We’re dipping into the Far Out vaults to look back at a moment between two of punk’s icons, Paul Weller and Joan Jett.
It’s fair to say that the seventies were a fairly divided era of music. It was a decade where two genres would stretch the musical spectrum to near breaking point as the shiny disco era was soon safety-pinned by punk.
It meant that while one half of the country may have been taking their flares and platforms to the dancefloor, by 1977, the other half were ripping their skinny jeans with a razor blade. A baffling concept to those not in the know and apparently to Tom Snyder was in need of some expert help to decipher. Enter the fresh faces of Joan Jett and Paul Weller.
As well as the now-iconic faces of The Jam and The Runaways, Snyder—as was his style of both personal and hard-hitting questions and musings—also invited to the show music promoter Bill Graham, rock critic Robert Gilberth, and producer/manager Kim Fowley.
The scene made for engaging viewing as the trio of mature men, Graham, Gilberth, and Snyder, looked on Fowley with a hefty dose of cynicism as the producer tried to explain the prominence of punk and the ethos that permeated the ‘new wave’. While he spoke of the energy punk groups possessed as a freeing aspect of their art, he also noted that people were tired of contrived and complex expressions. They wanted immediacy.
It was clearly something that hadn’t resonated with Snyder. While the New York punk scene had arguably been bubbling away since 1975, the prominence of punk in 1978 across the globe meant that the host of Tomorrow with Tom Snyder was already discussing ‘new wave’.
Joan Jett had been apart of The Runaways since 1975 and had made her name across both sides of the pond as a fearsome frontwoman. While Paul Weller was the outspoken leader of The Jam who had just found critical success with their debut LP In The City the previous year. It was that outspokenness that had seen Weller pulled from The Jam’s first US tour to appear as a panellist on the show.
After introductions (and later some corrections “four!”), Tom Snyder turns to The Jam singer and asks: “He prefers to be known as a ‘new wave’ artist because ‘punk rock is a label invented and exploited by the music press. Is that right, did we make it up?” Weller isn’t willing to put the blame squarely on Snyder himself but does suggest the term has been hijacked and needs to be reckoned with.
“Punk rock is a big flashy sign that sells commodities whereas ‘new wave’ is an attitude.” He then goes on to detail out his vision for the attitude of ‘new wave’ suggesting it represents a disenfranchised youth who have spent too long unrecognised. He goes on to examine the problems that face the working-class kids of his environment and says that the main purpose of The Jam’s music is an expression of “truth” and “unity”.
Snyder then swings to the dynamic Joan Jett and asks whether the American ‘new wave’ was the same as the British new wave. Jett admits that the US bands were copying English bands but quickly highlights that The Runaways had been a group long before she herself travelled to London for the first time in 1976.
Snyder asks: “Do you object to being called a ‘punk rocker’?”, Jett replies, “It really is a media term”. She concludes that The Runaways are also just a product of her environment.
As our interviewer sits back with the confusion of what the future might hold permeating every pore on his face, the host tries to catch the fragility of youth with their mortality as superstars. He says to Weller, “The day will come when you become enormously successful… But won’t you have become part of the establishment? Won’t there be someone coming up on your heels?”
The future Modfather showed every bit his Don potentials with his answer as he rightfully answers, “Hopefully, yeah. There’s got to be something else to take your place, otherwise, things get stale, which is what’s happened in the past seven years.”
He went on: “In ten year’s time, or whatever, some eighteen-year-old kid is going to pick up a guitar and say, I don’t like The Jam. They’re the establishment. And do his own thing. That’s the evolution of music.”
You can watch the full show below as Tomorrow with Tom Snyder invites Joan Jett and Paul Weller to help him define ‘new wave’ in 1978. The two stars enter the show around the 24-minute mark.