There was more to The Jam than Paul Weller. Barbara Hodgson talks to drummer Rick Buckler.
“WHERE have you just played?” I ask drummer Rick Buckler when From The Jam’s tour bus pulls over so he can do a phone interview.
“We’ve just come from... I don’t know where we’ve just come from!” he laughs, then adds: “But I remember that it went really well.”
A voice in the background reminds him it was Liverpool. And he certainly knows he’s now heading to Scotland ahead of a gig at Newcastle Carling Academy on Friday.
It’ll mark 25 years since the band last performed in the city. Famously The Jam’s original line-up – Buckler, Weller and bassist Bruce Foxton – played their last ever concert on the opening night of The Tube. Rick remembers it well.
“We all travelled up there by train and were on the first show – we didn’t know what we were going to.
“At the time there was a lack of a good music shows and you didn’t often get an opportunity to do something like that – they let us do something like seven numbers.
“And this was good hour-long mainstream TV. It just seemed a really good thing to do from our point of view.”
The Jam were the band that captured that time. Inspired by the mod era of the 60s and contemporary 70s punk, they had 18 hits – such as Eton Rifles, Town Called Malice and Going Underground – in five years before Weller decided to disband them in 1982 to form his own Style Council. He’s since gone on to big things, of course, but what have Buckler and Foxton been up to in the intervening years?
“Bruce always stayed in touch,” says Rick. “I did some band management and in the 90s I did cabinet making.
“I was really interested and was sort of apprentice to a professional cabinet maker. It was great – I loved it.”
But then the music world beckoned again.
“Yes, I got my old job back,” he says.
He and Foxton, both now 52, made the decision earlier in the year to reform the band, as From The Jam, and had no hesitation in going on the road again – especially when their initial reception was so enthusiastic.
An initial 20-date UK tour proved a sell-out in May – proving their fans had only been waiting in the wings – and they needed no more encouragement to get back out there with The Jam’s original hits.
“We’re having so much fun doing it that nerves don’t come into it.” he says. “We knew it would do well but we were a bit taken aback at how well. Jam fans have waited for something like this.”
But he expects to reach a new generation too.
Weller could not be tempted to join them and has made it clear there will be no more Jam for him.
Instead, they have acquired two new members – new frontman Russell Hastings and keyboard player Dave Moore – but are they keeping the door open for the main man? It seems not. “The door’s open but I can’t see it being permanently open to his own beck and call,” says Buckler.
“He’s made it very clear in interviews that he’s not really interested in getting involved in what we’re doing.
“He’s got his own career and it’s going quite well for him. It’s his decision. We didn’t do this and exclude him. He opted not to be included and Jam fans are not really that bothered. We’ve got Russell doing his part and fans are very happy with that.”
So this week’s concert is likely to be as close to the real thing as North-East Jam fans are going to get. Keyboards and a second guitarist are a new direction for the band but the sounds are all the old favourites – for now.
Next year they’ll be touring in the States and they haven’t ruled out new material at some point in the future. For now we can expect all the old favourites – and fans make it clear at the concerts what they want to hear, laughs Buckler.
“Going Underground, (Down in the) Tube Station (at Midnight), (Town Called) Malice...” he lists.
Buckler himself has returned to the region since The Jam’s famous gig. He played the Carling Academy just last year in his own band, The Gift. “We’re looking forward to Newcastle,” says Buckler. “I like the North-East. It’s changed a lot, with Gateshead Millennium Bridge and the new opera house.”
From The Jam play Newcastle Carling Academy at 7pm on Friday. For tickets, tel: 0844 477-2000.