Jackson, Joe 1954–
Jackson, Joe 1954–
PERSONAL: Born August 11, 1954, in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England; son of Ron (a navy plasterer) and Vera (a homemaker) Jackson; married and divorced twice. Education: Royal Academy of Music (London, England), earned Licentiate degree.
CAREER: Singer, songwriter, musician, composer, and author. Began as a piano player in the (British) National Youth Jazz Orchestra; vocalist for several bands, including Edward Bear, and Arms and Legs; piano player in clubs and bars, including the Portsmouth Playboy Club; musical director for Koffee 'n' Kreme (cabaret act). Under contract with A & M Records, 1978–90; Virgin Records, c. 1990–96.
AWARDS, HONORS: Nominee, Grammy Awards, for record of the year and best male pop vocal performance, and gold record, all for Night and Day; nominee, Grammy Awards, for Steppin' Out: The Very Best of Joe Jackson and film music for Mike's Murder and Tucker; Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album, 2001, for Symphony No. 1.
Troubadours and Troublemakers: Ireland Now: A Culture Reclaimed, Blackwater Press (Tallaght, Dublin, Ireland), 1996.
A Cure for Gravity: A Musical Pilgrimage (memoir), Perseus/Public Affairs (New York, NY), 1999.
A Cure for Gravity was published in German.
Look Sharp, A & M (Hollywood, CA), 1979.
I'm the Man, A & M (Hollywood, CA), 1979.
Beat Crazy, A & M (Hollywood, CA), 1980.
Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive, A & M (Hollywood, CA), 1981.
Night and Day, A & M (Hollywood, CA), 1982.
Mike's Murder (soundtrack to the film), A & M (Hollywood, CA), 1983.
Body and Soul, A & M (Hollywood, CA), 1984.
Shijin No Ie (title means "The House of the Poet"), IMAX, 1985.
Big World, A & M (Hollywood, CA), 1986.
Will Power, A & M (Hollywood, CA), 1987.
Tucker: The Man and His Dream (soundtrack to the film), A & M (Hollywood, CA), 1988.
Live, 1980–86, A & M (Hollywood, CA), 1988.
Blaze of Glory, A & M (Hollywood, CA), 1989.
Queens Logic (soundtrack to the film), A & M (Hollywood, CA), 1991.
Steppin' Out: The Very Best of Joe Jackson, A & M (Hollywood, CA), 1991.
Laughter and Lust, Virgin Records, 1991.
Night Music, Virgin Records, 1994.
Greatest Hits, A & M (Hollywood, CA), 1996.
This Is It! The A & M Years, A & M (Hollywood, CA), 1997.
Heaven and Hell, Sony Classical, 1997.
Symphony No. 1, Sony Classical, 1999.
Summer in the City (live), Manticore, 1999.
Night and Day II, Manticore, 2000.
Joe Jackson Band, Volume 4, Rykodisc (New York, NY), 2003.
Afterlife, Rykodisc (New York, NY), 2004.
Two Rainy Nights: Live in Seattle & Portland, Koch Records (New York, NY), 2004.
Also released Tilt, a three-song extended play recording in England, 1980, and I'm the Man: The Classic Tracks, 1979–89, 1995. Soundtracks include Private Eye (1987), Interfilm—I'm Your Man (1992), Three of Hearts (1993), The White Cat (1994), Ironbound (1995), and Party of Five (1996). Contributed tracks to No Wave: An Album of a Lot of Different Groups, A & M, 1978, and Propaganda, 1979; contributed synthesizer playing to a track on Escenas, Elektra, 1985.
SIDELIGHTS: Joe Jackson is known as an eclectic musician, composer, singer, and songwriter. Educated in jazz and classical music at the Royal Academy of Music in London, Jackson's first solo recording, 1979's Look Sharp, was one of the first "New Wave" recordings to enjoy widespread popular success. This was quickly followed by I'm the Man later in 1979, and Beat Crazy in 1980, the first a top-40 hit in both the United States and Jackson's native England, and the second, with a reggae-influenced sound, nearly as successful. Jackson was commonly compared to Elvis Costello during this era of his career, for his edgy lyrics and smart, driven music. Then Jackson took a turn, the first of many, in his career, and began experimenting with swing-era jazz on Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive (1981), salsa and Latin-inflected percussion on Night and Day (1982), and the jazz and Latin inspired 1984 release Body and Soul. Ira Robbins, editor of the Trouser Press Record Guide, was quoted in Entertainment Weekly as saying: "What Jackson did after his early success was indulge what turned out to be an extremely superior musical intellect."
