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Thursday, April 23, 2009

GMVW # 68: "It's Like Night and Day"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 68:  It’s Like Night and Day
Song:  Another World by Joe Jackson
(Songwriter: Joe Jackson)
April 23, 2009

If it’s not broke, why fix it?  This has been the mantra for many a band:  They find a formula that works early in their careers and then try to stay with it.  Yet, often, the shtick gets old and the band is helpless as they watch once true-blue fans jump ship. These bands may suddenly find themselves trapped as a parody of their past selves.  Fame and fortune can be fleeting in these cases.

Stagnation has never been a problem with Joe Jackson.  Jackson’s music can best be described as a moving target, with each album representing a new beginning, a new formula.  He’s delved into punk, jazz, pop, blues, straight-up rock, and lounge music.  He is indeed a Jack(son) of all trades.

Joe Jackson’s fifth album, ‘Night and Day’ (1982) has often been described as a watershed disc in his career.  This album broke him into the mainstream, with top-10 hits and MTV presence, and soon landed him in larger live music venues than the clubs he had been playing in beforehand.  The music on the album was diverse, in many ways a microcosm of his entire heterogeneous catalog.  Each song on ‘Night and Day’ has a distinct mood, which was clearly intentional.  The album is a loose concept, with side one representing night-time experiences in New York City, and side two representing day time experiences. 

Being a great concept album, however, the meaning gets a bit deeper than simple day/night events.  Day time is presented as being that period typically when work gets done, yet night is when the real creative thinking evolves (someone should let Mitt Romney in on this secret), and when the real back door politics happens (in the form of lasting friendships).  Borrowing a 3-word phrase from the late Hunter S. Thompson, too much day without nightlife can bring “fear and loathing” based on worry.  Yet, too much night without day can bring fear and loathing based on over-indulgence. As with anything, a balance is best in ones diurnal/nocturnal adventures.  Joe Jackson gets these points across on this album. 

Listening to the night side of ‘Night and Day’, I’m reminded of high school and the old neighborhood Franklin crew (Phil, Mac, Jeff D, Dave, Bruce, Pete F, John and I), known in it’s varying assemblages as first ‘B.O.M.G.A.’ (The Benevolent Order of Maloon the Goon Antagonists as dubbed by Dad in recognition of our relationship with the security force sergeant at Dean Junior College) and later ‘The Blob Squad’ (as dubbed by Dave on a Hampton Beach road trip and subsequently advertised for years as a bright orange bumper sticker on my parents Chevy Van).  I recall for years heading outside with old faithful Nick after dinner (on any given night) taking in the night air, and sensing that I was stepping into ‘Another World’ (the appropriate title of this week’s Gem off the ‘Night and Day’ album’).  It was always an exhilarating feeling. 

One great thing about growing up in Franklin was that it was a diverse town, and we lived in a particularly diverse neighborhood.  Diversity in friendships is a blessing.  It is one of the many reasons why it has always been important for me to keep in contact with hometown friends who, in my case covered the spectrum.  Later in life, you may find yourself oriented towards others with similar interests be it work, hobbies, faith.  Not so with some childhood friendships.
I’ve often found that a conversation is far more interesting when in the company of people with a range of backgrounds and interests.  I would expect to have a far more interesting evening in conversation with, say, a group consisting of a doctor, a custodian, a painter and a housewife at a bar like Cheers than with 4 stockbrokers at a country club (although in the company of the latter, I would likely find ways to make more money) or 4 factory workers at a biker bar (although here I may improve my billiards game).

Looking back on the old Franklin gang, and our nights on the town, I recall many an interesting conversations that took place at locales like ‘The Wall’, ‘The Rock’, and the traveling road show known as ‘Bucko’s Kegs’ (and later ‘The Train Stop’).  Our evening experiences were far removed from those of other kids at school, who I would overhear talking about a new episode of M*A*S*H* from the night before, perhaps something funny Hawkeye did on the show.  I had no idea what they were talking about, and I remember being proud of this lack-of-insight.  We were out making our own laughs.  I would not trade those experiences for anything.

Below the Gem Video is a bonus track, ‘Common People’, written and performed by William Shatner with Joe Jackson (and Ben Folds on organ). If anyone can look good on stage singing with William Shatner, it’s Joe Jackson.  Jackson’s vocals have always been under appreciated, but are on full display here.

- Pete

Gem Music Video: Another World

‘Common People’ >> Mac, you have to check this one out!

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About the Video: Good but not great live version, which could be trumped with something better.  The 2nd link, however, is one of a kind, Jackson and Shatner on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno

Video Rating: 2

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