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During my fourth year at York University, there was a professor’s strike that stretched from March until May, putting a number of students’ academic years and graduation plans at risk. I was on a five year plan in a four year program, so it was no issue to me in that sense. Really, it just lengthened my year some. However, it did have the added benefit of lulling me into boredom in early spring and got me out searching for a summer job earlier than I would’ve done otherwise. I ended up finding a position in a tool rental shop, a job that I surprisingly fell in love with, that kept me gainfully employed for the remainder of my university studies, and turned into my first post-graduation full-time job.
I was trained by a guy named Angelo that was probably a few years older than myself but spending quite a bit of time together in the store, we grew into a sort of friendship. He also really liked music and though he favoured what I considered to be classic rock, he was always very open to different sounds and exploring new bands. In fact, he always open to all sorts of new ideas and new experiences and we had a lot of great conversations. We have obviously lost touch, since I left the tool rental company and Toronto over two decades ago, but I still have the copy of “The very best of The Jam” CD he purchased for my birthday on behalf of him and our other co-worker, Marco.
We must’ve talked about the British punk-rock trio at some point during that summer of 1997 but I’m sure I wasn’t able to contribute much at the time, perhaps just that Paul Weller was their lead singer and that my friend Andrew Rodriguez was a big fan. The gift* was super appreciated, though, and I spent quite a bit of time with the disc that fall, becoming a convert of the group in the process. So a couple of years later when a tribute album called “Fire & skill” was released, I didn’t hesitate to pick it up. Of course, it didn’t hurt that it featured covers by a bunch of Britpop survivors, like Reef, Heavy Stereo, a song by each of Oasis’s Gallagher brothers (Liam working with Ocean Colour Scene’s Steve Cradock), and Gene.
Long time fans and influenced by The Jam, Gene chose for their entry on this compilation a faithful cover of “Town called malice”, which, incidentally, was one of the few songs I knew of The Jam before hearing the aforementioned compilation. The original appeared on The Jam’s sixth and final studio album, “The gift”, and is three minute northern soul groove wrapped around Paul Weller’s teenaged kicks around his hometown and man, does that rhythm section get you dancing. The cover is slightly fuller sounding, with raunchier guitars, and it’s fun, Martin Rossiter’s vocals always sounding a bit on the side of Morrissey and has you wondering what The Smiths might have done with this song. And though with the extended moments and cleaner production, it doesn’t quite feel as immediate and as honest as the original, it’s still great.
Indeed, I like both versions a lot (and don’t get me wrong, I do love me some Gene) but I’m going with The Jam on this battle.
*Pardon the pun
For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.