Reformation, from the Jam

A few weeks back we had Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler, formerly of the Jam, on Australian shores with their quasi-reformation concept, From the Jam. (I didn’t see them). Basically it’s bassist Bruce and drummer Rick with a couple of other guys playing songs of the Jam, not heard live in this context since 1982. The songwriter / lead singer / guitarist of the Jam was of course, nowhere to be seen.

I suppose on one level, if Bruce & Rick and the rest of the band are getting off on playing those songs, and with that, there are sizeable enthusiastic audiences lapping it up, well then, fair enough to them. Paul Weller’s take on the whole thing is a strictly no-go zone, stating unequivocally that the whole idea of bands reforming is “naff” and that it’s good to keep things where they’ve been and to keep memories sweet.

Weller said in the same interview, “Why is everyone reforming? I’m not aiming that in anyone in particular…”, well, it appears Weller was referring to the swathe of major acts who’ve recently reformed for tours and the like, no doubt in his mind he had the Police and perhaps Crowded House in his mind.

I agree with Weller. I think it is naff when bands reform. Why the hell did Cold Chisel reform back in 1997?? Chisel were of the era and time, 70’s to early 80’s; I saw them at the Horden in 2003 and obviously they were tight and had the vibe of guys who’d been close together, and yes they played as such…yet that burning spirit of riding the wave of their time, the electricity, the zeitgeist, was utterly absent, in it’s place was a kind of jovial nostalgia. So it sort of takes away from the legend somewhat, it kind of dilutes the band’s power & spirit that continues to carry through after their original demise, and therefore, dilutes their integrity and message somewhat to a subtle yet significant degree.

As for Crowded House, I mean, you can’t have Crowded House without Paul Hester! Again, Crowded House provided highly crafted pop-rock for the era they thrived in – it’s just not the same a decade plus later.

In a Chisel biography Don Walker make mention of telling his family the difference in “lifestyle” if Chisel were to reform, …oh then, so all those countless early Chisel songs about blind metho addicts, drinkin’ in Port Lincoln and being “on the road” don’t mean nothin’ now…

And perhaps Neil Finn has assuaged his Catholic guilt by making up to bassist Nick Seymour who he treated appallingly when the House called it a day in ’96. I mean, if you read the Crowdie bio you read that Neil had the unbelievable audacity to tell Nick, in front of the rest of the band and management, that he thought he was an “ok bass player” and that’s all he had going for him, and that he had a “heightened sense of his own talents”.

Perhaps for Finn, like Sting, cutting it solo doesn’t quite do it as well for him; perhaps these guys enjoy the chemistry of playing those songs with that group of guys that did very well popularity and money-wise, and continue to do so when the reformation bells start ringing through the music press and general populace.

The Church, a band I love, have never really split – although they appeared to be hanging on a very fine silver thread after that electrifying concert at the Enmore Theatre back in October 1992; instead they’ve evolved. But I doubt it very much they’ll be getting Ploogy back on the drums and start ripping through ‘Fraulein’ and ‘Too fast for you’ in too soon a hurry.

Anyhow, I’m very glad the Jam never reformed – they were of a time and place that can never be recaptured.

And the Beatles, they are the perfect example of leaving something so gloriously and utterly sweet by not reforming. John Lennon was intensely adamant about this subject in interviews in 1980 prior to his passing, one feels that had Lennon lived on he would have vicariously made fending off Beatle-reunion questions/requests/proposals a full-time occupation.

Yet perhaps, this spirit of revisionism in pop has wider ramifications. Perhaps there’s a sense that all that’s needed to be done and moved within our structures, “our way of life”, our westernised civilisation, has no further place to go. In 2008 we look to a future of certain energy and resource scarcity, climate change, and economic dislocation. But we can’t rewind that time dial, it can’t be 1967 again…


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