IS IMITATION still the most sincere form of flattery? It’s certainly is for Mr Clean – Sounds of The Jam.
The tribute band make sure each detail of their act – from their mohair suits to their bowling shoes and every last chord on their hand-painted Rickenbacker guitars – are spot on.
It’s one thing to take the sounds of Woking’s finest export around the country, but it’s quite another to venture into the backyard of the real Jam.
Mr Clean will play at Chertsey Social Club on Saturday 30 January, firmly in Weller, Buckler and Foxton territory – but band frontman Dave Fletcher is undaunted by the task ahead.
“We played West Byfleet last year and went down really well, so I’m looking forward to returning to the area,” he says. “A school mate of Mr Weller was at that gig, and afterwards came and complimented us on our performance, and on our ‘balls’ in doing it in the backyard of The Jam.
“We wouldn’t do it if we thought we weren’t doing justice to the songs, so let’s hope there are a few more friends and fans of Paul, Bruce and Rick there this time, too.”
Dave has no problem living the Jam lifestyle – it’s practically in his blood these days.
“It’s what I grew up with,” he explains. “I was one of The Jam worshippers; my bedroom walls were covered with their posters – I loved the whole thing. Every time Paul Weller got a new haircut, so did I!
“I saw them five or six times and, at the gigs, I got that feeling where the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, and that’s how I get when I play the songs now. It’s such a buzz.”
Dave formed Mr Clean two years ago after an aborted attempt at stardom with his own songs in a band called Fleet Street.
“We do about 50 Jam songs, so we change the set quite a bit, although there are songs you have to play, like Town Called Malice,” says the singer. “If I had to pick, my favourite era is probably Setting Sons, stuff like Eton Rifles.”
Mr Clean’s sound is eerily similar to the Jam’s, not least because they’re using all the same equipment.
“I played a Rickenbacker in Fleet Street because that band was basically us trying to be The Jam with our own songs anyway,” adds Dave. “Now, I’m obsessed with guitars, I’ve got so many.
“The pop art ‘Whaam!’ one I painted myself. It took about six months in all. I watched a load of videos and had about 15 pictures round me while I was painting.
“We now have Terry Lines on bass and he plays a Rickenbacker, like Bruce Foxton’s, and Steve has the same white Premier drum kit Rick Buckler played. We drove all the way to Birmingham to buy that,” Mr Clean even dress like The Jam circa 1979, although Dave jokes: “None of my original mod clothes fit me, they seem to have shrunk over the years! I’ve got about eight suits, plus loads of dog-tooth check trousers, leather jackets and so on. My wife, Elaine, has to keep her clothes in a separate room because mine take up so much space.
“As for bowling shoes, I’ve got a massive rack full, which takes up half the wall in our house – I get carried away sometimes! I’ve also got a couple of Vespa scooters and Elaine has one too.
“The whole mod thing has taken off again, as people realise it’s not just for youngsters any more, probably because Weller has continued to dress really well.”
Dave also has a little bit of history with Woking – and the family Weller.
“I must be the only Jam fan who’s never met Paul Weller,” he admits. “But I did go to his house, once in 1981. At the height of their fame – when I was about 18 – me and a friend got the train to Woking and went to the address of the fan club, which was at the Weller family home.
“We knocked on the door and said ‘Is Paul in?’ and this woman said, ‘No, but his mum’ll be back in a minute’, so we wandered down the road and a few minutes later this white Volvo came along and the driver said ‘Did you just knock for Paul?’
“It was Ann Weller, Paul’s mum, and she took us back to the house and gave us tea and cake and talked to us all afternoon about what the band were up to!”
Mr Clean – Sounds of The Jam will be at Chertsey Social Club on Saturday 30 January.