Episode 53: Steve Brookes – Co-Founder of The Jam

It was another very special moment when in August 2021, I was joined on the Paul Weller Fan Podcast by Steve Brookes co-founder of The Jam with his childhood best mate Paul Weller.
AMAZING! and what a lovely guest he was too – so warm, friendly, funny, open and honest.
We talked about those early days of The Jam – writing songs, recording demos and gigging around Surrey and found out why he left the band in 1975 and took such a long break from music and performing before his return in 2008.

EP53 – Steve Brookes – Singer, Songwriter – The Jam Co-Founder – ”Take me back there again, let me feel the same way…” Paul Weller Fan Podcast : Desperately Seeking Paul

The story starts at Sheerwater Comprehensive School at the end of 1971 – Steve as the new kid at school having just moved to the area – who made a new mate, Paul Weller, and soon started lunch time rehearsals in their classroom. The band line up grew to feature friends – Neil Harris on drums and Dave Waller on guitar – and they decided on a name of The Jam.
This iteration of the band actually won a talent contest in 1973 at The Old Woking Community Centre – before Neil left the band and Rick Buckler joined (more on that on Podcast EP42 with Rick).
I’m told that recordings of the band at this time do exist as they recorded two sessions in 1973.
August 1973 – Eden Studio – Blueberry Rock & Takin My Love From Me
November 1973 – Fanfare Studios – Some Kinda Loving & Makin My Way Back Home
If you have audio that you can share then please do send me an email.
The band’s first proper bookings and a residency at Michael’s in Woking came in 1974 – a time that Paul has mentioned as being the most fun that he’s had in a band – and Bruce Foxton joined the band in May of that year.
There was another recording session in 1975 at TW Studios, a dingy little basement studio in Fulham, where they played Walking The Dog, I Will Be There, One Hundred Ways and Forever & Always. I’ve added a YouTube link at the bottom of this page for some bootleg recordings that are kicking about with this one.
Steve quit the band that Summer – unhappy with the new musical (and stylist) direction that Paul was driving the band towards. Steve is really open and honest on the podcast about his feelings and experiences at that time and talks about how he parked the music career and went on to do other things.
After a huge break from anything related to Paul and The Jam, Steve was asked to do an interview with the Boys About Town fanzine in the mid-90s, which was also filmed for the Highlights and Hangups Video Documentary, released in 1995 (and posted below). This led to Steve and Paul re-connecting and re-building their friendship.

A year later, Steve published his own story Keeping The Flame – now long out of print, it’s a great read about the early days of The Jam and, as you’d expect, a refreshingly honest account of the period with details emerging not only of their prolific live schedule at venues like the Woking Working Men’s Club, Michael’s and the nearly Tumbledown Dick, but that a number of recording sessions had been made at a variety of different studios and he even revealed details of a C120 cassette of Jam rehearsals from late 73 or early 74.

The next Brookes / Weller connection that I am aware of came with the 2006 documentary Into Tomorrow which looked at what was then a 30-year career of Paul Weller. The story was told by Paul with the input of those who know him. Using unseen photos and archive footage, it covered his upbringing in Woking, his years with The Jam and The Style Council, his insecurity after being dropped by a record company, his unexpected return to popularity in the 1990s, and his view on where he finds himself at the point of recording. Contributors included his parents – Ann and John, Bruce Foxton, Boy George and Noel Gallagher.
Paul and Steve talk about their first gig at Woking Working Men’s Club and playing songs from The Beatles Songbook – and a ‘little bit of a power struggle’ between the two which resulting in Steve leaving the band before they hit the big time.

In 2008, 33 years after stepping back from recording music, Steve returned with an album of original songs called Thankful – and he has been pretty productive since that comeback as a year later, an album of solo acoustic blues called Down the Line followed.

