The Jam: Absolute Beginners US EP

Polydor | US | EP | 1981 | PX-1-503

Polydor | US | EP | 1981 | PX-1-503

The Jam: Absolute Beginners US EP [1981]

  1. Absolute Beginners
  2. Tales From The Riverbank
  3. Funeral Pyre
  4. Disguises
  5. Liza Radley

This morning at the gym I chanced to hear “A Town Called Malice” and it served to remind me that from some time in 1980 to almost the end of The Jam’s career in 1982, I was keeping up with their career with avid interest. True, I never bought the live album [“Dig The New Breed”], and the final EP, “Beat Surrender” was not a purchase, but I did latch on to the excellent “Sound Affects” and kept up with the band in America via the handy EPs that US Polydor issued in a vain, but appreciated attempt to break this most English of bands in the land of Yanks.

the-jam---absolute-beginners-USEPB

click to enlarge

During this time, the band were issuing many non-LP singles featuring some of their hottest songs, so in retrospect, the idea of compiling two of these on a low-cost EP for sale in America was a great idea. This retailed for $4.98 and it saved me a dollar of the cost of buying “Absolute Beginners” and “Funeral Pyre” on import 7″ singles. The fact that they threw in the non-LP B-side to “Start!” [“Liza Radley”] was icing on the cake. Polydor did a fine job of packaging the EP with both single covers on the back of the 12″ with the lyrics to the A-sides printed as well. It didn’t hurt that the 12″ probably had better fidelity than the notoriously poor French MPO silver injection label pressings that the original UK singles had either.

“Absolute Beginners” was a tune that was built upon a staccato horn hook that spoke to Paul Weller’s interest in 60s soul and R+B influences. The skittering drum pattern that Rick Buckler brought to the song lent it a nimble, jazzy distinction. The A-side made for a memorable pop tune but given that it’s been nearly 30 years since I had a copy of this in the Record Cell, I have to admit that I can’t remember anything about the single’s B-Side, “Tales From The Riverbank.”

While “Going Underground” will always remain my favorite Jam song, a close runner up will always be the explosive “Funeral Pyre.” The song was propelled at a breakneck pace by the savage pummeling that Buckler gave his drum kit for that one, and is there a more thrilling cold ending to any song than the one that follows Buckler’s incendiary solo at the song’s end? Now that was exciting rock music of the kind that doesn’t get made any more.

The Jam were introduced to my American ears as the band following in the footsteps of the early Who sound, so it made perfect sense for them to cover an obscure, early Who song such as “Disguises,” from the band’s cool “Ready Steady Who” EP of 1966. It’s a sterling early Townsend number from the band’s vibrant Mod period, with the sort of lyrics that probably attracted Weller to The Who as an influence to begin with. The Jam cut a great version of it here, that for many years was the only one I’d ever heard!

Finally, the haunting ballad “Liza Radley” was unreleased in America from the band’s hit single “Start!” from the previous year, so its inclusion here was appreciated. Although I had the import pressing of “Sound Affects” I didn’t have any of its singles on 7.” I never crossed the line in my mind that made me start collecting The Jam, so even though I was into their last two studio albums, and various US compilation EPs, I never worked my way backwards to their early material.

When Weller broke up the band in 1983, I bought the first Style Council UK 7″ and was seriously nonplussed by the “Speak Like A Child” single and dropped the Weller issue right then and there. In 1985 The Jam material in my collection got amortized in the Great Vinyl Purge that saw my PCV exchanged for shiny polycarbonate discs instead via the lovely network of used record stores at my disposal. I’ve not had any Jam music to listen to in almost 30 years, and one day I need to rectify that.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
This entry was posted in Records I Used To Own and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to The Jam: Absolute Beginners US EP

  1. Jon Chaisson says:

    The Direction Reaction Creation box is well worth it (got one relatively cheap on Amazon.uk), as it has everything except a few live b-sides, I think.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Jon – Thanks for the tip. That sounds like a perfectly acceptable solution to my conundrum. Part of what had stayed my hand with buying any Jam on CD has been all of that great non-LP material that Weller was loath to append to the straight album reissues. This sounds like the thing for me. Omnibus boxes like this and The Police set “Message In A Box” are not my preferred method of listening [rarities separate from albums] but my wallet will probably approve of getting almost everything The Jam released for <$20! Thanks for the tip!

      Like

  2. Tim says:

    I gotta second that emotion on the box set. I am not a huge Jam fan but for the price that I paid when it came out it’s just too much of a deal to say nyet to. Same for the Style Council box. I had a lot of that already but I was so impressed with the quality of the Jam set that I went for the Style Council one.

