Friday, 16 January 2009

1980 The Jam: Start!

Paul Weller has never been a man afraid to proudly wear his influences on his sleeve; Motown, Stax, Small Faces, Beatles et al - all have found their way into his output. Influence, though, is one thing - Weller not previously been so blatant as to steal the core from another song for his own. And not just any song; the signature bass and guitar riff for 'Start!' was lifted virtually note for note from The Beatles' 'Taxman'.*  But as if to evidence TS Eliot's "Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different" quote, 'Start!' is more than a cheap knock off.

Where The Beatles' own riff resolves itself into a tension relieving chorus, Weller's song makes do with a simple change of key to mark the passage of each verse. There's no chorus to speak of, save the repeated refrain of 'And what you give is what you get'. 'Start!' is the sound of an angry man (once again), but it's a different kind of anger to that of previous and directed more inward than the world at large. "If we communicate for two minutes only it will be enough. For knowing that someone in this world feels as desperate as me"; success and the weight of expectation was by now weighing heavy on shoulders just 22 years old, along with the growing frustration of the limitations inherent in continuing to make music within the parameters of tje 'power trio' of The Jam. 'Start!' sounds more like a fragment of a good idea rather than a complete song. It runs for a shade over two and a half minutes, but rather than being the perfect short, sharp shock of 'Going Underground', 'Start!' could easily meander on for twice it's released length with little detriment, or the original song could have been a minute long but spliced together in the middle to bring it up to standard single length. Experimental it may be (experimental for The Jam in any case), but when 'the experiment' seems to be simply to confuse people by making something that doesn't sound like The Jam, but being too lazy to come up with something truly original, then it must be counted as a failure in the final reckoning. And I bet the fact it got to number one wound Weller up all the more.

* Which is the opening track on 'Revolver', an album Weller stated in 2015 (to The Quietus) as being one of his all time favourites.

No comments:

Post a comment