Wednesday, 30 March 2016

A Tribute To... Goosebumps Monster Bags

Goosebumps Monster Bags baby! A real favourite of mine from 1996 and (I believe) Hasbro, everything about these were great. They worked the exact same way as Galoob’s 1991 flash of brilliance Trash Bag Bunch, I was originally going to make a snarky comment about this not being too surprising because Hasbro own Galoob but it turns out they didn’t buy that company until 1998 so instead of recycling an idea, they just nicked it instead. If you don’t recall Trash Bag Bunch, or are just too young or too sexy to know/care about them they were the best way of handling the blind bag concept possible – the figures came in rubbish bags full of slime that dissolved in water. Monster Bags are just that but even better – because they’re action figures, and Goosebumps.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Plundor's Easter Bunnies!

Greetings, it is I: Plundor the Spoiler, ravager of the spaceways and conqueror of Draedus, well I was until that He-person turned up, silly brute, how can one not be interested in money? Ah ha ha ha.

I am told that on your insignificant little planet around this time you like to celebrate death with rabbits, and as the biggest, evilest, pinkest bunny around this is, well, right up my alley. So I have observed your puny world and it’s amusing little distraction ‘the internet’ and plucked from it the finest five long eared ladies you should worship far more than you already do.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Trading Card Theatre: Space Jam

Space Jam trading cards are boring.

 I thought for sure there would be some entertainment value in a £1.66 complete set of Space Jam trading cards. I was wrong. Of course I’m still going to wring out a blog post out of it for my new ill-fated idea: Trading Card Theatre.

Firstly though, like the Gen13 set I bought from the same seller, these aren’t a completely complete set, they don’t have the special Animotion insert/chase cards and that sucks, because little lenticular images of scenes from Space Jam sounds awesome, but as they sell for $12 each I can maybe see why the couple didn’t put them in their 3 for a fiver box of shitty trading cards under their table. Secondly these cards came out before the film, as well as being a bit presumptuous it severely limits what the card set can include, my favourite type of trading cards for films are the ones that had the whole film in screen grabs so I can read along with the set, hell the Little Shop of Horrors set had more of the film than the film by including cut scenes. Instead this is what we got:

All Star Cast Cards
These take up about half the set, they cover all the core cast in their Toon Squad outfits, except Daffy Duck who’s in the armour he temporarily dons while thieving Jordan’s gear from his house mansion castle. I’d question this but come on, it’s completely fitting for Daffy to be doing something completely different for no good reason. The art is really inconsistent, some of them are cells (like Lola and Tweety), others are stock art (like Bugs and Taz) and some look like design work coloured with the fill function on Microsoft Paint. A couple of the human characters get a card to but not all of them – no Billy Murray card here folks, he didn’t sign over his likeness rights – we get Jordan of course, as well as the character played by that bloke from Third Rock from the Sun because all kids want a trading of Dennis Nedry from Jurassic Park (I now have more than one Wayne Knight trading card…) and the other basketball players Charles Barkley, Muggsy Bogues and…that’s it, they don’t even include all the ‘as himself’ players! Shawn Bradley, Patrick Ewing and Larry Johnson apparently didn’t sign the same things that Billy Murray didn’t sign. These cards DO have one saving grace though; in their need to pad out the set absolutely any Looney Tune to get screen time gets cards and that means cards of Swackhammer’s minions, Sniffles the mouse and Witch Hazel:

How cool is it to have a Witch Hazel trading card? Just me? Luddites. 

Jam Time Cards

Each of these has a screen shot from the upcoming movie, well mostly - the Nerdlucks transformation scene is art because animation for that scene wasn’t finished by the time these cards went into production, but the theming is actually on the back, each card has a crossword or word search on so kids can deface their cards and ruin their value in years to come – I know right, if some kid had taken Upper Deck’s advice they would be worth even less. I’ve included all the crosswords for you to puzzle over (or you could just rotate the image and see the answers but that would be cheating wouldn’t it? And that would make Bugs Bunny angry and you wouldn't want to piss off Bugs Bunny now would you? Because if Space Jam proves anything it’s that Bugs Bunny is REAL and lives at the centre of the earth).

