Tuesday 21 November 2017

Bruce almighty -- it's the Jam's fantastic Mr Foxton

That's entertainment . . . Bruce Foxton, Rick Buckler and Paul Weller of The Jam pictured in 1977
That's entertainment . . . Bruce Foxton, Rick Buckler and Paul Weller of The Jam pictured in 1977

Fred Perry T-shirts, drainpipe trousers, skinny ties and shiny shoes: this can only mean one thing -- yes, next month the mod-fest is coming to town.

Expect to see a line of Vespas parked outside The Village as many of the most revered mod bands of the last 30 years descend on Dublin on Friday week for a two-day festival.

Secret Affair, Purple Hearts, The Lambrettas and last but not least From The Jam -- a tribute band to the legendary late '70s/early '80s power trio, led by original bassist Bruce Foxton -- will all be tearing it up like it's 1981 again.

Once the typical Dublin mod had to contend with fighting pitched battles on the streets with bequiffed rockers a la Quadrophenia's set-to on Brighton Beach. Nowadays you're likely to find such a sharp-dressed man sharing a dancefloor with his hitherto tribal enemy at the Recession Club, the monthly Subcultures 'R' Us night held in the Mercantile Bar on Dublin's Dame Street.

And with the modfather Paul Weller selling out five nights at the Olympia last year and the likes of current Jam-influenced bands such as Arctic Monkeys still causing a splash, it seems we're just as in love with the mod-ern world as ever.

"Some people say it was tribal, but I just viewed it as a big social gathering -- people who were into similar music and liked that style of clothes," says Bruce Foxton of the mod scene.

When Foxton formed From The Jam back in 2007 -- after a 15-year stint playing bass with Northern Ireland punk survivors Stiff Little Fingers -- he persuaded original Jam drummer Rick Buckler to take the trip down memory lane with him (although Rick has subsequently left). How does Bruce feel about playing those old classic songs again after all those years?

"Initially I just thought 'if it lasts six months. . . I'll have had a good time'," he says. "It is strange playing the old Jam songs 30 years down the line but because there's been such a long gap in between, I had to re-learn some of the songs. They're fresh again. We're playing them with as much passion now as we did all those years ago."

When one thinks of how many great songs are in the Jam's back catalogue, the prospect of hearing them all live is mouthwatering: 'Down In The Tube Station At Midnight', 'That's Entertainment', 'Going Underground', 'Town Called Malice', 'Beat Surrender', 'Start', 'Eton Rifles'.

"We're going to put in some new numbers as well so it's not all just nostalgia," says Foxton, from his home in Surrey, England. "We're halfway through recording a new album, which Paul [Weller] is gonna be playing on. Obviously we'll play the hits but the new ones have been going down really well over here in the UK."

The news that Foxton is back working with Weller again will come as music to the ears of fans who have always hoped that there would be Jam tomorrow.

Foxton and Weller famously fell out when the band split up and have only recently mended fences after decades of estrangement -- Foxton playing on a few songs on Weller's last album Wake Up The Nation.

"I didn't totally agree with disbanding in 1982, but I could see the reasons why. Paul wanted to go off in a different direction with the Style Council," says Foxton.

Alas, the rapprochement between Foxton and Weller came about under the saddest of circumstances. "My wife Pat had been fighting a battle with cancer since 1987," says Foxton.

"She managed to beat bowel cancer. We had 15 really clear years with no problems, and then unfortunately it came back as breast cancer and she struggled for three or four years but it got the better of her, poor thing.

"During that time, Paul heard about her illness. My wife and I were out in Israel -- Pat was getting an alternative treatment out there that you couldn't get in the UK. We had a lot of faith in it. It kept her going for a bit longer, and I wish she was still here.

"But during that time, I happened to meet a mutual friend who was out in Tel Aviv in the bar at the hotel one evening. Simon Halfon had worked with Paul on a lot of stuff. He's married to a Jewish girl.

"He asked me what I was doing out there. I said, 'Give my regards to Paul when you're speaking to him next,' which he obviously did pretty quickly because Paul called us up on New Year's Eve when my wife had just been allowed out of hospital.

"It was fantastic that he'd cared for Pat and taken the time out to give her a bell and wish her lots of health and all the best for the treatment.

"Then he asked me if I'd be up for playing on a track on his new album, Wake Up The Nation, and I said, 'Wow, that'd be fantastic,' and it snowballed and I played on another track and then we played the Royal Albert Hall together."

It was the first time they had played live together in 28 years since the Jam days. "It was quite nerve-wracking, for both sides. Paul mentioned in an interview that we were both a bit nervous. But once we got over that, it was like the old days and quite a lot of fun. Paul was really happy with it and I loved it. It was great to be together."

How involved is Paul going to be on your new album about the new album from From The Jam?

"We've got a bunch of songs together which we're going to send him the demos of. He's got a free hand -- whether he wants to sing, play guitar, play keyboards, play spoons even! -- it'll be good to have him on board.

"But us making up and being pals again is first and foremost -- that means more to me than music."

From The Jam play The Village, Dublin, on Saturday, April 2 as part of the Indesit-sponsored Mod festival nkelly@independent.ie

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