Night And Day is Joe Jackson’s fifth album, released after his moving to New York. The Englishman made a multicultural record, without guitars (!). And that coming from one of the important angry-young-men, one of the icons of the English new wave.
Pre Night And Day
Joe Jackson had already released four records prior to Night And Day. The first two records, Look Sharp! and I’m The Man, both from 1979, were typical British new-wave records containing sharp short songs. Jackson stood out for his sharp, satirical lyrics, but also for his musicality. Both albums contained a number of great songs like small hits Is He Really Going Out With Him? and It’s Different For Girls, but also great album songs like Sunday Papers, Look Sharp! and Fools In Love off the Look Sharp! album and On Your Radio and I’m The Man off the I’m The Man album.
Successor Beat Crazy from 1980 was my favorite. Not received well, but for me, it just contains highlights, like Beat Crazy, One To One, In Every Dream Home (A Nightmare) and Battleground. Beat Crazy is a fantastic album. EP The Harder They Come, also from 1980, is just 3 songs long, but great nonetheless. After that it seemed to be less (or even over). The Joe Jackson Band was disbanded; the end of a (very short, but explosive) era.
N.B.: In 2003 the Joe Jackson Band would reconvene for the Volume 4 album, a tour and the live album Afterlife from 2004.
In 1981 Jackson surprised friend and foe with Jumpin’ Jive, a jazz swing album in the tradition of (Jackson’s hero/example) Duke Ellington. It was not exactly my cup of tea, although Tuxedo Junction is a smash!
Night And Day
Night And Day is the fifth album by Joe Jackson and was released in June of 1982. The title was borrowed from a Cole Porter song. The LP had a Night-side and a Day-side.
Around the release of Night And Day it seemed inconceivable that Jackson was once categorized as a new wave artist. The previous year he had released Jumpin’ Jive, an album filled with jazz and swing music stemming from the 1930’s and 1940’s. He quickly realized he didn’t want tot be seen as a jazz artist. The album did show that Jackson was more than the category he was filed under. Just like Elvis Costello, he wanted more. More importantly, he could do more. Early 1982 he fled England, after a hefty divorce, and arrived in New York, the American city that, after years of decay, was finally finding its way back. New York, the city that never sleeps, was the perfect environment for Jackson to write music and get inspired. Particularly the multi-cultural side of the city proved to be fertile. New York gave him the opportunity to get to know the works of Cole Porter and George Gershwin, as well as Latin music, and Salsa in particular.
Night And Day is a reflection of all the influences Jackson came in touch with and found to be interesting. The result is an exciting and current mix of styles. Beautiful lyrics, complex rhythms and inventive piano and keyboard motifs and melodies, without making use of a guitar, contribute to a completely unique listening experience. The open production and use of analogue instruments ensure that the experience sounds fresh and modern, even today.
Side 1 of the album, the Night-side, is the rhythmic side of the album. Opening song Another World starts the album off with a bang. The entire Night-side can be seen as a suite. All songs fuse together, ending with Steppin’ Out, the undisputed highlight of the album. The (glorious) 4-on-the-floor rhythm of the song, combined with the instrumentation, reflects New York’s nightlife wonderfully.
At the time of releasing the Real Men single, Jackson released an EP, containing 3 album cuts with their lyrics translated into Spanish. A tribute to the musical influences he experienced prior to and during the making of the album.
Side 2 of the album, the Day-side, contains three longer, melodic, extremely powerful, piano ballads. The emotions are real. The one song that doesn’t follow that format is Cancer. An uptempo, highly rhythmic, salsa song: Everything / Everything gives you cancer. The band gets a chance to shine on this song, during a long instrumental interlude. Side 2 start off with the moving Breaking Us In Two, which is about his divorce, asking to go separate ways in order to find out if their love can gain momentum once more. The album ends with the stunning A Slow Song, a romantic ode to the classic ballad:
Music has charms they say
But in some people’s hands
It becomes a savage beast
Can’t they control it
Why don’t they hold it back
You see my friend and me
Don’t have an easy day
And at night we dance not fight
And we need the energy
If not the sympathy
But i’m brutalized by bass
And terrorized by treble
I’m open to change my mood but
I always get caught in the middle
And i get tired of dj’s
Why’s it always what he plays
I’m gonna push right through
I’m gonna tell him too
Tell him to
Play us a slow song
© Joe Jackson, 1982
Recordcompany A&M invested a lot of time in promoting the album. The music generated a number of Grammy nominations and the album even went on to get platinum status. For Jackson, no other album would be as successful as this one. The song Steppin’ Out became a huge international hit. In The Netherlands it was Real Men that became the signature hit. Promoting the album, Joe Jackson went out on a tour that lasted until May 1983 (see paragraph Live/Tour).
|Night Side||Another World|
|Day Side||Breaking Us In Two|
|A Slow Song|
The fantastic band Joe Jackson put together for the album and the following tour was made up of top musicians:
- Graham Maby
Bass, vocals and percussion;
- Larry Tolfree
Drums, timbales and percussion;
- Sue Hadjopoulos
Congas, bongos, timbales, glockenspiel, xylophone, percussion, flute and vocals;
- Joe Jackson
(electric) Piano, Hammond organ, Prophet-5 and Minimoog synthesizer, saxophone, vibraphone and lead-vocals.
Graham Maby has been Joe Jackson’s steady musical partner from the very first beginning. Larry Tolfree also played drums on the preceding album Jumpin’ Jive.
- Ricardo Torres: bongos, cowbell and claves on Target and Cancer;
- Ed Rynesdal: violin on Real Men and A Slow Song;
- Al Weisman & Grace Millan: background-vocals.
For me, the tour following the album’s release is as impressive as the album itself. On April 17th 1983, Joe Jackson gave a show at the German Essen as part of the fantastic concert broadcasts of German television-show Rockpalast. I listened to that show on the radio and subsequently taped it. It still is a flawless concert. A good combination of new and (relatively) older work and. Even more impressive, all songs fit the guitarless, highly percussive concept perfectly. ‘Old’ songs like Look Sharp!, Sunday Papers and Beat Crazy had new arrangements and gained eloquence. A number of songs were dramatically rebuilt, making them feel brand new. Particularly Fools In Love, It’s Different For Girls and the, probably best-known, a-capella version of Is She Really Going Out With Him? were a revelation. Those performances are still among the best things Jackson ever did. Luckily, the tour is well documented and concerts were made available on DVD (Live At Rockpalast) and CD (5 songs on Live 1980/86 from 1988 and two BBC concerts on Live At The BBC). All essential listening.
It must be obvious that I hold this album in extreme high regard. Only recently I played the album and asked my oldest son if he could hear that it came out 35 years ago. He didn’t believe it, stating that it sounded so modern. That’s the great thing about Night And Day: it is timeless.
Jackson never made another album as successful as this one. The two subsequent albums Body And Soul (containing the minor hits Happy Ending and the beautiful Be My Number Two) and Big World were fairly successful. Jackson still makes (at times beautiful) music. In 2000 Jackson returned to the Night And Day concept once more and released Night And Day II.
Do you know this album by Joe Jackson? Do you consider Night And Day to be the highlight in his body of work as well? Let me know!
New York early 1980’s image: businessinsider.com
Joe Jackson – Night And Day – cover backside image: blog.funkygog.de
Joe Jackson – The Real Men EP image: 45worlds.com
Joe Jackson – Steppin’ Out, Real Men & Breaking Us In Two singles image: 45cat.com
Joe Jackson Night And Day band image: blog.sina.com.cn
Joe Jackson – Live Rockpalast 1983 image: mig-music.de
All other images: joejackson.com