If The Gift had "Beat Surrender" and a decent arrangement of "A Solid Bond" (which doesnt seem to exist) on it in place of "circus" and "The planner's dream went wrong," then most of the Jam fans criticising this would then regard this as a classic. Maybe also dropping the red-wedge style preaching of "Transglobal express" to a b side status and swapping it for "The Great Depression" would have sealed the job. But unfortunately those two better tracks were written just after this album, as a farewell, with Beat Surrender getting the nod over Solid Bond as the final single. Still, the Jam were never ones to load up albums with singles and this is why it must have been a lot of pressure on Weller to write a whole album off the cuff,when he was also keeping most of the best tracks to release as singles,leaving them off the albums altogether. There seemed to be a one single per album rule with the Jam so as not to rip off the fans who already had the tracks.Most bands do the opposite.
The single that was released off the Gift is also the best track, and that is "Town called Malice." I can still remember the exact place i was standing when i heard this for the first time.It was the first song that had ever had such an effect on me, maybe because i was living in a town exactly like "Malice." The song is absolutely majestic,combining an absolute positive with an absolute negative but bringing them together somehow in perfect harmony. If that's the best track then it is followed by Happy Together, Running on the spot and Carnation. Those are the 4 exceptional tracks and worth the price of the album. "Ghosts" is slow,reflective and effortlessly melodic in a way that Weller rarely manages these days; "Just who is the 5 o clock hero" is something Weller could write in his sleep in 1981,and lacks that cutting edge lyrically, maybe because he was writing about a 9-5 worker,something which he never was.But again it is very melodic; "Precious" seems like an impersonation of another band albeit a great one, "Transglobal express" is a naive political rant,but then Weller was only 22 or 23 when he wrote it.He tried again with the style council on tracks like Internationists and Money go round, but these tracks never really work well, because it seemed like He was kind of saying "we need to do this and do that," but at the same time he was also saying "dont listen to anybody telling you what to do."
The Foxton instrumental Circus and the steel-drummed "Planner's dream" seem like fillers and at best should have been B sides.They are the 2 tracks that even hardcore Jam fans skip the most.
The title track was always an oddity for me,but maybe lyrically it offers the first clues as to what was about to happen to the band,and that's maybe why it was also the final track on the album. I don't know why Weller is so critical of the single that followed this album,"The bitterest pill," because that was much better to my ears than those 2 duff tracks he put on the Gift. I guess he can't write 10 classic tracks to order, only 6 or 7, which in itself was an amazing achievement for a young bloke who learnt about music by listening to records and by writing from the heart.It's 30 years since they split but no one has ever replaced the Jam in the hearts of most of their fans,including me.
ADDITONAL NOTE CONCERNING DELUXE EDITION TRACKLISTING: NO BEAT SURRENDER DEMO. Amazon has got the tracklisting of the 2nd disc wrong.Here is the tracklisting of the 2nd disc:
1.Beat surrrender single.Already released version.
2.shopping b side of Beat surrender.
3.move on up-part of original beat surrender release.
4.stoned out of my mind.Also nothing new,just a rehash of old material already released.
5.war-version from the just who is the five o clock hero b side,already released.
6.pity poor alfie (swing version)This has ALSO been available elsewhere.This is becoming a con.
7.skirt-Finally a demo unreleased.But the title may mislead you.It is an earlier version of "Absolute Beginners."
8.ghosts-a demo but why on earth bother with an instrumental version??????
9.5 o clock hero-demo.
11.carnation-another pointless instrumental version!!!!!
12.alfie-another demo of Alfie,like we really needed another version of this when so many tracks have been demoed and been ignored once again.
13.we only started-old version.This track has been shoved out before on compilations and this version adds nothing.
14.shopping-demo,and unfortunately almost identical to the released version.
15.solid bond-demo.Close to the version the style council played on "switch tv show" but needs to be remixed with the guitar higher in the mix.
Since most jam fans will be buying this for the 2nd disc,it would have been nice if amazon had got their facts right.I personally only bought it for the Beat Surender demo,which is NOT HERE. Where are the quality demos from the making of the Gift? where is the Malice demo? where is the Happy Together demo? The Running on the spot demo?
They must exist somewhere. I would be very curious as to who decided on the tracks to go on this cd.It certainly was NOT a jam fan,but quite possibly a record company executive who saw a "need" to hold back most of the interesting demos for a future release.When i think of the material that must be available,to offer up this with all the padding is a cynical insult to every Jam fan.Same goes to the "super-padded" super deluxe version trotting out the massively edited Bingley Hall dvd as an attachment to bang up the price in the hope you will pay £80 for a remastered wembley bootleg.Weller hopefully had nothing to do with any of this.
I WANT TO ADD NOW THAT YOU CAN BUY AS MP3 DOWNLOADS INDIVIDUAL TRACKS FROM THE SUPER DELUXE VERSION ON AMAZON,SO IF YOU BOUGHT THE DELUXE VERSION AND ARE RIGHTLY ANNOYED ABOUT THE MISSING DEMOS OF BEAT SURRENDER,RUNNING ON THE SPOT,PRECIOUS,AND A VERY GOOD DIFFERENT DEMO VERSION OF THE BITTEREST PILL, PLUS THE WEMBLEY GIG TRACKS, THESE CAN BE DOWNLOADED FOR 89P EACH,WHICH IS MUCH BETTER THAN PAYING £70 FOR THE CD PACKAGED VERSION WITH ALL THE STUFF THROWN IN THAT YOU HAVE BOUGHT ALREADY 10 TIMES BEFORE.YOU CAN DOWNLOAD THE LOT FOR £25, SO THAT MAY BE THE WAY TO GO FOR SOME PEOPLE. I MYSELF BOUGHT THE DELUXE VERSION AND THEN JUST DOWNLOADED THE MISSING DEMO TRACKS PLUS SOME OF THE GIG.I still have to say as a fan i don't appreciate the sly way they held back the best demo tracks for the outrageously expensive super-deluxe version and padded out a so-called deluxe version with a bunch of inconsequential instrumentals,and already-released stuff which just leaves fans feeling cheated.