England during the late 1970s was host to a thriving punk scene, with bands such as The Sex Pistols and The Clash leading the way. There was also a bit of a mod revival going on at the same time. Enter The Jam. Fronted by Paul Weller, the band had the energy, attitude and socially conscious lyrics of many of the punk bands, but they did so in neatly tailored suits. In this sense, they didn't fully fit into either world, but they forged their own identity in the process. Then, in 1982, seemingly at the height of their powers, Weller pulled the plug and The Jam was no more. The two-DVD set, The Jam - About The Young Idea, tells their story and pairs it with a high-energy appearance on the famed German TV show Rockpalast.
The documentary mixes new interviews with the band's members with archival footage as well as testimonials from fans and industry people. Weller and early Jam member, Steve Brookes are seen in current footage playing "Bye Bye Love" and "Slow Down" acoustically. The idea is to show that, unlike many of their punk counterparts, The Jam were unafraid to incorporate 1950s and 1960s influences into their music. The pair formed a band in the 1970s and ran an ad looking for a rhythm guitarist, with the idea that Weller would move to bass to emulate his hero, Paul McCartney. The band was heavily influenced by Dr. Feelgood for their hard-edged R&B, but it was Weller's introduction to The Who, and with it the whole mod lifestyle, that shaped The Jam's future to the point that he tried to rewrite The Who's first album on The Jam's first album.
After Brookes left the band, Weller became the leader and Foxton moved to bass. Weller saw an increased amount of pressure being the primary songwriter, but found his footing by writing about the youth and their problems, stating that he didn't have to put himself in their shoes because he already was. This served the band very well in England, where they connected with that country's youth, but made it hard for them to succeed in America, where they were deemed "Too British." Case in point, they were touring America when "Going Underground" was released and expected it to chart. It didn't, tanking instead. Meanwhile, the song was doing very well back home, causing the band to rethink their priorities. They cancelled their remaining gigs and returned to England to play Top Of The Pops. In 1982, after releasing The Gift, Weller decided he needed a break and called it quits, leaving the band. Wanting to expand his horizons, he formed the Style Council and is adamant in his refusal to reform the Jam. Foxton and drummer Rick Buckler went on to perform together again in the 2000s as From The Jam.
The documentary focuses a lot on the band's fans and the impact they had on them as well. One fan wrote them and ended up getting to do a photo shoot with the group, launching his career as a photographer in the process. Another moved to England to learn English, primarily because of The Jam and is still there more than 30 years later. Weller remains a hero to those of the modernist movement and one fan is shown interviewing him for his mod blog. It is also noteworthy to mention that Weller managed to get a lot of young males to read and write poetry, which wasn't common at the time. For a band that was only in the public's eye for a short time, they made a lasting impression and the documentary does a good job of showing that.
The DVD is filmed in 16:9 widescreen format and generally looks great. The archival footage varies in quality with none of it unwatchable. Audio options include DTS Digital Surround, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and 2.0 Stereo. Bonus clips include additional interviews, as well as live clips from The Rainbow in London 1979 and The Ritz in New York City from 1981. While not up to today's broadcast standards in terms of picture, the performances are great and well worth having. A bonus disc, featuring the band on the TV show Rockpalast from 1980 is also included. The original 4:3 aspect ratio is thankfully preserved and the show is a high-energy gem including a stomping "Dream Time" and the jangly rock of "Thick As Thieves."
The Jam mixed punk with 60s R&B and mod sensibilities in a way few others have been able to replicate. Weller's heroes in The Who sang that they hoped they would die before they got old and Weller did exactly that with The Jam, breaking up the band when he was only 24 and the group was on top of their game. It is something he attributes to the group's longevity among fans, that they quit while they were ahead. About The Young Idea does an excellent job of telling the group's story and the lasting influence they continue to have.