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Music

Watch The Jam's electric performance of 'Going Underground' in 1980

For a period of time during the late 1970s and early ’80s, there were very few bands on the planet as important as The Jam. Fronted by Paul Weller and backed by Bruce Foxton on bass guitar and Rick Buckler on drums, The Jam not only heralded a totally new sound but sat at the forefront of a major societal and cultural shift.

Riding the waves of punk but with New Wave sensibilities, Weller and the clash would spearhead the mod revival subculture, pulling in crucial cultural elements of those that came before them, adding everything into a melting pot of chaotic energy. Out of that brew came a colourful new fashion, Vespas, ‘That’s Entertainment’, ‘The Eton Rifles’, ‘A Town Called Malice’ and many other era-defining moments.

However, much like The Beatles, a band Weller so dearly adored, the singer-songwriter called it an end at the height of their fame. With six studio albums and five live albums to their name, The Jam would announce their split in 1982. In a decision that rocked the music industry, Weller’s principles came first. He despised the idea of continuing a band for as long as possible just for the sheer sake of it. “I wanted to end it to see what else I was capable of, and I’m still sure we stopped at the right time,” he said on reflection. “I’m proud of what we did but I didn’t want to dilute it, or for us to get embarrassing by trying to go on forever. We finished at our peak. I think we had achieved all we wanted or needed to, both commercially and artistically.”

For a solid five years, The Jam were on the top of the world, releasing music that would forever etch their name into the annals of history. With that, the band rolled through a series of simply remarkable live shows, events that were shrouded in the danger and excitement of a new cultural dawning. It is here we step back and revisit one of their most iconic moments.

The footage, taken from Newcastle City Hall in October 1980, shows just how mesmerising, electric, and ferocious The Jam were in their prime. The band showed off their powerful and idiosyncratic songwriting, complimented so easily with their charged performance.

‘Going Underground’, arguably one of the band’s most loved tracks, which was originally released in 1980 and shot to the top of the charts, propelled The Who to new levels of fame. In what was the first of three chart-topping hits for the group, ‘Going Underground’ signified core elements of who The Jam and Weller were, tackling important social issues with an uncompromising attitude. Discussing themes of social and political corruption, Thatcherism and more, The Jam were shouting their message from the rooftops for anybody who would listen.

From the video below, however, it’s very easy to see not only The Jam’s ability to turn a venue into a recreation of a Beatles gig with fans simply losing their shit—but also the career trajectory of Weller rolling out in front of him. “Everyone gets frustrated and aggressive, and I’d sooner take my aggression out on a guitar than on a person,” the lead singer once said — and that is exactly how he earned his trade.

Weller commands the stage with simple and effective movement, his vocals are succinct and authentic, and his guitar playing is like the underground itself, pulsating, electrified and ultimately very dangerous.

Take a look at the brilliant performance below.