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Sunday, October 07, 2007

30 Years Ago Today

weller whisky small
Paul Weller

The Jam played their first show in Los Angeles at the Whisky A Go Go. Do you know who opened the show? It was his birthday, this guy called "Johnny Cougar." Uh Huh. Yes, well, I had to write that because Uh Huh is the name of a Mellencamp album - the one where "Johnny Cougar" reverted back to his real name... Back in those days - well, actually, its still kind of an industry standard thing... both artists recorded for labels in the Polygram family. So, the label saved a bit of money on their ticket buy and killed two press birds with one stone by having these new artists play the same night at the same club. Not really a good match this time.

bruce foxton 1977 whisky a go go
Bruce Foxton

Punk rock shows were happening with greater frequency at the Whisky and other venues around town. In fact, there was a punk rock show just about every night somewhere in Los Angeles by Autumn 1977.

Just the previous two nights at the Whisky, The Zippers, Germs and Dickies played.

darby live whiskyBWweb72
Darby Crash, The Germs

At this point in the live music game, no matter how hard a classic or future classic rocker could rock, no one had more energy, more stamina and more interaction with its audience than punk rock bands.

Leonard of the Dickies
Leonard Graves Phillips, The Dickies

It was Gary Stewart, who worked at the Rhino Records store on Westwood Blvd. who turned me on to The Jam. Rhino was near UCLA, where I was going to college. Gary sold me and/or convinced me to buy many of the records I have come to cherish in my lifetime. If you have any of the cool Rhino Records box sets, chances are about 99% that Gary Stewart compiled them.

Gary and I had a common love of many bands and the Capitol Records Parking Lot Swap Meet. Because he knew I was a big fan of the UK Mod Scene, he knew I would love the Jam. I can't figure out when, however, that Jam front man, singer & songwriter, Paul Weller, started being referred to as the Modfather.

Pete Townshend, The Who

Between my preference for The Who's Mod Period and my enduring love for anything and everything any of the Small Faces ever did, there was no doubt I'd be a Jam fan for life. And I am to this very day!

Ian McLagan and two Forty Fives
Ian McLagan of the Small Faces with Bryan Malone and Mark McMurtry of the Forty-Fives

I think the Mods always showed great support for the punks (did you know that Ian McLagan was a big fan and friend of Stiv Bators? now you do!), and before he got to be a big international superstar in pop, rock and hipster jazz, Sting with his great punk rock hair starred in the movie version of Quadrophenia. It was a moment when the culture business made a good match and a statement at the same time. Then again, I think Pete Townshend provided a fantastic foundation with his painstakingly honest exegesis of Mod/Rocker-Punk/Rocker story where the rocker is faced with all the woes and discontents that inspire a teen age anthem - from Eddie Cochran to the present day.

But just as the Mods and the Rockers clashed back in the 60s, there's always a lot of vocal detractors of some of my fave Mod bands. But I say, hit the fast forward button, change your radio station, turn the page, etc.

What the Mods of the 60s gave us and what Paul Weller always brought back to their music was a love of American R&B and Motown. Yeah - don't talk to me that white British guys should not be singing R&B, I have a lot of great white British singers names to throw back at you. I think that what was always missing from a lot of American punk rock was soul - and the British punks gave it to us.

kid congo at jam SMALL

Above is a shot of the whole stage and the crowd in front of it on October 7, 1977 at the Whisky A Go Go. The young man whose face is highlighted is the future Kid Congo Powers, one of the best ever pals of my life and a great concert-going friend and ally. Just six months and one week after this show, the Jam would be helping me celebrate my birthday, and Kid as well as all my other friends who made up Lobotomy, the brainless magazine would be on that Double Decker London Bus, going along for the press party and birthday festivities all rolled up in one. I always thought it was one of the best coincidences ever that my birthday fell on the day of a big to-do punk rock show and party.

Paul Weller

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