This article continues the series started in Part 1.


2. That's Entertainment

When asked to quickly name a song with psychedelic influences from The Jam's catalog, 99.9% of respondents would probably blurt out Dreams of Children.  And when asked for songs specifically influenced by Revolver, the first thing that comes to mind is probably Start! (cover versions of And Your Bird Can Sing and Rain notwithstanding).

But since I've always found Dreams of Children to be one of The Jam's less inspirational efforts, and since Start! borrows from a Harrison song that has many merits but lacks backwards bits, I'm instead going to meet both requirements by choosing the overlooked That's Entertainment.  Like Tomorrow Never Knows, it's a song that evolved from rough diamond to perfectly polished gem partially via the subtle use of backwards sound effects.

Weller had been dabbling with backwards overdubs since at least as far back as All Mod Cons, mostly via decorative layering inside various intros and outros.  But in That's Entertainment, the backwards guitars are placed right in the middle of the song and actually serve a critical function.  A monotonic song with no middle eight might make for a boring experience, even if accompanied by brilliant lyrics.  The Beatles solved that problem in Tomorrow Never Knows by means of tape loops, and in 1980 their solution was reused by Weller and producer Vic Coppersmith-Heaven under similar circumstances.

The result is that That's Entertainment neatly defuses any possibility of listener fatigue via the backwards guitar that kicks in around the two-minute mark.  Its unexpected arrival not only tells the subconscious brain to keep alert, but it also sends a wink to in-the-know listeners who might share Weller's Revolver infatuation during his Sound Affects phase.

As with Tomorrow Never Knows, we've got a bunch of early takes and demos of That's Entertainment floating around (as well as many live renditions).  In spite of their rough charm and historical value, those alternate versions do seem raw and monotonous when compared to the multilevel impact of the official release and its wonderful retrolooking production.

Posted on Monday, January 21, 2008
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