Joe Jackson

Joe Jackson (born Aug. 11, 1954) is an English pianist, songwriter, vocalist, author, and occasional bandleader, active since the late 1970s. Emerging on London’s New Wave scene, he achieved fame with the 1979/80 albums Look Sharp!, I’m the Man, and Beat Crazy. Over the years, his music has incorporated rock, reggae, salsa, jump blues, Tin Pan Alley, big-band vocal jazz, and avant-garde classical forms. His best-known songs include “Is She Really Going Out With Him?”, “It’s Different for Girls,” and the Billboard hits “Steppin’ Out” and “You Can’t Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want).”

Born David Ian Jackson in Burton upon Trent, he spend his childhood in Portsmouth and his teens in Gosport, where he learned violin and piano. At age 16, he started playing piano in local bars and won a scholarship to London’s Royal Academy of Music, where he studied musical composition. He earned the nickname “Joe” when cabaret audiences noted his resemblance to Joe Cool, the piano-playing guise of Snoopy in the comic strip Peanuts.

In the early ’70s, Jackson formed the band Edward Bear with fellow Gosport musicians, including bassist Graham Maby and guitarist Mark Andrews. Upon learning of the namesake Canadian band, they changed their name to Arms & Legs and issued three 1976/77 singles on MAM: “Janie” (b/w “She’ll Surprise You”), “Heat of the Night” (b/w “Good Times”), and “Is There Anymore Wine” (b/w “She’ll Surprise You”). With the advent of New Wave, Andrews formed Mark Andrews and the Gents. Jackson formed his own band, comprised of Maby, guitarist Gary Sanford, and drummer David Houghton.

Through 1978, Jackson played the London club circuit, where he was spotted by producer David Kershenbaum (Tarney–Spencer Band), who secured the singer a deal with A&M.

Jackson issued his first single, “Is She Really Going Out with Him?” (b/w “You Got the Fever”), in October 1978.


Look Sharp!

Joe Jackson released his debut album, Look Sharp!, in January 1979 on A&M. It opens with “One More Time,” a strident lover’s standoff (in G minor). In the ska-tinged “Sunday Papers,” Joe lampoons the public’s blind acceptance of printed sensationalism with mocking irony (“Well I got nothing against the press, they wouldn’t print it if it wasn’t true”).

“Is She Really Going Out with Him?” has a snapping four-note bassline with retro R&B vibes. Joe supplants the melodramatic subtext (romantic jealously) with bathos about women dating gorillas. In “Happy Loving Couples,” Joe — unimpressed by the ‘picture perfect’ domesticism of his peers  — defies coupling pressures with a high-minded refusal to settle.

On the title-track, Joe stakes his turf in the street-style wars: “And you gotta’ look sharp… and you gotta have no..o.. illusions, just keep going your way, looking over your shoulder.” He takes further jabs at ‘perfect couples’ in “Fools in Love,” a slow number with a lurching reggae-rock riff. Sanford plays a spiky, distorted guitar riff on “(Do the) Instant Mash,” where Joe lampoons the blandness of mass entertainment (muzak, disco, big budget action films) and its robotic effect on humans. On “Pretty Girls,” he jokes about the power of female beauty and asks “god” to equip men with an on–off libido switch.

Each side ends with a punk song: “Throw It Away,” Joe’s advice regarding critical dotted-line papers; and “Got the Time,” about coping with deadlines. The side two opener “Baby Stick Around” is a bopping new wave cut with flashes of the recent trend: “Pushin’ and shovin’ and sweat wet weather; up and down, we go chained together.”

