Thursday, February 4, 2016

Great Songs You Probably Don't Know - The Bitterest Pill - The Jam

To any Jam fans, I apologize for not including the whole title of the song in the title of this blog. The actual name of the track is, "The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow).

Meanwhile, for those of you who have never heard of The Jam, it's probably because you're not British. The Jam had a very successful run as a punk and new wave band from the late '70s into the early '80s. Their brand of punk had much more in common with The Clash than say, The Sex Pistols. The Jam tended to be more consistently poppy, fun, and less socially conscious in their music as opposed to The Clash and far more tuneful than The Sex Pistols ever could've dreamed.

Similarly to how The Clash got a bit further away from the punk sound in their later years, so too did The Jam. One of the best products of this expansion in sound is this 1982 single; "The Bitterest Pill."


What opens with jangling guitars and snappy drums, soon gives way to lead singer and songwriter Paul Weller's surprisingly emotional vocals. As the first chorus approaches we get a hint of strings, a sounds that becomes increasingly prevalent as the chorus closes. Vocal harmonies start to come in during the second verse and by the time we get to the chorus again, everything comes in all at once. Sweeping strings, female backing vocals, and Weller himself giving it all he's got, singing wonderfully. 

UK audiences were very receptive to the piece, pushing it all the way to number 2 on their music charts; here in the U.S. though...didn't even show up anywhere. This song is about as far away from punk as you can get, but even then it doesn't completely lose some of its edge thanks mostly to the rhythm section.

While I wouldn't say this is a good entry point for people to understand The Jam's typical sound, it is an incredible listen and a piece that any self-respecting music fan needs to hear.

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