Click to enlarge etc.
Monstars Cards

While Lola Bunny became the breakout stars of the film I really liked the Monstars, I thought they were adorable as the Nerdlucks and great monster designs as the Monstars mixing the looks of the stars they’d taken their skills from with the Looney Tunes and the likes of Big Daddy Roth and Bill Campbell – and basketball players. Each of these cards is just a little introduction to each character with some Microsoft Paint fill colouring from their design work but I feel kind of proud of the little guys for having as many cards and Lola.

Sneak Peak Cards

Finally we have the only really interesting thing in the set, the cards are just more screen shots but the back of the cards has interesting little behind-the-scenes titbits, did you know:
·          24 drawings are used for each second of animation for every Looney Tune?
·          There were stand-in actors for when the ‘Tunes had to interact with Jordan to aid physical interaction and because Jordan isn’t an actor?
·          The Looney Tunes’ stadium is a 25,000 seater based on the Great Western Forum in LA?
·          Jordan was shot playing Basketball with a ‘wild’ camera and the stadium was animated around him to make things looks more natural and authentic, or as the cards put it ‘asking Michaels to re-create a slam dunk is like asking an artist to re-create a masterpiece’?
·          The artists were asked to recreate the Toon Squad’s locker room because it looked too real?

Well now you do, and you don’t have to own a pile of boring trading cards OR look on IMDB’s trivia section (actually, seriously, go look on Space Jam’s trivia section, it’s long and quite informative and I don’t think any of those facts above are on it)    

And that’s it. Dull, disappointing, no sexy pictures of Lola, no sexy pictures of Charles Barkley and not even good for a 1,000 words, you let me down Space Jam Trading Cards you goatfuckers, let me down! I’m sorry everyone. 

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Trading Card Theatre: Gen 13 '96

I don’t think this is going to be a regular feature, but I bought a bunch of trading card sets at a convention and I’m pretty sure I can get blog posts out of all of ‘em and by damn I’m not wasting that opportunity for content.

First up is Gen 13 ’96, the second series of Gen 13 trading cards Wildstorm put out that cost me roughly £1.66, so I shouldn’t complain too much that the set didn’t include the alloy chase cards but I will mention that it didn’t so you know why I left them out. Gen 13 Volume 2 was easily one of my favourite books of the ‘90s and remains something I re-read fairly often, it wasn’t clever, it wasn’t deep, it wasn’t dark and gritty, it didn’t deconstruct anything, it was just filled with likeable characters in enjoyable stories with work from a bunch of creators I liked – people like J. Scott Campbell, Jim Lee, Gary Frank and Adam Warren – though it did have work by Ed Benes but y’know, nobody’s perfect. For this set I’m just going to pick out noteworthy cards I think are worth talking about or showing to the internet, the way I figure it even if nobody cares about my opinions on trading cards from 20 years ago at least this’ll include some rarely seen art by some recognisable names in the industry, after all, I bet you didn’t know Kelly Jones drew a Gen13 picture.

Monday, 14 March 2016

7 Things From Ebay!

Just a quick one today

I don’t trust Pintrest. It’s not that I think the site itself is unreliable it’s simply that I don’t trust it to last forever, or at least for my lifespan – I’m old enough to remember MySpace, MSN Messenger, Kazaa & AOL Chat and I see no reason to believe that the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and yes Pintrest won’t end up the same way so I still do things the old fashioned way – I save any pictures I want to my hard-drive and then back them up on an external hard-drive, I may be a dinosaur, but I’m a dinosaur that’s not going to lose access to this selection of April O’Neil fanart any time soon. My biggest folder, and the one that requires the most maintenance just to allow it to function properly, is not the hentai folder but one simply called ‘Reference’.  It’s pretty self-explanatory and is mostly stuffed with photos of rare toys, concept art, card backs and scans of wrappers and fliers. This leads us to today’s time waster my imaginary chums, as I’m just sorting through some pictures to put in that folder now, now a lot of the images I can’t repost with a clean conscience because they belong to fellow bloggers or forum posters, but the eBay stuff? That I have no guilt about - especially the guy charging £350 for old masks - so are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.  