With the 1987 release Will Power Jackson began experimenting with ways to incorporate his knowledge of and love for classical music, a trend that became more obvious after he left A & M Records. In 1991 Jackson signed with Virgin Records and produced two theme-based recordings, Laughter and Lust in 1991, and Night Music in 1994, both of which feature significant contributions by other artists, such as Suzanne Vega and Maire Brennan. Heaven and Hell, released in 1997 by the Sony Classical label, was described as a blend of pop and classical styles, while his 1999 release Symphony No. 1 is considered pure classical music.
In 1994, Jackson told Jim Bessman of Billboard magazine: "My roots are in classical music more than anything else…. But I make eclectic music because I'm an eclectic person, which most of us are these days. To me, it's the more natural and honest way to go, rather than to consciously make music in a specific genre. Anyway, I can't help it." But for some music critics, "it's easier to admire Jackson's adventurous, eclectic spirit than some of the fruit it bears," as Eric Levin put it in People: Throughout his musical career, Jackson has received mixed reviews for his risk-taking approach to making music which, especially in the 1990s, yielded creations that demanded a kind of careful listening unknown in the world of "Top 40" pop music. Similarly, Jackson's autobiography, A Cure for Gravity: A Musical Pilgrimage, which focuses on the musician's early career, was deemed rewarding for those most likely to be willing to go on the ride Jackson wants to take them on. "Jackson presents a portrait of the artist as a young geek," wrote a reviewer in Publishers Weekly. The reviewer stated that the author spends much of the book detailing his experiences as a student of classical music, first at the Portsmouth Technical High School, then at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Jackson's success as a musician, starting with the 1979 release Look Sharp, is relegated to a few chapters at the end of the book. Reviewers singled out Jackson's prose, as well as the focus of his subject, for praise. Rosellen Brewer, writing for Library Journal, called A Cure for Gravity "an honest, gritty look inside the music business and the mind of a musician." Booklist contributor Mike Tribby called Jackson's autobiography "literate," noting, "how many other pop stars would bring up the second Shostakovich string quartet?"
Jackson continued his eclectic professional journey with the 2003 album Joe Jackson Band, Volume 4, a regrouping with his original band from 1978—guitarist Gary Sanford, bass player Graham Maby, and drummer Dave Houghton—as a twenty-fifth anniversary celebration. Jackson wrote all new music for this reunion, which many critics suggested was far from a nostalgic trip into the past. The song "Awkward Age" was, according to PopMatters music critic Gary Glauber, a "likely candidate for [a] radio 'single,' an infectious upbeat bit of advice to an awkward youth." Other cuts range from the piano ballad "Love at First Light" to "Fairy Dust," "an acid take on the modern media's ridiculous gay stereotypes," according to Glauber, who felt that Volume 4 "[did] not deliver the same type of music as Look Sharp!, but manages to provide a good pop record nonetheless." Similarly, for a BBC Online contributor, Volume 4 was a "a great, albeit slightly nostalgic piece of work." Higher praise came from Soundstage.com reviewer Joseph Taylor, who noted that Jackson "hasn't lost his ability to write great hooks." Taylor further thought that "Volume 4 has as much power and drive as those early records. Age hasn't mellowed Jackson any." Noting that it had been twenty-five years since the band played together, a contributor for Punknews.org observed that "it doesn't sound like they've missed a beat." For this reviewer, Volume 4 was a "fantastically solid album."
