Going Underground – The Jam: Iconic Songs & the story behind them
“Going Underground” is the first British #1 chart single by The Jam, released in March 1980. It went straight in at #1 in the UK Singles Chart, spending three weeks at the top.
It was the first of three instant chart-toppers for the group
“Going Underground” was not released on any of the band’s six studio albums, although it has appeared on many compilations and re-releases since then. The song was released as a double A-side with “Dreams of Children”, which originally had been intended to be the sole A-side; following a mix-up at the pressing plant, the single became a double A-side, and DJs tended to choose the more melodic “Going Underground” to play on the radio.
The song was ranked at #2 among the “Tracks of the Year” for 1980 by NME. In March 2005, Q magazine placed “Going Underground” at #73 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks, and in October 2006, placed it at #98 in its list of the 100 Greatest Songs Ever.
The band released 18 consecutive Top 40 singles in the United Kingdom, from their debut in 1977 to their break-up in December 1982, including four number one hits
Being an old Mod and a Jam super-fan this was one of the first Jam records I bought and from the first moment I heard it I loved it and became obsessed with the Jam and this set me on the road to becoming a Mod and the best years of my teenage/young adult life in Belfast, what I can remember anyways. The Jam became the sound track to my crazy teenage odyssey and I came to love everything about them and the Mod way of life and even to this day I still love all the Jams stuff and listen to it whenever the feelings take me , which is a few times a week at least.
My fav Jam album ?
Its a hard one but its between Setting Sons & Sound Affects , although I love In the City and This is a Modern World also . Grrrr…. Its like trying to choose which of your kids or pets you love best , an impossible task and Im the same with Jam albums I feel i’d be betraying those I left out. Going Underground is a personal fav of mine for the path it set me on but I have to say Thick as Thieves and That’s Entertainment are two of my fav Jam tunes off all time.
Some people might say my life is in a rut But I’m quite happy with what I’ve got People might say that I should strive for more But I’m so happy I can’t see the point
Something’s happening here today A show of strength with your boy’s brigade And I’m so happy and you’re so kind You want more money – of course I don’t mind To buy nuclear textbooks for atomic crimes And the public gets what the public wants
But I want nothing this society’s got I’m going underground (going underground) Well, let the brass bands play and feet start to pound Going underground (going underground) Well, let the boys all sing and let the boys all shout for tomorrow
Some people might get some pleasure out of hate Me, I’ve enough already on my plate People might need some tension to relax Me, I’m too busy dodging between the flak
What you see is what you get You’ve made your bed, you’d better lie in it You choose your leaders and place your trust As their lies wash you down and their promises rust You’ll see kidney machines replaced by rockets and guns And the public wants what the public gets
But I don’t get what this society wants I’m going underground (going underground) Well, let the brass bands play and feet start to pound Going underground (going underground) So let the boys all sing and let the boys all shout for tomorrow
La la la la…
We talk and we talk until my head explodes I turn on the news and my body froze These braying sheep on my TV screen Make this boy shout, make this boy scream!
Going underground, I’m going underground!
La la la la…
These braying sheep on my TV screen Make this boy shout, make this boy scream!
I’m going underground (going underground) Well, let the brass bands play and feet start to pound Going underground (going underground) Well, let the boys all sing and let the boys all shout, Going underground (going underground) Well, let the brass bands play and feet go pow, pow, pow Going underground (going underground) So let the boys all sing and let the boys all shout for tomorrow
Daryl Denham released a version of the song titled “Go England” in 2002 after Weller gave permission for it to be adapted as a football song.
Paul Weller on becoming a Mod
“I saw that through becoming a Mod it would give me a base and an angle to write from, and this we eventually did. We went out and bought suits and started playing Motown, Stax and Atlantic covers. I bought a Rickenbacker guitar, a Lambretta GP 150 and tried to style my hair like Steve Marriott‘s circa ’66.
Dreams of Children
“Going Underground” was coupled with “Dreams of Children” as a double A-side. It opens and is intermittently accentuated with a backmasked sample of the band’s 1979 song “Thick as Thieves“. In the US the backwards intro was edited out making the single 10 seconds shorter than the UK Version. This US edit is available on the best-of compilation Snap!.
