From Billy Elliott to Suedehead, in 6 minutes in the car, on a glorious Marrickville morning

There is much conjecture and disagreement about the trajectory of Paul Weller and friends, the evolution of The Jam from punkish to mod to pop to pastiche, ending in the Style Council, of which I was never a fan (you can tell a Weller woman by the way she wears her hair etc.)


It came to me as I drove home this morning from school. On the way there, Town Called Malice propelled us forward in a finger clicking head nodding door thumping Billy Elliott shuffle of defiance and daring.


Then, the girls got out and I dialled up Bitterest Pill, that cascade of shimmery chords never failing to grab my heart, water my eyes.


And, for the first time ever, I heard Johnny Marr in that guitar. I heard Morrissey on one of his downly up days, the clever lyrics, the sheer romance of life, the glory of love and the tragedy of loss.


Then it occurred to me… the late Jam were the stepping off point for The Smiths! The glorious bittersweet melodies, the urban lyrics of lost love and downtrodden hope, the bathos hiding the pathos, Captain Morrissey like Steve Zizou in his bathysphere built for one.


It was as it should be – pop! Connecting a million gossamer threads in my mind that were just waiting for the schematic code to be unveiled.


So, that’s it, 3 minutes that formed a thesis that will sustain me for life.


Resonance. Resolution. Rest.


I will now listen to the Smiths with new intensity, searching for signs of the Jam. Not as a newcomer, as Nick Cave is currently doing – imagine being introduced to the Smiths in your late 50s. That is the great inter-generational gift, with the water running uphill.


And I will listen to the late Jam, looking for further proof. Those non-single songs on The Gift, one of the great HSC albums, your time has come again.


But it’s not science, of rocket type or any other, that I will apply. I am convinced, so will apply the age-old method of confirmation bias.


Confirmation by us, as I am prone to pun, proving that, like Cazaly, there is a tiny little bit of Morrissey in us all…


And the great, great, truly great thing, is that, in googling this, I realised that shazam happened pretty much at midnight on Morrissey’s truly, actual birthday. If you think there is no beauty and wonder in the world, you have been working too hard or watching Richmond too many times.


(Sadly, I have since learned there was a different explosion in Manchester around the same time, and that is a terrible, terrible thing and no subject for humour or conjecture. Thoughts go out to our northern cousins, be strong and bond together.)


About Peter Warrington

Richmond fan; Kim Hughes tragic; geographer; kids' book author; Evertonian; Manikato; Harold Park trots 1980; father of two; cat lover, dancer with dogs; wannabe PJ HArvey backing vocalist; delusional...


  1. I kept shifting the needle (explain that to your kids) from That’s Entertainment to Town Called Malice for endless repeat drunken sing-alongs in the 70’s. The Jam were great and I liked early Style Council too. Must have been my Ever Changing Moods. Things did trail off for PW after that – but who am I to talk?
    Jimmy Webb is in town soon. Did you get an invite? You could take him to a Tigers game. By the Time I Get to Punt Road I’ll be crying; she’ll find the note I left nailed to the fridge and leave me a carton; I’ll leave those Tigers like I left them – so many times before…………………………………..

  2. Peter Warrington says

    PB, i hadn’t been aware of James’ arrival, the Tiges and the film festival and vivid and my family – who? – have made me pretty busy over here. I’m not on facebook as I am not on Richmond, any more, so he may be contacting me – hopefully he logs back onto the footy almanac and says “hi”. And/or applies for the Richmond job. I will try and get along – he’s at the City Recital Hall on the 29th, which is post films, which is real good!

    Yes I am very happy my kids are into the Jam, primarily due to Billy Elliott. What an awesome band they were. I must introduce them to the Smiths -they know This Charming Man, but only because I used to do the Morrissey flower dance thingy when they were little.

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    That’s Entertainment

  4. The Jam reminds me of secondary school.
    “Down in the tube station at midnight” – what a song.
    Weller is one of the artists whose good was very very good, but his worst was blah.

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