, and the instruments of the band, including twelve guitars.

The catalyst of the exhibition has a first and last name. Nicky Weller, sister of Paul Weller and president of the band’s fan club. Nicky spent a lot of time recovering documents, films and photographs that were in the possession of their late father, John Weller, who was the band’s manager and a central figure in its history. Nicky Weller is the curator of the exhibition – together with Tory Turk and Russell Reader plus the additional advice of DJ Gary Crowley. Her insistence was crucial in making the three band members – Paul Weller, Rick Buckler and Bruce Foxton – open their archives and allow the fans to enjoy them. Italian shoes, Fred Perry polo shirts, tailor-made suits, crown corks, tickets, concert posters and a room in which the video clips of Going UndegroundIn the City, Strange Town, Start, That’s Entertainment, Precious, Absolute Beginners or Town Called Maliceare shown. A hit list that very few bands can put on the table.

Coinciding with the exhibition, Universal Music has released a limited edition CD called About the Young Idea. The Very Best of THE JAM, which includes all of their hit singles and a few unedited recordings. And for those who want to learn more about the band’s history, they have released Growing Up With The Jam, a book that was written by the curators of the exhibition and which features comments by widely known names from the world of music, cinema and the communication media such as Ray Davies, Pete Townshend, Adam Ant, Bob Geldof, Mick Jones, Noel Gallagher, Sharleen Spiteri orMartin Freeman.

There are still a few days left until the closure of one of the summer events of London, the exhibition dedicated to a rock band that, in the course of six years, has connected notably with the confused youth of the late 70s and early 80s. Afterwards, there would be The Style Council and the solo career of Paul Weller. But that’s another story and worth another exhibition. Without a doubt.

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