"In the City" was the debut single by English mod revival/punk rock band The Jam from their album of the same title. It was released on 29 April 1977 and reached #40 on the UK Singles Chart in May 1977, making it their first Top 40 single and the beginning of their streak of 18 consecutive Top 40 singles.
While only a minor hit on the charts, the song was the UK's first introduction to The Jam, and was characteristic of Paul Weller's youth anthems—mod-influenced celebrations of British youth—that dominated the band's early output. These songs help catalyze the mod revival.
Musically, the song is in the vein of the band's first album, a mod/punk number influenced by The Who's early music, but with an energy and attitude updated for the punk era. "In the City" borrowed its title from an obscure Who song of the same name, which was released in 1966 as the B-side of the "I'm a Boy" single (and which can now be found as a bonus track on most CD re-issues of their 1966 album A Quick One). The Sex Pistols' single "Holidays In The Sun", released six months after The Jam's "In The City", took its descending introductory chord pattern from the latter.
Lyrically, the song is a celebration of youth in the big city, and of what Paul Weller called the "young idea", reflecting Weller's optimism for the punk movement. There was also a direct reference to police brutality: "In the city there's a thousand men in uniform/And I hear they now have the right to kill a man".
The single, with the B-side of "Takin' My Love" was the only Jam single to hit the UK Top 40 on three different occasions, with a fourth near miss. After "Going Underground" became the band's first number one single in 1980, Polydor decided to re-issue all nine of the group's prior singles. The singles all performed respectably for recent reissues, but "In The City" was the only one to make the Top 40 again, peaking at #40 for a second time. After the band's break-up at the end of 1982, Polydor re-issued every single in the band's career in early 1983. Four of the re-issues made the top 40, but "In The City" fell just short at #47.
In May 2002, Polydor Records decided to commemorate the 25th anniversary of The Jam by re-releasing their debut single in its original packaging, in its original 7" vinyl record format and at its original price of 75 pence. The limited pressing sold out immediately, and the song made the Top 40 one more time, peaking at #36; higher than it ever did in its original release and two subsequent reissues. It became the first single to chart in the UK Top 40 based alone on limited edition 7" sales since the late 1970s. Only one single ("Freakin' Out" by Graham Coxon) has since charted in the UK Top 40 alone on limited edition 7" single sales.