The public still wants what the public gets

Bruce Foxton
Bruce Foxton

Lancashire Scooter Alliance stages its biggest event of the year, as scooter clubs from across the north, including Preston Wildcats and Bamber Bridge SC, head to Pontins, near Southport, for an event which features former Specials man Neville Staple and The Jam’s Bruce Foxton playing live. Alan Burrows spoke to Foxton about current band From The Jam

I’ve always been a ‘jam today’ kind of man; having been left in the lurch waiting to interview Bruce Foxton this week, one office wag said it’d have to be: “Jam tomorrow.”

His flustered PR frantically wondered why he’d not picked up his phone for the pre-arranged time ahead of From The Jam’s date at the Lancashire Scooter Alliance’s Scooter Weekender.

“At Bruce’s house, there are a lot of builders and apparently they kept disconnecting the phone line, I know this as I managed to get hold of (singer) Russell Hastings – he did say Bruce should be on his mobile, however I keep ringing, and it doesn’t ring at all,” she emailed.

Then again, as a Jam fan stretching back to my thin school tie (well, the school tie worn the wrong way round with the fishtale bit inside my shirt) I’m happy to wait for man who helped offer the driving beat for one of the best bands of all time.

It was my second autumn at high school, November 1979, when The Jam released their classic album Setting Sons and the single The Eton Rifles – their first top 10 hit single.

I’ve said before, Weller – who isn’t part of the tribute-band-including-a-key-member-of-the-original-band line up – feels he answered critics of his tepid post-Jam era output with his Has My Fire Really Gone Out?

Were he to come up to me in Pontins, in Ainsdale, near Southport, next weekend, I’d point him in the direction of the LP Setting Sons as his evidence of his former standard.

The masterpiece, with the conceptual songs such as Little Boy Soldiers and Foxton’s own composition Smithers-Jones, will be belted out in the holiday camp to celebrate the album’s 35th anniversary when original The Jam bass player Foxton joins guitarist/vocalist Russell Hastings and drummer Steve (Smiley) Barnard perform the seminal album in its entirety.

“We can’t wait to be performing live the whole of Setting Sons. It seems that even the obscure album tracks like Little Boy Soldiers and Thick As Thieves are as popular when we play them live as the hit singles,” says Hastings.

Foxton adds: “The whole idea of playing an album in full has really taken off for us and has brought back so many great memories. They were great times for the band then and I love the idea of bringing that excitement and thrill back on stage.”

The Scooter Weekend attracts up to four generations of the same families, drawn by live ska, punk and mod cover bands, two Northern Soul all-nighters (the second is hard work for us over-40s with cartilage-free knees and therefore no natural shock absorbers in the joints for any spins to Al Wilson’s The Snake), the ever-lively ex-Special Neville Staple and a great atmosphere, especially in World Cup year when England play Italy on the second night.

Setting Sons was released in 1979, with Record Mirror calling it “the last great album of the Seventies”.

The album spawned the top 10 hit single The Eton Rifles and was the band’s first album to enter the US charts.

From The Jam has gained a reputation for the kind of incendiary performances which sealed the reputation of The Jam all those years ago.

Earlier this year, they toured with a That’s Entertainment acoustic set but, next week, at the 10th Lancashire Scooter Alliance Weekender at Pontins, in Ainsdale, they’ll back to full tilt.

Not that Bruce sounded like he was up to it this week, all croaky and admitting he’d been on the lemon and honey as he was surrounded by the mayhem of having a kitchen fitted and a garage built, all while he was in his ‘office’ writing new songs.

The 58-year-old says: “It’s just mayhem at the moment.

“Russ came up with a couple of riffs and we’re working on them for the album next year. Like the first album (Back in the Room) we just want a collection of good melodic songs.

“It’s to raise the awareness that Bruce Foxton is out there and still relevant. I obviously enjoy playing The Jam songs live but it’s nice to be able to play some of the new material as well.”

As for the weekender, Bruce will be staying offsite but within 20 minutes, so he’s able to do the sound check, ever the professional on tour, a skill honed with years on the road with both The Jam and Stiff Little Fingers.

He says: “We’ve done quite a few of these weekenders over the years and there’s always a good vibe there.

“It was a big part of the mod movement, these social occasions where people can meet up, have a chat and enjoy the music.” But you won’t find Bruce spinning on talcum powder around 3am to the sounds of Gloria Jones.

He says: “We will be relaxing; we have got a great set to do.”

And as for the alternative to middle aged people dancing and singing along to 30-year-old songs?

Bruce said: “Britain’s Got Talent doesn’t do it for me. Nor X Factor or The Voice.

“I think they should bring back Top of the Pops and the Tube, I could handle that.

“The music industry needs a kick up the backside like it got in 76/77.”

I’ll drink to that Bruce.

Friday, June 13: The Public Gets What The Public Wants, Pontins Scooter Weekend, Southport

Friday/Saturday, October 10/11: Setting Sons Anniversary, Tour 53 Degrees Preston

Saturday, November 29: Setting Sons, The Grand Clitheroe