Lex Neon on Joe Jackson

Poppershouts out to Joe Jackson, whose birthday lands on August 11.

Sometime in 1989 during my first year of college, I met Larry.  We had a lot of the same musical tastes, and instantly became friends.  Turned out that he was a guitarist / bassist, so we had the opportunity to jam outside school walls in his parents’ garage in Culver City, Ca.  He had a vast musical library, and often allowed me to wallow in his hundreds of vinyl albums.

Joe Jackson was one artist that escaped me during the late 70s and early 80s, save for “Is She Really Going Out With Him,” and “Stepping Out.”  Turns out that Clover Club Larry was very big on Mr. Jackson, so he slides me two early albums.  One was I’m The Man, the other was Look Sharp.  Released about a decade before I got to them, these albums became staples of my musical diet.

The songs from these two albums made me recall early Elvis Costello, but with a finer point on Jackson’s “poison pen.”  The songs were direct, humorous, and made me want to dance.  Look Sharp was the one that I went back to time and again for inspiration for the first few songs I would write.  Songs like “Happy Loving Couples” poked fun at the facade of love (which is where my young, single brain was at that time).  “One More Time” is a classic album opener, and made me tap my feet as soon as I heard that groovy, chunky, opening guitar.  “Sunday Papers” was pretty funky stuff for a bunch of skinnie-tie English blokes to handle, but it has the proper amount of “grease” to keep it groovin’.

On my own copy of the Look Sharp album, I wore thin the band that contained the title track.  Musically, it moves in syncopated fashion.  You can’t help but shake your ass to it.  The song goes from section to section flawlessly.  Dig the killer musicianship on this track.  You can hear the band and Jackson having fun, especially on the vocals.  He’s done way more musically than the first two albums, but for me this is “the deal.”

Larry would turn me on to a lot of other music that I may have missed, and we would play in a few bands together.  A few Joe Jackson songs would get a fresh airing in his first bands, Optional View and Below 37 (on guitar, young Lex).  I would even nick a few guitar chord sequences from those first two Joe Jackson albums to flesh out my own first attempts at writing music.

Joe Jackson would create music that touched on jazz standards, swing music, reggae, Cole Porter-style pop, classical (check out his Symphony No. 1), and earn five Grammy nominations.  Hell, he even helped William Shatner record a version of Pulp’s “Common People.”  And to think, all this from some skinny kid who dropped out of London’s Royal Academy of Music to be a pop star.  Happy birthday, Joe.  I love you, man.

(Lex Neon is the musical mastermind behind the music of indie sunshine pop / rock band Poppermost.  For more info, go to http://www.poppermost.com/)

Note: The date listed on the album below is a remastered release.  The original album’s release date was April 1979.

Currently listening :
Look Sharp!
By Joe Jackson
Release date: 2001-08-14
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~ by Poppermost on September 2, 2008.

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