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Music

The Jam's iconic single ‘In The City’ turns 45

On this day, April 29th, 1977, The Jam released their eternally energetic debut single and debut album namesake, ‘In The City’. The single captured a generation with instant effect, and it quickly became a classic punk anthem. Frontman Paul Weller introduced his new band with style, and while The Jam hit the scene just as a myriad of other punk groups were emerging from the woodwork, his group brandished a unique capture of the youth culture of 1970s London. 

Weller had an image for the group that would bring on a wave of mod-revival, this time with a punk twist. The band were heavily influenced by mod bands of the 1960s, such as The Who, Small Faces and The Action. Almost as important as the sound was the look. As can be seen in the music video below, The Jam stylised themselves with sharp black suits and mod hairstyles – typified by a straight-cut lack of fringe and encroaching sideburns.

‘In The City’ was written when Weller was only 18-years-old. He recalled writing the song in an interview with Q magazine in 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.”

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Weller continued, “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 song was inspired by some of the contemporary punk acts that Weller had seen in London venues in the mid-1970s. “I wrote this after I’d seen the [Sex] Pistols and The Clash, and I was obviously into my Who phase. I just wanted to capture some of that excitement,” he said. Weller indeed caught that excitement, and funnily enough, the Jam frontman once had a scrap with Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols because the controversial pistol bassist had allegedly stolen the opening bassline from ‘In The City’ for ‘Holidays in the Sun’. 

Despite its parent album of the same name only achieving moderate success, the group were launched to stardom thanks to the lead single of In The City. The single became the band’s first to enter the UK top 40 and set them up on a wave that Weller still surfs to this day.

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