Certain Songs #712: The Jam – “The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had to Swallow)”

the-jam-bitterest-pill Album: Snap!
Year: 1982

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.

With Bruce Foxton practically non-existent — even the harmony vocals were sung by a female vocalist — and Rick Buckler limited to short drum bursts, “The Bitterest Pill” is really Paul Weller in full-blown Style Council mode: a string laden torch song about watching someone you love get married to someone else.

And maybe because of all of those things, it took me a long time to realize what a great song it really is, especially when Weller ratchets up into a quick falsetto just prior to the chorus, which is as pretty of a melody as he’s ever written.

For the bitterest pill is hard to swallow
The love I gave hangs in sad coloured
Mocking shadows
The bitterest pill is mine to take
If I took it for a hundred years
I couldn’t feel any more ill
The bitterest pill is mine to take
If I took it for a hundred years
I couldn’t feel any more ill

Anchored by a chiming guitar and bracketed by soaring strings — or you know, a synth in “soaring string” mode — “The Bitterest Pill” would have felt like a departure, except for the fact that The Jam had done so many different things by then, it seemed like just another path that they could have continued to explore had they, you know, stayed together.

“The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow)”

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2 Responses to “Certain Songs #712: The Jam – “The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had to Swallow)””

  1. Robyn says:

    Hi Jim,
    I’m trying to find your playlist on Spotify, but it’s not coming up when I search “certain songs”. Has the name changed?
    Thanks!
    Robyn

  2. Jim Connelly says:

    Hi Robyn,

    Sorry, I just saw this. So far as I know, my Certain Songs playlist is public and searchable.

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