I know music is very subjective but I personally love Classical Music and often have it on in the background when I’m working on something that requires my total concentration.
This is not a normal or easy state of mind for me and to be frank it sometimes takes me a while to get into the flow – as I love to procrastinate. But Classical Music seems to have a magical switch that when turned on focus’s my mind completely.
For a little while at least………..
I have a very diverse taste in ,music and can listen to almost anything , apart from heavy metal ( sorry guys) and as a teenage Mod I worshiped the Mod bands of the 60’s & The Jam provided the soundtrack to my teenage odyssey , which was full of angst and exploration of the body and the mind. The drugs give me glimpses of a fleeting utopia and the music fed my soul.
For all the effects music is thought to have on the brain, classical music seems to fall in a gray area. … The results showed listening to classical music enhanced activity of genes involved in dopamine secretion (the feel good hormone), and “transport synaptic function, learning and memory.”
The Jam – Thick as Thieves :
One of my favorite tunes of all time. The words speak to my soul.
As a teenager growing up in Glencairn, a bleak loyalist council estate in West Belfast ( I loved it as a child ) there was little to do apart from joy riding, rioting and fighting with the gangs from the top and bottom of the estate.
Sure – I was surrounded by vast open spaces and miles of forest and glens , but I was a teenager and I needed excitement.
I couldn’t drive , was bored of rioting and so like many of my peers I turned to drugs to escape the madness around me and block out the car crash that was my tragic young life.
I was 14 years old and my dad had died when I was nine , after a long brutal struggle with cancer and I was missing him terribly. I didn’t know if my mum was alive or dead and all around me was death and destruction as Belfast tore itself apart and the paramilitaries waged a brutal sectarian war and the slaughter of the innocent at times seemed endless.
And I really fancied Gina Nixon and wanted to kiss her on the lips, but she didn’t even know I existed.
It’s hardly surprising that I wanted to escape reality and so l lost myself in drugs and through a hazy fuelled utopia I was able to suspend reality for brief moments of escape and boy did I need them.
My first drug was glue – Time Bond to be exact, although I could settle for Evo Stick or if I was really desperate Bridge Port, which was a horrible , thick black solution that was used to fix punctures on bikes –
although I can’t comment on how effective it was at mending tyres as I never used it for this purpose.
The first time I sniffed glue I remembering I was standing against the wall of an allay way and as the fumes entered my body I felt them gentle circulate throughout my entire being and as I slowly slid down the wall I was filled with the most beautiful feeling of being detached from my surrounding and floating in a Never Never land of soothing lights and utter peace of mind.
I was hooked.
Being a teenager who may or may not be an orphan (I still didn’t know if my mum was alive or dead) I was faced with the very real problem of needing more glue and not having the money to pay for it. So I did exactly what all my peers would do in the same situation and I begged, borrowed and stole.
The Jam – That’s Entertainment
I didn’t concern myself with the wrongs and right of it , I just needed to get my hands on more glue and visit my Never Never land again and again and again and..
When I say beg, borrowed or steal what I really mean is that I would beg most of the time , borrow some of the time (when I could get away with it ) and stand watch outside Woolies whilst the rest of the gang went shop lifting and I acted as look-out!
Despite the environment I lived in and the abuse a fickle fate had thrown at me, deep down I still wanted to believe in Baby Jesus and hadn’t Rev. Lewis told me on countless occasions that God saw everything and would one day judge me.
So I tried to be a good boy and obey the commandments – but this wasn’t always easy when you were surrounded by sectarian slaughter, thieves and psychopathic killers in the making.
And that was all perfectly normal to me as a child.
Once I was stood outside a shop in Belfast City Centre, I was lost in a drug induced fog as I waited for the others to return from shoplifting. It was close to Christmas and the town was full of shoppers and day trippers. Suddenly a guy taps the door of the shop with his toe and I could see that he’s weighed down with a tower of Quality Street tins. Feeling the Xmas spirit I opened and held the door for him and I was just a little surprised to note that once out of the shop, he kicked the door closed and started legging it down the street, dropping tins of Quality Street as he went.
