Whether it was a happy accident or a brilliantly executed plan, The Jam (fronted by Paul Weller) managed to span a number of the many pockets of youth subculture as the ‘70s morphed into the ‘80s. The number of different music-driven fashion sectors to which kids and youths in the UK could belong around that time was almost mind-boggling. Punk, Skinhead, Mod, Rude Boy/Girl, Ted/Rockabilly, etc… Each fashion had its associated music, and a raft of commercial bands vying for premiership in the genre.
But The Jam had considerable potential to appeal to multiple subcultures, and that made them quite unusual. They weren’t a pop band as such, so they did rely to a large extent on the segregated pockets of ‘street cred’ fashion for support. They’d actually come out of the punk explosion, and carried with them the characteristically energetic vitality and edginess which Punks loved. But whilst they had a punk sound, their music was based on a wider range of influences, encompassing Soul, British Beat Pop, elements of Motown, ‘70s ‘Pub Rock’, etc. They therefore fitted perfectly into the late ‘70s Mod revival, but also had the approval of some sections of skinhead culture. Even Rude Boys/Girls would often have no objections to buying Jam records. The band just ingratiated themselves to a wide array of youngsters – probably above all because they had brilliant songs.
This album, Dig The New Breed, was The Jam’s final one as an active band. In fact, they played their last live gig the day after this album was released, in December 1982. It’s a live album, compiling blazing performances recorded at various venues between 1977 and 1982, and the whole thing is still very exciting, impactive and powerful. I always thought the power of The Jam onstage belied the fact that for the most part they were only a three-piece. They sound typically massive and full on this cassette, and that was a tribute Rick Buckler’s blasting, all-bases-covered drumming and bassist Bruce Foxton’s characteristic backing vocals, as well as Paul Weller’s ripping guitar work and aggressive lead vocal.
Weller and Foxton’s use of Rickenbacker instruments added an extra dimension of individuality to the sound of The Jam. Rickenbackers are very unique guitars and basses. The guitars had served groups like The Beatles well in the ‘60s, but Paul Weller detached himself from that ‘60s sound by driving his amplifier harder, into a rock-style distortion.
However, this was the punk variant of rock distortion. Whereas heavy rock players would use ‘power-chords’, which filtered out the major/minor characteristics, punk players would use standard chords, which would often grate slightly against the overdrive. Weller expanded on that feel with the Jam, varying the characteristics of the chords more than a typical punk band, and adding in sevenths, flattened sevenths or whatever. You needed the right guitar, amp and technique to get away with it, but it worked brilliantly for The Jam. Meanwhile, Bruce Foxton’s Rickenbacker bass part kicks ass to some serious order on the concluding track Private Hell. It’s an amazing end to a really explosive collection of tracks, and the album was an amazing end to a seminal musical venture.
The classic red Polydor label adorns the cassette, and the front of the cover is adorned with a slightly coppery-gold lettering. Open out the cover and there are four sides of photos and text summing up the life of the band. I can’t really think of a better audio cassette to own from the year 1982.