I have never really taken the time to examine my thoughts about Joe Jackson. His album Body and Soul was in all the cool kids dorm rooms when I was at college, I am not convinced that any of the cool kids really listened though. It was probably there as a conversation piece. It usually nestled among the Billy Bragg and Pogues albums so people were aware that not only were they hip, had a political conscience but they could party with the best. Somewhere if you dug deep enough you would find a Michael Jackson album and Phil Collins which they played on low volume late at night. And there you have it my pretentious judgement of my fellow students out for all to see.
My room on the other hand had many a Roger dean poster, several Genesis and Pink Floyd records and a copy of Europe 72 by the Dead. Also strewn around was my Hawkwind, Gong and Motorhead albums to prove I was edgy and went to all the best free festivals. There was also Roxy Music to prove I could be simultaneously edgy and groove with the best and The Waterboys and Icicle Works to prove I was aware of contemporary bands. Tucked in a dim corner was the Dire Straits and Al Stewart with the dreadfully uncool Uriah Heep and Jethro Tull albums that I played late at night. And there you have it my confession of how shallow I was at 18.
I own Body and Soul and have always sort of enjoyed it’s smoky Latin/jazz feel but at the end of the day it has never really stayed with me forgotten as soon as I lifted the needle. So the other day I went out on a limb and bought Look Sharp (it looked a little out of place with the George Benson albums as well) thinking it would be more of the same, however it has more in common with Elvis Costello, Ian Dury and Nick Lowe than Frank Sinatra and for some reason the album cover won an award. It has the great single of Is She Really Going Out With Him which I am sure every male of a certain generation can fully relate to with ease.
The album is filled with spiky insightful songs and probably really does as Jackson say reek of London 1978-79. I am totally confused as to how that cover won an award when there where so many better record covers of the time. Sunday Papers on this album is as relevant today as when it was written I am sure with it’s biting lyrics and assessment of journalists of a certain kind.
It is more of a pub rock album than I expected and if I had heard it first I may have had a different opinion of Joe Jackson. Just goes to show that my much older self is still influenced by the preconceptions of my younger more self-righteous self. Maybe with this new insight I can go forward with fresh ears to all those other bands I at times dismissed.
My wife says I am still self-righteous so some things don’t change I guess.
5 thoughts on “Come words of wisdom from the world outside…”
Isn’t it funny, the influence of the order in which we hear albums by an unfamiliar artist. I really loved ‘Look Sharp’ when it came out, enjoyed its companion piece ‘I’m the Man’ almost as much… then experienced diminishing returns as the radio friendly mainstream in Joe’s music smoothed all the edges away. I’ve got the next four or five or six,including ‘Body and Soul’, but couldn’t tell you a thing about it, other than the cover won an award for best Blue Note rip-off of 1984. True story (as 1537 says).
John Coltrane was my first thought when I saw that Body and Soul album cover.
I didn’t know that Joe Jackson offered any edges. I probably haven’t listened to enough of his music.
Edges are a little soft nowadays,
I first encountered Joe Jackson at a gig at the now long gone Nashville Rooms in London, he was supporting Siouxsie and the Banshees, two quite edgy bands! Jackson was the better of the two that night, Siouxsie seemed quite unhinged at times, paranoid. I still have copies of Look Sharp and Night and Day; the latter being my favourite of the two, a much more musically mature recording. It’s a long while since I heard Body and Soul, but my recollection is that I felt Jackson was playing a role rather than being really immersed in the music.
P picked up ‘Look Sharp’ and ‘I’m The Man’ at a record fair for a grand total of £3.50, which is an absolute bargain. I have to admit that I’ve never listened to anything else by him though. Might give ‘Night and Day’ a go