Thursday, March 22, 2012

Joe Jackson

"Bursting onto the popular music scene in 1979 with his ode to male envy and obsession, "Is She Really Going Out With Him", a hit then and still a perennial FM radio fixture, Joe Jackson had begun a lengthy and eclectic musical career. Born David Ian Jackson in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire U.K. August 11,1954. After learning the violin at a young age, he persuaded his parents to get a piano for the house which he promptly went to work on. He began plying his trade at the age of 16 playing in local bars while winning a scholarship to study musical composition at London's Royal Academy Of Music. His first band was named Edward Bear which was changed to Edwin Bear, changed again to Arms And Legs then to nothing as the band had broken up. It was at this point that Jackson adopted the name "Joe" due to a perceived resemblance to the British television science fiction puppet character Joe 90. He then put in some time in the cabaret circuit to raise money to make his own demo, which was eventually heard by A&M Records who signed him and subsequently released his debut album Look Sharp featuring the aforementioned "Is She Really Going Out With Him".  It was released in 1979.

The follow-up album, I'm The Man was recorded straightaway, in time for release later that same year. Along with the title track, this LP contained a song that showcased early on how immensely gifted he was in terms of pure composition, the exquisitely crafted "It's Different For Girls".  His third album, Beat Crazy hit the racks in 1980. Jackson, along with that original band line-up consisting of bassist Graham Maby, guitarist Gary Sandford and drummer David Houghton toured extensively before eventually disbanding.

Jackson's next recorded offering was a sharp turn from new wave pop into the realm of old style jazz and blues a'la Lous Jordan, Cab Calloway and Glenn Miller. This collection, released in 1981, was called Jumpin' Jive. His next album, 1982's Night And Day, continued in this direction as a tribute to the music of Cole Porter. Also seen as paying homage to  the city of New York, it was the first of his albums to reach the top 10 in the U.K. ( #3 ) and the U.S. ( #4 ). Two tracks from the collection, "Slow Song" and "Real Men" were oblique references to New York's early 80's gay culture. The album also included two of the finest pop compositions ever written in my humble opinion,  the chart hits "Steppin' Out" and "Breaking Us In Two.

For the next 20 years Jackson lived in New York City, which he credits for influencing his music through and beyond the 1980s. In 1984 he released Body And Soul, also heavily influened by jazz and pop standards as well as salsa music. The album featured the hit "You Can't Get What You Want (Til You Know What You Want)" The album went to #14 with the single peaking at #15. The live album Big World followed, a three sided double disc LP. Its showcase instrumental "Will Power" set the theme for his future work, although he came out with two final new wave pop albums. Blaze Of Glory and Laughter And Lust before leaving the rock genre behind.

In 1997 Jackson was signed by Sony Classical which released his album Symphony No.1 in 1999. He received a Grammy Award For Best Pop Instrumental for the album in 2001.  He reunited his original quartet of himself, Sandford, Maby and Houghton for an album, Volume 4, and a lengthy tour in 2003. A collaborative tour with Todd Rundgren and the string quartet Ethel followed in 2005, then a tour featuring a piano-bass-drums format in 2007 and again in 2008. Jackson also actively campaigned against smoking bans in the U.S. and the U.K. He moved back to England in 2003 after New York enacted its ban on smoking and in 2007 he moved to Berlin, Germany. He has had five Grammy nominations from 1979 to 2001 and has had his songs covered by a range of artists including Tori Amos, Sugar Ray and Anthrax. His song "Steppin' Out" is featured in the popular video game Grand Theft Auto:Vice City.
Joe Jackson continues to be active in business to this day touring with various formats.


  1. You missed 2 highlights - 1994's Night Music, and 1997's Heaven and Hell. Awesome albums - check them out. H & H is live on YouTube at

    1. Thanks,Al...great looking out. Checking them out now and digging the Jane Siberry number so far. Hope you'll become a follower and check out the rest of the blog.