Paul Weller was only 24 years old when he split The Jam in 1982. It was his decision, and one that only made sense to the angry young man from Woking. At that moment, The Jam were the biggest band in Britain and the news stunned a legion of young mods, and left his bandmates, bassist Bruce Foxton and drummer Rick Buckler, completely shellshocked.
As new documentary About The Young Idea – the title a lyric lifted from The Jam’s ’77 debut single In The City – makes clear, Weller wasn’t about to let the band fade away to parody when the hits dried up. He stomached one last tour, shut up shop and moved on to the perpetually under-appreciated Style Council. After that, getting Paul Weller to talk about The Jam was like prising an agoraphobic winkle from its shell.
Now he’s ready to talk and it’s the eyewitness accounts from Weller, Foxton and Buckler that provide the best moments in the doc; likewise, an enjoyable encounter between Weller and early Jam member Steve Brookes picking out old rock’n’roll numbers on acoustic guitars and acknowledging the influence of Dr Feelgood. Weller and Foxton reconciled in 2010, with the bassist contributing some magic to tracks on his old sparring partner’s Wake Up The Nation. Despite that, the pair are interviewed in isolation here. Buckler, receiving no such olive branch from The Modfather, also gives a solo account of the band’s history.
The exhilarating clips of The Jam in action are tempered with a bunch of talking-head interviews. While the band’s producer Vic Coppersmith-Heaven, long-time Weller cohort Steve Cradock and part-time Hobbit Martin Freeman give a decent account of themselves – although the latter misses the point of mod with a name-check for Crosby, Stills & Nash – the various fan vignettes are just tedious fluff; who cares if Paul Weller might have helped one fan believe in herself as she looks back on a successful career in marketing?
Then there’s the awkward exchange between Weller and a young face what runs a mod blog. We get it… The Jam aren’t just for baldie old van drivers in triple-XL Ben Sherman shirts. For the uninitiated and casual fan, the film is an acceptable skim across the surface of an exceptional group.
For the rest of us, a bit less fan waffle and some deeper testimony from the three main protagonists would have made all the difference.