Boglins Masks!
Well these are fucking terrifying (and terrifyingly expensive too) now a regular Boglin is hand sized – what do we reckon, 10 inches at the biggest? These things are head sized and look like carnies from the most unnerving circus ever to travel the backgrounds of America where your car just had to break down and of course they’re the only thing around and of course they turn out to… *ehem* my point is that they’re bigger than regular Boglins and freakier than regular Boglins but weirdly they’re a whole regular Boglin – they have arms and a tail - so they’re not so much dressing you up as a Boglin as they are making it look like you’ve got a Boglin Headcrab, very strange.

Cadbury’s Little Horrors!
I totally had these! In fact there’s a plastic crate in my shed with Tipp and Snipz still on them! I picked these for this article just so I could tell you that. These glow in the dark stickers were given away by Cadbury’s, the chocolate company, in the early 1990s and 8 different sheets were made (I have a picture of the complete set but it’s small and I don’t remember where I stole it from) but I honestly can’t remember the exact method of distribution and because they’re not American I can’t find anything on the interwebs about them, I’m pretty sure they were packed in with something but they seem a little large for a standard chocolate bar. If any Imaginary Reader out there knows more, do tell me please.     

Dragon Return!
Either you’ll understand the appeal of this or you won’t because all I got for ya is “look it’s a little clockwork Bruce Lee with an Engrish name, it’s so crap it’s amazing!”. I was actually considering buying this, I’m not a very big Bruce Lee, in fact I think I’d say that I’m not fan of Bruce Lee but I am a fan of these dumpy little ‘walkers’ and a fan of crappy bootleg toys and the more inexplicable and wrong the more I like ‘em and making a cute little knock-off toy of a dead man may well be the pinnacle of knock-off toy wrongness, well that or that Batman squirt gun where you fill him up via his butt and push his penis.  

Jem Costume and Mask!
I finally found a Ben Cooper costume that I’d actually buy. Collecting these shitty old Halloween costumes by Ben Cooper and Collegeville and their ilk is apparently a thing, it’s a nostalgia thing I think as these things were everywhere in 1970s and early ‘80s America, all pretty much consisting of a mask, and a plastic smock with a picture of the character on it, not the most convincing costume but weirdly charming (you should see their Jaws one, or their Village People one!). As whacky as they are I can’t say I’ve ever found one that made me go ‘I really want that’ until this one turned up on a Google Image search for something completely unrelated, my love of Jem & The Holograms is strong and if anything could convince me to overcome the issues inherent in the concept of a grown man buying a little girl’s plastic outfit it’s a Jem mask that looks strangely like Elizabeth Taylor.  

Monster Paper Dolls!
I’m still toying with the idea of buying one of these but I really doubt I’m creating a demand for them, even though you should want one. Despite looking like a modern ‘ironic’ novelty gift it apparently came out in 1983 and frankly I just want it for all the various ways you can make The Bride of Frankenstein look sexy, as funny as Dracula’s saggy old man body and The Monster’s sock suspenders are, obviously. But I just can’t bring myself to pay £15 for what amounts to a large picture of an undead woman in her undies even if it’s this undead woman in those undies, if I do I promise to scan and upload the Bride in all her outfits, because I’m sure you’re all as sexually obsessed with her as I am.

