30: How to Be a Boy Continued: Joe Jackson
Joe Jackson, TPOH, Elvis Costello, genders, roles, rules and more
When I first met my partner Marjan, half my life ago, I brought over Look Sharp! and Jumpin’ Jive to her place. She said she hadn’t heard much of Joe Jackson’s music, but had an impression that he was a “Low-rent Elvis Costello.” I laughed hard - she wasn’t really wrong. But low rent’s not a bad thing, and over time Sir McCostello has become pretty embroiled in the sycophantic showbiz star-fucking scene. Joe Jackson wins: he is empirically cooler now just because he didn’t do all that.
Look Sharp! (1979) - Jackson’s first record - introduced me to the snotty-side of punk attitude, and many of the aural signatures of punk - but the songs are composed thoughtfully, and Jackson doesn’t avoid using interesting chords. In this way again - like Costello. Check:
This gets presented by some as poseur-ism, but that’s ignorant: both Jackson and Costello were songwriters and musicians, who happened to arrive during the punk/ post-punk era. Neither man was squatting in the hovel next door to the Clash (and neither pretended to). To me, both benefited HARD from the angry, stripped down style, and I’m really glad we never had to hear either man’s James-Taylor impression.
Early Peak, No Problem
Joe Jackson had plenty of other great moments, but (I say) no truly great albums after Look Sharp!* He’s released almost as many albums since I stopped following, totalling somewhere above 20 albums (the latest, in 2019). These cover a ton of styles and good experiments (Jackson’s Big World was hilarious to me as the first 3 sided album I ever heard of; his live album spanned years).
[*Except for Jumpin’ Jive, a covers album of 1940s jazz songs meant to remind the world that Jazz had, at one point, been the music of brothels and poverty, not background music for faux-sophisticates. This appealed to me - as did the music. Jumpin’ Jive was my portal into an entire genre, and I’m really grateful for it.]
re. Being a Boy
We’ll continue to pull this thread for a minute, which is fair: I spent way too much time in my life trying to figure out what’s what in the realm of gender rules, roles, and the endless, stupid, poisonous “war between the sexes”. But for now, to close: TPOH, from about 10 years later.
A Note About Gittin’ Paid
I love that you read this - thank you. Since it comes up in most newsletters, podcasts, etc, here’s where I sit with Patreon, crowd-funding, etc.: I don’t need it. I love that they exist and I do give dough to artists, but I myself am fine.
I make enough money from my (beloved) day job, and am very fortunate that I have enough time to make comics and music and write etc - those things give shape to my life, and making things feels great.
If you like this thing, please share it.
Thanks again -