Strange thinks I and then all hell broke out.
The Indian guy who owned the shop and his twelve sons (well two, but seemed like more ) came charging out of the door and before I knew what is happening they piled on top of me and I was pinned to the ground until the cops arrived.
It took all my powers of persuasion and a kind old lady who had witness the event to clear my name and eventually I was free to go and I caught up with the rest of the gang, whom had witness the whole thing , but because they were weighed down with their shoplifting haul had wisely kept their distance.
Another time when I was stood outside a local builder’s yard waiting for someone, I was delighted and beside myself with joy as I watched box after box of Time Bond glue being unloaded from a delivery truck and stacked against the yard wall.
I sent for the rest of the gang and when darkness fell I supervised as my cousin Pickle, scaled the wall and began throwing over boxes of glue. We brought it all up to a Davey Johnston’s (a friend) house and he promised to look after it and only take a few tins for himself and his mates. I didn’t really care at that stage as I was off my head on glue and went off to my favourite spot in the local park and laying down on a bed of grass I watched for hours as the stars drifting endlessly across the heavens on their timeless dance through the universe.
A few days later, out of glue I sat off to Davy’s house to pick a few tins and I was surprised to see a long line of teenagers queuing outside his front door. When I finally made it to the front of the queue I could see Davy’s Ma, Big Barbara hanging out the window with a fag dangling from her mouth, a glue bag under her arm and enquiring of me
“How many tins of glue did I wish to purchase, love ? ”
Well you could have knocked me down with a feather and I demanded to see Davy right away. Turns out that Barbara had been hitting the glue herself and she’d enjoyed the experience so much she wanted to share the joy with the local population – at the right price off course.
I hid my disgust as I realised that half the stash had been sold or sniffed by Barbara, who was now singing and dancing in the street in her knickers and making rude suggestions to all and sundry.
Grabbing an armful of glue tins I headed off to the forest and the night sky and for a few hours lost myself in the mysteries of the universe and time and space.
Smoking Weed with Paul Weller
The Jam – When You’re Young
As I grew older and wiser (I know ) I gravitated towards more ahem.. Socially accepted drugs like weed, pills and acid and I must confess I had some very strange experiences on the way.
I remember once when I was visiting a friend and we were just chillin out with Paul Weller ( his dog) and his sister , Mad Maggie , who worked as a cleaner in the local butchers shop came home with a bag full of off-cuts the butcher had gifted her.
Looking in the bag I was disgusted to see that it was mostly pig’s trotters (some of them still had hair on them) and the smell was so bad I almost threw up. Mad Maggie was rushing out on a date and putting the trotters on the stove to boil she ordered us to keep an eye on them and turn them off when they were cooked.
We sagely nodded our understanding and proceeded to get stoned as Paul Weller watched us from the floor with a look of utter disgust on his face.
After smoking’s countless joints we both got the mad munchies and as the shops were now closed we started hunting for food throughout the kitchen and were desperately disappointed to see that there was nothing in the fridge apart from a block of butter, half bottle of sour milk and a ball of cheese that had a fuzzy , luminous green cloak covering it.
Suddenly we both remember the pig’s trotters and after a momentary pause we grab them off the stove, drained them and proceeded to eat the lot, hair, toe nails and whatever other parts of a pig’s trotter that dwelled in the bottom of the pot.
Despite his unsociable behaviour we slung Paul Weller a few scraps and he rudely snatched them off us and giving us a contemptuous look he ran into the kitchen as if we were going to take them back of him and proceeded to hid them behind the bin.
But we were way to smart for that dog and when he settled down for a nap we tip toed past him and stole the trotters back and eat the lot
The Jam “Down In The Tube Station”
After our feast we both fell into a slumber and I drifted off into a satisfying snooze and the world was all good. Next thing I can feel something wet, hot and sticky sliding up and down my face and opening one eye I came face to face with Paul Weller and he was shamelessly licking the juices of the pigs trotter off my face.
Shooing him out of the way I made my way to the kitchen and rinsed his slobber of my face and put the kettle on. Just then Mad Maggie comes down the stairs with her fella in tow and they are both laughing their heads off.
