The biggest regret of my life is that I never saw The Jam. They were the first band I loved, the first band that were really mine.
Living in homogeneous suburbia it was stunning to discover these kinetic, driven, muscular songs that knew the feeling of restless dislocation, that promised a life away from there where things would be more real, more exciting, where you could be who you wanted to be and nobody would push you into a stupid soulless job.
The politics, the passion, the swirl of righteous anger, the romanticising of the city, they all called me onward, protecting me against the forces of mediocrity, galvanising my spirit and empowering me.
It's a pat little shorthand phrase I use, but essentially a true one, that most of me can be explained by an adolescence spent reading Vonnegut and listening to The Jam.
On their final tour I was old enough to love all that about them and to be reading the music press but still a little too young to travel for gigs. Janet Barrington's big sister went to see them and I saw her next day in school. I knew then I'd never quite get over it.
I stuck by Weller in the Style Council.
There was a ripe rich wit that railed against and rose above the preening attitude of the times, and there was an increasing militancy and focus in his politics. There are some great tracks on the first two albums and a lot of gems on the B-sides too. But fuck me, they ran off a cliff with that cack third album.
I even bought all the Bruce Foxton solo stuff and went to see him live. Jesus friggin wept.
I mean, imagine pretty much any decent band. Say The Cure or The Stones. Now imagine going to the bass player's solo gig.
I still remember being profoundly unsettled, having a sort of anti-gig feeling, a sense of total alienation from the two thousand people around me when, between the set and the encore, there was a chant of 'we all agree - Brucie is better than Weller'.
I even rejoined Weller in his darkest time, after the Style Council and before the solo stuff when he was without a record deal and he toured as The Paul Weller Movement.
Whilst it was a joy to see him play a mix of Jam and Style Council songs there was a clear sense that the Movement was, ahem, going through the motions.
I never really got much out of his solo stuff, though live - at the Glastonbury sets I saw and whenever he's on summat like Later - he's been great value, a prowling snarling firebrand that shows up all the contemporary indie guitar landfill as so much tickle-your-guitar damp nothingness.
I never wanted The Jam to reform. Weller has so clearly moved on, it wouldn't have the power and the passion. And that's what it's really about. It isn't in the songs.
I saw Billy Bragg last week and he said that you can't capture the meaning of The Clash in the records. The real value was in that sense that they were out to change the world and that somehow by them being The Clash and you fighting the good fight you would, together, make it all happen. That was a lot of what The Jam were about too.
A couple of years ago something odd happened. In Oxford I saw a poster in the window of one of those tribute band pubs. There was a forthcoming gig by people called Rick Buckler's The Gift. It was a Jam tribute band featuring the actual drummer.
I missed the gig but it played on my mind. I mean, it could be really sad. Then again, if someone said 'gis a tenner and you can watch Rick Buckler play the drum part to Funeral Pyre' my wallet would be open before their mouth was closed.
One time, Bruce Foxton got up to play with The Gift. They loved it so he joined permanently. They're now called From The Jam and they play pretty big gigs, that 1500-2000 seater circuit.
We need a new name for these bands that are half reunion, half tribute. The Jam aren't the only ones. Queen just reformed with Brian May, Roger Taylor, some bloke and then macho tosser Paul Rodgers from Free on vocals. A tribunion? Tribune? Re-tribution?
Whatever, I've dithered about seeing From The Jam, but tomorrow night I'm going to go.
I'm nervous. It could be the most depressing pathetic thing I've ever seen in my life. In their eye-wateringly dull and axe-grindingly bitter autobiography Our Story, Buckler and Foxton concluded, 'there were three people in the Jam, and two of them weren't Paul Weller'.
Yeah, but, guys. It's not a numbers game. The one who was Paul Weller wrote all the songs, played the guitar, sang, and was generally your meal ticket for years on end.
Indeed, as your present set list is over 95% comprised of his compositions, Weller is still being something of a benefactor. The Jam without him? Will it be like seeing Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke perform as From The Smiths?
I have an inkling it'll be more. There is nobody else on earth who can sing Smiths songs properly, whereas there is a punch and fury in Jam songs that lets them stand on their own; there is a life that those two breathed into them. Buckler was my big hero in the time when I was a drummer. The guy is a cymbal-smashing nutter, all over his metalwork all the time, fuckin great.
They've said they've a love for the harsher songs - Eton Rifles, Funeral Pyre - that implies it'll be fuckin loud as opposed to a delicate tinkle or polite facsimile.
It could, though, be the the worst gig in the world. Imagine the most depressing point-missing elements of a tribute band combined with the post-shelf-lifeness of a 30 years on reunion applying both kinds of desecration to a supreme body of work.
But I can readily imagine it being most other places on the spectrum too, from sad and lame, to bouncy and boisterous fun to a blistering affirmation of the immortality of this magnificent canon.
There is something beyond that though, something about the fact of it happening at all. I have such mixed feelings about reunions. It's so great that Joe Strummer's last gig was a political benefit in London with Mick Jones rather than a corporate sponsored reunion nostalgiafest in an American enormodome.
Despite my eternal and visceral love of the seminal Never Mind The Bollocks and their lack of any crap later albums to ruin a set list with, I actively avoided the Sex Pistols reunions. It was just too opposed to all that they stood for.
But in the week when the original Specials line-up have announced a tour next May I find there are one or two bands who can make my excited self be stronger than my purist.