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Booking Joe Jackson

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Volume 4 – whose release coincides with the 25th anniversary of the recording of Joe Jackson’s landmark debut Look Sharp – is a stunning comeback for one of the classic bands of the post-punk era: Jackson (vocals and keyboards), Gary Sanford (guitar), Graham Maby (bass), and Dave Houghton (drums).


Jackson seems as surprised as anyone that the reunion has occurred at all, let alone yielded such stellar results. ‘I never thought this would happen,’ says Jackson, who is based in New York but keeps a house in his hometown of Portsmouth, England. Former classical prodigy Jackson was already a young musical veteran (with a resume that included the Royal Academy of Music, the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, musical directorship of a Playboy Club, and a proto-punk band called Arms and Legs) when Look Sharp was released into the charged post-punk atmosphere of January 1979. ‘We were together for a much shorter time than I realised,’ Jackson notes. ‘We got together in the summer of ’78, recorded Look Sharp in August, and just kept going through to the end of 1980. We toured very hard, but then again, we were very young and it was an adventure’.

Despite their success, Jackson chose to put the band to rest and move on to new musical challenges: the ahead-of-its-time swing project Jumpin’ Jive (1981), the sophisticated urban pop of Night and Day (1982) and Body and Soul (1984), the stripped-down, live-to-two-track Big World (1986), the majestic, semi-autobiographical Blaze of Glory (1989), the more mainstream but still idiosyncratic Laughter and Lust (1991), the gentle, soul-searching Night Music (1994), the innovative song-cycle based on the Seven Deadly Sins, Heaven and Hell (1997), and the album Joe considers his best, Night and Day II (2000). Jackson has also distinguished himself with scores for several films, including Francis Ford Coppola’s Tucker and James Bridges’ Mike’s Murder, and two albums of instrumental music, Will Power (1987) and the non-traditional, non-orchestral Symphony No. 1, which won the 2001 Grammy award for Best Pop Instrumental Album.

There’s nothing nostalgic about the artist,’s enthusiasm for Volume 4. I’ve got to say I love this album, and it feels very special to me. It’s always special when something you never thought would happen happens, and then turns out even better than you imagined; I mean, how often does that happen?! It’s not quite like picking up where we left off, but it doesn’t feel like twenty years have gone by, either. It almost feels like we took three or four years off and then came back to make the killer fourth album. I think this is the best thing we’ve done.’

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