Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Song of the Day: 'Absolute Beginners' (Double Play)

I still don't know what I did to have grown up during such an exciting time in music history, but today's Double Play certainly doesn't disappoint. 


First we have The Jam's "Absolute Beginners," a stopgap single the band put out between its albums "Sound Affects" and "The Gift," the latter of which wound up being their surprise swan song. I don't think the Jam has a song or video that better captures their youthful exuberance -- running down the streets of London's Shepherd's Bush with Bat-fight-type words and silent-movie cards peppering the action. And what 22-year-old writes lyrics like this?!

In echoed steps I walked across an empty dream 
I looked across this world, there was no one to be seen 
This empty feeling turned and quietly walked away 
I saw no warmth in life, no love was in my eyes 
I stared a century thinking this will never change 
As I hesitated, time rushed onwards without me 
Too scared to break the spell, too small to take a fall 
But the absolute luck is, love is in our hearts!

I lost some hours thinking of it
I need the strength to go and get what I want
I lost a lifetime thinking of it
An' I lost an era daydreaming like I do

The song hit No. 4 on the U.K. singles chart -- the fifth of their nine Top 10 hits -- and is an absolute classic. 


This one might get me in trouble. I'm a lifelong casual fan of David Bowie -- Paul Weller was my king, who I think runs circles around Ziggy Stardust et al. -- with "Changesbowie" being the only record of his I ever purchased. But perhaps more disrespectful to serious Bowie fans is that "Absolute Beginners" may very well be my favorite song of his, despite its perhaps being a bit of a throwaway composed for a Julien Temple film very few people saw. Not since "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" has a song built to such a memorable crescendo -- the album version is just shy of eight glorious minutes -- one that still gives me chills nearly 40 years later. "Absolute Beginners" reached No. 53 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 9 on the U.S. Mainstream Rock chart, and No. 2 on the U.K. singles chart, which has long put the U.S. record-buying public to shame. 

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