1. “One More Time” 3:15
2. “Sunday Papers” 4:22
3. “Is She Really Going Out with Him?” 3:33
4. “Happy Loving Couples” 3:08
5. “Throw It Away” 2:49

6. “Baby Stick Around” 2:36
7. “Look Sharp!” 3:23
8. “Fools in Love” 4:23
9. “(Do the) Instant Mash” 3:12
10. “Pretty Girls” 2:55
11. “Got the Time” 2:52

Sessions took place in August 1978 with Kershenbaum, who produced Look Sharp! in succession with Three’s a Crowd, the first of two A&M albums by the Tarney–Spencer Band. This was the first of two credits for engineer Rod Hewison, who also worked with Aussie new wavers The Dugites. The assistant engineer, Aldo Bocca, worked earlier with John Entwistle, Dr. Feelgood, and Lene Lovich.

A&M Photographer Michael Ross took the Look Sharp! cover image: a below-the-knee down-shot of Joe in white side-laced winklepickers. On the back cover, Joe points to the camera (wrist upside) in a pinstriped suit. Ross photography also appears on 1978–79 label releases by Budgie, Joan Armatrading, Live Wire, The Police, and Squeeze.

.Jackson lifted “Sunday Papers” as the album’s second single, backed with the title track.

In mid-May, “One More Time” appeared as the third single, backed with the non-album “Don’t Ask Me.”

The fourth and final Look Sharp! a-side, “Fools In Love” (b/w “Throw It Away”), appeared in June as a Dutch-only single.

Look Sharp! reached No. 13 in New Zealand and No. 20 in Australia and the United States, where A&M pressed the album as a 12″ standard LP and as a 10″ double-EP. The latter has a gatefold sleeve with a picture of Joe in a multi-mirrored lavatory.

I’m the Man

Joe Jackson released his second album, I’m the Man, on October 5, 1979, on A&M.

1. “On Your Radio” 4:01
2. “Geraldine and John” 3:14
3. “Kinda Kute” 3:33
4. “It’s Different for Girls” 3:43
5. “I’m the Man” 3:58
6. “The Band Wore Blue Shirts” 5:07
7. “Don’t Wanna Be Like That” 3:41
8. “Amateur Hour” 4:05
9. “Get That Girl” 3:03
10. “Friday” 3:36

Recorded March 1979
Studio TW Studios, Fulham, London
Joe Jackson – arrangements
David Kershenbaum – producer
Alan Winstanley – recording engineer
Aldo Bocca – mixing engineer
Neil King – assistant mixing engineer
Michael Ross – art direction
Bruce Rae – cover photography

Jackson issued “I’m the Man” in September 1979 as the namesake album’s advance single, backed with a cover of the 1961 Chuck Berry rocker “Come On.”

In late November, Jackson lifted “It’s Different for Girls” as the second single (b/w with “Friday”).

In March 1980, “Kinda Kute” appeared as the third and final I’m the Man single (b/w “Geraldine and John”).


“The Harder They Come”

In June 1980, Jackson and his band released “The Harder They Come,” a non-album cover of the 1972 reggae song by Jimmy Cliff. The b-side contains two new Jackson originals, “Out of Style” and “Tilt,” both exclusives to this release.

Beat Crazy

Joe Jackson released his third album, Beat Crazy, on October 10, 1980, on A&M. This is his final album with his original backing group (Maby, Sanford, Houghton) and their sole release as The Joe Jackson Band.

1. “Beat Crazy” (lead vocal by Graham Maby) 4:15
2. “One to One” 3:22
3. “In Every Dream Home (A Nightmare)” 4:31
4. “The Evil Eye” 3:45
5. “Mad at You” 6:03

6. “Crime Don’t Pay” 4:24
7. “Someone Up There” 3:47
8. “Battleground” 2:33
9. “Biology” 4:31
10. “Pretty Boys” 3:41
11. “Fit” 4:45

Recorded 1980
Studio Basing Street, London
Genre New wave, punk rock, ska
Length 45:40
Label A&M
Producer Joe Jackson
Joe Jackson – arrangements, producer
Norman Mighell – recording engineer
Nigel Mills – assistant recording engineer
Willy Smax – artwork
Anton Corbijn – photography

“Mad at You” was the album’s first single, backed with the exclusive “Enough Is Not Enough.”

Dutch A&M lifted “Pretty Boys” as a November 1980 single, backed with “Someone Up There.”