Trouble Troll!
Unlike everything else on this list, this one I’m including for a serious reason. Troll Fighters are a rare bootleg line from Simba that had the genius to mix He-Man, Madballs and Norfin Trolls into one beautiful mess. These turn up so rarely that even pictures of them are hard to find, this is the first one of Trouble Troll I’ve seen (other than the one on the backs of the blister cards) though he’s missing his armour (you could easily nick one from the more common Galaxy Warriors: End of Time, TT’s is blue) I just felt that this image should be preserved and kept online for other bootleg action figure enthusiasts, and so I feel like I’m part of things as I am hopelessly priced out of getting these (though I have a nice few from Troll Force, yes there were two He-Man/Norfin Troll mash-up knock-off lines).

Evil X-Ray Wretch Armstrong!
Oooh yeah. The 90’s Stretch Armstrong line doesn’t get enough praise, I think it’s because they turned Stretch Armstrong into a grinning Steve Irwin and I can understand that, the 90’s Stretch himself does not command the respect of his 70’s predecessor but he had some wicked baddies. Vac-Man is the one who gets all the attention but my personal favourite was Wretch Armstrong, the Bizarro to Stretch Armstrong’s Superman the character was really just an updating and expanding of the old Stretch X-Ray for the 1990’s neon plastic and gross out toy generation of playthings. They gave him light up guts and, because it was the 1990s, a neon orange gun with a hook, missile and chainsaw on it and attached it to a head like a punk rock cenobyte, I can’t see why any boy wouldn’t want to play with this. I totally had a Wretch Armstrong, but I really couldn’t figure out how to look after these toys and they all either broke or went hard (or in the Vac Pac’s cases, turned into Beanie Babies) I regret this but as a child I just couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t treat them like ordinary action figures.  

Don’t worry I’m done now, I can’t think of a suitable concluding paragraph other than the advice that if you’re looking for a picture of something and that something is an odd old toy, put ‘eBay’ after the name and you chances of finding it will be a lot better (and you might find it in higher resolution too) and then you too can write nothing posts like these for your blogs, won’t that be fun for all?   

Friday, 11 March 2016

A Tribute To... Beetlejuice's Rock 'n' Roll Graveyard Revue

This week’s bout of depression has created an unusual side effect in a huge wave of nostalgia for Universal Studios and the realisation “of course it’s all on YouTube”, the internet has given us many bounties – most of them involving naked people, yes - but being able to experience old theme park attractions you thought you’d never experience again, exactly how you remember (or close enough) is one of it’s tastiest. I’m returning to Florida this year and I’ll of course be returning to Harry Potterland featuring The Simpsons Universal Studios, and I will damn well enjoy it, but the Universal Studios on my childhood is no more, Kong, Jaws, Mr Stay Puft, Doc & Marty and now Beetlejuice and the Universal Monsters have been shuffled off for undeniable cash cows like The Simpsons, Harry Potter and Minions and things that can never hope to have the longevity of these or the things they’ve replaced like Shrek, The Mummy remake and the Bayformers, and I say that as a confirmed fan of the Mummy remake and someone you better believe is going on all of those properties’ rides. But thanks to YouTube and a site for downloading videos from it that I do not know exists, at all, I am now totally ok with this; because I can experience the Kong ride any time I want - without the taste of American Tourist Sweat™.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Ten Other Great Songs By... The Jam!

I kept meaning to do a Pogues or Billy Bragg one of these to tie into the Kirsty MacColl one but I left it too late so bollocks, let’s have some direction, some reaction and some creation.

