Wait, What Is This Blog Again?

Hey there! Welcome to Teatro Triste del Clown.

This site started out as something else and then a few years ago, we got it into our head that we were going to write about every song in our music collection. Memo and I have been doing this for years – I’m going forward in the alphabet and just recently started on the letter J and Memo, as it happens, is also on the letter J. As of this writing. It might be a while before I update this pinned announcement again, so, well, yeah.

Our Webmaster, Christoph, joins us from time to time.

The Index of what we’ve done so far keeps growing.

If you’re interested in joining us, drop me a line.

Favorite 4020. “Is She Really Going Out With Him? (A Capella Version)” by Joe Jackson

Album version of live performance:

Video of a different live Performance:

I have three versions of “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” kicking around in my library. This is a reflection of how much I like the song and of the fact that Joe Jackson has performed it several different ways.

In 1988, Jackson released Live 1980/86, a double live album that featured Jackson playing at four points in his career with four different backing bands. I purchased it on cassette – it was a double cassette with the two cases glued together. Try filing that with your other cassettes. I think I finally pulled the two sides apart.

Anyhow, this album had a number of alternative versions of Jackson’s songs, some of which were intriguingly different. I recall the Live version of “Stepping Out” was a long, slow number that edit the lyrics down to one verse and one chorus. Of course, memories lie so I could be wrong.

This a capella version of “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” is a delight from the Night and Day tour. Great arrangement, strong voices and a great song.

4019. “Nineteen Forever” by Joe Jackson

Official video:

The sarcasm might not be obvious, but “Nineteen Forever” makes a pretty strong statement about how those of us who’ve reached middle age sometimes resist recognizing that we’re not longer kids. Here’s the Kids in the Hall version of the same concept:

Currently, I’m part of a musical act that purports to have been huge when we were younger (its a fiction – we’ve only been together a few years) and the idea of us sort of desperately trying to hold onto our youth is part of the shtick. Jackson more or less laid out the whole thesis behind our act in this song and I’m just realizing that as I’m typing this.

To his credit, Jackson has aged very gracefully. He hasn’t bowed to trends or ever tried to visually deny his age. Well played, Jackson.

4018. “Down To London” by Joe Jackson

Official video:

I should, one day, give Joe Jackson’s 1989 album, Blaze of Glory, a more complete listen than I did when it first came out. Blaze of Glory was released in April of 1989 – about a month before I graduated – so I didn’t really pay as much attention to it as I had to his previous records. Furthermore, since WRBC found itself having some major technical issues, I was unable to play much of it on the air (the main way I became familiar with new music). While I have four songs from this album in my library (including two specifically on the greatest hits package), I can’t say I ever really listened to it the whole way through. According to Jackson (on his website), this was the strongest of his three late 80′s albums. As I said, I should give it some more attention.

My favorite part of “Down To London” are the backing (and occasionally lead) vocals of Joy Askew. She serves as an extremely effective match to Jackson’s voice and takes over the lead with confidence and power.

Apparently, Blaze of Glory is also a bit of a concept album about the process of aging from youth to maturity. The lyrics of this song largely seem to express the frustrations and ambitions of youth. Refreshingly, it didn’t sound like anything that was being played on the radio in 1989 – in part because this song itself wasn’t being played on the radio in 1989. I blame myself.

Favorite 4017. “Forty Years” by Joe Jackson

Fan video:

When Jackson wrote and recorded the melancholy “Forty Years,” it had been that many years since the end of World War 2. The song details how much things have changed since the end of that war. Each verse addresses how a specific Western power has changed since the end of the war – in order, Germany (with a nod to the USSR), the United States and the United Kingdom. The choruses start with a bit of upbeat music and celebratory lyrics regarding the end of the war before acknowledging (both lyrically and musically) that “that was 40 years long ago.”

Jackson has written his share of lyrics with social and political commentary, but what makes this song so effective is that he’s taken a journalistic approach with these lyrics. He’s not pointing out how to solve the problem or what might have caused it, just sharing the details and lamenting that something wonderful has been lost.

I was 19 when I first heard this song. I’m 46 now and realize what a short, short period of time 40 years actually is.

Favorite 4016. “We Can’t Live Together” by Joe Jackson

Fan video:

Joe Jackson has long been one of my favorite musicians. I shall not do him the typical disservice of comparing him to the other “angry young men” of late 70′s British rock (though I will name check both Elvis Costello and Graham Parker) because he followed a very different path from either of them. During Jackson’s lengthy career he has restlessly explored various genres and seems to have found success in spite of himself as opposed to through any deliberate effort. Jackson’s big hits paint an inadequate portrait of his body of work and musical interests. While I’m certainly not going to rectify this (I missed at least a full decade of his career completely), I hope I can expose my few readers to a few of Jackson’s gems that they may have overlooked.

As is always the case when I write about an artist who is especially well represented in my library, I’m going to be writing about his songs in alphabetical order by album. This means that, for the most part, this is not going to be a chronological look at Jackson’s work. On the other hand, I once owned a ton of his early work on vinyl and, rather than purchase new copies of those albums when I was shifting to CDs, I purchased Steppin’ Out: The Very Best Of Joe Jackson which does include most of my favorite songs by him from 1979 through 2000. I’ve tried to fill in some gaps by downloading some of my favorite album tracks, but I’m really barely scratching the surface. For example, his surprisingly enjoyable “classical” album Will Power was a favorite during study sessions in college and I’ve not downloaded that at all yet.

Anyhow, let’s jump into it, shall we?

