If you’re looking for a great weekend away with a good dose of nostalgia thrown in a trip to Liverpool is well worth squeezing in your diary. This feature is a slight deviation from the norm at ScooterLab but we thought it was worth sharing (whether you like it or not let us know).
I must admit to being slightly sceptical before visiting ‘About the Young Idea’ in Liverpool. I mean how much can there be to see about a ‘little’ British band?
Although I grew up listening to The Jam and have always had a liking for their attitude, music and stage presence, they aren’t what I’d consider to be my favourite band of all time. I was more into 2-Tone and Madness during my early Mod phase. Even so the three-piece band from Woking have been part of my own history and every song has some significance, although I probably didn’t realise just how much of an impact they’d had until I visited Liverpool last weekend. This extensive and very well put together exhibition made quite an impression on this ‘grown up’ teenager and my Jam-loving other half…
Situated in the heart of Liverpool in the stunning Cunard building there’s a buzz around the place.
Even before you even enter the Pop-Art littered tunnel leading into the exhibition you begin to reminisce and can hear the soundtrack to our youth playing in the background. Exit left and rather than finding yourself Down in the Tube Station you’re transported to a moment in time.
It’s December 11th 1982, we’re in a smoky venue as the band play their last ever gig. A darkened stage set uses the original equipment from that fateful last performance and although the room is devoid of Weller, Foxton and Buckler the band lives on through the big screen. Even Paul Weller was impressed to see just how authentic the stage and equipment were when he visited).
Sitting in the darkness surrounded by other middle-aged men and women, music blasting from the vintage cabinets of the Vox and Marshall PA stack it’s hard not to feel a sense of bereavement at the loss of such an iconic band. The empty stage set is quite a poignant reminder of times gone by, nights out, scooter rallies and numerous tribute bands seen over the years.
The exhibition itself has already been to London but its temporary home in Liverpool is roomier and I’ve been told the set up is much more user-friendly. It was established with the assistance of Paul Weller’s sister, Nicky and with many original artefacts coming from Jam aficionado and big-time Jam collector, Den Davis, orchestrated and helped by David Lees and Russell Reader. This exhibition is as comprehensive, as well thought out and as cleverly set up as it’s possible to be. If you’re planning a visit, allow yourself a good couple of hours to get around it and take in the nostalgia. We’re talking about a huge collection of original notes, lyrics, posters, records, badges, paraphernalia, stage equipment, clothing, diaries and memorabilia. All set to a backing track of classic songs, videos and props. Unsurprisingly there are even a few themed scooters kicking about, but to be fair they were just the window dressing amongst a much bigger and more intriguing display.
Some of the more interesting exhibits for me were the handwritten notes and early gig flyers. School exercise books with similar doodles to the ones any of us may have annoyed teachers with back in the day. Scooters carved in Biro, band logos scrawled in ink. ‘The Adventures of Paul the Mod’ cartoon strips also feature in Mr Weller’s early artistry.
An amusing school fete programme lists girls weight training, followed by karate and sandwiches in the middle of a fun-filled day, before at 3.30pm ‘Jam in concert’. Little did the fellow pupils know of their imminent success and meteoric rise to fame. Even so, the band didn’t forget Woking once they hit the big time and returned for fundraising gigs now and again.
Carefully set-up rooms around the exhibition allow a glimpse back to those exciting times. A Perspex window looks into a recreated 1970s living room; a scene those of us old enough can all relate to. Another window looks in on a dressing room, perfectly recreated and painstakingly authentic. Original Premier drums, once used by Buckler, stacked and ready to set up on stage. Regal cigarettes overflowing from the pedestal ashtray and stubbed out on the 1970s well-worn carpet, vintage original flight cases still sticky and battered from a life on the road… The drums were liberated from an attic, the apologetic safekeeper making excuses for them being dusty and covered in a smattering of surface rust. As authentic as any original rustoration.
Walking between different sections of the exhibition the transitions move with the times, historic events are shown on vintage televisions, The Falklands, Charles & Diana’s wedding, the riots and general scenes identifying British history and culture. Everywhere you look there is something to catch your eye, cabinets filled with button badges; a staple requirement for any young mod growing up in the 1980s. Elsewhere a hand-drawn gig poster for the Hammersmith Apollo lists Modern World t-shirts for just £2. Worth a few quid more now I’d guess…
As you near the end of the exhibition a four-screen theatre room plays simultaneous early Jam footage and interviews, listened to via cordless ‘silent disco’ headphones. Switch to each channel to watch the next screen. The visitors are as enthusiastic and captivated at the end as they were at the beginning. Look around and a mixture of old, young, male and female are enjoying looking back on those days, even if they weren’t old enough to remember them.
The final part of the exhibition is a Jam Café and shop where you can have a drink, buy a pot of hand-made strawberry Jam jam, buy records, cd’s, clothes and collectables or just chat with like-minded fans and two of the curators, Den & David.
When & where
The exhibition is on at the Cunard Building, the Strand, Liverpool, L3 1QB. It runs until September 25th and is open 7 days a week 10am-6pm. Tickets cost £5 off-peak, £9.50 peak and under 12-year-olds are free. To prevent overcrowding only a limited amount of tickets are available each day but at quieter times you can walk up and pay on the door. If travelling we advise getting tickets in advance.
Visit: Nicetimeinc.co.uk for tickets and information.