A huge moment in the story came in June 2010 as Paul Weller played Woking for the first time in 30 years with a charity concert that raised over £60,000 for Woking and Sam Beare Hospices. Steve played a support set with his band before Paul performed a two-hour set including Out of The Sinking, Into Tomorrow and From the Floorboards Up amongst many highlights with some old Jam hits Strange Town, Pretty Green, Start! and That’s Entertainment in the mix too.
A massive surprise came on the night when Paul welcomed Bruce Foxton, bass player in The Jam, to the stage for a few numbers, including Fast Car / Slow Traffic from the Wake Up The Nation LP and Jam classic The Eton Rifles and The Butterfly Collector. A real treat for all fans who manage to get a ticket.
For the second of three encores – Steve Brookes was invited up on stage to play Find The Torch, Burn The Plans (another from WUTN). Listen to the podcast to hear more about that special moment!

Steve released his next Solo LP in 2011 – packed full of bluesy originals – it was called Snakes and Ladders. The title track was played on Radio 2 by Paul Jones (Original front-man with the group Manfred Mann, Eric Clapton’s ‘Powerhouse’ singer/harmonica and Radio 2’s presenter of the Blues Show for over 30 years now) and a live performance with him in the beautiful Surrey village of Cranleigh (somewhere I actually once lived) followed in December 2012 – an evening line up shared with Imelda May, Mike Sanchez and surprise guest, Robben Ford. The finale of the evening had all the artists join in a rousing version of ‘Merry Christmas Baby’ too!.

Fast forward to November 2013, and Steve was joined by Paul Weller on stage for another special charity event in Woking. Steve played some never before heard early recordings and they actually played four songs together live – Well Alright Buddy Holly How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) Marvin Gaye Things We Said Today The Beatles and Bye Bye Love The Everly Brothers.
Notes from a review on Get Surrey said “A surprise appearance of Woking’s very own Modfather at a Steve Brookes charity gig had fans roaring with absolute glee. Brookes, former guitarist with The Jam, kept the audience enthralled during his Woking Hospice gig on Saturday at the HG Wells Conference & Events Centre, performing songs intertwined with his memories of the formation of the legendary band. Scribblings of songs written in lined exercise books were projected onto a screen on stage, along with rarely seen photos of The Jam and even their first business card. Fans listened to old recordings of Weller singing hits including Elvis Presley’s Blue Suede Shoes and Neil Sedaka’s Oh! Carol. Whispered rumours among the seated audience confirmed Weller was in the house and the fans went wild when he walked out from behind display boards by the stage.

2014 saw the release of another new album from Steve called Vintage Troubadour – a collection of eleven bluesy/rootsy tracks featuring his vocals and acoustic, slide and nylon strung guitar. Writing for Blues in Britain, Journalist John Mitchell “Vintage Troubadour is an interesting album to listen to closely, plenty of fine sensitive lyrics and no shortage of instrumental skill”.
Album opener ‘Moments wished away’ is a favourite – all about living for now and not wishing time away along with One Good Summer. Steve mentioned on his facebook channel that Spike Milligan was asked what the Goon Show had meant to him and he said it was ‘one good summer’, meaning it was a purple patch but they come and go…the song is about never losing hope that a purple patch is round the corner.

2015 was an amazing year for fans of Paul Weller and The Jam – with a new Weller Solo album Saturns Pattern being released in May (his first for 3 years) which featured Steve on Slide Guitar on one of the tracks.
That Summer brought us a new documentary and exhibition – both called The Jam: About The Young Idea. The documentary (still available on Sky Arts) was a retrospective view of The Jam, as told through archival footage, interviews with band members, and commentary from those influenced by the band and its music. The film starts off in Woking with Steve and Paul talking about the early days, learning and playing music together – as they strum along to early rock ‘n’ roll as they used to.
It’s a lovely moment, a brilliant film and well worth a watch if you haven’t yet seen it.
The film was first shown at Somerset House as part of the first comprehensive exhibition about the band – curated by Paul’s sister and former head of The Jam’s fan club Nicky Weller, Tory Turk and Russell Reader with additional advice from DJ Gary Crowley – saw the band, the Weller family and music archivist Den Davis opened up their archives, especially for the show – including hand written lyrics, original stage outfits, personal photographs and footage, unreleased music videos, early scrapbooks, letters and postcards, posters and fanzines, and the band’s instruments. Check out my podcast with Nicky Weller for more on that one.