In January 1981, Jackson lifted “Beat Crazy” as the second UK single, backed with a live version of “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” In late March, “One to One” appeared as the third single (b/w “Someone Up There”).


Jumpin’ Jive

On June 19, 1981, Jackson released Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive, an album of 1940s-era swing and jump blues covers.

“Jumpin Jive,” a 1939 swing tune by Cab Calloway, became the first single, backed with a non-album cover of the 1941 blues-jazz ballad ‘Knock Me a Kiss,” originally popularized by by Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five.

1. “Jumpin’ with Symphony Sid” Lester Young, King Pleasure 2:43
2. “Jack, You’re Dead” Walter Bishop, Dick Miles 2:46
3. “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby” Bill Austin, Louis Jordan 4:57
4. “We the Cats (Shall Hep Ya)” Cab Calloway, Jack Palmer 3:19
5. “San Francisco Fan” Sammy Mysels, Dick Sanford 4:28
6. “Five Guys Named Moe” Jerome Bresler, Larry Wynn 2:30
7. “Jumpin’ Jive” Cab Calloway, Frank Froeba, Jack Palmer 2:41
8. “You Run Your Mouth (and I’ll Run My Business)” Lil Armstrong 2:31
9. “What’s the Use of Getting Sober (When You’re Gonna Get Drunk Again)” Busby Meyers 3:46
10. “You’re My Meat” Skeets Tolbert 2:54
11. “Tuxedo Junction” Erskine Hawkins, Buddy Feyne, William Johnson, Julian Dash 5:18
12. “How Long Must I Wait for You” Jerry Black, Lucky Millinder 4:00

Recorded May 1981
Studio Basing Street, London
Genre Jump blues, swing revival
Length 42:17
Label A&M
Producer Joe Jackson
Joe Jackson – vocals and vibraphone
Pete Thomas – alto saxophone
Raul D’Oliveira – trumpet
Nick Weldon – piano
Dave Bitelli – tenor saxophone and clarinet
Graham Maby – bass
Larry Tolfree – drums
All – backing vocals
Joe Jackson – arrangements, producer
Norman Mighell – assistant producer, recording engineer
Matt The Goose – assistant recording engineer
Joe Jackson, Pete Thomas, Dave Bitelli, Raul D’Oliveira – horn arrangements
Jeri Heiden and Sandy Brummels – art direction
Anton Corbijn – photography

“Jack, You’re Dead,” a 1946 jump blues also popularized by Louis Jordan, also appeared as a single, backed with “Five Guys Named Moe,” a hopping 1943 Jordan jump blues that inspired a namesake musical.


Night and Day

Joe Jackson released his fourth album of original material, Night and Day, on June 25, 1982, on A&M.

1. “Another World” 4:00
2. “Chinatown” 4:08
3. “T.V. Age” (music by Jackson and Steve Tatler) 3:45
4. “Target” 3:52
5. “Steppin’ Out” 4:34

6. “Breaking Us in Two” 4:57
7. “Cancer” 6:06
8. “Real Men” 4:05
9. “A Slow Song” 7:15

Recorded January–February 1982
Studio Blue Rock (SoHo, New York City)
Joe Jackson – arrangements, orchestration, lead vocals, acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes and Yamaha electric pianos, Hammond organ, GEM organ, Prophet-5, Minimoog, alto saxophone, vibraphone
Ed Roynesdal – synthesizer programming, violin (8, 9)
Jack Waldman – synthesizer programming
Graham Maby – bass, percussion, vocals
Larry Tolfree – drums, timbales, percussion
Sue Hadjopoulos – congas, bongos, timbales, orchestral bells, xylophone, miscellaneous percussion, flute, vocals
Ricardo Torres – bongos (4, 7), cowbell (4, 7), claves (4, 7)
Grace Millan – backing vocals
Al Weisman – backing vocals

Joe Jackson – producer, mixing
David Kershenbaum – producer, mixing
Michael Ewasko – engineer
Ken Tracht – assistant engineer
Paula Greif – coordinator
Joe Jackson – art direction
Philip Burke – artwork
George Dubose – photography

“Real Men” appeared two weeks earlier as the album’s first single, backed with “Chinatown.”