Big World is an exceptional album that Jackson released in 1986. He’d just had a mini-run of hits in the U.S. from his previous two albums (Night & Day and Body & Soul) and clearly had a little capital to burn with his record company because its an unusual record for four reasons.

First, he recorded it live. This is not to say it sounds like a live album. While it has the urgency of a live record and the typical commitment to excellent musicianship that is a hallmark of Jackson’s work, the audience was instructed to withhold their applause until after each song was finished. If you’re expecting to hear a bunch of applause, chatter and noise, you’re not going to hear it here. In this regard, the album is an absolute triumph of capturing this (then new) set of songs in their native environment.

Second, most live album are in the vein of “greatest hits with applause” style albums. This set is entirely original.

Third, Big World is a concept album of sorts. Most of the songs have something to do with living as an international citizen. More on that as we look at the individual songs.

Finally, this was one of the first albums Jackson recorded during the rise of the CD era. He made an album that would completely fill a standard CD, which means it was slightly longer than a full album. As he was deciding what to cut for the vinyl LP (not entirely an unusual situation during the late 80′s), he asked the record company of they could just release it as a 3-sided album and charge the same price as one would for a single album. Remarkably, they agreed. I managed to be at least somewhat unaware of this by purchasing it on cassette.

I loved this album and listened to it endlessly in 1986. However, I only have six songs in my current library (three of which are on that greatest hits collection, so we’ll be listening to those later, and one of which I just downloaded and I’ll write about at the very end of this whole process). As per usual, I may well download the rest of the album before we wrap around to the letter “J” again.

“We Can’t Live Together” opens with a nod to the fact that the romantic situation he’s about to sing about is a first world problem – if this couple lived in certain cultures, she would be subject to a pre-arranged marriage while he’d be off sitting in a cafe somewhere. With that idea in mind, the lyrics address how the couple in this song keep finding themselves together even though they just aren’t right for each other – they can’t live together, but they can’t stay apart, as he sings. The first verse lingers in my head – this relationship is a disaster, but they’re really genuinely lucky to be able to be enjoy it (when it can be enjoyed). In other places in the world, they’d not be able to enjoy this luxury.

Musically, the song builds from a simple vocals over bass and drum construction to a dramatic chorus featuring the full band and back-up singers. The bridge in particular (“Why can’t you be more like me/or me like you”) features a fine, emotive vocal performance by Jackson. One of my favorites from this period.

M-825. “Super Sadist” by Jack Off Jill

Track Seven from 2006′s Humid Teenage Mediocrity 1992-1996 is the remastered version from 1995 released demo Cannibal Song Book.[1] It is not as polished as the version released on their debut album, but the vocals seem angrier than and just as aggressive as the latter.

I wasn’t able to locate a video for this “album” track but this 1995 Live Performance is nigh identical to the recorded demo version.

And here is a Guitar and Bass demonstration on how to play this song with tablature.

You can visually see how simplicity in a dissonant arrangement can be extremely powerful and aggressive with a simple G – C – G# – C# chord progression. This is something that I have espoused over and over again. You do not have to be Guitar God like Vai, Satriani, Hendrix, Malmsteen, Dimebag or even Jimi Page to crank out a musical arrangement that screams at the listener. I’m not downplaying the fantastic musicianship of some of my own personal Guitar Idols that I personally aspire to as inspiration, I’m just saying, you can still find your own voice with-out being on their level.

M-824. “My Cat (94)” by Jack Off Jill

Track Six from 2006′s Humid Teenage Mediocrity 1992-1996 was originally recorded for the 1994 Demo Boy Grinder Sessions. The demo was never released “…but [it] contains the recording session from which “My Cat” and “Swollen” were taken to make the 7″s.[1] This was the very first recorded version of what’s become an iconic Jack Off Jill song. Not only is it my Better Half’s™ favourite song (and “had to have” ring-tone;) it is heavily represented in the Jack Off Jill catalogue and most written about in my JOJ Series.[2][3][4][5]

So let’s listen to the remastered version of the Original 1994 recording.

…and the first known live performance in 1993

Favorite 4015. “With a Little Help From My Friends” by Joe Cocker

Live at Woodstock:

One of the great singers of our times, Joe Cocker may not have had the consistent chart success that his immense talent deserves, but his gorgeous, expressive voice and whole body delivery has made him absolutely unforgettable.

Cocker’s reading of The Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends” feels like an entirely different tune from the Ringo Starr-sung original. Where Starr was cool and relaxed, one gets the feeling that Cocker really genuinely needs his friends help to get by. Starr appreciates having his friends there. Cocker isn’t going to make it through the night without his. Devo’s take on “Satisfaction” may be the only cover I can think of that surpasses it in his regard.

I really should have more of Cocker’s work in my library, but sometimes the lines one draws around what will and won’t be in a collection are entirely arbitrary. Sorry, Joe.

4014. “Just Got Lucky” by JoBoxers

Official video:

The Joboxers enjoyed abouta year of intense fame in England that led to one minor hit in the United States – the ridiculously catchy, northern soul tinged “Just Got Lucky.” With their throwback ‘depression chic’ look, they fit in on MTV with, for example, Dexy’s Midnight Runners and the Stray Cats (two other bands which also deserve more respect).

Though “Just Got Lucky” barely cracked the US BIllboard Top 40, the song has since achieved something of a cult status. The good songs often do. If The Joboxers faded quickly into obscurity, they can at least be satisfied in knowing that they made at least one indelible contribution to international pop music.

In England, they had several major hits, including their first song, “Boxerbeat,” presented here for your amusement and edification: