When I was growing up on a notorious Council estate in South-East London, during the sixties, I had no inkling of my future. In many ways, my lifestyle mirrored that of the fans that followed The Jam, The Style Council, and Paul Weller’s long, and never ending solo career. As I look back at where I came from, it’s hard to believe what has happened.

Like most switched on kids of my generation, I listened to the new wave of Britpop, which snowballed rapidly, and sounded the death knoll for the artists from the fifties. The music of the sixties influenced a new generation and, like a turbo charged Dyson cleaner, out went Rock ‘n’ Roll, motorcycles, and greasy haircuts. In came a ‘New Model Army’, the MODS, with their smart, short haircuts, dressed in sharp, Ivy League Mohair suits, with a dash of European flair, Desert boots, and scooters. We were a new generation, with a new attitude, and the first teenagers that could do their own thing. Like most teenagers, we were football mad; I supported West Ham, and an ‘Iron’, through and through. In 1966, when Bobby Moore lifted the Jules Rimet trophy, it felt like a victory for the Hammers, as well as England. It was a heady time to be a teenager, not only had we won the World Cup, British music ruled the airwaves.

When reminiscing about this decade, it’s fashionable to talk about what a great time it was to be a teenager, but it wasn’t quite as swinging as it’s made out to be. Oh yeah, if you had money, it swung like a bitch in heat, but for ‘Joe Normal’ you worked Monday to Friday, and looked forward to having it large at the weekend. My brother and I were confirmed Mods, and followed the dress code, where no self-respecting Mod would be seen out, in anything less than a tailor-made Mohair suit. If you could afford it, you went to your local Jewish tailor, and got him to knock you one up in tonic. Bruv’ and I earned about £6 a week and had to make do with a Mohair and wool mixture that was less expensive. We had our suits made at one of the many chains of clothes shops that were about in the sixties.

It wasn’t cheap being a dedicated follower of fashion, but as far as I am concerned, it’s the most stylish look of the last 50 years. The sportswear fad, which is so predominant these days, pales into comparison, and as for style, it as much class as a box of Brillo pads. Even when we went for a Sunday lunchtime pint, we would exchange our Levis and Fred Perry, for a suit, and a freshly pressed button down shirt and tie. You wouldn’t be seen dead in a tracksuit, or an off the peg suit, not even a Paul Smith.

At the weekends, the West End of London was the place to head for, and the in-crowd made a beeline for Soho, where there was a great club scene. In Wardour Street alone, there was the [old] Marquee, The Whisky-A-Go-Go [in the eighties rebranded as the {trendy} WAG club], and in the basement, The Flamingo. After an evening’s entertainment at the Whisky, we would disappear downstairs to ‘The Mingo’, pilled up for an all nighter. There was the 100 club in Oxford Street where you could see the best in Jazz and blues, as well as the latest R ‘n’ B bands. In the latter half of the seventies, you could see the cream of the New Wave performing at the club. Strange as it may seem, none of these were my favourite London club. That honour belonged to Tiles, which was situated in a basement, at 79 – 89 Oxford Street. Most of the bands that played here were not famous, or just a part of the R ‘n’ B circuit, like the Rick ‘N’ Beckers. John Peel did a gig there in ‘67, and Jeff Dexter was the resident DJ. Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs appeared here, as well as Amen Corner, when they were a quasi-blues band. 

The local scene in your ‘hood’ was almost as good, and you could see live bands in just about every other pub. It was also possible to see ‘name’ groups in small, niche clubs. Georgie Fame, The Spencer Davis Group, Derek & the Dominoes, The Animals, Jimi Hendrix, John Mayall, and Cream were some of the ‘names’ I was lucky to see, and it didn’t cost an arm and leg either. There were many other bands on the scene playing the R ‘n’ B circuit like, Geno Washington’s Ram Jam Band, The Action [probably the best band of the mid 60’s’ who never made it]. A Thin Red Line, The Coloured Raisins, Jimmy James and the Vagabonds, The Graham Bond Organisation, The Allan Bown Set, Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band, Chris Farlowe & The Thunderbirds, and Tony Rivers & the Castaways, who were renowned for doing near perfect covers of The Beach Boys songs. The Loose Ends, who hailed from Lewisham used to knock my socks off, and unusually, the band featured black and white lead singers. There are too many others to mention, as the live music scene was thriving, and not just in London. Many of these bands never got beyond the club scene, or playing down the bill at the big music festivals and, after tasting their five minutes of fame, they faded into obscurity, and sadly, only remembered by old Mods like me.

Most of the venues were ‘flea pits’, but they had character, and most weekends would be packed to the rafters with fans, baying [like dog’s] at their favourite bands. Inside, it was like a Turkish bath, but you never loosened your tie. You kept your jacket buttoned up, sweating your bollocks off, trying to look cool. Would I remove my jacket, no way, after all, looking good was the answer. At the time, thinking it was hip, I refused tickets to see the Beatles play the Odeon at Lewisham, preferring to go and see the Guv’nor, Georgie Fame, at The Witchdoctor. I have been told that this was the right choice, as the girls screaming drowned out the Beatles singing; at least I heard Fame. As well as the vibrant club and pub scene, in the summer there was The Richmond Jazz, and Blues festival to look forward too, which was the forerunner of the Reading Festival, where The Jam played. They were not particularly well organised, and it didn’t pay to get a dose of the shits, as toilets were few, and far between.

At the age of 15, I was introduced to modern jazz, by a mate was more hip than the rest of us, and was the Fonz of our gang. You know the type, good lookin’, pulls all the girls; every posse has a geezer like this. In the evenings, we would disappear into his bedroom, where the walls and ceiling were painted black, and he would play records from his jazz collection. Bruv’ was mad on Blue-Beat and Ska, and he had a stack of 45’s, which he would blast out of our Dansette record player.  My generation had an eclectic taste, and our influences came from a broad spectrum of music. We listened to Soul, Ska, R ‘n’ B, the blues, as well as bands like The Rolling Stones, The Small Faces, The Kinks, and the WHO.

