Sunday, November 09, 2008

"Man In the Corner Shop"

I'm not sure where this is going to go. But what the hell.
I was never a mod. Not in the 60s, you understand, since I'd have been the youngest mod in existence. No, I mean the mod revival in the 70s. Parkas, Vespas, purple hearts, you know the drill.... I didn't get it. And when The Jam surfed to the top of the musical agenda on the wave of this revival, I didn't buy into it, not one bit. Those skinny ties....yuk.
Having said that, I did enjoy their music. I thought "English Rose" was just about the finest love song ever written - and still do - while "That's Entertainment" and "Down in the Tube Station at Midnight" brought living in London during that period so vividly to life. Between them, Paul Weller and Tom Robinson pretty much told you how it could be, living here.
I hadn't heard this song for a long, long time until this weekend, when something prompted me to buy it. And I remember now why I liked it so much. For a start, there's something very 60s about this: the guitar sound and the echoing chorus sound a little like something the Byrds might have toyed with.
But it's really the lyric that you're listening to here: "Puts up the closed sign, does the man in the corner shop/Serves his last then he says goodbye to him/He knows it is a hard life/But its nice to be your own boss really." Like Ray Davies, Paul Weller knows that the universal lies in the particular, and there's no better story to tell than all of our stories. And it's so English, the "does the man in the corner shop." No other English-speaking country does that, and that one phrase places the song and its story so specifically that you feel like you could be watching a film.
The other thing is Weller's voice - he's toned down the harsh, spitting aggression of the first four albums and he's concentrating on carrying the tune - the echo gives his voice a gentler feel and makes the story he's telling feel almost like a dream.
"Go to church, do the people from the area/All shapes and classes sit and pray together/For here they are all one/For God created all men equal." That's a hell of a way to end a lyric of a Jam song, when most of the material Weller wrote was so rooted in the real world and so in-your-face.
And I suppose that's the real reason that this is a SongWithoutWhich - that, and the wondrous events of last Tuesday.

3 comments:

Betty C. said...

Well, I think it's quite significant that the Jam covered David Watts.

Nice clip - - I never saw the Jam in concert although they were big during a time I was seeing many concerts.

1800blogger said...

Could you please contact ken@1800blogger.com

Betty C. said...

Well, why don't you contact me? You can find my email address on my profile.