Joe Jackson to start off the week. He’s gone through so many changes during his four decades (and still going strong) that it’s hard to keep track at times. Suffice to say, the concert tonight – via the BBC Radio 1 series In Concert, features Jackson during that “2nd British Invasion” period of 1980, the period that saw a flood of acts from the UK dominate the charts on American radio and record sales. And Joe Jackson was responsible for a healthy contribution to that flood, with a string of memorable singles and two highly respected and massively selling albums to boot.
This concert comes around the time of Jackson’s second album I’m The Man. The album was quickly recorded to follow-up Jackson’s successful debut album Look Sharp!. Since then, the album has been described by Jackson as “Part Two of Look Sharp!”.
Born in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, David Jackson spent his first year in nearby Swadlincote, Derbyshire. He grew up in the Paulsgrove area of Portsmouth, where he attended the Portsmouth Technical High School. Jackson’s parents moved to nearby Gosport when he was a teenager. Jackson learned to play the violin but soon switched to piano and prevailed on his father to install one in the hall of their Paulsgrove council house. Jackson began playing piano in bars at the age of 16, and he also won a scholarship to study musical composition at London’s Royal Academy of Music.
Jackson’s first band, formed in Gosport, was called Edward Bear, later renamed Arms and Legs. The band broke up in 1976 after two unsuccessful singles. He was still known as David Jackson when he joined Arms and Legs, but around this time he picked up the nickname “Joe,” based on his perceived resemblance to the puppet character Joe Piano, who was Snoopy in Joe Cool guise playing piano. Jackson then spent some time performing on the cabaret circuit to make money to record a demo.
In 1978, a record producer heard Jackson’s demo tape and signed him to A&M Records. The next year the newly formed Joe Jackson Band released their debut album Look Sharp! A mix of rock, melodic jazz, and new wave, it mined a vein similar to that of contemporaries Elvis Costello and Graham Parker. The album enjoyed wide critical success: in 2013 Rolling Stone magazine named Look Sharp! number 98 in a list of the 100 best debut albums of all time. Some commercial success also followed, as the debut single “Is She Really Going Out with Him?” reached the top 40 in 5 countries, and no. 9 in Canada.
The Joe Jackson Band released I’m the Man in 1979. The album followed a similar musical pattern, and received good, though not as strong, reviews. It did produce the single “It’s Different for Girls”, which became Jackson’s highest charting UK single, peaking at no. 5. Beat Crazy followed in 1980. Jackson also collaborated with Lincoln Thompson in reggae crossover.
Hit the play button and crank it up. Get ready for another roller-coaster week.