Dave Woodhall talks to Bruce Foxton about music, friendship and hero-worship.
Bruce Foxton was bass player with the Jam, whose influence is still apparent. He’s now leading From the Jam, who began playing the band’s classic works and have now begun to introduce tracks from Bruce’s solo work into their set. They’re currently touring to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the Jam’s seminal All Mod Cons, one of the most influential albums of the era and are playing Birmingham Town Hall on Thursday 19th October.
Doing an album in its entirety means some songs are getting a live airing for the first time. That must be a challenge?
“We played a show last week, which was nerve-wracking, but it was like going out for the first time since we recorded it. It’s a great album and it was a pleasure to play those songs, tracks like Fly, the Jam never that played live and it sounded really good. We do the album, which is about 40 minutes and then into dare I say the greatest hits and other album tracks. It’s really exciting to play.”
All Mod Cons was a real milestone, probably the turning point in your careers because, although it might sound strange looking back, the Jam were starting to get overlooked at the time.
“In The City came out and that was really exciting, based on our live set at the time, then I thought Modern World was a good album, but maybe it was too drastic a change in direction, acoustic guitars and slow numbers so it wasn’t as successful as the record company have liked. It was make or break time; if it hadn’t done well Polydor, was they were called then, would have probably dropped us.”
It’s also incredible to think that your label mates Sham 69 were selling more records then and Polydor were looking at Jimmy Pursey to become the big star, if you like, the Cliff Richard of punk, moving out on his own to become an all-round solo entertainer.
“They were doing well, they sold shedloads as well. Poor old Jimmy.”
However, Ron Watts, who ran the 100 Club and was the foremost punk promoter of the time, said that the Jam were the best live band around then. He also said that you personally were the heartthrob of the teenage girls.
“Really? Nobody told me that. Well, I’m flattered. Nice compliments.”
Getting up to date, will you be playing anything from your solo album Back in the Room on the tour?
“Yes, we’re doing a couple of songs. That album did me a lot of good in terms of raising my profile . A lot of the press liked it, the fans like the tracks we’ve played and it also shows that we can do some good new material. We’ve got studio time booked for next February to start on the next one because I can’t wait 25 years between albums again. We’ve got new material in abundance and all those great Jam hits so it’s a real good combination.”
You could play for about four hours if you wanted?
“Errm,well.. . I don’t think I’m going to do a Springsteen. You can have too much of a good thing”
It’s incredible to think that you had Steve Cropper on the album and he was recording his piece from 4,000 miles away.
“That’s technology isn’t it? He does what’s become an annual tour with the Animals and our agent, Peter Bardon, used to be with them. He’s like a dog with a bone, he was determined to get Cropper on the album but he couldn’t get time off from the tour to get into the studio, then he went back to Nashville so we thought we’d missed the opportunity. But Pete still wouldn’t give up so we sent him the files over, he put the guitar part down in his studio and it was amazing. This year he came over again and we were able to get him in the studio to help us put a video together. It was amazing to meet the man, what a legend.”
I’m sure people think the same about you.
“Yes, and that’s what I don’t get. I find it a bit embarrassing when someone comes up and gushes about how much they like you. I never know what to say.”
But you have to remember that you changed people’s lives.
“Yes, with the Jam I suppose it’s not just the concerts, it became a social event, people got to know each other and everyone felt the same as we did and could relate to what we were singing about.”
You must get asked the same questions in every interview but how’s your relationship with Paul and Rick now?
“I get on great with Paul. We renewed our friendship when my first wife was ill and John, Paul’s father and our former manager died (Bruce’s wife Pat died in 2009, a few weeks before John Weller). That banged our heads together and made us realise how petty it all was, that cliché about how life is short. Paul was brilliant during Pat’s illness, I went to John’s funeral and it does put it all into perspective. Then we played on each other’s albums and I did the Albert Hall show which was incredible. I’ll never forget it. And so it continues.
“We haven’t got anything planned but when we’re recording the next album and he’s around I hope he’ll dive in and play something. I’d love to play with him if he asks me again, but it’s a very loose arrangement with Paul.
“Rick threw in the towel in 2009, he sent me an e mail saying he was leaving the band and I haven’t really been in touch with him since. One door closes, another door opens. I’ve no reason why he got the hump, we’re all getting older and life is too short.”
Breaking up a band must be like splitting a relationship. Is it possible to remain friends when you’re not together anymore or will there always be that bit of friction?
“As far as I was concerned I couldn’t see why we couldn’t be friends after the band split because we didn’t fall out, that was Paul’s decision. It wasn’t like we had a big row and started fighting, we were more shocked than anything else but there wasn’t any grudge. It was just ‘That’s the end of that’and so it was until recently. I don’t know what happened with Rick but it’s a shame.”
From the Jam play Birmingham Town Hall on Thursday 19th October. Tickets are available from www.thsh.co.uk <