Jackson also produced a record of the subsequent world tour of his reunion band. Afterlife included some of the songs from Volume 4, but also reprised some of the band's hits, including "Look Sharp!" and "Beat Crazy." For Glauber, writing in PopMatters, the album was "a great tribute to a band that regrouped for 104 dates all across the globe and recaptured the energy and fun that made them such a popular success way back when."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Jackson, Joe, A Cure for Gravity: A Musical Pilgrimage, Perseus/Public Affairs (New York, NY), 1999.
Action Now, April, 1981, "Jamming," p. 42; January, 1982, Darin Hallstrom, review of Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive, p. 36.
Audio, December, 1981, Jon Tiven, Sally Tiven, review of Jumpin' Jive, p. 74; November, 1982, Michael Tearson, review of Night and Day, p. 26; January, 1984, Michael Tearson, review of Mike's Murder soundtrack, p. 38; July, 1984, Paulette Weiss, review of Night and Day, p. 76; July, 1986, Michael Tearson, review of Big World, p. 104; November, 1988, Michael Tearson, review of Live, 1980–86, p. 159.
Billboard, July 7, 1984, Len Epand, "Music Videos: Another View," p. 10; February 15, 1986, Steven Dupler, "Joe Jackson Cuts 'Big World' Direct to Two-Track Digital," p. 42A; October 1, 1994, Jim Bessman, "Jackson Veers toward Classical on Virgin Set," p. 10.
Booklist, October 1, 1999, Mike Tribby, review of A Cure for Gravity, p. 333.
Consumers' Research Magazine, December, 1981, Robert Henschen, review of Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive, p. 37.
Down Beat, January, 1982, Steve Bloom, review of Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive, p. 31; August, 1985, "Auditions," p. 61; May, 1986, Bill Milkowski, "Joe Jackson's Sophisticated Pop," p. 20, and Bill Milkowski and David Kershenbaum, "Joe Jackson: Live and in the Studio," p. 54.
Entertainment Weekly, October 7, 1994, Josef Woodard, review of Night Music, p. 79; August 2, 1996, Steven Mirkin, review of Greatest Hits, p. 59; September 12, 1997, Don Gordon, review of Heaven and Hell, p. 139; October 23, 1998, "Joe Jackson," p. 92.
Esquire, December, 1982, Billy Altman, review of Night and Day, p. 134.
High Fidelity, October, 1981, Crispin Cioe, review of Jumpin' Jive, p. 98; March, 1984, Sam Sutherland, review of Night and Day, p. 58; July, 1986, Mark Moses, review of Big World, p. 74; September, 1988, Ken Richardson, "Joe Jackson: Live in Tokyo," and review of Live, 1980–86, p. 86.
Interview, May, 1991, Dimitri Ehrlich, "Joe Cool," p. 40.
Jet, August 28, 1980, "'Foolproof' Joe Jackson Gets Big Birthday Surprise," p. 24.
Library Journal, August, 1999, Rosellen Brewer, review of A Cure for Gravity, p. 92.
Los Angeles Magazine, March, 1982, "Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive," p. 211.
Newsweek, March 14, 1983, "Joe Jackson's Sizzling Salsa," p. 68; May 26, 1986, Bill Barol, review of Big World, p. 72.
New York, December 14, 1981, Tom Bentkowski, review of Jumpin' Jive, p. 74.
New York Times, April 16, 2003, John Pareles, "Harmony for People Out of Tune with Life," review of Joe Jackson Band, Volume 4.
People, February 14, 1983, David Fricke, "How Different Is Joe Jackson's New Sound?," p. 53; April 30, 1984, Eric Levin, review of Body and Soul, p. 26; May 26, 1986, Eric Levin, review of Big World, p. 18; June 15, 1987, Eric Levin, review of Will Power, p. 24; September 14, 1987, Jeff Jarvis, review of Private Eye, p. 13; June 12, 1989, Andrew Abrahams, review of Blaze of Glory, p. 25; May 20, 1991, David Hiltbrand, review of Laughter and Lust, p. 23; September 29, 1997, Amy Waldman, review of Heaven and Hell, p. 28; March 11, 2003, Serena Kappes, "Joe Jackson Is Back: The Eclectic Side."
