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Former drummer with The Jam, Rick Buckler, took a whistle-stop tour of Sheppey to talk about his new book.

By Andy Gray

Remember the Alan Partridge episode in which he’s taken hostage in a deranged superfan’s house which is a floor-to-ceiling homage to the cheesy Norwich DJ?

I was reminded of that celebrated comedy moment as Rick Buckler entered my kitchen where one wall is decorated with pictures of family, friends and his old group, The Jam.

I’ve worshipped Rick and his erstwhile bandmates, singer/songwriter Paul Weller and bass player Bruce Foxton, since their music came crashing into my life aged 11.

So imagine my thrill, and slight trepidation, to be hosting the rhythmic driving force behind the irrepressible power-pop trio.

The reason Rick’s travelled to Sheppey isn’t to satisfy an early bucket wishlist of mine, it’s to talk about his forthcoming autobiography, That’s Entertainment, and a Q&A night in which he stars at Maidstone United’s Gallagher Stadium.

Rick Buckler.
Rick Buckler.

We’re joined by his Maidstone-based ghostwriter, Ian Snowball, 45, who said the book promises to detail Rick’s life “in and out of The Jam”.

Its opening chapter deals with Weller’s decision to dissolve the band in 1982 at the apex of their success, having taken a 10-year climb to the top.

Of the group’s four chart-topping singles, three entered the charts at number one, a feat that had not been achieved since The Beatles.

If the split was tough on their legions of parka-clad fans, how did it feel for a drummer with the world at his footpedal?

Rick, 59, said: “Everything I’d got out of bed for the previous 10 years had gone.

“I had to start thinking about how I was going to move on.”

Weller announced the split a few months before the release of the band’s final single, Beat Surrender, so there were obligations such as farewell tours to meet.

The Jam (from left) Bruce Foxton, Rick Buckler and Paul Weller. The picture appears on the front cover of Rick's forthcoming autobiography, That's Entertainment.
The Jam (from left) Bruce Foxton, Rick Buckler and Paul Weller. The picture appears on the front cover of Rick's forthcoming autobiography, That's Entertainment.

“It was a slow and painful process,” Rick said. “Over those last six months, myself and Bruce thought, ‘maybe he’ll change his mind’.”

The band’s death throes were in contrast to their abundant glory days.

Their first number one came in 1980 with Going Underground.

The boys received the astonishing news it had topped the charts on the week of its release while on tour in Texas.

A Concorde flight home was booked immediately and
The Jam went stratospheric thereafter.

Their growing popularity took the group themselves by surprise as they headed to a UK show in the early 1980s.

Rick said: “There was this long line of people and our reaction was, ‘what the hell are this lot queueing for?’

Rick Buckler visits STG's Sheerness office.
Rick Buckler visits STG's Sheerness office.

“We thought they were selling half-price televisions or something.

Silence

“But when we turned the corner, we realised they were queueing to see us.”

Rick toyed with a number of bands after the trio’s demise, including From the Jam, in which he and Bruce toured without their original frontman who’s long-vowed never to return.

But unlike Weller, whose post-Jam success has continued almost unbroken, Rick has taken stints as a furniture restorer and roadie for Lulu and The Three Degrees to “put food on the table”.

He’s also managed bands, but any serious involvement with the music industry these days is restricted to retrospective musings about its workings in his book.

Its pages run shy of salacious detail surrounding the silence which has existed between the drummer and his former singer since their parting.

Maidstone author, Ian Snowball (left) and Rick Buckler.
Maidstone author, Ian Snowball (left) and Rick Buckler.

Rick said he remained “bemused” that his and Weller’s paths have crossed just once in more than three decades.

“Myself and Bruce did try very hard to stay in touch with Paul after the split, but we found ourselves completely out that bubble,” he said.

No matter the personal standings with each other – Rick and Bruce are also estranged since the drummer’s From the Jam departure in 2009 – the trio’s time together still resonates with the modern world.

Some of the great guitar groups of recent(ish) times – The Stone Roses, Oasis, The Libertines – cited them as an influence, and even our Prime Minister’s a fan, with David Cameron claiming the single The Eton Rifles a favourite.

An ironic choice, given it’s a singalong assassination of the privileged ruling classes.

The Jam’s hometown of Woking has also paid tribute, commissioning a sculpture which was unveiled by Rick in 2012.

It features the trunks of three ancient oak trees which have earned the nickname Pole, Spruce and Stick.

Rick, who still lives in Woking with wife Lesley, said their two children, Jason, 29, and Holly, 22, haven’t followed his career path.

He’s “hugely” proud of The Jam’s achievements but admitted in the break-up’s aftermath he wouldn’t play the band’s music.

Resistance was broken when he chanced upon a classic.

“I caught A Town Called Malice on the radio, and I remember thinking, ‘that’s not half bad really’.

That’s Entertainment is released on May 11.

In The Crowd with Rick Buckler takes place at Gallagher Stadium on June 5. Tickets cost £14 and are available from strangetown.net

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