The Jam – Liza Radley, By Steve Stav

The Jam’s brief, but incredibly influential career was not entirely spent recording fiery, anti-establishment fusillades. Tracks such as “Ghosts,” “English Rose” and the classic “That’s Entertainment” proved the band could produce more “pop” and less “power” — and still stir emotions some three decades later.

My favorite among such songs is “Liza Radley,” the b-side to “Start,” from The Jam’s finest album, 1980′s Sound Affects. Though the LP was greatly influenced by the Beatles’ Revolver album, the gentleness of “Liza Radley” has always, to me, suggested a stronger kinship to Rubber Soul.

“See her creeping cross summer lawns at midnight… And all the people in the town where we live say — she’s not quite right.” As with “That’s Entertainment,” another song from Sound Affects, Paul Weller’s ability to paint a wonderful sonic picture with inspired lyrics is amply demonstrated. There’s hardly any percussion here, but Bruce Foxton’s sparing, McCartney-melodic bass contribution is certainly notable. Altogether, one of the group’s quietly stellar moments.

Note: As a video for this number was never filmed, a YouTube artiste has ingeniously laid the track over footage from the now-obscure 1968 British film, “Up The Junction.” The movie is about a privileged young woman who, longing for “real” experiences, goes slumming in the lower middle class. Very fitting, I think.

Steve Stav

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