Life From A (Airplane) Window

“Up Here I Can See The World.”

(‘Life From A Window,’ The Jam, This Is The Modern World, 1977)

Up here I can read British newspapers and magazines while watching American movies and TV.
Up here I can eat Indian curry and Walkers crisps while drinking diet Coke and still water.
Up here I can listen to The Jam’s second album This Is The Modern World on my iPod – the only Jam album on my iPod – while reading John Harris’s piece in today’s Guardian about The Jam as a way of life, and Uncut magazine’s cover story on Paul Weller.
Up here I can take issue with Weller’s insistence that “the second (Jam) album was awful.”
Up here I can listen to ‘Life From A Window’ and still believe, like I did when I was 13, that those words say everything about everything, perfectly.
Up here I can hear ‘Standards’ and know that Weller could rewrite the ‘I Can’t Explain’ riff as well as Mick Jones – if maybe not as often.
Up here I can sing along to ‘The Combine’ and wonder why the rest of the world only know its bastard step-song, ‘In The Crowd.’
Up here I can even, for two brief songs, have faith in Bruce Foxton’s songwriting.
Up here I can remember how it felt to be 13 and believe that “One day I would be on top, and I’d look down upon the map, the teachers who said I’d be nothing,” even though all my teachers (bar one) thought I’d be someone.
Up here I can listen to ‘I Need You,’ still think it’s one of the greatest love songs ever written, still find myself welling up at its sheer naked rawness, wonder why everyone and their followers only talk about its bastard stepsong ‘English Rose’ and remember how much better was my wedding day for having the wedding band Rogues March rehearse and perform it at the reception.
Up here I can listen to ‘In The Street, Today’ and wonder what makes poets like Dave Waller get hooked on and overdose from heroin.
Up here I can sing along to ‘London Girl’ and instantly recall the drawings on the inner sleeve, and how glamorous they made shitty old 1977 London look.
Up here I can still remember Charles Shaar Murray’s scathing review of this album, in the NME I believe, quoting his wife asking him why The Jam couldn’t do Beach Boys harmonies properly, and wish that we could have left the boring old fart in a garageland with the exhaust running.
Up here I can remember how ‘Here Comes The Weekend’ was long a live anthem for all those Jam fans who will otherwise parrot how bad This Is The Modern World must have been because Weller tells them so.
Up here I can laugh at all the bad lyrics (“If we tell you that you’ve got two days to live, then don’t complain ‘cos that’s one more than you get in Zaire”) and wonder if John Lennon would have been any more erudite at 19.
Up here I can remember how it felt to hear those lines, “Tonight I get ready early, score what I need and go pick a girl up,” back before I hit puberty, and to hope that one day I’d be living them for real.
Up here I can truly believe that ‘Tonight At Noon’ is the great forgotten Jam ballad.
Up here I can admire its clever lyrical reference to ‘In The Midnight Hour,’ the name of the following, final song.
Up here I can wonder how anyone could write such chord changes in their teens.
Up here I can remember how I would turn my record player to full volume for that cover of ‘In The Midnight Hour,’ all 110 second of it, and wonder whether the original could possibly be any better.
Up here I can still say I don’t know that it was.

This Is the Modern WorldOK, so the sleeve was crap, but This Is The Modern World deserves re-evaluation.

Up here I can quote Paul Weller saying, to Simon Goddard in Uncut,

“Well, I haven’t heard it (This Is The Modern World) for 25 years, but I remember it as being pretty fucking awful”

And up here Weller can’t hear me scream…
You don’t know what you’re talking about: you only wrote and sung the bloody thing! But I bought it with every last penny of the spending money I received from my aunties and uncles at Christmas 1977. So it’s not yours to disown: it’s mine to love for ever. Go back and listen to it because, sorry Paul, it wasn’t fucking awful; it was, is and always will be fucking brilliant.

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5 Comment(s)

  1. Si

    4 February, 2006 at 7:48 am

    Wonderful,wistful and evocative piece there TF-you nailed it!
    Only very,very occasionally do I get the same buzz from old Who records.
    It’s worth the wait when it happens,though.
    Powerful stuff,this music.

  2. The Lovegod

    4 February, 2006 at 4:40 pm

    Now that’s why I visit this website!

    The most impassioned bit of writing you’ve posted in ages Tony….brilliant!

    Love the “wish that we could have left the boring old fart in a garageland with the exhaust running” line!

  3. doldrums

    5 February, 2006 at 11:41 am

    Love that album, as well. However Paul continued with dodgy lyrics in “Down in the Tube station at Midnite” such as “the wine will be flat…” How can unopened wine go flat?

  4. Pads Casino

    6 February, 2006 at 4:27 pm

    You know Mr Munday and/or PolygramUni conundrum will come looking for that essay when This Is The Modern World is ready for its 2-CD deluxe edition.

  5. 14 February, 2006 at 11:39 am

    Thanks everyone for the enthused responses. Something funny happens when I fly long distance, especially when I’m tired – I get really inspired to start writing. I was particularly pleased that I could post that write-up before I even got home!

    Doldrums: Yeah, we all have fun with Weller’s lyrics. We posted a few choice ones in the Pub a while back. It had never occurred to me about the flat wine in ‘Tube Station’ – when I was 14 I hadn’t drunk anything but Pommagne and that would certainly go flat if you left it alone… In fairness to Paul, who was probably no oenophile either, did he not say “she’ll be polishing the glasses and pulling out the cork.”

    I remember when I received All Mod Cons, playing it for my mother and her best friend and they sniggered at how Paul rhymed “Pubs” with “Wormwood Scrubs” – but what the hell… Modern World remains a great album, despite what Weller thinks!


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