Welcome to my second instalment of Ten Other Great Songs By… where I gush about the songs you’ve never heard of by bands you don’t know the name of but would recognise if you heard them, eschewing the one or two hits the act has to tell you about 10 other great songs they recorded. This format was designed for the likes of Ian Dury, Kirsty MacColl and Billy Bragg, who only had a couple of hits and a couple of ‘Teenage Kicks’, signature songs that weren’t chart successes at the time (and haven’t been since) but are now very well known, sometimes more than their actual hits (i.e. Teenage Kicks by the Undertones, which is far better known in the UK than their actual bit hit My Perfect Cousin). It wasn’t meant for bands like The Jam.
Though their popularity never translated across the Atlantic because the band didn’t really like America all that much when they first toured (mostly, and I’m not kidding, it was the higher drinking age, all of them were under 21 at the time!) The Jam are considered one of the great British Bands, often held in higher esteem than many of their major influences (The Kinks, The Who…) due to putting out music for only five albums and six years and staying broken up. A three-piece consisting of drummer Rick Butler, bassist and occasional songwriter Bruce Foxton and lead vocalist, lead guitarist, principal songwriter, style icon and god among men Paul Weller, the bastards had a whopping 13 top 20 singles and they only released 19,  with only one single overall ending up outside the UK Top 30 and that song, ‘The Modern World’, easily qualified as a Teenage Kick thanks to its strong ties to the ’77 British Punk movement and thus appearing on lots and lots of Punk compilations. Though you could probably whittle down their ‘big songs’ to number 1 hits ‘Going Underground’, ‘Town Called Malice’, ‘Start!’ and ‘Beat Surrender’, slightly less bit hits ‘When You’re Young’, ‘Eton Rifles’, ‘Down in the Tube Station At Midnight’, ‘David Watts’ and ‘That’s Entertainment’ (which reached number 21 – on import) plus their punk anthems ‘In The City’ and ‘The Modern World’ and the (relative) bomb that was ‘News of the World’ thanks to its status as the theme tune of a popular panel show I’m just gonna say “fuck it” and ignore all of their A-Sides and Double A-Sides and make this an all album track and B-side affair, the sign of a true fan! So are you sitting comfortably? Because for those of you watching in black and white, this one is in Technicolour:

To Be Someone (Didn’t We Have a Nice Time) (All Mod Cons, 1978)
I wanted to avoid All Mod Cons songs due to how big it remains even though all three albums after it sold better, The Gift being the band’s best seller, but All Mod Cons is easily considered THE album for the Jam and that’s why obvious choices like Billy Hunt, Mr Clean and English Rose aren’t on here despite being utterly brilliant. Honestly To Be Someone’s mocking of celebrity via adopted the character of one who’s star has faded isn’t the best thing Weller’s ever written, in fact it’s nowhere near as cleverly written as the track either side of it (All Mod Cons and the aforementioned Mr Clean) but I wanted at least one AMC song and frankly I don’t think any song sound more like the Jam than this. Everything about it how I feel we think The Jam sounded and were, that punchy, 60s influenced music, places for Foxton to leap into the air, smashing straight into the song, Weller and Foxton harmonies, a little musical break, Weller attacking something with pointed but fairly humours lyrics and the odd bit of very English colloquialism that fans can sing along to venting their frustration while doing so. It’s all there, making To Be Someone somehow the best place to start, weird innit?  