2017 and 2018 saw Steve and Paul collaborate again – first we had Paul’s soundtrack for gritty British boxing movie Jawbone, with Steve playing acoustic guitar and providing backing vocals on Bottle, then came a new LP from Steve – Hoodoo Zoo – a rootsy, soulful, joy of an album that was recorded at Black Barn Studios (Weller HQ) and featured Paul on a couple of tracks. in a fabulous online review from Dennis Munday (yes that Dennis Munday) that you can read here – Dennis remarked “Very good albums are few and far between but I would rate Hoodoo Zoo as a very good album”.

The following year saw the release of another Weller masterpiece with True Meanings which had Steve playing Lead Guitar on the beautiful song Mayfly.

Christmas 2018 saw Steve return to the stage with Paul for George Ezra’s charity concert for MIND. The show sold out in 5 minutes and also featured Lianne La Havas, Paloma Faith, Maisie Peters and Romesh Ranganathan. They played three tracks together – Wishing Well and Mayfly from True Meanings LP and The Ballad of Jimmy McCabe from the Jawbone Soundtrack.

Paul’s productivity has been discussed many times on my podcast – and it was great to hear Steve in the mix on tracks for chart-toppers On Sunset and Fat Pop (Vol 1) and then to hear Paul and band-mate Ben Gordelier on Steve’s new album – Tread Gently (again recorded at Black Barn) that was released in 2021.
For me, it’s Steve’s best collection of songs yet – A Walk in London, Tread Gently through this Earth and Beachcomber really are such beautiful songs in an album packed with beautiful songs. It’s a lovely thing.
You buy get the album here

Steve’s sleeve notes say “It’s difficult to believe that it’s been first years since Paul and I took our first steps towards making music together. My profound thanks to him for his inspiration, encouragement and beautiful contributions to tis record. Ben Gordelier is such a joy to work with, creative, supremely talent and how many musicians after a twelve hour session say “Anything else we can do?”… Charles Rees, recording, engineering and co-producing, technical expertise and a thoroughly nice chap… My blessings to everyone at Black Barn…”

You can find Steve – and news of his music & live dates on Facebook here and his YouTube channel here

Check out some notes below on the tracks and Steve Brookes / Paul Weller connections that I’ve found from trawling through my LPs and do share if I’ve missed anything.

Paul Weller – 22 Dreams – 2008

Recorded over the course of a year at Paul’s own Black Barn Studios in Surrey, 22 Dreams is a kaleidoscopic tour de force incorporating Rock, Funk, Soul, Free Jazz, Krautrock, Classical, Spoken Word, Electronica and all stops in between. The double album features a roll call that includes ever-faithful guitarist Steve Cradock plus appearances from the likes of Noel Gallagher and Gem Archer from Oasis, Little Barrie and Graham Coxon.
Steve plays Spanish guitar on Track 15 – One Bright Star

Paul Weller – Wake Up The Nation – 2010

I can’t for the life of me remember where I first heard or read this – possibly in Mojo magazine? and Steve confirmed it on the podcast – whilst it’s not credited on the album – he played Slide Guitar on Track 8 – Find the Torch – Burn The Plans and it was switched to be played backwards.

