A Town Called Malice

“I was trying to capture a sense of anger that I felt – that a lot of people felt – about Thatcherism and the way she and the Tory party at that time were trying to dismantle the communities of the working classes. Attacks on the trade unions, small businesses disappearing and so many aspects of English life being closed down to people – I was trying to reflect the frustration and despair that sprang out of all that. There was a phoney pretense that we could suddenly all be middle class because we were allowed to buy our own houses, get a mortgage and be in debt for the rest of our lives. I like the suburban images in A Town Called Malice, the rows and rows of disused milk floats, the Co-op. Whether they are absolutely true doesn’t matter, they stand as metaphors for what I saw going on.”Paul Weller (442)
“I’m influenced by Aidan Cant quite a lot. I like those lonely suburban images. The main crux of the song is: I’d rather put some joy back in this town called malice. I didn’t expect it to be number 1.”Paul Weller (443)
“In 1981, I was going through a few changes. I was taking note of what was going on in our country. When you’re touring, you’re often in your own bubble, but we were going around the country seeing firsthand what was happening. It was the start of the hardline Margaret Thatcher years, and places – up north, especially – were being decimated. I was a young man taking it all in and thinking about it.

“I had most of the lyrics before we started the song, but they were just words written down in a book at that point. They’re partly about Woking, where I grew up, which had always been a depressed place in a way. That line “rows and rows of empty milk floats dying in the dairy yard” was directly influenced by Woking, where there was a milk yard. The “ghost of a steam train” is about my childhood, because we lived close to the station, and I could always hear the trains shunting about at night. Those suburban images were very strong in my mind, and a lot of people connected with it. “Cut down the beer or the kids’ new gear” was about how people were struggling and had to make decisions about what to buy. Even before the 80s, a lot of people were living hand to mouth. I remembered my mum and dad: I don’t think the swinging 60s ever hit Woking. They were forever rowing about not having enough money. By the mid-1970s onwards, it was fucking depressing, really. The Heath government had been brought to its knees by the unions; I think that was the root of Thatcher dismantling the power of the working class and trade unions.”Paul Weller (1276)

That’s Entertainment

“The idea of taking the old Hollywood song and turning it into an urban, mundane tale instead came from a poem by Paul Drew (entertainment) which I published in a fanzine I put out in the early 80s. The images I drew were all directly around me. It didn’t take long to write, maybe 15, 20 minutes. The words all came out in one go, but it seems to endure. I think it’s the everyday images that people relate to.”Paul Weller (444)

Down In The Tube Station At Midnight

“A TV play as a 3 minute pop song.”Paul Weller (445)
“This was written as a long poem, in fact there were even more lyrics than this originally. I intended it as a kind of “Play for Today” set to music. It was the first song that made people start to take The Jam seriously, and rightly so. I remember thinking that it was taking pop music to a different level, there were no other songs I knew that worked on that level of detail. It’s really about my own paranoia about being a suburban kid moving up to the big city, having to watch my arse every time I went out.”Paul Weller (446)

English Rose

“Written in America on one of our early tours. A love song, obviously. But it was also me being homesick, missing England in a place that seemed so strange and unreal.”Paul Weller (447)

A’ Bomb In Wardour Street

“It was a very violent time. Every gig there was a fight. I mentioned The Vortex in that song because that club had a particularly horrible, heavy atmosphere. In my mind, I thought punk was about bringing the kids together man. I thought it was about uniting everybody and that it was our time for revolution. Not necessarily politically, but just culturally and as a generation. But that lot got it so fucking wrong. It wasn’t about cheap speed and pints of cider and rucking. I thought punk was supposed to take us out of all that bollocks and lead us somewhere else. So that song came from my disappointment with it all, whereas I thought The Jam took good aspects of punk and used it positively for what we wanted to do.”Paul Weller (445)

Mr Clean

“Me and her [girlfriend Gill Price – Ed] were staying in a hotel, we were in the bar and were both pissed. She sort of stepped back, stumbled a bit and this guy sort of caught her and put his hand on her tit. The cunt, know what I mean? So I think Mr Clean came from that.”Paul Weller (445)

Thick As Thieves

“Often when I’m writing, I’m not conscious of what I’m doing after I’ve started off with the bare bones of an idea. This probably took a few hours of intensive writing, an evening maybe. When I get into that state, it’s almost like automatic writing, where I’m connected to something I don’t understand, out of my control. This lyric was central to the concept of Setting Sons, the lives of three mates who head in different directions. It was inspired by the original group – me, Steve Brookes and Dave Waller – who started The Jam as kids. We set ourselves apart from everyone, we thought we were special, we were going to rule the world. But, of course, people change and friendships dissipate.”Paul Weller (448)

The Modern World

“That whole song was about all these sorta creeps who said that the Jam were derivative and ‘not part of the contemporary scene’ an’ all that shit, so it’s just a statement sayin’, you know, ‘We’re just as much entrenched in the seventies as anyone else’. [The line: I’ve learned to live by hate and fear, it’s my inspiration drive – Ed]? I was talkin’ about the mental hate that a lotta people suffer at school,” he says. “The only thing I learned at school was to hate people an’ be really bitter with people, like teachers. An’ the more bitter you are, the easier it is to write.”Paul Weller (708)
“That song was about school [Sheerwater Secondary in Woking – Ed]. I found the whole process painful. The hate was directed against the teachers. I’m a bit less cynical now because there’s been some relief in writing songs and having the chance to communicate with thousands of people I’d never have met otherwise. Some of the kids who went to school with me are like little old men already, like Toby jugs. But now there’s less opportunities than there was for us. A kid leaving school now knows he’s straight down the dole office, so his ambition drive is probably zero. What outlets are there for being different, apart from music and sport? What a choice! Every avenue should be open to you.”Paul Weller (709)

The Eton Rifles

“It’s a piss-take on class. It’s an imaginary setting and that – the two classes clash, like the trendy sort of revolutionary saying in the pub, ‘Come on, sup up and collect your cigarettes cos there’s a row down the road’, and it’s like ‘The revolution will start after I’ve finished my pint’. That’s how a lot of people feel. That’s how I feel. It’s a lazy attitude, but in another sense it’s a realistic one. There’s all this going on in the world and that, Cuba and that crap and nuclear threats and everything, but as long as I’ve enough for a pint I can tolerate all this.”Paul Weller (710)


“That song is about all the cults that British people adopt, including myself with the Mod thing. And I think that comes about because a real sense of purpose is missing in most of our lives. A kid who’s straight out of school, even if he’s not on the dole, all he’s got at the end of the week is his wage packet. And that is just not enough. It’s not just down to a money thing, is it? It’s down to a sense of purpose in life. Even money isn’t a great power to actually inspire people’s lives.”Paul Weller (711)