As if The Jam’s fiercely independent, willfully defiant sense of integrity needed any affirmation in these days of songs by the Clash on TV commercials, About the Young Idea ultimately stands as a clear delineation of their will to succeed on their own terms.
Unafraid to be themselves now as in the late Seventies, when they consciously hearkened to the influence of the Who, Paul Weller, Ric Buckler and Bruce Foxton deliberately provoke memories of their roots in various interview segments taking place at their old haunts and current residences. Those points in time and space correlate to the reflections of Jam fans who remain loyal to the band to this day, fully aware how their devotion to this music and these musicians shaped their lives.
The approximately two-hour DVD mirrors the quick succession of events that led to the band’s formation first as a four-piece then streamlined to a trio, the pacing accentuated at regular and quick intervals with the group’s music, both as a means to illustrate the topic at hand and as bridges to the next segment. The artful editing should come as no surprise as it’s credited to Bob Smeaton who’s worked on The Beatles Anthology as well as Jimi Hendrix documentaries and enough other diverse projects to win him Grammy Awards and earn him Academy Award nominations.
In fact, Smeaton’s greatest achievement on About the Young Idea is to capture and maintain the contagious commitment of the band and its immediate circle of friends and collaborators on the stage and in the recording studios. And if the band itself seemed largely humorless in its concert performances and photography sessions, producer Vic Coppersmith-Heaven, to name just one, radiates a delight that echoes back and forth through a time frame extending almost four decades, dating back to the release of the Jam’s debut album In the City.
The second disc of the set, devoted to a complete performance on Germany’s Rockpalast television series in November of 1980, ratifies the impression left with concert snippets within the documentary proper. That is, the streamlined three-piece alignment the Jam favored stood as a metaphor for their fine-tuned focus on the culture they saw around them, subsequently turned into passionate art. The propulsive likes of the highlights from the band’s artistic watershed, Setting Sons, whether as soundtrack or as rendered with uninterrupted fervor from the stage in concert, isn’t just the solipsistic work of an insular author; rather Weller, Buckler and Foxton worked to broaden their inclusive appeal with successive records and tours including high profile public appearances, the combination of which may, in fact ,account for the continued relevance of the Jam’s work. As much as the imagery and iconography of Weller’s material remains rooted in English lifestyle, the topical nature of the band’s later work, revolving at least at first around the successor single, “Going Underground,” then on to the stylistic return to roots of Sound Affects, remains readily transferable, not just to British youth, but anyone with young ideas.
As a result, the adoring looks the band received in their heyday find true corollary in the pragmatic but proud voices and enlightened eyes of the fans that rightly comprise the bulk of the content on disc one here. And, rightfully, their thoughts and feelings seem as important as the performers themselves who remain unremittingly intense on the concert companion piece. The inclusion of bonus features on About the Young Idea, comprised of additional interviews plus more live performance clips, ultimately render the package definitive, not just in depicting the Jam one of the truly great bands of their time, but a group inexorably rising to the upper echelons of rock in general.