Sunday, November 16, 2014

setting sons

The Jam pushed their sound even further with the conceptual wasteland of this bleak and brilliant revolutionary symphony.  With the increasing sophistication of their music from punk mod roots of 'In The City' and 'This Is The Modern World' to the artistic triumph of 'All Mod Cons', the band were pressured to top themselves.

Weller would express at the time:   "The trouble is that this All Mod Cons has proved to be...dunno...proved to be a bit of an albatross round our necks-type thing. I get paranoid now when I write songs, 'cos I think 'That's not up to standard', so I throw the song away. To me, like, the standard of songs on that album is so high that I throw a couple of songs away that maybe would be okay. Everyone's praisin' us and saying, 'Great album, but can they follow it?' – so I do tend to get paranoid about it. I think the best thing for us is to go back to doin' something really simple, even more simplistic than we've done in the past, towards the old R&B roots of the stuff we was doin'...To me, takin' a really objective view of All Mod Cons, I would say that our next step is to advance even more, you know, which could be a bit silly really. We could end up soundin' like Genesis or somebody in three years' time. I wanna keep it simple all the time. But you're right, too. You can't suppress progression. I wouldn't suppress nothin', cos it's pointless...I'd like to do a concept album. The term has an awful sorta sound to it. It makes you think of Jethro Tull an' that, but I'd like to do something in that direction. I've been thinkin' of doin' a 45, you know...a concept single, havin' an A-side and then turn it over to the B-side and have a continuation ... I’m never really happy wherever I am...I never see life as being steady. I’ve always been uncertain. I’ve never felt I could sit back and relax – there’s just too much going on...I’m sitting there in front of the TV moaning on about world politics saying ‘Look at these bastards’ and Gill just says, ‘Yeah, shall we start tea then?’ And she’s quite right...Maybe I’m only an armchair radical. But every night I watch the news and I get so frustrated. I write it all down then in the morning throw it away because it’s rubbish, just paranoid rantings and ravings. Still, after six or seven pints I do start to cheer up a bit. That’s basic philosophy for you. Yeah, I think lager should be on the National Health."

The sessions for 'Setting Sons' were produced by Vic Coppersmith-Heaven at Townhouse Studios in London with Bruce Foxton on bass and vocals, Rick Buckler on drums, and Paul Weller on guitar, keyboards, and vocals;  with cello, timpani, and recorder credited to The Jam Philharmonic Orchestra, piano by Merton Mick, saxophone by Rudi, and strings by Pete Solley.

Foxton looks back:   “It was hard work. A lot of it was written in the studio, the Townhouse in Goldhawk Road, Shepherd’s Bush.  Certainly, some of the songs were just sketched ideas where Paul would lay down the bones of it during the day, then Rick and myself would stay up in the studio rooms – where you could crash out – and where we would work out what we thought would work on a track overnight. Then we’d all crack on, kick it around the next day and record it. There wasn’t as much pre-production, like going into rehearsals and knocking them all into shape before you recorded songs.  It wasn’t a cheap way of doing it, but I think we came out with a good record... It was a very exciting time, and I don’t think we ever sat back on our laurels. We always looked to push on rather than stick with a proven formula. All three of us challenged ourselves in respect of what we did and what we played. With every record we tried something new, something experimental, to see how it would turn out...I can understand why certain people would say it was a concept album, but I wasn’t really that aware of that at the time.  Three or four songs link together, but I don’t recall anything more." 

 'Setting Sons' became their biggest album yet, breaking them in Canada and New Zealand (peaking at seventy-five and fourteen, respectively) and going to one hundred and thirty-seven in the US and four in the UK.

"Eton Rifles" became their first top ten hit in the UK, peaking at number four.  The song was inspired by a Right to Work march in which Socialist Workers Party demonstrators converged with Rock Against Racism punks in front of prestigious Eton College, whose cadet core was called the Eton Rifles.

Sup up your beer and collect your fags,

There's a row going on down near slough,
Get out your mat and pray to the west,
I'll get out mine and pray for myself.
Thought you were smart when you took them on,
But you didn't take a peep in their artillery room,
All that rugby puts hairs on your chest,
What chance have you got against a tie and a crest.

Hello-hurray, what a nice day, for the Eton rifles,

Hello-hurray, I hope rain stops play, with the Eton rifles.

Thought you were clever when you lit the fuse,

Tore down the house of commons in your brand new shoes,
Compose a revolutionary symphony,
Then went to bed with a charming young thing.

Hello-hurray, cheers then mate, its the Eton rifles,

Hello-hurray, an extremist scrape, with the Eton rifles.

What a catalyst you turned out to be,

Loaded the guns then you run off home for your tea,
Left me standing, like a guilty (naughty) schoolboy.

We came out of it naturally the worst,

Beaten and bloody and I was sick down my shirt,
We were no match for their untamed wit,
Though some of the lads said they'll be back next week.

Hello-hurray, there's a price to pay, to the Eton rifles,

Hello-hurray, I'd prefer the plague, to the Eton rifles.
Hello-hurray, there's a price to pay, to the Eton rifles,
Hello-hurray, I'd prefer the plague, to the Eton rifles.

 'Setting Sons' 
full album:

All songs by Paul Weller except as noted.

Side one
"Girl on the Phone"
"Thick as Thieves"
"Private Hell"
"Little Boy Soldiers"
Side two
"Burning Sky"
"Smithers-Jones" (Bruce Foxton)
"Saturday's Kids"
"The Eton Rifles"
"Heat Wave" (Holland-Dozier-Holland)

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