The Jam's Bruce Foxton on Farnham life and rocking in Ripley with Weller
Thirty-five years ago, Bruce Foxton teamed up with two young upstarts in Woking to form one of Britain’s most successful bands. Now, with current outfit, From the Jam, set to play Guildford, we speak to the Mod stalwart about recording in Ripley, having Paul Weller back on his speed dial and how golf helped make his latest album possible
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine November 2012
Recording a rock album has long been bereft of bottom-less Champagne and chauffeur driven limousines to the local takeaway (unless you’re the Rolling Stones, maybe), and even stars of Bruce Foxton’s standing, former bassist of The Jam, have been forced to discover new ways of getting their passion on ‘tape’.
Back in the Room, the latest offering from the 57-year-old, who lives near Farnham, was only made possible by fan donations. The new release also marks a further recovery in relations with Modfather, Paul Weller, frontman of their famously Woking-born band that has sold over 14 million albums.
Foxton fell out with Weller in 1982 when the singer suddenly broke up The Jam to form The Style Council and only a few years ago an entente cordiale would have been even less imaginable than, er, that endless vat of Champagne.
“When my wife, Pat, passed away in 2009 and was followed by Paul’s dad John a few months later... well, it really put things in perspective,” says Bruce.
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“You realise that life is too short for that sort of rubbish. Paul was amazing when my wife was battling cancer. It’s not like we talk everyday now – we have our own lives – but I know I can pick up the phone and he’ll be there – and vice versa.
“It was a real shame how things became and I’m so glad they’ve turned around.”
Born and brought up in a council house in Sheerwater, Foxton has never strayed far from his Surrey stomping ground, since living in Woking itself, then Bramley, Wonersh and now near Farnham.
“My social scene is here and all my friends live in the area,” explains Foxton. “I’ve never really had any wish to move away from the county.”
Back in the studio His latest album, which was funded via PledgeMusic (with fans donating towards the album’s creation and in return getting anything from a signed record to Foxton’s old ‘Jam shoes’ via rounds of golf with band members), was even recorded in Surrey.
Foxton and co took up roost at Weller’s own Black Barn Studios in Ripley – another bi-product of their rebuilt friendship sees Weller appear on three of the new tracks (returning the favour after Bruce appeared on 2010’s acclaimed Wake Up The Nation album).
“Recording at Paul’s was perfect,” says Bruce. “It was really relaxed and there were no red light nerves.
“It reminded me of when we recorded All Mod Cons with The Jam – you just know you’re on to something. I’m really proud of every song.”
And it’s not just the studio results that hit the spot...
“It was a pleasure to spend some time in Ripley as well, it’s a beautiful village – if we got a moment, we’d pop for a cup of coffee at one of the little tea shops or a curry at Ripley Curry Garden.
“In fact, I’d quite like to move there one day, but maybe Paul would think I was stalking him!”
The pair originally formed The Jam with Rick Buckler over 35 years ago, playing the likes of Walton Road Working Men’s Club (where they also practised) and Michael’s nightclub before gravitating to the London scene and eventually the world.
“It’s funny, we all attended Sheerwater Secondary School, but it was only when our jam sessions started that I ended up really knowing Paul,” says Foxton. “Rick Parfitt, who would go on to form Status Quo, also attended our school, a few years above, and I believe we borrowed some equipment from the Quo on our way up.”
Initially, it was all covers, as that was all anyone was interested in hearing. Foxton says that the band were just a nuisance to a lot of people on their night out in Woking and it forced them to head for the London scene.
“While the rest of us were just happy to play really, Paul was always adamant he was going to be successful, and his dad, John, was the catalyst behind us breaking the city – he really put the hours in for us and didn’t take no for an answer.
Top of the Pops The Jam’s initial record deal coincided with the end of an apprenticeship for Foxton at printing works Unwin Brothers – before then, the only real job he had was working at a Sheerwater butcher’s (“I’m surprised I’m not vegetarian!”) – and it was only when his mum saw him on Top of the Pops that she was convinced about him following a music career. It proved to be a good decision though...
The Jam would have 18 consecutive Top 40 singles, from their debut in 1977 to their break-up in December 1982, including four number one hits. After The Jam, Foxton pursued a solo career before he got the call from Stiff Little Fingers – a band he’d play with for the next 15 years.
“Then in 2006, I started playing with Bruce Watson, Mark Brzezicki from Big Country and Simon Townshend, Pete’s brother, under the name of Casbah Club, and we supported The Who in the UK and Europe,” says Bruce. “In the end though, we wanted to get back to our roots and launched From the Jam in 2007.”
The current line-up are set to tour this winter and anticipation is building for their ‘homecoming’ Guildford gig in December, on a stellar Class of 77 line-up with the Boomtown Rats and The Blockheads.
“I have to admit that I’ve only been in the foyer of G Live but it will be good to be back in town – we had been aiming for GuilFest but it didn’t quite work out,” says Foxton. “It was a sad day when they knocked down the Civic; we played it on our farewell tour and there was always more pressure because it was a ‘hometown’ gig but I’m sure the new place will be just as much fun.”
On the subject of the local musical landscape changing, Surrey Life’s interview with Foxton came the day after it was announced GuilFest may be no more because of financial issues.
“It’s sad to see it go; I’ve enjoyed playing a couple of times with Stiff Little Fingers and From the Jam and I’ve been as a punter too,” says Foxton. “Sadly, it’s a reflection of our times: money is tight and festivals aren’t cheap – they are also at the mercy of the English weather. I know a lot of people who will miss it.”
While the modern music industry is probably in its most tumultuous state in memory, what’s certain is that Bruce Foxton and his bass are well and truly back in the room and he doesn’t plan on leaving again anytime soon.
Bruce Foxton’s Back in the Room is out now; visit www.brucefoxton.com. A new book on the band, Thick as Thieves: The Fans’ Perspective on The Jam, is out now, priced at �12.99.
My Favourite Surrey
Restaurant… The Pipasha Tandoori in Churt is a great little Indian restaurant.
Shop… The last place I’d go is a music shop, so I guess somewhere like House of Fraser. You can get anything there, right?
View… A walk up to St Catherine’s Hill near Guildford. There’s a ruined chapel up there that is pretty atmospheric.
Place to chill… Frensham Pond – I was a bit disappointed I missed the Hollywood filming there last year.
Place to visit… One of the National Trust places like Clandon Park, I guess.
And a few more Surrey rock tales
• In the four years that John Lennon lived in Weybridge from 1964, The Beatles cemented their status as the world’s biggest band.
• Ringo Starr is a keen photographer and has a house in leafy Cranleigh.
• The Faces’ Kenney Jones owns Hurtwood Park polo club in Ewhurst and singer Mick Hucknall lives by Burhill Golf Course in Walton-on-Thames.
• Status Quo's Francis Rossi is happy living the quiet life in Purley's Webb Estate.
• Discover life down The Farm with Genesis' Mike Rutherford.
• Genesis Publications in Guildford has been creating limited edition hand-bound books mainly about rock stars and bands for over 35 years.
• Queen guitarist Brian May lives with his wife, the actress Anita Dobson, in the West End area, near Woking, where they have an animal rescue centre in the garden.
• Recording studios: the now closed Strawberry South studio in Dorking was opened by 10ccs Graham Gouldman and Eric Stewart, in 1976, and is said to be where parts of Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder’s Ebony and Ivory were recorded.
• Ginger dreadlocked Surrey songsmith Newton Faulkner once worked at Fanny’s Farm Shop near Redhill.