How many bands can you think of that quit while they were on top? The Beatles, yes, then there’s ABBA (before their 2021 reunion) and The Clash. But it’s a rare breed indeed. On October 30, 1982, The Jam confirmed that they were going to join that club, to the dread of fans everywhere.
That day, following weeks of rumours, Paul Weller announced that after five years of unbroken success, he was splitting up the band to explore new musical possibilities. Journalist and Jam expert Paolo Hewitt later called it “the bravest decision pop had seen since Marvin and Stevie stood up to Motown.”
Summer holiday, then a split
The Jam had toured their UK No.1 album of earlier that year, The Gift, around the world, following British dates with tours of Europe, North America, and Japan. Weller, exhausted and by now tee-total, followed that with a summer holiday in Italy, and returned home to let it be known that he wanted to break the group up. He was 24.
In an interview with The Face in the spring of 1982, Weller had given no sign that the group might be nearing its end. “If we split up there are other things I could do, obviously, but it wouldn’t be the same at all,” he said. “Because it’s great when you’re doing things with other people and you get something that really works and you’re part of.”
The news of the band’s demise had not been intended as a formal announcement, but after it was leaked, a hand-written press statement was distributed on that day in 1982. “Personal address to our fans,” wrote Weller. “At the end of this year, The Jam will be officially splitting up, as I feel we have achieved all we can together as a group. I mean this both musically and commercially. I want all we have achieved to count for something and most of all I’d hate us to end up old and embarrassing like so many other groups do.”
A few days later, The Jam starred in their own mini-gig on the first-ever edition of the Channel 4 TV series that itself passed into legend, The Tube. At the end of November, they said their musical farewell with the brilliant final single “Beat Surrender,” which became their third to go straight to No.1 in the UK. The trio’s final tour included five nights at Wembley Arena, supported by Big Country, and, on December 11, culminated in an emotional goodbye at the Brighton Centre.