Standards (This is the Modern World, 1977)
The Jam’s second album is easily the least well regarded of their catalogue, all of their catalogue, the bloody rarities album is better thought of, but it was actually the album that got me into the band (after being thoroughly disappointed with their debut, In the City) and it was The Modern World and Standards that did it. I fucking loved the aggression of this, running on a riff the early Who gave to charity and Weller spitting out the vocals, seemingly generally furious about what he’s singing about (this would be a running theme in his work, still is actually) and that the whole thing was a character song; Weller adopting the persona of someone in power being uncharacteristically honest about their intent to keep everyone in their place just to suit themselves. Weller would adopt the character of the person the song was against from time to time, most notably in this era of his career on Billy Hunt and Burning Sky, and it presents a strange ideological conundrum when singing along, because Standards and ‘Hunt are undoubtedly sing-along songs and bloody great to sing along to: you can get out all the badness you might feel for your government, your board of censors, the thugs who throw abuse at you from cars of the sell-out but you’re still singing in their voice and very passionately too, so it can kind of look like you agree with the bastards. Also I love the word play of the refrain ‘Standards rule ok’ which has about 10 different meanings and the band mean them all.   
Little Boy Soldiers (Setting Sons, 1979)
It’s very hard to pick a favourite Jam song, but if pushed I’d choose this one. A three-minute three part epic on the futility of war from one of my favourite albums of all time – Setting Sons: for me no other anti-war song is as good or as effective as this but I’m really having trouble expressing why it’s so good. I think it’s really just the most basic of things – very good lyrics matched with a very good (and fitting) arrangement to make a brilliant ‘Play for Today’ song about an apathetic soldier who goes to some god forsaken hill, dies and gets sent back and an uncaring country who is utterly convinced that this is a good thing. In part 1 we get the soldier talking his country, who’s got itself in trouble and now needs him to help them out, even though the only other time it wants his input is when there’s an election on. for the middle we have this poor sod in the war himself, with desperate and hollow encouragements and then a roaring finale as the boy comes home, dead, with only a posthumous medal and a letter to his mum to show for it. That’s not too original there but everything about it just works and the lyrics work extra well, this mix of sarcasm, irony and flat out honesty coming together to get Weller’s point across perfectly – here’s the final lyrics “with a letter to your mum / saying find enclosed: one son, one medal / and a note to say we’ve won” now all the song is like that, lines like “god’s on our side and so is Washington” “we killed and robbed the fuckign lot / but we don’t’ feel bad / it as done beneath the flag of democracy!” that’s everything that was wrong with Britain’s empire buildingin three lines! This song is fucking awesome, and manages to not be ‘anti-soldier’ just ‘anti-war’, oh just listen to it.

I Need You (For Someone) (This is the Modern World, 1977)
Sorry to go back to This is the Modern World so quickly but if there’s one song that belongs on an article like this about the Jam it’s I Need You, Weller’s first foray into straight up love songs (he got a girlfriend around this time you see). Talk about fucking nailing it on your first try, Woking’s finest son manages to create a unique take on something as utterly unoriginal as the love song on this first try, the man’s a dick, a genius, but also a dick. He does this, basically, by honest realism, the whole song is really just the narrator telling their significant other that they need them to fulfil various roles in their lives, what makes I Need You so good is that a lot of these roles are not things that get brought up in your average love song, oh they do turn up just not the regularity they really should and very few love songs ever touch on love songs going too far, fuck that says Weller, the closest thing this song has to a chorus is “ Now why are you crying? Have I gone too far - again?” it takes a certain type of person to admit they can go too far IN SONG and maybe it takes a certain type of person to like it, love songs often work because they’re generic and fantasies, people can project themselves into them no matter who they are and feel all gooey, and people probably don’t want to be brought down by having a love song that’s y’know, realistic and actually accurately portrays what being in a relationship is/can be like. And I do like a bit of that every so often but I also like songs that are accurate to what they’re talking about and that’s why I Need You needs more love and why it and, I dunno, You And Me Might Be Alright You Know by Little Man Tate are so great, they’re what being in a relationship is, not what we want it to be, and it’s still amazing.   