Paul Weller – Saturns Pattern – 2015

At the time, Paul told Uncut Magazine –  “I think it’s one of the best things I’ve done. I can’t compare it to any of my other albums. I think it’s different – not just for me, but different for what else is around. It’s definately 21st-Century music.”
Steve Brookes plays Slide Guitar on Track 8 – In The Car. This song is an ode to London’s orbital motorway, the M25. Paul explained in a press interview at the time: “I was thinking about a guy who was so isolated, so removed from society, that he would just go and spend the end of his days in a car. The title comes from a Roy Lichtenstein picture and I also loved the film Locke with Tom Hardy. It’s really intense and shot in real time. Basically, he’s driving from the Midlands to London and the whole film is just in the car, but has plenty of plot.”
The sleeve notes for the album also called out “Steve Brookes my oldest china for playing such great slide guitar.”
Around this time, Steve also played on the B-Side to the 3rd single taken from the album – I’m Where I Should Be – a new track called – Open Road – which also featured Steve Brookes and Steve Cradock on Acoustic Guitar, Andy Crofts on Bass and Ben Gordelier on Drums.

Paul Weller – Music from the Film Jawbone – 2017

Released in March 2017 – Jawbone: Music From The Film has been described as ‘a collection quite unlike anything else from Paul Weller’s extensive discography as you can hear on the album’s sprawling 21-minute opener ‘Jimmy / Blackout’, an experimental sound collage which provides much of the film’s score and underlying mood.’ The soundtrack was the first (and so far only) time that Paul has created a score and he jumped on board the project when the film was in it’s very early stages – all that existed was a script, no cast and no budget.
Steve plays Acoustic Guitar and provides Backing Vocals on Track 4 – Bottle.

Steve Brookes – Hoodoo Zoo – 2017

Released in October 2017, this album was recorded at Paul Weller’s Black Barn Studios and featured Weller bandmate Ben Gordelier on Drums and Percussion throughout with Paul playing Guitar on Track 5 – Amala and Blues Harp on Track 8 – Looking at the Monkeys and Charles Rees recording, engineering and co-producing. You can buy the album here

Paul Weller – True Meanings – 2018

This was Paul’s fourteenth solo album (the twenty sixth studio album of his entire career!) and a record unlike any he had ever made before. An album characterised by grandiose-yet-delicate, lush orchestration from Hannah Peel and Paul’s better-than-ever voice, singing some of his most nakedly honest words. It’s an absolute masterpiece and one of my favourite ever PW albums. Magical.
Steve plays Lead Guitar on Track 3 – Mayfly

Paul Weller – On Sunset – 2020

You’ll hear Steve on Track 2 – Baptiste where he plays Lead Guitar (a song that also features Mick Talbot on Hammond Organ – although recorded in a separate session) and Electric Guitar on Track 8 – Walkin’ (which also features Lee Thompson from Madness on Sax)

Paul Weller – Fat Pop (Volume 1) – 2021

Steve plays Slide Guitar on Track 9 – Failed alongside Paul, Andy Crofts, Ben Gordelier, Steve Cradock and Charles Rees. The song had previously been released as a bonus track for the Japanese release of the On Sunset LP.

Steve Brookes – Tread Gently – 2021

The fifth album of original songs by Steve Brookes features contributions from Paul Weller and Ben Gordelier, engineered and co produced by Charles Rees.
Track 3 – Beachcomber – Paul plays Farfisa (an old combo organ)
Track 5 – In November – Paul plays Melodica (a free-reed instrument similar to the pump organ and harmonica)
Track 6 – Cut n’ Shut – Paul plays Electric Guitar
Track 8 – This Day – Paul plays Hammond

The Ballad of Jimmy McCabe Live with Paul Weller & Steve Brookes

Mayfly Live with Paul Weller & Steve Brookes

Paul Weller – Into Tomorrow Documentary (Steve in first 10 minutes)

Paul Weller – Highlights and Hang Ups Documentary (Steve is around 20 minutes in)

The Jam Studio Demos (Steve is on Tracks 1-4) TW Studios

Published by PaulWellerFanPodcast

The World’s first Paul Weller Fan Podcast - For the fans by the fans. A musical journey from In The City to Fat Pop (Vol 1). A radio broadcaster who gave up his career with one big regret. Never getting to interview the legendary British musician Paul Weller. This podcast exists purely to solve that issue. Welcome to Desperately Seeking Paul...

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