The Jam – Town Called Malice

The Jam was a mod band in the late seventies who were hugely popular in the UK but their only charting song in America was Town Called Malice that peaked at #31 in the Mainstream rock charts in 1982. This song went to #1 in the UK and #19 in Canada.

In the UK they had 4 number 1s, 9 top ten hits, and 24 top forty hits. They had company with bands like The Small Faces and  Slade who were much more popular in the UK than America. Paul Weller left the Jam in 1982 and found The Style Council with Mick Talbot in 1983.

From Songfacts

The title of Nevil Shute’s A Town Like Alice inspired the title, but the inspiration for the song came from Paul Weller’s friend Dave Waller by means of describing urban life. The song is about unemployment in a working town and Paul Weller confessed, “It could have been written about any suburban town, but it was in fact written about my hometown of Woking.” (quote from 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh)

This was a double A-sided UK #1 along with “Precious.” The Jam became the first act since The Beatles, who performed “Day Tripper” and “We Can Work It Out” to perform both tracks of double A side on the BBC pop music show Top Of The Pops.

The song lasted a mere eight weeks on the chart, four of which were in the Top 10 and of that four, three were spent at #1.

This caused an industry furor after EMI objected to this being available in a studio-recorded 7-inch version and a live 12-inch version. The feeling was that the Jam’s fans were buying both versions of the single and so stopping “Golden Brown” by the Stranglers on the EMI label from reaching #1.

Many of Weller’s songs reflected his anger with right of center politics and the video for this number featured a cue-card with the slogan “If we ain’t getting through to you, you obviously ain’t listening.” Prompted by Conservative Party leader David Cameron’s comment that the music of the Jam “meant a lot,” the Guardian newspaper asked Weller, if it had been suggested in the early ’80s that there were ardent Tories coming to Jam concerts, what would he have thought? He replied: “I’d have been really, really surprised. I think I pretty much nailed where I was at to the mast. But people come to gigs for different reasons: it isn’t necessarily about what the person on stage is singing. But at the same time, you do think, ‘Well, maybe this’ll change their minds.”

The Walking Dead Season 7 third episode starts with a montage of the Saviors’ Sanctuary soundtracked by this song.

Town Called Malice

Better stop dreaming of the quiet life
Cause it’s the one we’ll never know
And quit running for that runaway bus
Cause those rosy days are few
And, stop apologizing for the things you’ve never done,
Cause time is short and life is cruel
But it’s up to us to change
This town called malice
Rows and rows of disused milk floats
Stand dying in the dairy yard
And a hundred lonely housewives clutch empty milk
Bottles to their hearts
Hanging out their old love letters on the line to dry
It’s enough to make you stop believing when tears come
Fast and furious
In a town called malice

Struggle after struggle, year after year
The atmosphere’s a fine blend of ice
I’m almost stone cold dead
In a town called malice

A whole street’s belief in Sunday’s roast beef
Gets dashed against the Co-op
To either cut down on beer or the kids new gear
It’s a big decision in a town called malice

The ghost of a steam train, echoes down my track
It’s at the moment bound for nowhere
Just going round and round
Playground kids and creaking swings
Lost laughter in the breeze
I could go on for hours and I probably will
But I’d sooner put some joy back
In this town called malice

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

25 thoughts on “The Jam – Town Called Malice”

      1. It is incredible how big Paul Weller seems to be in the UK- I get three british magazines every month and at least once a year he seems to be on the cover of them and he puts out an album and its a big story.. over here he is unknown.


      2. Sorry… Pending folder
        It must be a too British thing. One of the articles I’ve read is his record companies never knew how to market him to America

        Liked by 1 person

      3. That makes sense. I know the problem with The Jam is- the records weren’t even released in the US at the time they were out in the UK… funny how things worked back then- it was the same with the first Clash album. I had the second Clash album before the first one and when the first was released it was an altered version. I had read about both bands long before I was able to hear them.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. It’s like we would not understand them. I think of Life On Mars…remaking it just because it is British because we would not understand the concept.
        I noticed if they keep their accent in the songs it’s harder to get played. Beatles, Stones, Who… for the most part they didn’t sing with an accent.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I think you are right on the accents. I think also in the US- they decided for example- The Jam- not going to sell don’t waste our time on even trying to promote them. I would like to see Weller he was in the US a few years ago- I was on vacation when he came to Pittsburgh.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I’m sure being a Mod group in the late seventies didn’t help….I would like to see him. I didn’t like the Style Council as much but I like The Jam and what I’ve heard of his solo output.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. I agree not a big Style Council fan but like The Jam and a lot of his solo stuff. He’s another fella that is unpredictable from one album to the next- which isn’t a bad thing.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. I respect him for that-if The Jam reunited it would be profitable. They could probably even sell it in the US at smaller venues and in the UK it would be a huge deal. Some people can just move on. I have long thought of The Rolling Stones why did they stay together? I can understand U2 more I have always got the impression that they were and have always been friends. Mick and Keith may have been close at one point but that was long ago. .. and what nearly 60 years in they are all still alive but Brian-who would have thought..


      9. Pending folder…
        I respect him also for not going for the easy buck. The Stones are a mystery to me. I understand if let’s say The Youngbloods or some group that may need the money to live regroups. All I can think of is ego. It’s not like Mick or Keith couldn’t do small places solo…they are so accustomed to that huge reception. They are past the point of building their legacy. They have released a lot of live albums in the past 10 or so years…I love the early seventies live stuff I will admit…but anything past Steel Wheels I’m not that interested in…maybe just me but when Bill quit and they added a stage full of performers it got too slick…and that is one thing the Stones should never be.

        U2 do seem close to each other. They at least still release studio albums.

        Liked by 1 person

      10. I recall seeing a review in an American magazine in 90s that suggested,perhaps accurately, that the reason Oasis broke thru whereas Blur and Pulp largely didn’t in the US was that Oasis didn’t sound British. Don’t know that they were right about the sound but the general concept is right I think

        Liked by 1 person

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