In mid-August, Jackson lifted “Breaking Us in Two” as the second single, backed with “Target.”

The third UK single, “Steppin’ Out,” appeared in October (b/w “Another World”). Stateside, the latter two singles appeared in reverse order.

In June 1983, “Real Men” reappeared in the UK as the b-side of “Slow Song,” which A&M lifted as the final Night and Day single.

Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[18] 3
UK Albums (OCC)[22] 3
Canada Top Albums/CDs (RPM)[17] 4
US Billboard 200[23] 4
Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)[16] 5
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[21] 8 

Mike’s Murder

In September 1983, Joe Jackson released Mike’s Murder, the ostensible soundtrack to an upcoming neo-noir mystery film starring Debra Winger.

1. “Cosmopolitan” 4:36
2. “1-2-3 Go! (This Town’s a Fairground)” 3:00
3. “Laundromat Monday” 3:31
4. “Memphis” 4:44
5. “Moonlight” 4:21
6. “Zémio” (instrumental) 11:05
7. “Breakdown” (instrumental) 3:59
8. “Moonlight Theme” (instrumental) 3:25

Recorded 1983
Studio A & R (New York City)
Length 38:50
Label A&M
Producer Joe Jackson
Joe Jackson – vocals, keyboards, vibraphone, xylophone, percussion, alto saxophone
Joy Askew – Prophet-5 synthesizer programming
Graham Maby – bass
Larry Tolfree – drums
Sue Hadjopoulos – congas, bongos, percussion

Jeff Gold – executive producer
Becky Shargo – executive producer
Joe Jackson – producer, arrangements
David Kershenbaum – producer (4)
Bradshaw Leigh – engineer
Larry Franke – assistant engineer
Phil Jamtaas – remixing
David Bianco – remix assistant
John LaSalandra – film music editing
Chuck Beeson – art direction
Melanie Nissen – design
Peter Sorel – front cover photography
Greg Gorman – photography of Joe Jackson
John Telfer and Basement Music – management

The opening track, “Cosmopolitan,” appeared as the soundtrack’s only UK single, backed with the instrumental “Breakdown.” Stateside, A&M selected “Memphis” as the a-side.

Body and Soul

Joe Jackson released his seventh album, Body and Soul, on March 14, 1984, on A&M.

1. “The Verdict” 5:31
2. “Cha Cha Loco” 4:47
3. “Not Here, Not Now” 5:27
4. “You Can’t Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)” 4:50
5. “Go for It” 4:18

6. “Loisaida” 5:33
7. “Happy Ending” (duet with Elaine Caswell) 3:39
8. “Be My Number Two” 4:18
9. “Heart of Ice” 6:53

Recorded January 1984
Studio Masonic Hall (tracking)
Vanguard Studios (control room)
Atlantic Studios (mixing)
Joe Jackson – vocals, acoustic piano, saxophone[1]
Ed Roynesdal – keyboards, violin, güiro
Vinnie Zummo – guitars
Graham Maby – bass
Gary Burke – drums
Tony Aiello – saxophones, flute, claves
Michael Morreale – trumpet, flugelhorn
Ellen Foley – backing vocals
Elaine Caswell – backing vocals, duet on “Happy Ending”

Joe Jackson – arrangements, producer[1]
David Kershenbaum – producer
Rik Pekkonen – engineer
Dan Nash – mixdown assistant
Frank Dickinson – digital recording system
Bernie Grundman – mastering at A&M Studios (Hollywood, California)
Jeremy Darby – production coordinator
Quantum – layout, artwork
Charles Reilly – photography
John Telfer – management

“You Can’t Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)” appeared in April as the album’s first US single, backed with “Cha Cha Loco.” It reached No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Happy Ending” was the album’s first UK single (b/w “Loisaida”).

