Flashback Friday: For The Love of "All Mod Cons"!

As a kid in a a small town in Michigan, circa 1981, one's exposure to music beyond what you heard on the FM dial or saw on TV (on one of the three channels we had back then) was pitifully limited.  If not for Solid Gold, Don Kirschner's Rock Concert, The Midnight Special, Saturday Night Live, and Friday's, I'd have died of cultural starvation.  Out of sheer survival, my senses became increasingly heightened, honed to a sharp, pinpoint edge.  If there was awesome non-mainstream music to be found, my sonar would detect it.

The night began innocently enough, my dad arriving home from work and agreeing to take we kids (my bro and sis) to the county fair.  As we bounced off the walls with anxious excitement, he then took a half-hour nap that seemed to last an eternity.  I felt like running in there and shaking him awake, yelling, "come on Dad, we're burning daylight", but my brother talked me out of it.

We reached the fair at the crack of dusk and were each given a few bucks with which to dizzify ourselves on rides, cotton candy and elephant ears.  For the next few hours, I cruised the fairgrounds looking for something that looked, well, remotely interesting.  Once you've been to an actual amusement park, which I had, a county fair can be a bit of a letdown.  With minutes before closing time, I realized that I still had almost all the money my parents had given me.

Holy shit, I thought, better spend it.  Too late, we were now heading towards the parking lot.  Just off the midway, tucked next to a row of porta-john's, there was a tent selling a wide array of pointless crap: black-light posters of skeletons and unicorns, whoopie cushions, wall-size Led Zep tapestries, etc.  There at the back, stuffed under a table holding kiddie fireworks (sparklers, smoke bombs, and so on) and stuffed animals (for those who couldn't win them) was a large wooden crate.

A closer look revealed that said crate was full of records.

Most of it was of the usual cut-out bin variety; Yes, Frampton, Foghat, and so on.  And then I saw it, The Jam All Mod Cons.  I had never heard the Jam, much less heard of them, but I bought the album anyway.  I wasn't expecting much, having been burned many times before by spontaneous purchases based on cool cover art: Ambrosia Road Island, anyone?

So imagine my surprise when I got home, put the record on my turntable, and what I heard didn't suck.  In fact, the sound so delighted my ear holes that, for the next few days, I would play nothing else.  Even my dad noticed.  His workshop was mere feet from my room and, after about six straight hours of Jamming, he poked his head into my room and suggested I play something else.    

Considering I was probably still in my Kiss phase, the fact that I fell so hard for the most Brit-centric trio of the modern age still surprises me.  What was it that attracted me so?

Probably the same thing that attracts me to this day: Weller's confident urgency, alternating disdain and love for his homeland, and a Ray Davies-influenced flair for making daily minutiae seem somehow romantic and hopeless at the same time.

Weller's music, whether performed by the Jam, Style Council, or solo, remains explosive, yet precise; brash, yet refined; modern, but rooted in the past.  And through it all, he has remained so decidedly British that you almost have to wonder how a copy of All Mod Cons found its way into the same crate with Foghat, Frampton and Yes.

I know, I know, they're all British, but, let's face it, those acts owed their existence to we Americans.  Paul Weller, on the other hand, has never needed America a single day in his life.  When he tours the States, he does so because he wants to, not because he needs to, and we fans are the better for it.

And when a documentary of the making of All Mod Cons finds its way to YouTube, you better believe this writer hangs on every second as new light is shed on what I consider to be Paul Weller's finest moment.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

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