Thursday, 11 June 2015

Their lies wash you down and their promises rust

Do you think all 15 year old boys are angry? I was, angry about almost everything. That bit is quite normal. I was angry with my parents, for being parents.  I was angry with teachers, in a typical middle class passive and silent way. I was angry with the boys that bunked off school, had fights in the playground (I know there is a contradiction, it doesn't matter, there is no logic in a 15-year old's life)and got the affections of the girls I secretly and silently fancied.

But I was also quite angry with Margaret Thatcher and the bunch of Tory filth that accompanied her efforts to dismember the welfare state and destroy our manufacturing base. Maybe I didn't articulate it quite like that then, but I didn't need to because I had Paul Wellar to do it for me.

I'd been quite into a lot of early punk, but the arrival of the Jam in the late 70s, at the time when my teenage rebellion was entering its most interesting psychological phase was a Godsend. Although of course I was angry with God too. If he'd existed, or I'd realised it was a bourgeois construct.

Was that usual? To be politically interested and engaged at that age? I don't see it in my son, and he's nearly the same age as I was then. Ooh, rebellion's not what it used to be.

So the next one in the top ten list is their finest hour. I'd even say it's Paul Wellar's greatest ever musical creation. The vituperative and scathing nature of the message are encased in a wonderful English understatement, and again, the guitar sound is just superb. The message is simple, but no less powerful for that, and more relevant now than ever. We could do with a few more angry middle class schoolboys these days.

I bought the single with my brother in Woolworths one Saturday morning, and it came with a free copy of another of their records, as was the custom in those days. I think my Dad was with us, and I hope he made some disparaging remark about their look, or some such. I definitely didn't want to like the same music as him. Or was it the other way around?

I never really rated them as a live act, so here is the studio version.  A great video too. And of course all the rebellion, the middle-class guilt, the angst, well, that took years of therapy to unravel. But I got there in the end so I'm sure you don't need me to do it for you.

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