The 1980 song by the Jam from their album Sound Affects has always struck me as one of the most English songs ever written. I play a smattering of guitar, and I really love the chord progression in this one, and I love the words. But I feel funny trying to sing it in my own accent – and funnier still in even thinking about trying to put on an unconvincing Woking accent. But one thing about this tune that I can identify with outside of how English it is, is that suburbs are the same in England as they are anywhere else, including here in Canadialand. And ‘That’s Entertainment’ is ultimately about how it feels to be there, and perhaps to be stuck there.
I love how cinematic it is, almost like one of those late 60s gritty British dramas by Ken Loach, like Poor Cow, or Kes. The lyrics evoke bleak landscapes of underdeveloped council estates, the mundanities of street sounds and background noise, and of feelings of ‘wishing you were far away’. As you listen, you mind sort of fills in the gaps, and populates the landscape with characters moving through it, the ones who live with the boredom, the violence, and the underlying need to experience something new. I suppose this is a very rock n roll song, in that pretty much every major rock n roll musican came out of places like this, and looked to the music as a means of getting out of that world and into a wider, less predictable one.
Here’s a clip of the Jam performing their (arguably) best single, ‘That’s Entertainment’.
To view the clip, hover over the image and click the ‘play’ icon. To enlarge the viewing screen, click the magnifying glass icon. Alternatively, click on the image and view the clip in a new browser window. Enjoy!