I worked at The HMV record shop in Oxford Street and, when I was unexpectedly offered a junior position at Polydor Records, I snapped it up. When I commenced working for Polydor, I had no idea where it would lead and, when I was promoted to become their Jazz A & R manger, it was like winning the lotto. I went on to work with Jazz giants like, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, and many more.

It wasn’t The Jam, the Pistols, or the Clash that turned me on to New Wave music, it was the Damned’s debut single, ‘New Rose’. I vividly recall the moment I heard this song; it was a Saturday morning, and I was in my kitchen listening to the Kid Jensen show on Radio1. He announced he was going to play their new single, which took me by surprise, as up to that moment, punk records were only played in the evenings. No one had dared to give this music an airing during the day; after all, it might be contagious. From the opening intro, paying homage to the old sixties record, ‘Leader Of The Pack’ by the Shangri La’s, I was hooked, and listening to this song was a real bristle brush experience.

The Sex Pistols blasted down the doors of mediocrity when they released their debut album, ‘Never Mind the Bollock’s’, however, the two milestone recordings of that decade proved to be, the Clash’s debut album, and The Jam’s ‘In The City’.  Amongst the cognoscenti, The Jam are considered to be, one of the most influential, and important bands of their generation. The Style Council are now looked at in a better light these days, and were a ray of sunshine, amongst the drab, and boring, synthesised pop bands of the eighties. There is no doubt that the Council went on a year too long, and perhaps after ‘Confessions Of A Pop Group’, Paul should have called it a day.

After the traumatic ending of TSC, Paul arose like a Phoenix from the ashes, and his solo career went on to eclipse The Jam, and The Style Council, and seems to have no end. He is still able to write tunes of consequence, just as he did as a precocious teenager. During his three manifestations, there’s been the odd album that was below par, but he always strived hard, sometimes too hard, to make every song count. Paul’s list of duff songs is a short one, unlike many artists I could name, and one thing he can’t be accused of, is not trying.

The Jam’s legacy is not about record sales, or their size and stature compared to other bands, both past and present. Between 1977 and 1982, they only released 6 studio albums, 1 live album, and 16 singles (plus 2 imports), but, there’s hardly a dud amongst them. Their music meant something then, and still does to this day, more than thirty years after the release of their debut single, ‘In The City’. They were a quality band, who played quality songs, and fostered one the finest songwriters of their generation.

Ending The Jam was not only a big, brave, and bold decision, but also the right one. After such a positive beginning, the Council finished on a real low, which is a shame, nevertheless, whatever is said about this part of Paul’s career, The Style Council, didn’t fail - they just failed to live up to an expectancy that at the time, and in hindsight, was undeliverable. Paul owes the heady success he has accomplished during his solo career to both bands. Leaving the Jam was a necessary step to fulfil his ambitions and talent, as history as now proved.

For many years, mates and colleagues urged me to write a book on my experiences of working with The Jam, the Council, and Paul, but I never felt the time was right. Since the early nineties, I worked on the back catalogue of The Jam and The Council and didn’t want to look like I was cashing in on my position.

Shout To The Top is an insider’s view of working with Paul, The Jam and TSC, and what it was like working in the record business. In the past, when being interviewed for other books, I wasn’t able to tell the whole truth, and had to tell the odd little white lie. For the first time, I tell of how I heard about The Jam splitting up, and the events that unfolded, which I still find unbelievable. Whatever I say now won’t change a thing, though they might raise a few eyebrows, as I don’t follow the party line, and I have been frank with my opinions and comments. Whilst some people might not agree with them, they are mine, and they are honest. Regardless of what people might say, I have never been a yes man. I have always spoken my mind, and I’ve told the story like it was.

As Far as Paul goes, there have been a few cosmetic changes, but underneath the man has remained the same. The acerbic criticisms, his quick temper, and those ever-changing moods are a part of his character. I know whenever I talk to him; I’m never sure whether to wear a T-shirt or a flak jacket. Nonetheless, in the music business you don’t last thirty years, win a Novello, and a Brit award for outstanding achievement, unless you have talent, and the respect of your peers. If Paul didn’t have real talent, he would have been sussed out a long time ago, and there seems no end to his career. He’s started off his fourth decade with two number 1 albums.

Over the years, there have been many cries for Paul to reform The Jam, and up to now, he quite rightly resisted. I have always been against it, but, as his solo career has now eclipsed both The Jam and TSC, the time has come for a rethink. When Rick formed From The Jam, I wasn’t sure, but after watching a few gigs, it bought back a lot of memories, and now the time could be right for them to get back together. A T-In-The-Park sounds good to me.

As we all know, the split wasn’t amicable, and there’s been quite a bit of shit flying over the years, from all parties. Being in a band is like being married, and divorce is unpleasant, at the best of times. The Jam following is bigger than ever these days, and many new, and younger fans, have never seen this great band perform onstage. When it comes to holding a grudge, Paul can be curmudgeonly, and maybe it’s time for him to repay the faith and support, his fans have given him over thirty odd years. I hope all three can put their differences behind them, as I am sure, they can re-kindle the energy they had in the past. In a few years time, this might not be possible, as age catches up with us all.

When I entered the record biz, I always dreamt of working with a famous band, though I never really expected the dream to become reality. Even now, I expect to wake up and find that it’s all been a nightmare, and it didn’t really happen. Thanks to The Jam, TSC, and Paul Weller, and all the fans, who helped to make my dream come true; RESPECT to you all, by the shed load.

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