Today or never! How I spent the Royal Wedding, 1981, Weller and Fletcher. (Mike again)

When I was 17, it was a very good year. Among other brilliant things happening in my life – like having a gigging band and a successful fanzine and starting a record label and finally getting a steady girlfriend – I was fortunate enough to have some sort of a mentor-come-mate relationship with Paul Weller of the Jam, at the time Britain’s biggest, most important and best band. To this day, I know people who won’t listen to the Jam because of Paul’s hopelessly naïve comment back in 1977 that he’d be voting Tory at the next election, but truth is that by 1981 – when I was 17 – he was as staunchly socialist as it’s possible to be while reigning in the royalties. So when Prince Charles married Lady Diana on July 29 of that year, Weller recognized the “Fairytale Wedding” for the farce that it was. On a day that London otherwise shut down, he went into the Polydor demo studios inside the record company offices on Stratford Place, just opposite Bond Street tube, and spent the time recording. As seemed to be the norm at that point – we were in the midst of launching the Jamming! label and in daily contact – he invited me along.

Weller was working that day on a song called “Absolute Beginners,” the title of a Colin MacInnes novel that was doing the rounds amongst a certain subset of young Londoners at the time. I had just read the book and been profoundly affected by MacInnes’ inspired creation of a late 1950s “hip” London teen vernacular (though we didn’t use the word “hip” in 1981), his effortless embodiment of the narrator’s lust for life, his casual recognition of the ruling classes’ inherent snobbery and institutionalized racism, and the tragically breathless depiction of the (real) Notting Hill “race riot” of 1958. (It was called a “race riot” but in reality, it was a violent attack on the neighborhood’s Caribbean immigrants by reactionary, racist white gangs of young men. Let’s go with “racial assault” instead.) The rediscovery of MacInnes’ work – I soon moved on to another of his trio of London novels, Mr. Love and Justice – by a young London crowd was encouraging because it reflected our natural love of literature, one that had been beaten out of us, as had so much other joy of learning, by the antiquated British schools system.

To be continued here, in JAMMING

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