Certain Songs #709: The Jam – “Running on the Spot”

the-jam-the-gift Album: The Gift
Year: 1982

In early June of 1982, Tim & I drove up to San Francisco to see The Jam on their Trans-Global Express tour.

It was, of course, awesome, with the fire and skill of Paul Weller, Bruce Foxton & Rick Buckler making it all the way to the very back row of The Warfield, which was good, because that’s where we were sitting!

At the time, of course, we didn’t know it was going to be their last tour. We just knew that we needed to see them. And that wasn’t the only unknown surrounding the show: we also didn’t know that the opening band — a local group then called The Renegades — was going to end up being Wire Train.

And we certainly didn’t know that quite a few of our future friends had also made the pilgrimage.

Fast-forward a few years to when Tim moved in with Kirk and I, replacing Rob, and the joke was that you had to have seen The Jam in order to live in the condo we were renting from Demi’s mom that sat at the very end of the Ikeway.

OK. “Running on the Spot,” which kicked off side two of The Gift with a pure jolt of energy, is full of Rick Buckler doubling down on his snare throughout, while Weller provides a descending guitar riff that continuously circles back upon itself as he sings about a relationship going south.

I was hoping we’d make real progress
But it seems we have lost the power
Any tiny step of advancement
Is like a raindrop falling into the ocean

We’re running on the spot always have, always will?
We’re just the next generation of the emotionally crippled

But you’d totally be excused if you never even notice, as the performance is utterly bouyant and almost joyful, and to this day it’s almost impossible for me to not wanna sing along with Weller & Foxton’s call-and-response chorus.

Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba
(Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba)
Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba
(Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba)
Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-BA-ba-ba-ba-ba

The first time they launch into it, Buckler slides into a long snare roll that perfectly underscores the vocals and then powers back into the double-time just in time for the next verse. It’s one of the millions of reasons that when I started playing drums, I used what Buckler did with The Jam as one of the foremost examples of what to do.

At the end, “Running on the Spot” becomes a kaleidoscope of of the “ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-bas” as they start echoing around each other in an infinite loop that then fades out with the song.

Oh, and when Tim moved out to go get married in the U.K., we replaced him with somebody who hadn’t see The Jam. I only lasted a few months after that.

“Running on the Spot” performed live in 1982

“Running on the Spot”

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