Let’s Get Lyrical #3

The song lyrics that move me the most?

Well, first I ought to explain why.  It’s about growing up in a small, Scottish rural community.  Where fun was what you made it. 

Six mile walks on hot summer days to the shore and back with a posse of pals.  Trips down to the great auntie’s to help with the weekly bake.  The leap from a small rural primary school to the enormity of a sixteen hundred strong comprehensive. 

Winters spent in village pantomime rehearsals.  And if we were lucky enough to get snow, on the fell sliding on tea trays until we were blue with the cold.   Getting to stay up late to watch Scotland reject its opportunity at home rule.

Discovering boys.  And friends beyond the village boundaries.  Family shopping trips to Ayr.  The thrill of cheap fashion in What Every Woman Wants.

Death.  The shock demise of a friend’s father, of a class mate at a weekend disco, of beloved grandparents.  Births too.  A gymslip mum.  Discovering a lucrative (not necessarily pecuniary) role as trusted baby sitters and toddler walkers.  Marriages or more particularly, scrambles for ba’ money!

Bus journeys, many of them.  To school everyday.  Again on a Saturday into the same town, in different clothes, for a similar routine.  Heading to the Kiosk or a friend’s house.  Then hanging out in Woolworths where we could play all the singles before making a precious purchase.  Hours spent poring over record sleeves and music magazines on permanent circulation.

Torchlight tiggy in the graveyard.  Under 16 discos in the football club.  Bullies.  A trip to Paris and discovering the point of learning a language.  Getting in with a crowd that was neither nerdy nor cool but determined to be different.  To notice what was going on around us.  Taking pride in our rejection of Thatcherism.  And embracing of the reprised MOD culture.

Two tone.  Everything in black or white.  A short spiky hair cut, loafers, braces and the ubiquitous parka.  Burgundy to add a flash of colour.  Drooling over lambrettas, Carnaby street fashion, Pauline Black and UB40. 

And the ultimate adventure, me and a pal on the trip of a lifetime to London for the farewell gig of our favourite band.  Wide eyed innocents abroad indeed. 

Nary a brown or black face in our ken, but showing solidarity with rock against racism.  Yet, all too familiar with small town prejudices and the oppressive pall of poverty.  Accepting it as normal, not necessarily for us, for we grew up in homes where the Observer was read on Sundays, discourse was required, standing out and succeeding encouraged.  But knowing that many of our friends’ lives had dark corners and shadows we could only guess at, and explain only now.

Impatient with our humdrum existence, of feeling on the edge of the world, isolated from the epicentre, wherever it was.

Safe, almost smug in the tacit knowledge and awareness, that escape was possible.  That our paths might be different to those we shared our pieces with.  Education was the key.  A trip to watch a Glasgow university debating competition involving school alumni – now household names, two of them – opened our skittish minds to the glamour, the allure of getting away.

And finding a band – the favourite band – that articulated the everyday, that shared our frustrations with a sardonic swipe at small town living and how others romanticised it.  But a band that could also see the beauty, as we could, in the ordinariness of our lives and routines.  Often hinting at the possibility of better:  if we worked hard, the probability of life offering so much more.

We knew all the words, it was a favourite anthem.  Poetry set to music.  The video was breathtaking, first seen on Top of the Pops, recorded on Betamax and played until grainy.  

A band and a song that soundtracked those early years of adolescence.  This song more than any other.  Providing some of the greatest lines and phrases in a pop song ever.  And a sublime final verse:

“Two lovers kissing amongst the scream of midnight,  Two lovers missing the tranquility of solitude, Getting a cab and travelling on buses, Reading the graffiti about slashed seat affairs –

I say, that’s entertainment.  That’s entertainment.”

And it was.



11 thoughts on “Let’s Get Lyrical #3

  1. Inclined to agree, but it was always a close run thing between Setting Sons and All Mod Cons for me.

    Had the album In The City on vinyl but never really got into it, although the singles from around that era – In The City, Modern World, News of the World, All Around the World (clearly a preocuppation with the ‘world’ there!) were excellent.

    To be honest I didn’t even give the Start/Malice/Entertainment era albums a chance because I wasn’t keen on the singles, indeed I preferred the swansong Bitterest Pill and Beat Surrender singles.

    On CD now I’ve got All Mod Cons, Setting Sons and the Compact Snap compilation, and those three perhaps best sum up how I like to remember the Jam.

    Agree about the Style Council as well – Long Hot Summer, Money-go-Round and that sort of early stuff was great, as was Our Favourite Shop.

  2. Hi Burd

    Perhaps I’ve misinterpreted what you’re saying, but I think That’s Entertainment was actually an A side, the B side being a live version of Tube Station, which was of course an earlier (UK) single in its own right.

    The other Jam import to chart as a single was Just Who is the 5 o’ Clock Hero.

    Shopping was the B side of Beat Surrender.

    And in case you think that makes me an expert on The Jam, I’m not, I looked it up on Wikipedia, which is always excellent for such information ;0)

    However I’m inclined to agree with you about the merit of Tube Station, and indeed I’d went off the Jam a bit by the That’s Entertainment/Start sort of more acousticy era, ie after the Eton Rifles single/Setting Sons album period.

    In fact I think I much preferred the Style Council to the mid-term Jam stuff, which was of course presaged by some of the later Jam stuff like Beat Surrender and Bitterest Pill.

    Never really took to Paul Weller as a solo artist either.

    • Setting Sons, to my mind, was the Jam’s best album and I would agree. The Town Called Malice stuff at the end of their lifetime was too mainstream for me! And I dislike the fact that this is the album and singles trotted out now.

      Agree wholeheartedly with you about Paul Weller as a solo artist. The early Style Council stuff was great and then it all went a bit Pete Tong.
      And totally went off him when found out he dumped his wife for a younger model….

  3. Directed to this thru Paul Duffy’s twitter and loved it. Don’t know you, most prob never will, but you’ve made my day, lady.

  4. Nice one. That’s cheered me up.

    Was the B-side “Shopping”? I loved that.

    • You are very welcome – nice to cheer you up!

      No, That’s Entertainment was never actually released as a single in UK but was a B side to summat (I forget which – it will come back to me). And it was an import – the highest ever chart ranking for an import and the only other one to chart was another Jam song.

      There you go, mine of useless information me…. And the A side was Down in the Tube Station at Midnight which is possibly my absolute favourite Jam choon!

  5. I really enjoyed reading this, thanks!

    • Thanks for reading it! Sometimes not sure about sharing the “personal” but I’m sure most my age growing up in early 80s Scotland could identify with some of it.
      And it was a great excuse to post about a great song.

  6. Hi Doll,

    Just stumbled onto your site today. Lordy, what have I been missing. Take me sometime to get through your back catalogue, but I will have a try. Not often I say that when encountering a new (to me) blog.

    Looking forward to your future posts.


    • Why thank ye kindly. Plenty there to keep you occupied! Some good music too, though I say so myself. Let me know what you think – all comments received warmly, including critical ones. This is a debating space more than anything else!

Comments are closed.