Jam – In The City

As with the Buzzcocks…I had friends with Jam albums and that is how I found out about them.

This was their first single and introduction to the Jam and singer/guitarist and Jam songwriter Paul Weller. Weller wrote this song and borrowed the title from a Who single I’m A Boy with the B side In The City.

It was released in 1977 and peaked at #40 inn the UK Charts. This was their first Top 40 single and the beginning of their streak of 18 consecutive Top 40 singles. The single came off the album of the same name. The album peaked at #20 in 1977.

The song’s opening bassline re-appeared a few months later on the Sex Pistols’ single “Holidays in The Sun.” Weller had a fight with Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious in the Speakeasy Club over stealing the riff.

Paul Weller: “We had a different sort of birth to a lot of the bands, our contemporaries of that time. Because we’d been playing for five years – pubs and working men’s clubs and anywhere that would have us really. I’d been plating since I was 14, sort of semi-pro if you like. So I never got the thing about not turning your guitar.”

“I wrote this after I’d seen the Pistols and The Clash and I was obviously into my Who phrase. I just wanted to capture some of that excitement.” “It was a big tune for us. We’d open our set with it, we’d probably play it at the end and if we could get an encore, we’d play it again. The reaction it got from the audience, we knew it was a big tune.”

“I’m not sure about some of the lyrics in … I was 17, 18 man. But it was a good youth anthem, I thought.”

From Songfacts

While only a minor hit on the charts, this mod/punk number is well remembered for serving as England’s first introduction to singer/guitarist and Jam songwriter Paul Weller. The song’s #40 chart position when the song was first released marked the beginning of his band’s streak of 18 consecutive Top 40 singles. After their breakup in 1982, Weller would continue to notch up chart entries well into the 21st century firstly with Style Council, then under his own name.

Weller was only 18 when he penned this celebration of youth in the big city. He recalled writing this song to Q magazine April 2011: “It was the sound of young Woking, if not London, a song about trying to break out of suburbia. As far as we were concerned, the city was where it was all happening; the clubs, the gigs, the music, the music. I was probably 18, so it was a young man’s song, a suburbanite dreaming of the delights of London and the excitement of the city. It was an exciting time to be alive. London was coming out of its post-hippy days and there was a new generation taking over. The song captured that wide-eyed innocence of coming out of a very small community and entering a wider world, seeing all the bands, meeting people, going to the clubs, and the freedom that it held.”

The single has the particular distinction of reaching the UK Top 50 on four different occasions. The song originally peaked at #40, then when “Going Underground” became the group’s first #1 single three years later, Polydor decided to re-issue all nine of the group’s prior singles and “City” was the only one to make the Top 40 again, peaking at #40 for a second time. After the group’s breakup at the end of 1982, the record company re-issued every single of the band’s career in early 1983 and this time “City” peaked at #47. Finally, in May 2002, Polydor decided to commemorate the 25th anniversary of The Jam by re-releasing their debut single in its original packaging, in its original 7″ vinyl record format, and at its original price of 75 pence. The limited pressing sold out immediately, this time peaking at #36, higher than it ever did in its original release and two subsequent reissues.

In The City

In the city there’s a thousand things I want to say to you
But whenever I approach you, you make me look a fool
I want to say, I want to tell you
About the young ideas
But you turn them into fears

In the city there’s a thousand faces all shining bright
And those golden faces are under 25
They want to say, they gonna tell ya
About the young idea
You better listen now you’ve said your bit-a

And I know what you’re thinking
You still think I am crap
But you’d better listen man
Because the kids know where it’s at

In the city there’s a thousand men in uniforms
And I’ve heard they now have the right to kill a man
We want to say, we gonna tell ya
About the young idea
And if it don’t work, at least we said we’ve tried

In the city, in the city
In the city there’s a thousand things I want to say to you

Who – I’m A Boy

My name is Bill, and I’m a head case

Now THAT is a lyric worth exploring.

Pete Townshend wrote this for a Rock Opera he was composing called “Quads,” which was about a future where parents could choose the sex of their children. That opera never happened. I have to wonder if Townshend had this old title in mind when a few years later he came up with the title for “Quadrophenia.”

I’m A Boy was released as a single in 1966. The song peaked at #2 in the UK and #2 in New Zealand. The song was not heard much in America or Canada at the time. Many of their singles would finally come to the light when the great compilation album Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy was released in 1971. They did a live version and included it on the live album Live At Leeds released in 1970.

Released as the B-side of the single was “In the City”, the first and last song credited to the songwriting collaboration of John Entwistle and Keith Moon. Entwistle referred to it as rip-off of Jan and Dean, a group that was a favorite of Moon’s.

Roger Daltrey: “I always thought The Who went through a weird period after ‘My Generation’ (November 1965) that lasted until we did ‘Magic Bus’ (October 1968). I thought it all went a bit sloppy. But ‘I’m A Boy’ and ‘Pictures Of Lily’ were from that period when I’d been allowed back into the band (Daltrey had been asked to leave after beating up Keith Moon over his heavy use of amphetamines). My ego had been crushed. I was insecure and it showed in my voice. When I first heard those songs, I was like, ‘Oi, what’s this all about?’ I didn’t think I could find the right voice for them. You can hear it when you listen to them now, but my insecurity made those songs sound better. It was a happy accident.”

From Songfacts

This is about a boy whose mother wants him to be a girl, while the boy longs to assert his real sexual identity. The controversial subject of cross-dressing was probably the reason why this failed to reach the American Top 100.

Daltrey told Uncut magazine: “On ‘I’m A Boy’, I tried to sing it like a really, really young kid, like an eight-year-old. Not the voice of an eight-year-old but the sentiment – and I think that came across.”

I’m A Boy

One girl was called Jean Marie
Another little girl was called Felicity
Another little girl was Sally Joy
The other was me, and I’m a boy

My name is Bill, and I’m a head case
They practice making up on my face
Yeah, I feel lucky if I get trousers to wear
Spend evenings taking hairpins from my hair

I’m a boy, I’m a boy
But my ma won’t admit it
I’m a boy, I’m a boy
But if I say I am, I get it

Put your frock on, Jean Marie
Plait your hair, Felicity
Paint your nails, little Sally Joy
Put this wig on, little boy

I’m a boy, I’m a boy
But my ma won’t admit it
I’m a boy, I’m a boy
But if I say I am, I get it

I want to play cricket on the green
Ride my bike across the street
Cut myself and see my blood
I want to come home all covered in mud

I’m a boy, I’m a boy
But my ma won’t admit it
I’m a boy, I’m a boy, I’m a boy
I’m a boy, I’m a boy, I’m a boy, I’m a boy
I’m a boy, I’m a boy, I’m a boy