“What’s so fecking funny “ , I enquired
“You’re looking Ruff, so you are” says Mad Maggie’s fella
“Did you enjoy the dogs dinner, did you? “
Laughs Mad Maggie in my face and I remembered the pigs trotter and almost throw up all over them.
Apparently the trotters had been laying about the butchers for the past two – three weeks and were far beyond what was considered fit for human consumption and we had eaten the lot of them. Grabbing my coat I left in a hurry and as I past Paul Weller in the hall I swear I heard him snigger!
The Who – I Can’t Explain
The mod revival was a music genre and subculture that started in England in 1978 and later spread to other countries (to a lesser degree). The mod revival’s mainstream popularity was relatively short, although its influence has lasted for decades. The mod revival post-dated a Teddy Boy revival, and mod revivalists sometimes clashed with Teddy Boy revivalists, skinhead revivalists, casuals, punks and rival gang members.
The Jam – Thick as Thieves
The late 1970s mod revival was led by the band The Jam, who had adopted a stark mod look and mixed the energy of punk with the sound of 1960s mod bands. The mod revival was a conscious effort to harken back to an earlier generation in terms of style. In the early 1980s in the UK, a mod revival scene influenced by the original 1960s mod subculture developed.
A dedicated follower of fashion
Small Faces – Itchycoo Park
Around the early 1980s when I was 15/16 I started taking a more serious interest in my street cred and for the first time ever I started getting into music in a big way and this opened up a whole new world for me.
Up until that point I’d enjoyed some of the pop and disco tunes which dominated the late 70’s early 80s charts and if push came to shove I could sing along to all the songs in “Grease “if the feeling took.
Which I’m not ashamed to admit it sometimes did.
But then I discovered a band that seemed to speak to me personally and the lead singer seemed to understand the angst and pitfalls of my teenage odyssey and hence Paul Weller and The Jam became my teenage obsession.
The Jam – Going Underground
The Jam were starting to get noticed around this time and in my book were the coolest band in the world and Paul Weller’s lyrics spoke to my soul like no one before or since . I couldn’t get enough of The Jam and came to love timeless classic like Down in the Tube Station at Midnight , That’s Entertainment, Thick as Thieves and the tune that was their first number one hit “ Going Underground” released in March 1980 and going straight to the top of the charts.
I began to embraced the whole Mod scene and became a dedicated follower of fashion and a connoisseur of the Mod movement from the 60s to the “Modern World “of the early 1980s were I now dwelt.
The High Numbers – Zoot Suit
At first I followed the style of the modern Mods and dressed to impress I started hanging about the Ballysillian area of Belfast and was quickly accepted by all the Mods from Silver Stream and surrounding areas. Being Loyalist West Belfast many of these guys and their families were involved with the various loyalist paramilitaries groups and after the Friday night disco in the community centre we would often be approached and asked if we wanted to join the UDA and fight for our country.
I had no interest in fighting for my country at this stage in my life and was only interested in getting high and listening to Mod music and building up my ever growing record collection.
Also around this time I noticed that I had started getting interest from the female species and I was pleased to discover that they seemed to find me acceptable and without bragging I never had any problem finding female company when the mood took me. But once again my music and drugs came first and although I had many opportunities to “get off” with the various girls that hang about with us, I showed little interest and preferred the company of my mates and getting wasted.
It was around this time that I took my first acid trip and I had the most bizarre, scary, mind bending trip of my life. The acid in question was a particularly potent strain and I think my first mistake was taking three in one go.
There was a gang of us in the park and it was a dark, cold winter’s night and snow was falling all around and for a while I sat on the freezing ground and watched silently as the snowflakes drifted lazily from the sky and landed softly on the ground beneath me. Gradually the snow began to change colour and I watched fascinated as the flakes began to take on all the colours of the rainbow and red, blue, orange etc snowflakes engulfed me and explosions of colour, like tiny bombs were spontaneously appearing and disappearing before my eyes.
Well this started freaking me out and I asked my mates if they could also see what I was seeing and they all looked at me as if I was crazy and told me to “Enjoy the trip” .
Little did I know that this was only the beginning and I would be locked in a psychedelic world of wonder for the next ten hours.
