As one-third of The Jam, Rick Buckler was more than just the group's phenomenally accomplished and historically under-rated drummer. He was more than just the man at the back. His role was central, his view un-obscured. On stage, Paul Weller always stood off to his right, and Bruce Foxton off to his left, and that allowed Rick to remain focused straight ahead. Both on stage and off, Rick Buckler grounded the band. For while Paul and Bruce each possessed ego in the large quantities to make it in the music business, especially for a band swept along by (but not truly representative of) the punk rock explosion, Rick, by comparison, appeared to be blessedly free of it. He was, certainly, no less fiercely proud of The Jam's accomplishments ‒ musical, critical and commercial ‒ but he never seemed to get caught up in the whole rock 'n'roll circus, the personality issues and confrontations that typically become part and parcel of every musically aggressive young band. As such, if he didn't necessarily seek out a role as peacemake, he established it by example.
Fans came to know as much. The Jam, to the legions of followers who took them from supposed punk-rock has-beens in 1978 to the top of the charts in 1980, where they stayed, more or less, until their break-up at the end of 1982, were always very much a three-piece. It was Paul, Bruce and Rick that made the group such a frightening proposition on stage and such an enticing one in the studio, and fans were rarely any less than honoured to sit and talk with Rick after soundcheck, or outside a venue at the end of the night; it was just that Rick seemed no less honoured to be talking with the fans.
He was equally casual when it came to clothes. For the acolytes who, however much they might splurge, couldn't possibly hope to emulate Weller's innately stylish nature (and that was pretty much all of them), Buckler offered an alternative. His relaxed personality frequently manifested itself in relaxed but ineffably sharp fashion. Rick was the everyman's mod.
All good things must come to an end though, some more prematurely than others, and when Weller called time on The Jam in the late summer of 1982, Buckler, like Foxton, was caught short. Perhaps not comfortable joining an established band ‒ though he certainly would have been first choice on many a rock group's list ‒ he set about forming The Time (shortly to become The Time UK), before moving into studio and band management. He never, however, lost his musical chops. When he decided to resume playing the band's songs onstage, in the early 2000's, in a group that morphed from The Gift to From The Jam as it briefly included Foxton in it's ranks, he demonstrated that he had lost none of the dexterity, nor the sheer athleticism and stamina that had always won admiration from fans. Proof of Buckler's prowess as a powerhouse, if you really need the evidence, it's evident in the studio introduction to 'All Around The World', the mid section of 'Strange Town', the fierce finale to 'Down In The Tube Station At Midnight' and through pretty much every beat of 'Funeral Pyre'. His subtleties may be less apparent, but only because they were so effective.
Throughout it all. Rick has kept his cool. He has never lashed out as his former front man, never exhibited bitterness or rancour at the unexpected break-up of the finest band in a generation. As should be evident from the pages of Rick's autobiography, 'That's Entertainment: My Life In The Jam', Buckler is something you don't encounter everyday: a true gent, in the finest sense of the word.
By Tony Fletcher