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.
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