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Great B-Sides: The Butterfly Collector by The Jam

The Jam are arguably the most British band ever, with all the telltale traits. They started young, never made it big in the USA, at least partly because of frontman Paul Weller’s thick accent, and they released some of their best material on their singles’ b-sides.

Although they were from the class of 1977, The Jam were never punk. They were often fast and frenetic, but they were 1960s revivalists, taking a healthy dollop of inspiration from 1960s acts, particularly The Who, and bringing back mod fashions.

‘The Butterfly Collector’ is the b-side to the 1979 single ‘Strange Town’, and it was perhaps relegated to the b-side of the single because it owes a significant musical debt to another 1960s British act, The Kinks’ ‘Shangri La’.

It was also perhaps relegated to b-side status because it’s a little saucy – the butterfly being collected is Weller himself, and it’s a scathing putdown of groupies, reportedly a specific rebuke to Soo Catwoman who’d moved on from The Sex Pistols’ entourage by this time. “There’s tarts and whores/But you’re much more,” is the memorable opening line to the chorus.

The Jam recorded a lot of great songs during a five year history – they’d already broken up by the time Weller turned 25 – but the b-side ‘The Butterfly Collector’ is a contender for my favourite Jam track.

So you finally got what you wanted
You’ve achieved your aim by making me walk in line
And when you just can’t get any higher
You use your senses to suss out this week’s climber
And the small fame that you’ve acquired
Has brought you into cult status
But to me you’re still a collector

There’s tarts and whores but you’re much more
You’re a different kind ’cause you want their minds
And you just don’t care ’cause you’ve got no pride
It’s just a face on your pillowcase
That thrills you

And you started looking much older
And your fashion sense is second-rate like your perfume
But to you in your little dream world
You’re still the queen of the butterfly collectors

As you carry on ’cause it’s all you know
You can’t light a fire, you can’t cook or sew
You get from day to day by filling your head
But surely you must know the appeal between your legs
Has worn off

And I don’t care about morals
‘Cause the world’s insane and we’re all to blame anyway
And I don’t feel any sorrow
Towards the kings and queens of the butterfly collectors

There’s tarts and whores but you’re much more
You’re a different kind ’cause you want their minds
And you just don’t care ’cause you’ve got no pride
It’s just a face on your pillowcase
That thrills you

You carry on ’cause it’s all you know
You can’t light a fire, you can’t cook or sew
You get from day to day by filling your head
But surely you must know the appeal between your legs
Has worn off

And I don’t feel any sorrow
Towards the kings and queens of the butterfly collectors

2 thoughts on “Great B-Sides: The Butterfly Collector by The Jam Leave a comment

  1. I really liked this song from the Snap! collection, although I have to admit I never paid attention to the words – I assumed it was related to the John Fowles novel The Collector.

    Liked by 1 person

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