As the night wore on and the acid took hold of me I began to get paranoid and was seeing things that couldn’t possibly be real, The moon had now turned into a giant purple and blue ball of fire and was playing pinball with a million different coloured stars and I watched in amazement as the stars bounced off each other and flew across the universe, to suddenly reappear right in front of my nose.
I was no longer enjoying this trip and in an effort to come down I decided to jog round the park and see if that brought me back to reality. As I jogged through the snow and slid all over the place I gradually started to feel more in control and coming to a shed at the back of some shops I sat down to catch my breath and then it happened.
Suddenly I heard the theme tune of Dr. Who and it seemed to fill every part of my being and soul and right in front of me I watched gob smacked as the Tardis materialised from thin air and the blue doors swung opened invitingly. Reality had been suspended and looking around I could see that there was no one or nothing in the universe but me and the Tardis and taking a few steps forward I entered and the door slammed closed behind me.
I stepped up to the console and fiddling with the time rotor I spun the dials and suddenly the engine started to rev up and the Tardis started to vibrate violently and the display started to spin backwards through the years , 1960 ,1920, 1901, 1876 , 1848 and stopped on 1841.
The Tardis had come to a stop and I nervously pushed the door open and stepped outside – straight into a scene from Victorian England. I was in a busy London street, the sun was shining and people dressed in Victorian clothes were going about their daily business. There were horses and carts everywhere and the smell was appalling and I stood in wonder and took in the scenes before.
The acid I had taken was not for the faint hearted and although my eyes and ears were telling me I was in Victorian England , somewhere at the back of my acid confused consciousness I knew I couldn’t really have travelled back through time – could I ?
Then I panicked – How the hell was I going to get back to Ballysillian and the 1980s.
I kid you not, in my altered state I really did believed that I had travelled back through time and I was now stuck in Victorian England. I didn’t consider the sheer ridiculousness of the situation I found myself in , my only concern was getting back to the future and I started to freak out and run up and down the streets , dodging horses I begged people to help me , but they didn’t seem to know I was there and this just freak me out more.
Eventually I came across the Tardis again and this time it opened from the top and I hurriedly climbed in and closed the door above me and peace descended as I closed my eyes and tried to block out the nightmare I found myself in.
I must have fallen asleep and was awoken suddenly as the Tardis started to vibrate again and opening my eyes I braced myself for another journey through time and space.
This acid was a bitch and I was cursing myself for taking so much.
Suddenly the top door of the Tardis open and light flooded in and to my amazement a man was staring down at me and the look on his face said it all. I was also relieved to see that he was dressed in clothes that were definitely 1980s and not 1880s. I clambered out and taking in the scene I realized that my Tardis had been an industrial wheelie bin and the guy had come to drop off some rubbish. I had spent the night covered in shit and waste and smelt like a bad weekend.
The guy who had released me looked as though he had seen a ghost and thanking him I made off down the hill and home for a long soothing bath and a good long talk with myself about the dangers of acid!
We are the Mods
When I wasn’t trying to kill myself with drugs or getting lost in a parallel universe I took being a Mod very seriously and fully embraced the sub cultural that was sweeping the UK and the streets of Belfast. At this stage I didn’t really know or mix with any Catholics, as simple I never had the opportunity to meet them as Catholics would never venture into the badlands of Loyalist West Belfast .
Belfast Mods documentary
I’m the guy with the hat at 2.08
But as time moved on and I got more and more into the Mod scene my world was ever expanding and I started going to Mod clubs in Belfast City Centre and further afield and mixing with Mods from all walks of life , regardless off religious or politically backgrounds.
Before long I was a well known face in the Belfast Mod scene and was on the rocky road to more hell raising adventures and lost weekends and if you want to know about these come back soon and I will take you by the hand and lead you into a world of unimagable stupidity – My World. ( Secret Affairs )
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Now I have two kids and I would be horrified if they got up to half the things I did back in me youth and I would be really disappointed to learn they were using drugs.. I know – hypocrite and all that , but back in the ghettos of loyalist West Belfast in the early 80s life was hard and very different and I was living the rock and roll lifestyle.