The Jam

Down in the Tube Station at Midnight

Composed by Paul Weller

Song Review by

The Jam's reign at the top of the British charts really began with 1978's "Down in the Tube Station at Midnight." Picking up where he left off with "'A' Bomb in Wardour Street," Paul Weller drew a devastating character sketch of a young man attacked by jackbooted thugs in the subway station as he headed home to a romantic dinner with his wife. Prior to this song, Weller's work was stronger on its raw, vital musicality than it was on its lyrics, which tend to be passionate outbursts of rage and passion. With "'A' Bomb," he began to deepen his palette, but here, he knew how to harness and focus his vocabulary. Each line was filled with detail -- the "smiling, beguiling" coin, the thugs that smell like "Wormwood scrubs" -- and he heightens the tension not by firing on all cylinders, as he did on "'A' Bomb," but by tightening the screws slowly throughout the song, only letting out a minimum amount of tension on the choruses. The verse are shockingly sparse, driven by a tripping bass and light percussion. As a matter of fact, the band only breaks loose at the end, after the man lies beaten on the floor of the station, staring at graffiti ("Jesus Saves, written by some atheist nutter") as he realizes the thugs are headed back to his home to meet his wife, who's eagerly awaiting his arrival. It's a chilling scenario, to say the least, and even if it sprung from the headlines of the late '70s (actually, attacking jackbooted skinheads was sort of risky for punks, since they formed the backbone of the audience), Weller's details and narrative make "Down in the Tube Station at Midnight" transcend its time. And its clever, impassioned lyrics and textured music, along with the Jam's impeccable sense of style, meant that it was the song that ushered in the Mod Revival era.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
All Mod Cons 1978 Polydor 4:43
Setting Sons 1979 Hip-O 0:00
The Gift 1982 Decca / Polydor 0:00
No Image 1983 Polydor
Snap! 1983 Polydor 4:03
All the Choice Cuts 1990 Universal Distribution / Polydor 4:04
Greatest Hits 1991 Polydor 4:01
All Mod Cons/Sound Affects 1996 Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab 4:46
Direction Reaction Creation 1997 Polygram 4:44
The Master Series 1997 Polygram
The Very Best of the Jam 1997 Polydor / Decca / Interscope 4:00
No Image 2000
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 3:59
This Is the Modern World/All Mod Cons 2000 Collectors' Choice Music 4:43
Singles Box Set: 1980-1982 2001 Universal International 4:32
Punk & New Wave Explosion 2001
Various Artists
Polygram 3:56
The Sound of the Jam 2003 Polydor 4:01
Friends Reunited: Music of the Year 1978 2004
Various Artists
Spectrum Music 3:59
The 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of the Jam 2005 Polydor 4:03
Gold 2005 Polydor 4:01
Story 2006 Universal International 4:02
John Peel: Right Time Wrong Speed 2006
Various Artists
WMTV 4:43
Singles Box Set: 1977-1979 2006 Polydor 4:01
No Image 2006 Universal / Island 4:03
Greatest Ever! Seventies 2007
Various Artists
Union Square Music 4:00
The Ultimate Collection 100 Hits: Seventies 2008
Various Artists
Union Square Music 3:59
No Image 2008 Universal / Universal Distribution / Universal Music 4:44
Classic Album Selection: Six Albums 1977-1982 2012 Polydor / Universal 4:43
Teenage Kicks 1977-1981
Various Artists
Universal Music TV 3:56
The Studio Recordings Universal