Talking about going out on a high note. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, The Gift is my favorite album by The Jam, a near-perfect combination of their punk-rock roots and the more soul-oriented music that Paul Weller ended up exploring with The Style Council.
By opening and closing each side with the more driving numbers, they filled in each side with funk workouts like “Precious,” proto-Britpop songs like “Carnation,” and the low-key gorgeous soul number, “Ghosts.”
“Ghosts” starts off with just Weller’s guitar chiming quietly over Rick Buckler’s insistent rim click and just after they invoke The Handclap Rule — handclaps make good songs great and great songs immortal — for the first time, Weller murmurs:
Why are you frightened, can’t you see that it’s you
That ain’t no ghost, it’s a reflection of you
Why do you turn away and keep it out of sight?
And then without any warning, Weller switches to the very highest part of his vocal register because he wants you to make sure you’re paying attention.
Oh – don’t live up to your given roles
There’s more inside you that you won’t show
At some point, the horn section shows up, echoing and supporting Weller’s guitar, while the handclaps pop in and out of Buckler’s rim click, and with Bruce Foxton providing some lovely “oooooooohs,” Weller continues:
So keep on moving, moving, moving your feet
Keep on shuf-shuf-shuffling to this ghost dance beat
Just keep on walking down never ending streets
One day you’ll walk right out of this life
And then you’ll wonder why you didn’t try
To spread some loving all around
Old fashioned causes like that still stand
Gotta rid this prejudice that ties you down
How do you feel at the end of the day
Just like you’ve walked over your own grave
“Ghosts” was never a single or anything — too short, too focused, and too low-key — but to me at 19, it just felt so beautiful and so profound that I was almost glad that it wasn’t a single Because that way, I didn’t have to share it with anyone.
So why are you frightened
Can’t you see that it’s you
At the moment there’s nothing
So there’s nothing to lose
Lift up your lonely heart and walk right on through
And after that, because there’s really nothing more to say, the horns lay out one last time, and “Ghosts” ends
“Ghosts” performed live in 1981
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