Going Underground sleeve


18 March – 7 April 1980 · Polydor POSP 113 · Writer: Paul Weller

Formed in Woking as far back as 1972 while Paul Weller was still at school, the classic Jam line-up of Weller on guitar and vocals, Bruce Foxton on bass and Rick Buckler on drums was solidified in the mid ’70s. Surfing the punk rock wave they signed to Polydor in 1977 and immediately breached the top forty with their début single In The City. The album of the same name reached the top twenty and second single All Around The World climbed to number 13, but by the end of the year their stock was in decline.

After the critical mauling dished out to their second album This Is The Modern World, which had been rushed out a mere six months after their début, Weller began to apply some much needed quality control to his songwriting. An album’s worth of material was scrapped and the band’s eventual third release All Mod Cons was greeted much more favourably, while the classic Down In The Tube Station At Midnight revived their fortunes in the singles chart. With punk on its last legs, the Jam aligned themselves with the short-lived mod revival in 1979, and saw the decade out with their biggest hit single (The Eton Rifles) and album (Setting Sons) to date. Having recovered from something of a false start, they were poised to become a major force in the new decade.

The song that would finally propel them into the top division was Going Underground, a furious attack on both the government’s prioritisation of defence spending above what Weller saw as more deserving causes such as the NHS (“You’ll see kidney machines replaced by rockets and guns”) and the electorate’s support of such a policy – “Braying sheep on my TV screen make this boy shout, make this boy scream!”

Although ostensibly a double A-side, Going Underground completely overwhelmed the flip side, the rather more pedestrian The Dreams Of Children. Helped along by a limited edition double pack which included three live tracks, the single entered the chart at number 1 and prompted a resurgence of interest in the band’s back catalogue, which was hastily re-promoted. In The City subsequently re-entered the chart, reaching number 40, the same position it had achieved back in 1977.

There was a similar wave of nostalgia following the band’s demise at the end of 1982, when all of their singles were again re-promoted – the majority of them achieved a degree of chart success in the early weeks of 1983 with Going Underground leading the pack, reaching number 21 second time around. The Dreams Of Children was reissued as an A-side in its own right in 1992 to promote the rarities compilation Extras but failed to chart. Going Underground remains one of Weller’s best loved songs; a cover version by US alt-rockers Buffalo Tom reached number 6 in 1999, becoming the American band’s biggest UK hit by a considerable margin.

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