I was a fan of Joe Jackson when he first enjoyed success in the late 70s and was lumped into the genre of new wave. Aside from the fact that he had a few fast tempo numbers and at other times his bitter lyrics and vocal delivery could be an occasional reminder of same-era Elvis Costello, there was nothing vaguely new wave about this prematurely balding singer-songwriter, a fact that would be confirmed many years later by the story he tells of his struggle and efforts to make the big time in his entertaining autobiography A Cure For Gravity which stops abruptly in 1978 just as he finally becomes a star.
The first two LPs and accompanying singles had been credited solely to the front man but then, in June 1980, there was a new 3-track single released attributed to Joe Jackson Band. I dutifully bought it, took it home, played it and went uh-oh….it just wasn’t very good at all.
Now I knew from reading the label that this was a cover version but had no idea that it was of a reggae song, and a bona-fide classic at that, which had soundtracked a film back in 1972. I had never heard of Jimmy Cliff and actually assumed on hearing the JJB version that he was some sort of American singer-songwriter long he lines of the blokes out of The Eagles or Steely Dan such was the sort of sound emanating from the turntable:-
My apologies for inflicting it on you.
The two tracks on the flip side of the 12″ were originals and demonstrate the two contrasting styles more typical of the band – one is a thrash-through at 100mph and the other a more reserved ballad:-
The single was a monumental flop, not selling anywhere near enough copies to get close to the Top 75. None of the songs were included on the later LP Beat Crazy, which itself sold poorly and proved to be the last album recorded by the four piece. Joe would return to the spotlight the following year with an album of jazz and swing that I just didn’t take to at all, and then in 1982 it was all a bit Billy Joel clever piano pop music that led to a million-selling LP in Night and Day and a massive hit single in Steppin’ Out.
By this point I was past caring.
I’m still reasonably fond of the first three LPs, and indeed have toyed with the idea of an ICA from that era – but there is no way the cover version would have found its way on.
And just a heads-up that the two-week period between Christmas and New Year will see this place devote itself entirely to cover versions.