Look Sharp! (Joe Jackson album)
|Studio album by|
|Released||5 January 1979|
|Studio||Eden Studios, London, England|
586 194 (2001 reissue)
|Joe Jackson chronology|
|Singles from Look Sharp!|
Look Sharp! is the debut album by Joe Jackson, released in 1979. The album featured one of Jackson's most well-known songs, "Is She Really Going Out with Him?", as well as the title track "Look Sharp", "Sunday Papers", "One More Time" and "Fools in Love".
Joe Jackson and his band, using money earned by Jackson from touring with the cabaret band Koffee 'n' Kream, began recording the album from autumn 1977 to spring 1978 in a studio in Portsmouth. However, after producer David Kershenbaum heard a demo tape from Jackson, he signed Jackson to A&M Records in 1978, after which Jackson and his band quickly re-recorded the album. This was then followed by a tour to promote the record.
Look Sharp! was heavily influenced by reggae music, which, in a June 1979 interview, Jackson said he was "totally immersed in". Jackson also sought to capture a spontaneous feel on the album; he reflected at the time, "A lot of the tracks are first takes and there are no overdubs, though we think now it is a bit thin. We wanted a bit more live band sort of sound. In retrospect you always feel there's something you can improve on. Next time 'round we'll feature the guitar a bit more".
Jackson later spoke negatively of "Pretty Girls", saying, "It's all about pretty girls walking down the street and, Oh wow, isn't that a turn-on. In retrospect, it's kind of a stinker. It's embarrassing—ogling girls, I mean, that's kind of lame. It's just childish and silly and derivative, but I was 22 when I wrote it. Not everyone can be a prodigy!"
"Is She Really Going Out with Him?" was released as a single in the UK prior to the release of Look Sharp!, but it, as well as follow-ups "Sunday Papers" and "One More Time," failed to make an impact on the charts. Look Sharp! also stalled upon its initial release, but upon the re-release of "Is She Really Going Out with Him?" in Britain (as well as a single release in the US), the album grew in popularity, reaching the top #20 in America. After the performance of the first album, the band quickly recorded a follow-up, I'm the Man, which has been described by Jackson as "Part Two of Look Sharp!" since its release.
The photo used on the album's cover was shot by Brian Griffin on London's South Bank, near London Waterloo station. Upon arriving at the South Bank, Griffin noticed a shaft of light landing on the ground, and asked Jackson to stand there: the whole process took no more than five minutes. According to Griffin, Jackson hated the record sleeve as it didn't include his face and vowed never to work with Griffin again. Nonetheless, the album artwork became one of the nominees for the 1980 Grammy Award for Best Recording Package.
Some observers didn't understand the tongue-in-cheek nature of Jackson's choice of title and cover art—an early reviewer in New Musical Express said they "suggest an obsession with style" and sniffed that Jackson sported "a pair of white side-lace Denson winklepickers that are, unfortunately, not nearly as cool as he evidently thinks they are". As time went on, journalists became more familiar with his youthful lack of interest in fashion, and The Face noted how most agreed with the general summation of him as a "sartorial disaster area".
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
|The Village Voice||B|
Critical appraisals of the album have generally been very positive. Josh Jackson of Paste Magazine ranked the album the 17th best new wave album, praising the Joe Jackson Band's performance and stating that the album "ranks right up there with early records from another brainy, pissed-off songwriter called Elvis Costello, bursting with frustration and spazzy pop songs".
What can anyone say about something they did so long ago?! I'm not embarrassed by it, or not by most of it, anyway. It positively reeks of London 1978–79 and, well, it is what it is. I'm glad people liked it, and still like it, though I think some of that is nostalgia and a tendency to romanticise peoples' first albums, as though later ones must somehow be less 'authentic'. For a first album, this one's not bad, but I was only 23 when I made it and it would be pretty weird if I didn't think I'd done better things since.
Look Sharp! was re-released in 2001 with two bonus tracks, "Don't Ask Me" and "You Got the Fever" the respective b-sides of the singles "One More Time" and "Is She Really Going Out with Him?" originally released in May and July 1979. In addition to the standard 12-inch vinyl release, the record was also released in a special package on two 10-inch discs that also included a Look Sharp! badge.
|1.||"One More Time"||3:15|
|3.||"Is She Really Going Out with Him?"||3:33|
|4.||"Happy Loving Couples"||3:08|
|5.||"Throw It Away"||2:49|
|6.||"Baby Stick Around"||2:36|
|8.||"Fools in Love"||4:23|
|9.||"(Do the) Instant Mash"||3:12|
|11.||"Got the Time"||2:52|
|12.||"Don't Ask Me" (original B-side to "One More Time")||2:43|
|13.||"You Got the Fever" (original B-side to "Is She Really Going Out with Him?")||3:36|
- Joe Jackson – vocals, piano, harmonica
- Gary Sanford – guitar
- Graham Maby – bass
- David Houghton – drums
- Joe Jackson – arrangements
- David Kershenbaum – producer
- Rod Hewison – recording engineer
- Aldo Bocca – assistant recording engineer
- Michael Ross – artwork
- Brian Griffin – photography (of Denson winklepickers)
- Rita Coolidge covered "Fools in Love" on her 1983 album Never Let You Go.
- American punk band Guttermouth covered "Happy Loving Couples" on the 1997 new wave tribute album Before You Were Punk.
- Fictional music group Alvin and the Chipmunks covered "Look Sharp!" as a bonus track on their 2007 video game Alvin and the Chipmunks.
- American singer Inara George covered "Fools in Love" for the 2005 Grey's Anatomy soundtrack, Volume 1.
- American thrash metal band Anthrax covered "Got the Time" on their album Persistence of Time and released this version as a single in 1990.
- German rock band The Donots did a cover version of "Got the Time" in 2002.
- American indie-pop band Koufax covered "Look Sharp!" on their Why Bother At All?-EP 2005.
- Elaine K. covered "Is She Really Going Out With Him?", The German Art Students covered "Happy Loving Couples" and Lisa Mychols covered "Look Sharp!" and both Beth Thornley and Fabulous Disaster covered "Got the Time" on the 2004 album Different for Girls: Women Artists and Female-Fronted Bands Cover Joe Jackson.
- American rock band Antemasque covered "One More Time" in several live apparitions.
|1979||UK Albums Chart||#40|
|1979||U.S. Billboard 200||#20|
|1979||"Is She Really Going Out with Him?"||UK Singles Chart||#13|
|1979||"Is She Really Going Out with Him?"||U.S. Billboard Hot 100||#21|
|1979||"Is She Really Going Out with Him?"||CMJ College Radio Tracks||#2|
|1979||"Got the Time"||CMJ College Radio Tracks||#11|
|1979||"Look Sharp!"||CMJ College Radio Tracks||#17|
|1979||"Fools in Love"||CMJ College Radio Tracks||#9|
|1979||"Sunday Papers"||CMJ College Radio Tracks||#20|
|RIAA – U.S.||Gold||11 September 1979citation needed][|
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- Starr, Red (21 March 1979). "Albums". Smash Hits: 25.
- Christgau, Robert (30 April 1979). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
- Jackson, Josh. "The 50 Best New Wave Albums". Paste Magazine. Retrieved 10 November 2019.
- Jackson, Joe. "Volume 4". joejackson.com.
- Jackson, Joe. "Look Sharp!". joejackson.com.
- Joe Jackson – Look Sharp! > Charts & Awards > Billboard Album at AllMusic. Retrieved 7 September 2011.
- Joe Jackson – Look Sharp! > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles at AllMusic. Retrieved 7 September 2011.