My Top 1000 Songs #378: Smithers-Jones

[I've been writing up my Top 1000 songs on a daily basis--you can see them all in descending order by hitting the All My Favorite Songs tag.]

The rare non-Paul Weller song in the Jam canon, "Smithers-Jones" (off 1979's sublime Setting Sons) finds bassist Paul Foxton going for the full-on Ray Davies. It's a humble tale, kinda crushing and kinda sweet. Middle-aged, middle-management dude trudges through his daily commute; gets called into the boss's office expecting the long-awaited promotion; finds himself laid off. It would be a total downer but for the delightful melody and the small flourishes (like the brief harmonizing around the "sorry, Smithers-Jones" line), making it one of the finest examples of the non-frontman rising to the challenge and then some.

The band opted for a guitar-free strings arrangement on Setting Sons (reserving the more traditional guitar version for a b-side), and sappy or not, I've always loved the album take. The strings give an austere feel that seems suited to the subject matter. Of course, it's the Jam, so the power-trio guitar & bass-driven cut (with some terrific jangly guitar picking) is also divine.

Guitar version, with lyrics:
Live version from the Weller-free Foxton/Buckler version of the band, 2007:
The (real) Jam live, audio only: