Look Sharp! (Joe Jackson album)

Look Sharp! is the debut album by Joe Jackson, released in January 1979.[3] The album features 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".

Look Sharp!
Studio album by
ReleasedJanuary 29, 1979
RecordedAugust 1978
StudioEden (London)
AMLH 64743[3]
A&M/PolyGram Records
214 743
A&M/Universal Records
586 194 (2001 reissue)
ProducerDavid Kershenbaum
Joe Jackson chronology
Look Sharp!
I'm the Man
Singles from Look Sharp!
  1. "Is She Really Going Out with Him?"
    Released: October 1978
  2. "Sunday Papers"
    Released: February 1979
  3. "One More Time"
    Released: 18 May 1979
  4. "Fools in Love"
    Released: June 1979 (NL)

The cover, featuring a pair of white shoes, ranked number 22 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 greatest album covers of all time.[4]

In 2000, it was voted number 865 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums.[5]

Background edit

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.[6] 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".[7] 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".[7]

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!"[8]

Release edit

"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.[6] 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.[9] The album was particularly well-received in Canada where it was certified platinum by November 1979.

Artwork edit

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 did not include his face, and vowed never to work with Griffin again.[10] Nonetheless, the album artwork became one of the nominees for the 1980 Grammy Award for Best Recording Package.[11]

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".[12] 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".[13]

Critical reception edit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [14]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [15]
Rolling Stone     [16]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [17]
Smash Hits7/10[18]
The Village VoiceB[19]

Look Sharp! has seen critical acclaim since its release. In a five star review, Rolling Stone compared the album to the best works of Jackson's contemporary Elvis Costello, commenting, "Though Jackson would never achieve Costello's cachet, his early work holds up alongside that of his rival."[16] John Rockwell in The New York Times picked it as the ninth best album of that year, stating that it was "Power pop at its refreshing best."[20] In a later review, Allmusic was similarly complimentary, stating, "Look Sharp! is the sound of a young man searching for substance in a superficial world -- and it also happens to rock like hell."[21] Paste named Look Sharp! the 17th best new wave album, with staff writer Mark Lore stating that it "ranks right up there with early records from another brainy, pissed-off songwriter called Elvis Costello, bursting with frustration and spazzy pop songs".[1]

Jackson's own opinion on the album was mixed, with the artist later claiming that I'm the Man and 2003's Volume 4 were better albums overall.[9][22] He later said on his website,

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.[23]

Alternative releases edit

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 1979 and October 1978.[3] 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.

Track listing edit

All songs written and arranged by Joe Jackson.[3] Produced by David Kershenbaum.

1."One More Time"3:15
2."Sunday Papers"4:22
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
7."Look Sharp!"3:23
8."Fools in Love"4:23
9."(Do the) Instant Mash"3:12
10."Pretty Girls"2:55
11."Got the Time"2:52
2001 reissue bonus tracks
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

Personnel edit

  • Joe Jackson – vocals, piano, harmonica
  • Gary Sanford – guitar
  • Graham Maby – bass
  • David Houghton – drums

Charts edit


Chart (1979) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[24] 20
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[25] 36
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[26] 13
UK Albums (OCC)[27] 40
US Billboard 200[28] 20


Year Song Chart Position
1979 "Is She Really Going Out with Him?" UK Singles Chart[3] #13
1979 "Is She Really Going Out with Him?" U.S. Billboard Hot 100[3][21] #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

Sales and certifications edit

Certifications for Look Sharp!
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Netherlands (NVPI)[29] Gold 50,000^
United States (RIAA)[30] Gold 500,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

References edit

  1. ^ a b "The 50 Best New Wave Albums". Paste. 8 September 2016. Retrieved 10 November 2019.
  2. ^ a b Maginnis, Tom. "Is She Really Going Out With Him? - Joe Jackson | Song Info". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 May 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 485–486. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.
  4. ^ "Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Album Covers | Vinyl World".
  5. ^ Colin Larkin (2000). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 267. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.
  6. ^ a b Ruhlmann, William. "Joe Jackson biography". AllMusic.
  7. ^ a b Bocaro, Madeline (4 April 2019). "My Interview With Joe Jackson - June 1979". madelinex.com. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  8. ^ Sinclair, Tom. "Joe Jackson: The Worst Song I Ever Wrote". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 9 November 2019.
  9. ^ a b Jackson, Joe. "I'm the Man". joejackson.com.
  10. ^ Griffin, Brian (2 November 2017). "Pop: The music photography of Brian Griffin". theweek.co.uk. Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  11. ^ "Grammy Award Nominees 1980 – Grammy Award Winners 1980". Awardsandshows.com. Retrieved 9 August 2019.
  12. ^ Murray, Charles Shaar (3 February 1979). "Joe Jackson: Look Sharp!". New Musical Express. Retrieved 26 October 2019.
  13. ^ Stand, Mike (May 1980). "Joe Jackson: Indifferent To Joe". The Face. Retrieved 25 October 2019 – via Rock's Backpages.
  14. ^ Huey, Steve. "Look Sharp! – Joe Jackson". AllMusic. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  15. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). "Jackson, Joe". The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.
  16. ^ a b Scoppa, Bud (5 February 2004). "Joe Jackson: Look Sharp!". Rolling Stone. No. 941. p. 62. Archived from the original on 3 June 2008. Retrieved 10 May 2006.
  17. ^ Coleman, Mark; Randall, Mac (2004). "Joe Jackson". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 412–13. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  18. ^ Starr, Red (8–21 March 1979). "Albums". Smash Hits. Vol. 1, no. 7. p. 25.
  19. ^ Christgau, Robert (30 April 1979). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  20. ^ Rockwell, John (21 December 1979). "Pop Life: A Critic Picks top 10 For '79". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 August 2019.
  21. ^ a b Joe Jackson – Look Sharp! > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles at AllMusic. Retrieved 7 September 2011.
  22. ^ Jackson, Joe. "Volume 4". joejackson.com.
  23. ^ Jackson, Joe. "Look Sharp!". joejackson.com.
  24. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 151. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  25. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Joe Jackson – Look Sharp!" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 18 July 2021.
  26. ^ "Charts.nz – Joe Jackson – Look Sharp!". Hung Medien. Retrieved 18 July 2021.
  27. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 18 July 2021.
  28. ^ "Joe Jackson Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved 18 July 2021.
  29. ^ "Dutch album certifications – Joe Jackson – Look Sharp" (in Dutch). Nederlandse Vereniging van Producenten en Importeurs van beeld- en geluidsdragers. Retrieved 16 July 2022. Enter Look Sharp in the "Artiest of titel" box. Select 1984 in the drop-down menu saying "Alle jaargangen".
  30. ^ "American album certifications – Joe Jackson – Look Sharp". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 16 July 2022.

External links edit