Playboy, November, 1981, review of Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive, p. 33; July, 1984, review of Body and Soul, p. 22.
Publishers Weekly, October 4, 1999, review of A Cure for Gravity, p. 57.
Rolling Stone, September 18, 1980, Kurt Loder, "Joe Jackson's Latest Disc Reggae-Influenced," p. 12; October 14, 1982, Parke Puterbaugh, "Joe Jackson's Classy Act," p. 62; November 24, 1983, Errol Somay, review of Mike's Murder soundtrack, p. 70; May 10, 1984, Don Shewey, review of Body and Soul, p. 54; August 30, 1984, Christopher Connelly, "Why Joe Jackson Said No to Rock Video," p. 32; January 30, 1986, Anthony DeCurtis, review of Escenas, p. 47; March 27, 1986, Steve Bloom, "The Stage as Studio," p. 22; September 11, 1986, Tony Seideman, "Joe Jackson: The Big World Sessions," p. 86; July 16, 1987, David Wild, "Joe Jackson Orchestrates a New Wave," p. 27; May 18, 1989, Parke Puterbaugh, review of Blaze of Glory, p. 167; November 29, 1990, Alan Light, "Joe Jackson (In the Studio)," p. 35; May 30, 1991, Elysa Gardner, review of Laughter and Lust, p. 73.
Seventeen, August, 1984, review of Body and Soul, p. 285.
Star-Telegram (Dallas, TX), May 17, 2003, Dave Ferman, "Joe Jackson Band Reunion a Worthy Trip Down Memory Lane."
Stereo Review, January, 1980, Steve Simels, review of I'm the Man, p. 89; October, 1981, Steve Simels, review of Jumpin' Jive, p. 108; November, 1982, review of Night and Day, p. 108; January, 1984, Mike Peel, review of Mike's Murder soundtrack, p. 65; July, 1984, Mark Peel, review of Body and Soul, p. 63; August, 1986, Mark Peel, review of Big World, p. 107; August, 1987, Louis Meredith, "The Big World Sessions," p. 93; October, 1987, Mark Peel, review of Will Power, p. 106; September, 1989, Steve Simels, review of Blaze of Glory, p. 130; October, 1991, Ron Givens, review of Laughter and Lust, p. 95; December, 1994, Peter Puterbaugh, review of Night Music, p. 129.
Variety, July 15, 1981, "Joe Jackson, 20-20," p. 62; August 19, 1981, review of Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive, p. 65; September 8, 1982, "Joe Jackson and Marshall Crenshaw," p. 110; May 9, 1984, review of Body and Soul, p. 545; June 13, 1984, "Joe Jackson Puts Down Video," p. 71; February 19, 1986, "Jackson's Digital Transfer Method Breaks New Ground in Pop Field," p. 429; May 28, 1986, review of Big World, p. 79; September 10, 1986, "The Big World Sessions," p. 90.
Times (London, England), June 6, 2003, David Sinclair, "Joe Jackson: Pop."
Wilson Library Bulletin, September, 1986, Bruce Pollock, review of Big World, p. 71; December, 1988, Bruce Pollock, review of Live, 1980–86, p. 103.
BBC Online, http://www.bbc.co.uk/ (November 20, 2006), "Joe Jackson: A Guide."
Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com/ (November 20, 2006), "Joe Jackson."
Joe Jackson Archive, http://www.jj-archive.net/ (November 20, 2006).
Joe Jackson Home Page, http://www.joejackson.com (November 20, 2006).
PopMatters, http://www.popmatters.com/ (May 7, 2003), Gary Glauber, review of Joe Jackson Band, Volume 4; (July 1, 2004), Gary Glauber, review of Afterlife.
Powells.com, http://www.powells.com/ (December 1, 1999), Dave Weich, "Joe Jackson Has Been Busy Making Other Plans."
Punknews.org, http://www.punknews.org/ (November 20, 2006), review of Joe Jackson Band, Volume 4.
Soundstage.com, http://www.soundstage.com/ (May, 2003), Joseph Taylor, review of Joe Jackson Band, Volume 4.