Sunday, 13 September 2015

The Jam - 'About The Young Idea' at Somerset House

What are Saturday afternoons for if not to re-live your youth and marvel at the passing years? Yesterday we went to the exhibition about The Jam at the venerable old Somerset House, 'About The Young Idea'. It was full of middle aged men reliving their youth (as I was) and showing off to their families - 'look! I used to have that tee shirt!' - as well as a surprising number of youngsters who weren't born when The Jam split.

I couldn't quite get past the niggling thought that all this stuff I was surrounded by was about my past as well as about rebellious youth, about fighting the establishment and yet here it was as an exhibition. My memories and history are now nostalgia and worthy of an exhibition. When did that happen? I went to The Clash retrospective exhibition a few years ago in Soho and loved reliving the experience and this exhibition is four or five times bigger with so much more stuff. Badges, clothes, records, posters, music paper covers and fanzines, guitars, video walls, and all sorts.

It was fun reading some of the little snippets of Jam history that littered the display, much of which was new to me. Such as Paul Weller seeing the Sex Pistols and deciding to take the band in a new direction. Like The Jam's first review was of them playing at Berwick Street market with The Clash in the audience. Lots of interesting stuff.

The clothes all looked so small. Were we all that skinny back then and of course we were because we were young. I wouldn't even dream of trying on the Union Jack jacket these days - the seams would split if I even looked like I was going to try it on. It was nice seeing the jackets - and even the shoes - that featured in videos and TV appearances. The Jam always had a specific image that made them stand out.

It was also nice to see all the badges - badges used to be important. They demonstrated your beliefs and which tribe you belonged to but don't really seem to exist these days. I still proudly wear my Poly Styrene signature badge on jackets and coats just as I wore my original X-Ray Spex badges from 1978 when I say Poly at the Roundhouse in 2008. Some things are important.

But I loved seeing the old tour  posters, music paper covers and leaflets and recognising the names - some of which I remember buying back in the day. Siouxsie & the Banshees featured a few times but also lesser known lights like The Saints and Patrik Fitzgerald who also supported The Jam on tour.  I have almost as many songs by The Saints in my collection as I do for The Jam and I have more Patrik Fitzgerald (the 'punk poet' I've blogged about before). Siouxsie outnumbers them all of course.

It's a good exhibition, nicely displayed and filling the maze of rooms, along with videos of the band playing and guitars hung all over the place. It was very busy yesterday so looks like it's been a success. It's on for another couple of weeks so go and take look if you can.  It's not in the same league as the 'Bowie Is…' exhibition a couple of years ago (that's still touring the world) but it's more evidence - if any was needed - that recent popular culture is worth collecting and looking at again.  I wonder what the next one will be?

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