The Jam-Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, IL 5/26/82 One Sunday morning while in college eating breakfast at Ladyman's Cafe in Bloomington, IN, I was reading the Chicago Tribune and came across an ad for a live performance by The Jam, and attending this event was probably the singular defining moment of my life up to that point. This concert taught to me the power of live music and is most likely the reason I have been involved in the music business to this day.
I was 19 years old and managed to borrow my mother's car for the 6 hour drive from Evansville, IN up Highway 41 North to Chicago. After spending the early part of the day researching some family business history with the Sear's historian at the Sear's Tower in downtown Chicago, I ate some lunch in a diner on Michigan Avenue, and then made my way up to the north side to find the Aragon. Of course, it being 3 or 4 O'clock in the afternoon I had arrived way too early for the show, but none-the-less found a parking space for the car and made my way on foot to find the venue. Much to my surprise when I arrived there was already quite a line of people in front of the Aragon waiting to get in, and because it was starting to rain and I did not want to spend several hours getting wet, I decided to walk around to the rear of the venue to see what I could see. What I discovered was The Jam's touring bus and all the band's gear laying out on the ground with the crew hurriedly hauling it inside before it gets drenched. As I stood by watching this scene, one of the crew who I now assume was Kenny Wheeler looked at me and said "Are you just gonna stand about or are you gonna lend a hand?". The gear nearest to me happened to be a pile of guitar cases so I picked a couple up and made a few trips back and forth, carrying in some catering food as well, and then decided to stay out of the rain and to watch the goings on inside.
The Aragon is laid out on two levels with a dance floor on a lower level and then an elevated balcony and after milling around a bit downstairs I decided to wander up to the balcony to stand above the stage and watch the crew finishing up the set up of the stage. I am thrilled to see Paul, Bruce and Rick walk out on stage to do their sound check, and at the conclusion of the sound check I am approached by a squarely built man with a grey pompadour who sticks out his hand for a shake and says "Goodaye Bruce." I must of been quite the site as I stood in front of John Weller with a confused look on my face, and visions of the Monty Python "Bruce" skit dancing thru my head. After a few seconds John Weller asks "You are Bruce the promoter, aren't you?", to which I respond "No, I am just here for the show", as I finally reach out to shake his hand. After a few moments of conversing with John Weller, during which I figured out he was both Paul's father and The Jam's manager, John went of in search of Bruce the promoter.
By now The Jam had finished their sound check and are starting to wander up to the balcony where the dressing rooms are located and where their pre-gig meal will be served. First up was Bruce, with whom I had a very relaxed conversation, talking about the tour so far and its high points and low points. Next up was Paul with whom I exchanged the briefest of greetings. Finally the band and crew sit down to their meal and I decide to make my way out front to buy a ticket, which obviously at this point I do not need but wanted anyway for a souvenir. The same crew person who I assume to be Kenny Wheeler was informing the Aragon staff they could start letting the audience in, and as I was unsure of how to make my way out to the box office I approached him and asked where it was located. Naturally, he appeared slightly confused as to why I would want to buy a ticket when I was already inside and after explaining my reason he escorted me to the entrance and I thanked him. One of the Aragon staff took note of me trying to make my way out against the audience now coming in, and proceeded to take offence at the fact I did not have a ticket attempting to "throw me out" at which point Kenny exchanged some words with him telling the Aragon staffer to let me out.
After purchasing my ticket and making my way back in, I visited the merchandising stand and purchased a copy of the "Trans Global Unity Express" tour program and an "Absolute Beginners" T-shirt and then descended again to the main room of the Aragon awaiting The Jam's arrival on-stage. I was recently reminded of the incredible power of The Jam's performance this evening when I picked up a copy of the show on a live tape from a fellow listee from the Paul Weller Mailing List. The band kicked off their set with "Running On the Spot" and "Happy Together", and Paul, Bruce and Rick performed an amazing hour long show to an ecstatic crowd and thunderous response.
To my recollection the highlights of the show were "Happy Together", "Ghosts", "Precious", "Little Boy Soldiers", "In the Crowd", "Move on Up", and my first hearing of the new song "The Great Depression". After leaving the stage The Jam returned for two encores and at this point my mind was fixed on getting back out front to meet up with the band again as they leave in order to get my program autographed. As the crowd finally started to give up on a third encore I started making my way out with them up the stairs at the rear of the main room. Then a truly amazing thing happened. Everybody, including myself turned around and walked back down into the main room and the cheer went up until The Jam returned for a third encore. The power of this evening's music was confirmed in my mind when in the liner notes to "Dig the New Breed", Paul Weller remarked "Chicago gig, brilliant!".
After waiting for the band quite a while in front of the Aragon, Kenny Wheeler came out and did his usual "Oh, you lot are waiting on the band, they already left" routine. But we were not to be disappointed as Paul, Bruce, and Rick emerged to spend a half hour talking to the fans and signing autographs. I first got Bruce's signature, then moved on to get Rick's and having a nice 5 minute conversation with him, finally moving on to get Paul's signature. Last but not least, I approached John Weller who was watching over the scene standing in the open door of the tour bus. A brief conversation ensued and I explained to John that I would like his autograph as he obviously was an important part of it all, but he modestly declined saying it was "just about the boys". Finally the band boarded their bus and I set off to make my way back to my car and to locate my hotel.
A few things in particular have stuck with me from this evening. First, the potential of live music- to aspire to that cathartic moment where band and audience are joined, each inspiring the other to a higher level. Second, that this moment in time was created by a group of individuals who struck me from our interaction as very sincere and down to earth. From this evening on, I became a devoted and die-hard music fan generally, and Jam, then later Style Council, and now Paul Weller fan in particular. In a lot of ways, it feels like we have grown up together!! That's music with impact...
Jeffrey Andrew Caddick Evansville, IN - 2/5/98...... joyshout
Boston - America
I have the ticket to May 20th 1982 at the Orpheum in Boston. I worked for the opening act and bought a ticket before they were added to the bill. It's not ripped. I remember that show pretty well. I have a tape of Boys Life that night thanking the Jam for letting them open the show. Afterwards The Jam came out into the house and sat around and chatted to about 20 of us. I took a few snapshots and still have them in my photo album, I also have the backstage pass from that night. Wow! Almost 20 years ago. I was 18. Anyway that's my trip down memory lane.
Hi, As I trawl the net in search of artist's websites, I come across loads and loads of absolute dross. Your site is a shining example of how to do something right. I am not the first to congratulate you and I am sure I will not be the last. I was lucky enough to see a few of The Jam's gigs in the south during the late seventies and your site brought all those memories back. I particularly have fond memories of sharing a couple of bottles of Bull's Blood with Rick in Portsmouth, before the show, when we blagged our way into the sound check. I will be posting your link in the next few days, I hope you get some traffic, Keep smiling