James never really lived up to the promise of The Village Fire EP, and while I know that some people loved their first album proper, Stutter, I remember being disappointed with it, and the follow ups as well.
So I kinda wrote them off. Which meant that I was taken by surprise by their biggest song — at least here in the States — the title track of 1993’s Laid.
Album: The Village Fire EP
Imaginary dialog from the summer of 1985
COOL KID: Hey, didja hear about James?
COOL KID: No, dummy, the band James. From England.
ME: Oh, yeah, I think I read something about them in CMJ.
COOL KID: Morrissey likes them!!
ME: Wait. Morrissey Morrissey? But he hates everything!
COOL KID: Right! So they must be awesome.
ME: Yeah. But how much like The Smiths do they sound like?
The first Jam single — “In The City,” in case you can’t remember — was a guitar-fueled rock n roll tale of a young man who couldn’t wait to tell you all the things he was discovering in the city.
Fast-forward a few years later, and the final Jam single — released as a salve to stunned fans who were still processing their recent break-up — is a horn-filled dance song about a slightly-less-young who has loosened up enough that he just wants you to get up on your feet already.
According to my records, I bought “The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow),” on October 7, 1982.
Three weeks later, October 30 to be exact, 90.7 KFSR — a hotbed of Jam fans — went on the air.
In between those two events, The Jam broke up, making the title of that single somewhat apropos.
Album: The Gift
The final track on the final Jam album, “The Gift” was nothing more than a up dance number in the tradition of Martha & The Vandellas “Heat Wave.”
But it was also nothing less, either, and the one-two closing punch of “Town Called Malice,” and “The Gift” has always been a huge reason The Gift ended being my favorite Jam LP.