On April 7, 1979, Joe Jackson’s debut album, Look Sharp, entered the Billboard Top LPs & Tape chart at #182. The album had been released in Britain in January and initially generated little fanfare, although the Joe Jackson Band garnered good reviews wherever they toured in the UK.
David Ian Jackson was born Aug. 11, 1954, in Staffordshire, England. He received the nickname “Joe” in the early ’70s from band mates in Edward Bear (yes, the band’s name came from the Winnie-the-Pooh reference) because they thought Jackson resembled Joe 90, the character from a popular TV puppet show (http://bit.ly/Joe90).
As a child with asthma, Jackson became interested in books and music. At age 11, he took up the violin and at school became interested in the tympani and oboe. Young Jackson dreamed of one day becoming a composer. His parents bought a second-hand piano so their son could take lessons. At age 16, Jackson formed a jazz trio and began performing in local pubs.
After stints in local bands (Misty Set, Edward Bear) and playing in the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, Jackson graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in London. He continued performing in clubs and cabarets, all the while writing and working on his song demos. Jackson’s classical training and jazz sensibilities were merging with other sounds on the British music scene—punk and reggae. He began incorporating all of these elements into an eclectic style of his own.
In 1978, David Kershenbaum, an American producer who was scouting talent for A&M Records, heard Jackson’s demos and got him signed to the label. The single “Is She Really Going Out with Him?” was released in the UK that October, but failed to chart. The follow-up single, “Sunday Papers,” also failed to chart.
In the spring of 1979, Look Sharp finally broke into the public’s consciousness, going to #20 in the US and eventually to #40 in the UK. The album added Joe Jackson to the roster of up-and-coming new wave artists, which included Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and Graham Parker.
“Is She Really Going Out with Him?” earned Jackson a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male. http://youtu.be/6SPogGqCgeM