The Butterfly Collector (B-Side w/ Strange Town, 1979)
It’s a song about Jordan! Well actually it’s about Cat Woman Sue, a fairly iconic Punk groupie who I guarantee that at least one of the band, and by one member of the band I mean Bruce Foxton, actually slept with but it always reminds me of Katie Price, the Monster Formerly Known as Jordan. What’s a Butterfly Collector? Well it’s a woman who likes to rack up as notches on the bed post, but only notches for famous people, the evil twin of Blondie’s Miss Groupie Supreme, who actually become famous in their own right because of this – so I guess it’s technically more someone like Abbi Titmuss but I actually fancy Abbi Titmus and just the very thought of Jordan makes my penis run and hide, plus the second half of the song, as the butterfly collector caries on because it’s all their know, getting by on the self-belief that they’re still gorgeous and ignoring the appeal between their legs (actual lyrics) having worn off long ago (like, Gareth Gates-ago) it far more appropriate for the likes of Price. What takes the song, a slow echo-y and quite menacing affair, to another, not-so-possibly-sexist, level is a small set of lyrics where Weller points out that it’s not the morality of the collectors that’s the problem, because we all do immoral things, but simply that he doesn’t feel bad for these people (of both sexes, the Kings AND Queens), the implication being neither should we, and we shouldn’t, but we should sing this song to remind us how pathetic and un-iconic they are1.       
Dream Time (Sound Affects, 1980)
Dream Time then, which I really think doesn’t have the standing in the Jam Army that it deserves, despite being on the beloved Sound Affects (I’ve never liked that album as much as I apparently should) which introduced post-LSD Beatles and psych influences into the band’s sound and that’s rather evident here, it’s like The Jam doing Revolver (that is not an insult) and that’s rather fitting for a song called ‘Dream Time’ a song about a nightmare that’s reality, the reality of living on a soulless modern world. Scary voices and funny noises bring us into the rocker, trapped in a hate-filled, deceptive world where you can easily loose reality, with one of Weller’s most evocative choruses – “I saw the lights and the pretty girls / and I thought to myself what a pretty world / but there’s something else there that puts me off / and I’m so scared dear, my love comes in frozen packs / bought in supermarkets” that’s just…that’s it, that’s the metaphor for living in the modern world ‘my love comes in frozen packs, bought in supermarkets’. If you don’t get why that is then this song is probably not for you though.

Obligatory Cover Version: Pity Poor Alfie / Fever 
(B-side w/ The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had to Swallow), 1982)
The Jam were very well suited to cover versions, having a very definite sound and generally liking to play songs that didn’t originally sound like this sound (you really notice how much softer bands like the Who and the Kinks were after listening to The Jam’s versions of their songs and then the originals) that even when they added elements from the originals – like the brass on Move on Up or Stoned Out of My Mind – or just knocked a cover version out because they needed a track – like In the Midnight Hour or Heatwave – they produced a unique version. Honeslty my favourite of their cover versions In the Midnight Hour but that’s because I like that song already and I like the Jam’s style of music better than Wilson Picketts and that’s not a very good reason to recommend it so instead I’m cheating because the cover version part of this song is nothing I care about – it’s bloody Fever, everyone’s covered Fever – and the only reason it’s any good really is because as already outlined, the Jam made good cover versions without trying so when they ARE trying, like here, then they make very good cover versions, you can tell that Weller LIKES this song and has a fever. But the first half, an original composition by Weller, I’ve been fascinated by it since I was a teenager – this is mostly because I’m a suicidal who has a slight death obsession but it is very… let’s use the word evocative, powerful would also work – it’s a mix of the story of Alfie’s suicide mixed with the narrator’s memories of the happy times they shared together and Weller comes off as a decent bloke by not passing judgement on people who commit suicide. It’s this jumble of emotional, memories, past and present tense, it’s what it feels like when someone dies. Oh and it has a description that rivals any novel ever:
With overflowing powerful woes
'Cause there's real and fright
To the top of the stairs to find poor Alfie
And blood stained letters don't count for change
And don't look for blame

Liza Radley (B-Side w/ Start!, 1980)
Hey it’s my favourite Jam B-Side that I’m putting on this list above album tracks the Jam Army would no doubt chastise me for leaving off if anyone actually read this shit (“no Scrape Away? No Mr Clean? No Thick as Thieves? Rubbish!” good point, I need to do another one of these for The Jam). Anyway described by Weller as him ‘just being whimsical and English’ the Modfather and his acoustic guitar manage to craft a the perfect description of the perfect outsider girl, and incidentally my perfect woman, she’s the Goth girl of my dreams, but she could easily be the folky girl of your dreams, or any other sort of Alternative, not understood by the small town she comes from but far better and far more interesting than any one of them could ever be, and all the better it’s sung from the point of view of someone enamoured with her, so you can put yourself in her place (and you don’t even have to be male, the narrator never makes mention of their sex). This is a great song when you’re feeling lonely but hopeful, whether you know your Liza Radley or want a Liza Radley of your own.     

