Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we focus on classic musical works and the reissues they could someday see. Today, Mike reflects on one of British rock’s angriest young men all grown up, and the one weird aspect of the catalogue market that has yet to be greatly exploited.
Like many of you, I’ve had an angry young man phase. You know the feelings, I’m sure. You’re a bundle of emotions and everything is just super-serious. You’re insecure but maddeningly self-assured – convinced of how cooler you are than the next hunk that walks down the street. (Some who know me might say this phase isn’t exactly over, but that’s neither here nor there.)
It’s this identification that draws us to music that evokes these feelings and spirits with exacting detail – acts like Elvis Costello or Billy Joel (who wrote a song called “Angry Young Man”) or The Knack or Cheap Trick or Ben Folds Five or – you guessed it – Joe Jackson, who kind of brilliantly crystallized and mainstreamed the typical angry young man formula in the 1970s and 1980s. After several albums of hard-charging pop/rock/New Wave (1979’s one-two punch Look Sharp! and I’m the Man, 1980’s Beat Crazy), the Royal Academy of Music-trained Jackson shifted gears toward straight jazz and jazz-pop with Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive (1981), Night and Day (1982) and Body and Soul (1984). Jackson also began his earliest dabbling in soundtracks (Mike’s Murder (1983) and Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988)) and classical composition (Will Power (1987)), prefacing the eventual directions his career would take.
But it was a killer time. Jackson, you may have forgotten, was better represented on the charts than most of his fellow British angry young men; “Is She Really Going Out with Him?,” “Steppin’ Out,” “Breaking Us in Two” and “You Can’t Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)” were all Top 40 hits in America, with “Steppin’ Out” even garnering a Grammy nomination for Record of the Year. And before he crossed over into more esoteric material, Jackson did in fact give one of the best audio documents of his pop evolution: the double-album Live 1980/86, featuring four sides devoted to all his major tours at that time: Beat Crazy and The Joe Jackson Band (guitarist Gary Sanford, bassist Graham Maby and drummer David Haughton); the expanded lite-jazz ensemble from the Night and Day Tour; the full-brass orchestra of the Body and Soul Tour and a new, stripped down rock combo to promote Big World, a 1986 album of new material recorded in front of a silent live audience.
After the jump, keep reading about what made the Big World tour so exciting, and what that could mean for a catalogue title!
Big World was an overlooked link between the rip-roaring rocker Jackson started out as and the serious songwriter he would become, and the tour did a really good job of reflecting that. What mainstream audiences heard on Live 1980/86, six of his biggest singles recorded mostly at the Nakano Sun Plaza in Tokyo, Japan, was pretty brilliant. Rock songs like “Breaking Us in Two” and “It’s Different for Girls” were given a more reflective, acoustic edge; elsewhere, “You Can’t Get What You Want” was stripped of its brass hooks for what may be the best, punchiest version of the tune on record, and “Steppin’ Out” (recorded at a live date in Vancouver) was given a dramatic, piano-and-vocal reading that nearly lacked the famous chorus but wasn’t hurting for power.
The Big World Tour experience ended up running a little deeper than what fans got from the other sides of Live 1980/86: alongside the album, A&M released a videotape featuring one of Joe’s sets from Tokyo, featuring the same energy and performance style from the fourth side of the live LP applied to tracks from Big World and elsewhere. The near two-hour set on Live in Tokyo was belatedly released to DVD in 2002, but is long out-of-print.
A killer catalogue title for Joe Jackson – who’s seen most of his core discography reissued and remastered (with extra tracks on Look Sharp! and I’m the Man and a whole bonus disc for Night and Day, featuring the respective side from Live 1980/86) – would be a 2CD/DVD remastered release of this feature, perhaps one of his most energetic tours ever. It also begs the question: how many other live/vintage videos can you think of that have yet to enter the digital domain? Bon Jovi’s deluxe New Jersey features a rather impressive amount of hard-to-find video content in its contents; surely other artists, whether obvious or not, could be added to this theoretical list. Why not sound off in the comments below?
What do you think of Joe Jackson’s Live in Tokyo: The Big World Tour? Would this be something you’d buy? What angry young live acts are you fond of?
Joe Jackson Live in Tokyo: The Big World Tour (A&M/UMe – video released as Live in Tokyo – A&M/PolyGram 089 840-3, 1988)
- One More Time
- Wild West
- Right and Wrong
- You Can’t Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)
- (It’s a) Big World
- Home Town
- On Your Radio
- Shanghai Sky
- Fifty Dollar Love Affair
- Be My Number Two/Breaking Us in Two
- Steppin’ Out
- Soul Kiss
- It’s Different for Girls *
- The Jet Set
- Monday (Sunday) Papers
- Tonight and Forever
- Medley: Jack, You’re Dead/What’s the Use of Getting Sober (When You’re Gonna Get Drunk Again)/Jumpin’ Jive *
- I’m the Man
- Man in the Street
Recorded live at the Nakano Sun Plaza, Tokyo, Japan – 10/20/1986
* released on Live 1980/86 (A&M SP-06706, 1988)