Jackson lifted “Be My Number Two” as the second single in both territories (b/w “Heart of Ice”).

Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[25] 2
European Albums (Eurotipsheet)[26] 7
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[29] 8
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[31] 11
Canada Top Albums/CDs (RPM)[24] 13
UK Albums (OCC)[32] 14
Italian Albums (Musica e dischi)[28] 16
US Billboard 200[33] 20
Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)[23] 21
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[27] 21


Big World

Joe Jackson released his eighth album, Big World, on March 24, 1986, on A&M.

1. “Wild West” 4:37
2. “Right and Wrong” 4:35
3. “(It’s A) Big World” 4:44
4. “Precious Time” 3:23
5. “Tonight and Forever” 2:31
6. “Shanghai Sky” 5:10
7. “Fifty Dollar Love Affair” 3:38
8. “We Can’t Live Together” 5:25
9. “Forty Years” 4:26
10. “Survival” 2:19
11. “Soul Kiss” 4:44
12. “The Jet Set” 3:50
13. “Tango Atlantico” 2:58
14. “Home Town” 3:12
15. “Man in the Street” 5:05

Recorded 22–25 January 1986 (except “Man in the Street” recorded in rehearsals on 22 January)
Venue Roundabout Theatre, East 17th Street, New York City
Genre Pop rock
Length 60:47
Joe Jackson – piano, recorder, accordion, melodica, vocals
Vinnie Zummo – guitars, vocals
Rick Ford – bass, acoustic guitar, vocals
Gary Burke – drums
Joy Askew, Nikki Gregoroff, Peter Hewlett, Curtis King Jr. – extra backing vocals
Joe Jackson and David Kershenbaum – producer
Michael Frondelli – recording engineer
Guy Charbonneau – remote recording technician
Dave Roberts – onstage technician
Dave Hewitt – remote recording production coordinator
Eddie Ciletti – digital tape technician

An edit of “Right or Wrong” appeared as the album’s first single, backed with a live version of “Breaking Us In Two.” In June, Jackson lifted “Home Town” as the second Big World single (b/w “Tango Atlantico”).

Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[8] 2
Italian Albums (Musica e dischi)[11] 13
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[14] 18
Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)[6] 22
European Albums (Music & Media)[9] 23

Will Power

Joe Jackson released his ninth album, Will Power, in April 1987 on A&M.

1. “No Pasaran” 6:07
2. “Solitude” 9:37
3. “Will Power” 5:52
4. “Nocturne” 4:25
5. “Symphony in One Movement” 16:14

Recorded February 1986-January 1987
Studio RCA Studios, New York City

Joe Jackson – acoustic piano (4), keyboard overdubs, percussion overdubs
Pat Rebillot – acoustic piano (1, 2, 3, 5)
Ed Roynesdal – electric piano, Kurzweil K250, synthesizer programming, sampling, sequencing
Vinnie Zummo – guitars
Anthony Jackson – bass guitar (2)
Neil Jason – bass guitar (3)
Gary Burke – drums
Dave Carey – percussion
David Freidman – percussion
Sue Evans – percussion
Andrew Zurcher – voice (2)

David Nadien – concertmaster, contractor
George Manahan – conductor
Joe Jackson – orchestrations, arrangements, producer, mixing, sleeve design
Michael Frondelli – engineer, mixing
Paul Goodman – engineer, mixing [14]
Dennis Ferrante – additional engineer
Laura Levine – photography
Art Collins and Barry Taylor – management


  • Look Sharp! (1979)
  • I’m the Man (1979)
  • Beat Crazy (1980)
  • Jumpin Jive (1981)
  • Night and Day (1982)
  • Mike’s Murder [soundtrack] (1983)
  • Body and Soul (1984)
  • Big World (1986)
  • Will Power (1987)
  • Blaze of Glory (1989)
  • Laughter & Lust (1991)
  • Night Music (1994)
  • Heaven and Hell (1997)
  • Night and Day II (2000)
  • Volume 4 (2003)


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