In 1979, Joe Jackson’s music was the sharp cutting edge

Then came Cab Calloway covers, piano pop and a symphony.

By Ron / Everett Public Library staff

Joe Jackson was one of the most profoundly talented musicians to surface in the 1970s. With the release of both “Look Sharp!” and “I’m the Man” in 1979, Jackson and his band made a meteoric impact on the new wave scene. The 1980 release of “Beat Crazy” found the band traveling in a more eclectic direction, with some songs leaning toward reggae and ska, others featuring slow, dissonant music that one would not typically hear on a “rock” album. This captivating LP remains one of my favorites, one of the more unusual entries in my collection.

After recording “Beat Crazy,” the band broke up and Jackson put out “Jumpin’ Jive,” an album of Cab Calloway covers! Because, of course, this is a natural career move after releasing two power pop/new wave albums and … No, I can’t finish the sentence. This was a really strange thing to do. As a fanboy (a Jacksonaut?), I was perplexed and none too pleased by this choice (until later in life, when swing became one of my favorite genres). “Jumpin’ Jive” was followed by a piano-centric pop album, “Night and Day.” I enjoyed the album, but it lacked the edge that was so wonderful in “Look Sharp!”

As is so often the case, my interest in Jackson’s music waned as time went on and I remained focused on his first few records. I still bought the new albums as they came out but never seemed to listen to them quite as much as the early ones. But those first five records became an indelible part of my lifescape.

“Is She Really Going Out With Him?” from “Look Sharp!” is one of the songs that best represents my high school and college years. It is an obelisk commemorating the deluge of quirky music that opened my eyes to art’s possibilities. Or something like that. And there was the added bonus of having a friend named Jeanne who really hated to hear the lyrics:

Look over there! (Where?)

Here comes Jeanne with her new boyfriend

They say that looks don’t count for much

If so, there goes your proof

I can’t overstate how different, daring, edgy this music seemed in 1979. It was truly an exciting time to come of age, as it were.

Let us consider another great tune from 1979, this one found on the album “I’m the Man.” The song? “It’s Different for Girls.”

No, not love she said

Don’t you know that it’s different for girls?

You’re all the same

With slow and introspective music, the lyrics are a conversation about the differences between men and women, about a particular man’s difficulty in understanding women. The simple ringing guitar lead is invasive, a true earworm that immediately evokes this lovely song. You can hear this one on Joe Jackson’s “Greatest Hits” album.

Jackson also released other albums, but I don’t care about them.

But I joke.

Later in life, Jackson wrote a symphony, reunited the band and released many more albums. Some might call him a renaissance man. I call him Mr. Jackson. His music is well worth checking out, so make it so!

Finally, I leave you with philosophical and educational lyrics from “Evil Eye,” off of “Beat Crazy.” Enjoy.

I stack a pig’s head on the shelf

The boss comes along and says move yourself

I can’t move I’m hypnotized

Staring into a dead pig’s eyes

Be sure to visit the Everett Public Library blog for more reviews and news of all things happening at the library.

Talk to us

More in Life

Create your own simple syrup for the best summer drinks

Try two drink recipes — a sparkling lemonade and a margarita — that call for chile lemon simple syrup.

Pinot gris continues to merit gold medals for Northwest wine

The Cascadia wine competition proves the Burgundy white grape is just as worthy of attention as ever.

With COVID-19, this is a once-in-a-century kind of summer

Though we’re in a pandemic, we can still find imaginative and resourceful ways to enjoy summertime.

Flavorful chicken salad is perfect for a hot summer night

The only cooking you need to do for this dish is toast the walnuts to enhance their flavor.

Keep masks on the kitchen counter next to your phone so you remember to grab one when you leave the house. (Jennifer Bardsley)
Household strategies to manage summer’s hottest new accessory

This mom lays out her plan to keep clean masks available to all four family members at all times.

2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon EcoDiesel: Don’t call it an SUV

The new engine produces 442 lb-ft of torque. Its partner is an eight-speed automatic transmission.

How Impossible’s plant-based burger meat compares to beef

Thanks to the pandemic, the plant-based meat alternative is no longer impossible to find in stores.

This summer, your table is waiting on Main Street in Edmonds

The city is closing off the street on weekends to provide a safe place for dining. Bothell is doing the same thing, but seven days a week.

Whidbey Island’s roadside red door is a portal to nowhere

The door on Cultus Bay Road has been a South Whidbey Island icon for 30 years. Here’s the story.

Most Read