#981: ‘The Butterfly Collector’ – The Jam

For the longest time, I knew very little about The Jam. I was aware of their existence as a band famed for their role in the revival of mod music, but that was about as far as it went. As I grew up and became aware of music, I also somehow managed to merge their track ‘That’s Entertainment‘ and the slogan for the now-defunct video rental store Movieland’s slogan of ‘we’ll entertain you’. While that doesn’t have much to do with this track, I can’t help but have images of old ’90’s movies in my head while I listen to their music.

‘The Butterfly Collector’ started its life a B-side to The Jam’s 1979 track ‘Strange Town‘, and has gone on to be regarded as one of the best tracks that were relegated to an existence as a single afterthought. When I first discovered this track, it was through a compilation CD that collected a number of great and overlooked B-sides. On a disc of roughly 20 tracks, this one stood out completely. The track itself is a scathing attack on groupies (and in this case, it’s written about one groupie in particular) and others who wish only to be with someone as a point to ‘collect them’, by adding another notch on their bedpost.

Paul Weller’s lyrics are cynical, cryptic, and cutting, showcasing his anger and proficiency at not only writing a brilliant track, but also managing to get across his feelings in such a way that one could easily miss the track’s message. After all, lines like “your fashion sense is second-rate like your perfume” probably wouldn’t have the same effect if they weren’t delivered via Paul Weller’s biting English drawl.

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