Wasteland (Setting Sons, 1979)
So legend has it that Setting Sons was originally going to be a concept album about three kids who grew up to be three different people but after one of them died in a war they came back together, this is the last part but like all of the ‘concept album tracks’ it works perfectly on its own. I think it’s supposed to be originally set in a war torn area, a city knocked to shit by the old story’s conflict, but thanks to cities being so bloody litter-ridden it works as just a description of any urban area “the shit, the dirty linen / the holey Coca-Cola tins, the punctured footballs / the ragged dolls, the rusted bicycles” that’s just a description of the four streets around my house. So it kind of ends up as being a paean to emotion in a cold, emotionless world, with the sex and relationship of the person Weller’s singing too left undetermined it could be to almost anyone, a friend, a lover, a child, just someone you want to sit and watch the rain with in the shadow of the council estates and dare to show some brave but useless compassion. I find songs like this far more touching than generic love songs (even Weller’s, things like Mermaids or You Do Something to Me or English Rose) jus because I associate with them so much more, this is a song about how to show affection in the sort of place I grew up and live in by someone who grew up and lives in the same places, the Rap, Hip-Hop and Grime scene would kill to be able to produce something like this. Oh and there’s a recorder, played by Paul Weller on an actual child’s recorder (his sister’s), which adds this weird innocence that is totally fitting.    

Running on the Spot (The Gift, 1982)
“I believe in love and I believe in life / but the world in which I live keeps trying to prove me wrong” ok so there’s a lot of songs about futility on this list, that could be because Weller was writing these in the late 70’s and early 80’s when futility was rather common, not that’s it’s not common today and perhaps that why these songs are the first ones that jumped out at me. Still being appropriate decades after their conception is something to be proud of after all and we are still just running on the spot, and we are still just the next generation of emotional cripples just another one to Weller’s generation, and that’s pretty fucking scary really. And the advice of Running on the Spot is still good – intelligence, independence not ignorance and reactionary dismissal, don’t blindly accept what you’re told by people with obvious agendas, it’s not fucking radical but it’s still so very relevant, plus Running on the Spot is a great driving sing-along.

And that’s your lot, I’m not putting YouTube links up for these articles because those sort of videos tend to get taken down and I hate finding a blog post with broken links. Paul Weller broke up The Jam at the height of their fame (and sales) in 1982 much to the surprise of his band mates, in fact he wouldn’t work with either again for a long time and I actually got to see the Weller and Foxton on stage at the Albert Hall to perform Eton Rifles and Fast Car/Slow Traffic (the first song they’d recorded together since the Jam split), I actually went weak at the knees, ask my mate Mike. Weller formed The Style Council, who will get one of these articles one day, before having a successful solo career that continues to this day, but with the recent deaths of Lemmy, David Bowie and Terry Wogan I am very concerned about, and very appreciative of, his continued aliveness. Foxton joined up with punk outfit and Green Day influence Stiff Little Fingers for a while and then recently he and Butler created From the Jam, kind of a Jam tribute band with two thirds of the real band in it, I haven’t seen them and really don’t have much desire to but my Uncle has and says they’re pretty good. Brilliantly the band also got an art exhibition last year, ‘About the Young Idea’, exhibiting memorabilia and stuff, though a little weird (they’re all still alive and it really wasn’t that long ago) I went to it and lost hours. With that all I have to say is I hate you, and your wife, and if I get the chance I’ll fuck up your life, night! 

1 Katie Price, aka Jordan, was a former Page 3 Girl (she got her tits out in a national newspaper on a regular basis) who rose above other Page 3 girls mostly by shagging crap pop stars (Gareth Gates, Peter Andre) and being on reality TV. I think one of her shows was on American TV and she did go on about ‘breaking America’ for a while so hopefully everyone knows who she is but if not this footnote is here.