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One More Time: Joe Jackson

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There were certain albums that were playing from all the rooms my first year of university.  I had expected to overhear Supertramp’s Breakfast in America or the Eagles performing something from The Long Run or anything by AC/DC or KISS(the careful punctuation bands). Instead I was happy to hear The Clash, Blondie, Graham Parker and the Rumour, and many bands I had never heard of—including Joe Jackson’s.

I overheard Jackson’s Look Sharp! long before I saw it and I remember staring at the album and grinning at the sharp, white shoes. That particular song (“Look Sharp!”) did not appeal to me at all at the time. Many of the others did.

Hearing it now, it sounds like a Greatest Hits.  There is not a bass line or cymbal touch that is not completely familiar. I had not listened to it in at least twenty years though until I heard Jackson’s The Duke, which I was disappointed in—admiring both artists and expecting their collaboration to be brilliant. I was disappointed and then I listened to him again.

The musical brilliance was Jackson in 1979—and of course Ellington in his times—but the coupling is forgettable enough compared to 1979’s Look Sharp and pretty much everything Ellington ever did.

Look Sharp!, though, is as brilliant now as it was back then, standing out from the commercial stuff and the anti-everything extreme of leftfield punk, as something solid and brilliantly musical; it’s the classic novel you finally read and love.  


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