Song of the Day: The Jam “Absolute Beginners”
The Jam‘s 1981 single “Absolute Beginners” was a tribute to the 1958 English novel of the same name by Colin MacInnes. The novel had been highly influential on The Jam‘s singer/ songwriter Paul Weller who found its West London setting and coming-of-age themes (not to mention teenage protagonist) to be highly resonant. The novel was big in the UK punk/ New Wave scene that Weller came up in and would eventually be made into a film by punk filmmaker Julian Temple in 1986 (featuring a hit theme song from David Bowie). Suffice it to say, it was something that seemed to be bouncing around the Zeitgeist of UK youth culture of the early ’80s.
The song finds The Jam on their most pop forward foot. The song is launched to a volley of bright and brassy horns, with the trio slotting in behind with a bouncy bass line, chicken-scratch guitar and rapid-fire Merseybeat. Weller, echoing the vivid language of the novel, brought some of his most poetic and evocative lyrics, with the opening verses in particular containing some of the strongest lyrics that he ever wrote:
In echoed steps I walked across an empty dream
I looked across this world, there was no one to be seen
This empty feeling turned and quietly walked away
I saw no warmth in life, no love was in my eyes
The song never outstays its welcome or lets down on its relentless pace, clocking in at a clean 2:45. It is arguably the best song The Jam ever wrote in a career of highlights.