Weekend Long Player: “True Love Stories” by Jilted John

A couple of years ago, Graham Fellows released an album called Jilted Jam which contains various archival recordings relating to his punk poet persona Jilted John – demos, live tracks, a couple of rejected songs, and various radio clips from 1978, from which it is apparent that when the eponymous “Jilted John” single came out, nobody was quite sure whether it was a wind-up or not. Maybe it really was a 16-year-old with minimal musical skills? Well, now we know the truth: like Fellows’ subsequent work as John Shuttleworth, Jilted John was the product of a skilled musician deliberately putting on the persona of an unskilled one for comic effect.

The ramshackle “Jilted John” single was followed by an album on which Fellows more fully showed off his talent: it didn’t exactly go all-out for technical excellence, but it was full of catchy songs, funny, heartwarming and heartbreaking. With a more-or-less straight-through storyline following John from childhood through adolescence to something like the brink of adulthood, it also deserves a place in any listing of the greatest ever concept albums. Yes, really. It’s ace.

The album hits a high spot early on with “I Know I’ll Never”, which feels like the prototype for Supergrass’ “Alright”, and may even beat it for evoking the sheer giddy joy of impetuous youth. We follow John as he hits puberty and on through his first tentative romances with Julie (“Jilted John”, here in a very different keyboard-led arrangement) and Sharon (“Going Steady” and “The Birthday Kiss”). “Going Steady”, the B-side of “Jilted John”, wasn’t originally on the album, but the CD reissue added it as the opening song. For this upload, I’ve moved it to its proper place in the storyline.

The six songs on side two essentially tell one story as John meets Karen, loses her, then goes to London to find her again. Will he find true love? Or will he be kidnapped and held as a sex slave by a mysterious woman from Newport Pagnell? Or both? Or neither? Listen to find out…

Link: Jilted John – True Love Stories

1. Baz’s Party
2. I Know I’ll Never
3. I Was A Pre-Pubescent
4. Fancy Mice
5. Jilted John
6. Going Steady
7. The Birthday Kiss
8. The Paperboy Song
9. True Love
10. In The Bus Shelter
11. Karen’s Letter
12. Shirley
13. Goodbye, Karen

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