Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time


Joe Jackson has been one of the most important musical artists in my life for four decades, and it all started with his magnificent 1979 debut album, Look Sharp!. When I wrote about it in the first Great Out Of The Gate post (see below), I mentioned his songwriting, vocals, sense of humor & his incredible band…but I failed to share the names of the talented musicians who made this record (and the two that followed) so jaw-droppingly good: guitarist Gary Sanford, drummer Dave Houghton and bassist Graham Maby. The latter has appeared on the majority of Joe Jackson’s albums, and his name should be included on any list of the all-time great bassists. Having spent the first 5 years of this blog focused on the lesser-played artists in my collection, many of my favorite artists have not been featured too often, and Joe Jackson is no exception. Other than the occasional reference, only his 1986 classic Big World got its own post in the Thirty Year Thursday series back in 2016. I’m thrilled to once again shine a light on one of my heroes.

For more information on this series, please read the opening paragraph of the first post, which featured the debut album from Led Zeppelin.




I instantly became a lifelong Joe Jackson fan the moment I heard “Is She Really Going Out With Him” blasting out of the radio for the first time in ‘79. It’s been a fun journey following his career through more genres than most artists are even aware of, starting with this blast of new wave that doesn’t have a weak moment over the course of its 11 songs. His songwriting was as strong as the two contemporary artists he was most often compared to (Elvis Costello and Graham Parker), and his unique vocal phrasing, self-deprecating sense of humor & a band that was the equal of The Attractions, The Rumour and even The E Street Band, all combined to make Look Sharp a timeless collection that might otherwise sound dated by now in less capable hands. From the youthful punk-inspired energy of “Got The Time” and “Baby Stick Around” to songs featuring reggae & jazz influences like “Sunday Papers,” “Fools In Love” and “Look Sharp,” I’ve never grown tired of this album…and the same holds true for just about everything in his discography.



I could never choose a favorite Joe Jackson album, as they’ve all impacted me in so many ways, but on any given day Look Sharp! and the aforementioned Big World would be two strong contenders for #1. I know I can’t be the only one here who loves his debut, and I look forward to hearing from other fans as well as anyone hearing some of these songs for the first time.

15 comments on “Satur-debut – JOE JACKSON “LOOK SHARP!”

  1. 80smetalman
    September 14, 2019

    I only know “Is She Really Going Out With Him” from this album. But I like the reggae rock fusion of the other 2 songs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill P
      September 14, 2019

      If I had to guess based on your alias here, you must be aware of Anthrax’s version of “Got the Time” which I think they covered on Persistence of Time? From the bass intro, to the staccato pacing, and even the distorted guitar….the cover is pretty close to the original.

      Liked by 2 people

      • 80smetalman
        September 15, 2019

        OMG, it’s frightening how similar the two versions of the song are. I think it proves just how versatile a musician Joe Jackson is.


      • I’m really glad you checked out both versions. I was going to suggest you listen to that song next since I knew you would enjoy it. JJ could kick some ass when he wanted to.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. christiansmusicmusings
    September 14, 2019

    Great choice and a fantastic debut for sure!

    My intro to Joe Jackson was his sophomore “I’m The Man,” which already came out nine months after “Look Sharp!” If I had to select one, this would be my favorite.

    It’s with the same backing band, which agree is great. As a former bassist, I really dig Graham Maybe. The other musicians are excellent as well.

    Joe Jackson remains a compelling artist to this day. I like his most recent album “Fool” and saw him earlier this year – great show!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Getting into JJ via either of his first two albums is a perfect way to discover his music. That band is so amazing and his songwriting so unique. He continues to surprise me all these years later. Fool is an excellent album. There are a couple of weaker tracks but a few that are modern classics. I’m glad I bought the vinyl version which came with an exclusive 7″ single that has two bonus tracks, including a Steely Dan cover.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Bill P
    September 14, 2019

    Here’s another artist where I’m shamefully more compilation over catalog in reality but who I feel I need to get more from. Outside of his Greatest Hits, I have Night & Day and a later live album. His GH comp has Sunday Papers, Look Sharp, and ISRGOWH so I’m familiar with those. So, I set out to listen to a few of the other album cuts. It is hard to believe he put Got the Time on this album as the last track…it has so much energy…guess he wanted to go out with a bang?

    The opener, One More Time, reminds me heavily of Gang of Four’s “Damaged Goods.” Throw it Away sounds like something off of Daryl Hall’s “Sacred Songs.” This whole album really has that late 70s vibe. Some punk inspired stuff, some reggae, mixed with a more refined music taste. I like it a lot. I could easily listen to this whole album. Great choice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I always liked that the album closed with the most kick-ass rockin’ song. The rhythm section really cooks on that one. I haven’t played that Gang Of Four album in a while so I’ll have to give it a listen soon to see if I also hear the similarity with “One More Time.” I trust your opinion so I’m sure you’re spot-on. Good call with “Throw It Away” and that Daryl Hall album. I can definitely hear it in my head.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Aphoristical
    September 14, 2019

    Jackson’s really good – you get punky angst and musical sophistication from the same person.

    Liked by 1 person

    • And that’s just on his first album. He’s covered so much musical ground throughout his career that he’s impossible to categorize. He’s also one of only a handful of artists whose music can make me smile & bring me to tears in equal measure.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Alyson
    September 19, 2019

    I often refer to male and female gender music around here, but for the first time in a while I feel you are featuring a gender neutral (in terms of his musical output) artist – I’m pretty sure both Joe Jackson would have had a fairly wide appeal. (In today’s world that was a tough sentence to write as things have changed so much in the intervening years but I’m sure you know what I mean.)

    Just a little anecdote – I had a pair of shoes just like the ones on the album cover in 1980, but they were red. I wore them with slim jeans and one of those short coats like the mods used to wear – My uniform whilst a 3rd Year student! Joe had an influence on the footwear of the nation obviously!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alyson, it’s very interesting that you used the term “gender neutral” here, as Joe Jackson has always been elusive about his sexual orientation (as if anyone cares), and nearly 20 years ago he performed a song on one of his albums in the guise of a drag queen named Dale De Vere (which he has always denied but it’s obvious from the photo and vocals). Nice to know that Joe had a sartorial influence on England…and probably some people on my side of the pond as well.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alyson
        September 23, 2019

        If I did say something “interesting” here it was by accident, as like you I don’t really care about anyone’s sexual orientation, but now that you’ve mentioned his drag queen guise, the gender neutral label (in terms of his music) makes sense.

        Things are looking up for me as I see you had a female artist in the most recent edition, albeit one who often sings male gender music – Argh, it’s a quagmire!


      • Perhaps “interesting” was the wrong word, but certainly not controversial. Perhaps ironic would have been a better description, since I don’t think Joe Jackson would disagree with the assessment that his music is gender neutral. Anyway, perhaps to avoid the wrath of the internet we’ll cap off this conversation here, even though I’m quite enjoying it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Alyson
        September 25, 2019

        Not questioning your use of vocab, just chuffed I’d said something less than superficial! Yes, time to cap off the thread now though.

        Liked by 1 person

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