    Like

  3. The fact that The Jam got very little play here in the US made it all the more special when a song like “Town Called Malice” came on in the club or on radio. I remember in 1983 hearing they broke up and feeling like a great party just ended prematurely. I retroactively discovered a lot of their music. Mod/Punk- yes but often incorporated soulful horns (“Absolute Beginners”) and some pretty funky bass (“Precious”). Required listening:

    Ghosts
    All Around The World
    Going Underground
    In The City
    Start!
    That’s Entertainment
    Down In The Tube Station At Midnight
    Strange Town
    Absolute Beginners
    Precious
    Town Called Malice
    The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow)

    Like

  4. Echorich says:

    Love, love, love this EP. Every song is just perfect. Some Mod/R&B cool, some Post Punk Psychedelia (Riverbank), Kinksian Pastoral beauty and full on Punk assault. Funeral Pyre, that Punk assault, gets a lot of harsh reaction from Jam fans, but it is a white hot rocker.
    I can’t say anything negative about The Jam until The Gift. This album has taken me over 30 years to come to terms with. It always felt just a bit too predictable and calculated. Sound Affects and All Mod Cons are my go to albums and Setting Sons is an album of both Punk and Mod themes wrapped around some very biting lyrics.
    I am a card carrying Style Council fan – proud of every moment of their career. And while most find the Style Council a more difficult listen, I was happily surprised by every twist and turn Weller and Co took with their sound.
    It actually Weller’s solo career, which got off to a great two album start, which faltered and became boring for me. There have been songs and singles over the past 23 yrs of his solo career which I really enjoy, but they wouldn’t even fill the time to program an entire album if collected together, I’m afraid.

    Like

    • Tim says:

      I am in the same territory as Echorich in a lot of ways. I didn’t listen to any Jam until well over a decade after the split and honestly I prefer the more commercial material but that is just my taste.

      Now The Style Council years are where it’s at for me and I agree with Echorich that it’s hard to go wrong anywhere in that catalog. I would actually buy that box set before I drop any money on the Jam one.

      The solo years don’t do much for me, either. I bought album after album and gave up after a while. I think he disappeared up his own arse with the whole Britpop and Modfather nonsense. Only one essential album out of the lot in my opinion and that’s Wild Wood. Illumination isn’t half bad, either and…..wait……Wake Up The Nation, the deluxe edition is sitting on Amazon right now as a digital download of the deluxe edition for only $5.99……I bought that one years ago for the mixes by Richard Hawley, Leo Zero & Amorphous Androgynous.

      Like

      • Echorich says:

        Tim – it’s interesting how well Weller’s solo material remixes – maybe there’s still some Style Council in there…or at least the remixers have a way of teasing it out of his songs. Starlite from 2011, and on his latest “greatest” hits compilation is the closest he’s gotten to the late Style Council vibe in a very long time… I would go one step further and say that his debut solo effort, Paul Weller is his best effort. Wildwood is wonderful, but the influences were beginning to corrupt the artist in my mind. By Stanley Road, the original ideas were beginning to be hard to find.

        Like

        • postpunkmonk says:

          Tim – As for Weller’s solo career, I was in an antique store about 21 years ago and I heard what I imagined to be “Wildwood” playing on the sound system and was quite taken with what I was hearing. So I bought a copy of the US promo [with bonus EP] from a Goldmine ad [break out the magnifying glass] and once I had it in my hands… it no longer seemed compelling, in spite of Robert Howard playing guitar on it. Whether I was actually hearing “Wildwood” or an earlier solo album that day has never been confirmed. In any case, I wasted no time in trading it off.

          Like

          • Echorich says:

            Monk, The good Dr. – Robert Howard – had a hand in songwriting and playing on Weller’s first two solo albums. The debut solo effort had a bit of an acid jazz edge to some of the tracks and one or two songs dated from late Style Council sessions. One track was recorded with Robert Howard for both Weller and wife DC Lee’s solo albums.

            Like

            • postpunkmonk says:

              Echorich – Given that Weller was obviously a huge influence of Dr. Bob, I wondered how that happened. I never read any interview with Howard as to how he came to play with Weller. I think I also had the Slam Slam CD at one point; wow – I had completely forgotten about that until you mentioned it! But it didn’t stay long in the Record Cell, if memory serves and I didn’t just hallucinate owning it.

              Like

  5. zoo says:

    I’m a huge fan of The Jam and own all their albums on vinyl. It took years to track down All Mod Cons in a store, but I finally did three years ago or so. Monk, you need them all, but could skip This is the Modern World (I never listened to it a second time). Those singles you love so much are included in the Snap! comp (which I also have on vinyl). If there’s only one Style Council album to get, it’s Internationalists/Our Favorite Shoppe, IMO. Definitely their best set of songs.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      zoo – Just a hint here, but I always have to moderate your comments and approve them by hand because you vary your email address each time. I don’t care what email address you enter for comments, but if you use the same text string each time, every one of them is pre-approved and you don’t need to be moderated if you re-use one! That’s how comments work here. I moderate your first one and subsequent ones are bombs away.

      Like

    • Echorich says:

      It’s funny Zoo, until Direction Reaction Creation, I didn’t own anything by The Jam on cd! All Mod Cons was my entree to the band and I worked backwards immediately. It’s still stands as their greatest achievement among a stellar discography.

      Like

      • postpunkmonk says:

        Echorich – It seems like “Direction, Reaction, Creation” needs to get into the Record Cell with some due haste! As much as I sort of dislike omnibus boxes [The Police “Message In A Box,” “Lene Lovich “The Stiff Years”] for breaking up discrete albums, the value of the proposition holds some sway in my fiscal circumstances!

        Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      zoo – Actually, the only Jam in my Record Cell for the last 25 years has been my laserdisc of “Video Snap!”

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s