Song of the day – 349: Joe Jackson
Another one in the Vincent Vanoli series. “The world would be better if some of us could stay amateurs.” Joe’s a real favourite, despite the fact I haven’t liked a song of his since – oh – 1981.
We saw Joe Jackson play live once. It was 1979, and just about the only in-town expedition our tiny corridor in Rachel McMillan in Deptford Fun City could agree upon. This was before half of us got threatened with court appearances for our pyromaniac and vandal tendencies. (One favourite game was laying a trail of petrol down the corridor and then lighting it when we heard footsteps at the other end.) We took the weird add-on Metropolitan line tube up to Whitechapel and changed for Charing Cross: alighting right near the Wendy’s Burger restaurant. There were around five of us – the lanky American who everyone fancied, and caused girls to climb over us when we got together for band practice: Paul, the Factory Records affeciando who claimed to play fly-half for St Helens second XV, and who turned me on to Springsteen, Tom Waits and Martha And The Muffins: Mark Ellis, the man who accompanied me on my first-ever interview with Young Marble Giants: Jim, probably – a biker, and fierce with it. Maybe more. Maybe someone had suggested taking magic mushrooms beforehand, but it was all I could do not to wake up at 5am following my production-line job.
We were elated. Joe’s star was in the firmament. He was a first-class entertainer and storyteller, and had a giant hula hoop. He was the man. The five or six of us wrestled for the hula hoop when Joe threw it into the crowd halfway through his set, and the lanky American clinched it. We wheeled it all the way down Charing Cross Road, dancing in the neon lights. The first two Joe Jackson albums were unstoppable: pure Mod sharpness and wide boy style. And for that one night, so were we.
(There is no video for ‘Amateur Hour’ on YouTube so I’ve posted the pulsating title track from the 1979 album it features on, I’m The Man.)