Friday, July 10, 2009

Joe Jackson: The Harder They Come

Joe Jackson (not the Shoeless one nor the father of the departed one-gloved one) defined new wave, back when I was nine. Jackson got through to our suburban battery-powered a.m. radios (the seventies precursor to the Walkmans, iPods and the digital implants to come). Jackson may have only been another pub rocker posing as the face of disaffected youth, railing against the media, consumerism and the opposite sex but by creating killer pop songs out of such material, he beat the punks at their own game.

in 1980, in-between his stunning first two album and his more problematic third one (his career only grows more thorny as it goes on), Jackson released a three song single that remains almost unknown. It's a perfect distillation of his career up till then,with an up-tempo reggae song (Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come") a sneering rocker ("Outta Style") and a taut ballad ("Tilt"). Don't miss out on this thirty-year old secret.


  1. Not sure "thorny" is fair. I love the Jazz/Swing stuff that followed. True, it didn't seem to follow naturally from what came before, but great none the less. Thanks for this single.

  2. Good point

    I chose 'thorny' to indicate that if you loved those first two records you'll find Jackson's later career 'swings' frustrating but not without rewards.

    Thanks for the words.

  3. I agree with you about his career. Thanks a lot for this single! Cheers.

  4. I know there are good songs on the middle period and I remember liking Laughter and Lust. Something turned me off about the Joe Jackson Band reunion but now I should go back an re-listen.

  5. got to see him live about 10 years ago in Lawrence,Kansas. "thorny" may be a fair comment in comparison to the first two albums but Jackson is an artist whose "bad" days are way above average when compared to the rest of the pack.

  6. It seems that all those Angry Young Men of the late seventies (Costello, Parker, Jackson) all changed courses a number of times (each returning to the style that made them famous at some point)but they kept doing interesting,if not always great, work.

  7. Hey, thanks for this. I consider myself a fan of Joe Jackson and have never heard of this single.

  8. What a gem - thanks so much for digging it out and sharing it. And why is it that JJ is so overlooked??

  9. I used to have this 12 inch, brilliant, thanx.As for Mr. Jackson's later career, he's an intrigueing artist!

  10. Thank you - much appreciated.

  11. aiken
    I only know about it because of the Trouser press (though the 5P website reminded me of it recently).

    I think JJ got a hit too quickly, so he didn't have time to build critical appeal like Elvis and Graham. This single remaining so buried seems odd.

    Dr. F.
    "Intriguing" - thanks for another good adjective in our hunt to describe the later career of JJ.

    s. nail
    Thanks for adding some appreciation.

  12. I had this, back in the day, and probably still do, misfiled somewhere. I saw him on his first tour, 1979, at the Old Waldorf. First set. The second set was broadcast by KSAN-FM, and we raced across town to hit the "record" button so we could catch a show that was almost the one we had just attended.

  13. "Is She Really Going Out With Him", Steppin Out" and "Breaking Us In Two" were well written songs and I don't care if some say he sold out when he did those songs.

  14. I'd been the coolest ten-year old on my block to have caught that show! Do copies of that broadcast exist anywhere?(radio broadcasts usually make great bootlegs.)

  15. Anon

    There was no "sell-out" from JJ, he just changed directions, some of us liked the first direction better but that doesn't reduce the stature of the artist.

  16. Wow! Just wandered over from TFuzzy because any mention of Joe Jackson catches my eye. I'd never heard of this before; thanks ever so much!

  17. Still got this tucked away somewhere in my vinyl collection. An underrated artist

  18. Ah, 'The Angry Young Men' of the 1970s!I think Joe is still angry ... about smoking ban laws.Actually Jackson,Parker and Costello are still making excellent music.Costello still gets mega publicity/press.Parker seems to be very content in his life.I have ordered lots of stuff off the Parker website.I believe I read that Jackson had moved to Berlin.

    Thanks for this ep.I do have the vinyl version.Joe Jackson surprised us all with his musical morphing in the late 1970s and 1980s.I got see the live versions.All very good.

    I can still feel Graham Maby's bass.Good stuff.

  19. nice choice, nice single! thanks much.

  20. Thanks a lot, for another great post!
    Really amazing!!!

  21. Anon
    It's a stunning rarity, glad to have introduced it to you.

    I never play my vinyl but I've kept all my odd little obscurities, I only wish I had this one.

    Yeah Costello is a titan. I remember Dina Krall saying he's actually the one that gets recognized everywhere they go and not her.
    I haven't followed Parker since the Razor and Tie era of the mid-nineties but one day I'll dig back in.
    Yeah Maby's bass is so prominent in some of these songs - it gives them such strength.


    It's heartening to see the love people out there have for JJ, I really didn't know about the depth of feeling when I chose to post this.

  22. I was aware of the first two JJ albums at the time, and their subsequent singles; however, his 'Jumpin' Jive' tribute LP simply blew me away at college, and made me hunt down his earlier stuff.

    Haven't heard this one, though - thanks for posting it! Any more JJ rarities would be appreciated....


  23. Outstanding, thank you!!!

  24. Thanks for the post! In the interest of debate, I'll just add that I find Joe Jackson's early, "punk era" stuff to be pretty unconvincing; he's more uptight than Costello (not good), and unlike Parker, his anger sounds kinda contrived. I prefer the more piano-driven mid-period stuff like "Steppin' Out" and "Down to London." It seems to me that's where he found his original voice: classy, thoughtful and wonderfully tuneful.

  25. Ben

    I got one JJ related poat left but the rarities are...well..rare.

    "Thank yeh, Thank yeh verry much."

    I believe Jackson had some real burning anger (judging from the things I've read) but I do think he overplayed it and maybe part of his reason for the drastic change in style (other than obvious music affections) was to break that typecasting.

  26. Just out of curiosity, can anyone think of other acts that fit in the mini-genre of early G. Parker, E. Costello and Joe Jackson? All that comes to my mind is Any Trouble, but they were sort of second-stringers. Anyone?

  27. It's gonna be all second and third stringers if you're looking for more Angry Youg Men:

    The Gas
    Mark Andrews and the Gents (JJ friend)
    Local Operator
    Boomtown rats (A stretch but gifted angry loudmouth fronting a tight band)
    I'll think of more..

    Plus there's a few Americans who said "I could do that.."

  28. Joe Jackson Live at Old Waldorf 1979:

  29. Thank you very much the music you post. Could you please repost this rare Joe Jackson sigle? Thanks again.
    Mario, from Argentina.


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