Joe Jackson–Is She Really Going Out with Him?
From the 1979 Look Sharp 10″ ep release, Joe Jackson’s “Is She Really Going Out with Him?” is one of a handful of 1970s new wave–along with Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”, the B-52s’ “Rock Lobster”, and Devo’s “Freedom of Choice”–that I have never forgotten.
I always like it when a bass line catches my attention. It doesn’t have to be flashy or complicated to get my ear, it just has to be interesting. I really like the bass part to “Is She Really Going Out with Him?” Sort of like McCartney, whoever is playing bass for Joe Jackson on Look Sharp! seems to know exactly what notes to play, what notes not to play–and exactly when to play them.
I’ve never been impressed by flashy bass playing. Technically, these artists generally know what they’re doing, nevertheless, even guys like Les Claypool of Primus kind of bore me. Even though Claypool gets some amazing tones and rhythms from his instrument, and is technically a far superior musician in many ways, than I could ever hope to be, his music never really interested me much.
The bass part on “Is She Really Going Out with Him?” is subtle, understated and beautiful. I really like the way the bass line supports the song and provides a melodic counter-foundation for the keyboard and guitars.
Joe Jackson–earlier projects
Although he was still known as David Jackson while in Arms & Legs, it was around this time that Jackson picked up the nickname “Joe”, based on his perceived resemblance to the puppet character Joe 90. I don’t know who or what the hell Joe 90 is either. He then spent some time on the cabaret circuit to make money to record his own demos.
In 1978, a record producer heard his tape, and got him signed to A&M Records. The album Look Sharp! was recorded straight away, and was released in 1979, quickly followed by I’m the Man–also 1979–and Beat Crazy in 1980.
Joe Jackson–Happy Birthday, Miles! You’ve lived longer than many of your heroes
I think that it was my twenty-eighth birthday in 1996 that my buddy, George gave me a copy of Look Sharp! in a mylar bag with a bottle cap, a couple pieces of string, some black and red licorice and a couple of tic-tacs duct-taped to it. “Happy birthday,” he said, thrusting the record in my hands. “You made it. You are now officially no longer eligible to join the 27 Club. Congratulations!”
I looked at the cover in amazement. How many times do I remember hearing “Is She Really Going Out with Him?” on the radio, and wishing I had a cassette tape handy to record it? I don’t know why, but I never thought that I’d own a copy of Joe Jackson’s Look Sharp! on ten inch vinyl. It still had the lapel pin on the cover and everything.
Thanks, George! When the book is written, you will go down as one of the good guys.
I saw my copy of Look Sharp! last week. It is still in a safe place, still in the mylar bag, still with the bottle cap, pieces of string and licorice and the crusty old tic-tacs firmly attached with 17 year old duct tape.
I love this record. Look Sharp! reminds me of being a kid in Orange County, before the folks moved us to Cathey’s Valley when I was 12.