511. ‘Beat Surrender’, by The Jam

On with the next thirty. And to start, The Jam return for one final chart-topper.

Beat Surrender, by The Jam (their 4th and final #1)

2 weeks, 28th November – 12th December 1982

In my last post on them – ‘Town Called Malice’ / ‘Precious’ – Paul Weller and his bandmates had made some sonic advancements. Away from punk; into soul, funk and Motown. ‘Beat Surrender’ is more of the same. It’s intro, for a start, is the love-child of ‘I Will Survive’s piano flutter, and ‘Dancing Queen’s glissando.

I’m not even sure there’s a guitar involved here. Certainly not a lead guitar. There’s a piano, and lots of horns. It’s slick and glossy. But that’s not to suggest that The Jam have lost their edge. It’s still a great pop song, with a great hook: Come on boy, Come on girl, Succumb to the beat surrender…

And like most Jam songs, it’s lyrically dense. The title is a play on ‘Sweet Surrender’ and the idea of beating a retreat, which makes sense when you realise that this was The Jam’s final release, their farewell single. Weller intended it as a call to their fans, to young, up and coming bands: Seize the young determination, Show the fakers you ain’t foolin’…

The band also drop some pearls of wisdom from their time as one of the country’s biggest acts: Bullshit is bullshit, It just goes by different names… A line that I think – unless I’m forgetting something obvious – delivers our first example of swearing in a #1 single. Lonnie Donegan, The Stones, Billy Connolly have all flirted with it, but didn’t go all the way. It took five hundred and eleven chart-toppers, though, which is impressive. Safe to say this won’t be the last…

I do admire the way that The Jam didn’t stand still, never seemed to recycle a sound or a style, in their five years of success. Here we have a great moment, when the soulful riffs of the first two verses drops down to a galloping disco bassline. It’s a risk, for a rock act, you could alienate your fans by daring to try new things (gasp!). But it didn’t seem to hurt The Jam. ‘Beat Surrender’ entered at #1 – making them the second act to do this three times (after Slade). Of course, announcing that this record was to be their final ever release probably didn’t hurt its chances, and ensured a fair bit of demand…

 Though I’d say that it hasn’t remained in the collective memory as much as their three previous number ones. It’s a good one – none of their chart-toppers are anything less than a seven-out-of-ten – but perhaps its success wasn’t just for musical reasons. Anyway, after this Paul Weller formed The Style Council, with whom he continued his chart-success (though they never made it to #1) and then found himself cast as the cool uncle of British rock in the 1990s (‘The Modfather’), enjoying a hugely popular solo career that shows no signs of ending: his latest release topped the album charts just last year. Bruce Foxton, the bassist, formed ‘From the Jam’ in the mid-2000s, and Paul Weller has guested on some of his tracks, though he seems pretty set against a full-on reformation.

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10 thoughts on “511. ‘Beat Surrender’, by The Jam

  1. My least fave Jam single since david watts i think, a bit over rated because it was a goodbye. I saw them in 1981 i think and they were on fire. To be honest i much preferred the fab debut Style Council single Speak Like A Child and many more after that when weller was full on 60s soul, not to mention full on politics.

    Depending on what you call swearwords id offer up 10cc rubber bullets as the first, balls and brains. Radio 1 always faded it before that bit though by the time of The Jam’s non single import hit That’s Entertainment even Tony Blackburn was hsppily playing kick in the balls on the chart show….

    • Good shout with 10cc. I’d say that’s more BBC sensitivities than censoring an actual swearword, though… Is ‘balls’ a swearword? ‘Bollocks’ is, but ‘balls’? A question for the ages…

  2. I saw where their EP made it to the US in April 1963 but, I’ve never heard this, before and I’ve never heard of them. I’ve heard “Start!”, before but, I didn’t know it was them.

    There is something about them that remind me of Altered Images.

    • Yeah, they were a bit more punk than Altered Images, at least to begin with. With this being their farewell single, it sort of draws a line under the new-wave, post punk bands. In 1983 the New Romantics will take over…

      Have you heard of Style Council? They were the band formed by Paul Weller after the Jam split up. Not sure how big they were in the US.

      • I’ve heard of them, yes. Not sure I know any of their music. UK music is hit or miss with us in the US. Some of your #1s, I’ve never heard of and others…they are played quite a bit, here.

        With Altered Images, not a single album charted here and only one song charted on the Dance Chart…I Could Be Happy.

        I knew about Altered Images because a strange video channel in my area, here in NC, played Don’t Talk To Me About Love. It took me many years to find that video, again or even hear the song, again (no such thing as Internet, Email or YouTube back then). I talked about that channel here:
        https://cosmic-observation.com/2021/09/23/hans-2021-song-draft-round-six-pick-11-fall-on-me-rem-1986/

      • To be honest, I don’t know all that much Altered Images, apart from ‘Happy Birthday’. Though their singer Claire Grogan was often on TV, as an actor and general personality, when I was growing up…

  3. I like The Jam… They were exciting and then Weller left them and turned into that easy listening band. This one is not my favorite song by them but I’ll take it.

  4. Pingback: Recap: #511 – #540 | The UK Number Ones Blog

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