Top 10 Joe Jackson Songs

Joe Jackson Songs

Photo: Jean-Luc [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

Joe Jackson burst onto the music scene in 1979 with a massive hit single entitled “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” The song was released on Joe Jackson’s debut album entitled Look Sharp. In 1979, new wave music dominated the airwaves, and the sound of Joe Jackson’s album reflected the musical culture of the moment.“Is She Really Going Out With Him?” was not the only great song on the record. The rest of Joe Jackson’s debut album, Look Sharp, was fabulous. Great songs like “Sunday Papers,” “One More Time,” and the title track “Look Sharp” helped Joe Jackson capture a loyal following from the start. While bands like Blondie, The Ramones, Talking Heads, and Elvis Costello enjoyed great popularity in the punk /new wave era, Joe Jackson’s music fused elements of all past musical eras into a unique, addicting sound.

With the incredible commercial success of the hit single entitled “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” Joe Jackson quickly followed up with another album the same year in 1979, entitled I’m the Man.  The album earned considerable critical praise, and even though it portrayed the same sound as his first album, the writing was a bit more mature. To a critical ear, one could hear that Joe Jackson was a significant new talent that could possibly be around for a long time. Anyone who thought so was proven right.

In 1980, Joe Jackson released the album Beat Crazy. The album represented the final record of a trilogy that defined a particular sound that Joe Jackson was ready to put to bed. In 1981, Joe Jackson surprised his audience with a grooving swing album, Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive. It was Joe Jackson’s fourth album and the first without his original band that performed on his first three records. The album contained all cover songs.

The substance of the classic jazz swing songs Joe Jackson covered on Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive album seemed to affect Jackson’s writing significantly. His next album of original material demonstrated a sound that crossed many genres yet yielded something incredibly fresh in the wake of the new wave era. Released in 1982, Joe Jackson’s Night and Day album was a brilliant artistic achievement and a commercial success, selling more than a million copies. From that point on, no one knew which musical direction Joe Jackson was heading toward. Time would soon show that Joe Jackson would switch gears continually for the rest of his career.

From his debut album in 1979 to his latest release as of this writing in 2019, Joe Jackson has released twenty-one albums, with his most recent entitled Fool, released in 2019. Our top 10 Joe Jackson songs are just a subjective list of ten of our favorite Joe Jackson songs spanning the forty years he has released albums. We hope this Joe Jackson songs article entices you to go out and discover the many magnificent Joe Jackson albums released since the end of the 1970s.

# 10 – Fabulously Absolute

We open our Top 10 Joe Jackson songs list with a recent gem released by Joe Jackson on his 2019 album entitled Fool. The great song “Fabulously Absolute” was released before the album and was performed on tour. It’s a great way to start out or list the top 10 Joe Jackson songs by defining how fresh and relative Joe Jackson still sounds in 2019 as he did in 1979.

The Fool record was Joe Jackson’s twentieth studio album. Fool was recorded immediately following the conclusion of his Fast Forward tour, with recording sessions taking place at Tonic Room Studios in Boise, Idaho, the day after the tour’s final show at the Egyptian Theatre in Boise. The decision to record the album in the city where the tour wrapped up led to Boise being the chosen location. Now that’s cool.

# 9 – Is She Really Going Out with Him?

And speaking of 1979, we could not put together a top 10 Joe Jackson songs list and leave out the song that put him on the pop music map back in the late 1970s. Joe Jackson’s “Is She Really Going Out With Him?”  was initially released as a single in 1978 before his debut album. The song was reissued again as a single after the release of Look Sharp in 1979. The song’s iconic bass lines fueled the song’s energy juxtaposed against Joe Jackson’s clever lyrics. Although Joe Jackson has grown light years beyond the music he released when he was only 23, “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” still remains one of his most famous songs.

# 8 – Stranger Than You

Continuing our top 10 Joe Jackson Songs list, we turn to the fabulous album Night and Day II. The record was Joe Jackson’s follow-up album to his groundbreaking Night and Day, released in 1982. Night and Day II was released in 2000. The album’s songs were written all about New York City. The cover depicted Joe Jackson driving on the streets of New York with a shot of the original World Trade Centers in the foreground. The picture was taken a year before the tragedy of 9/11.

# 7 – I’m The Man / On Your Radio

Joe Jackson’s song “I’m the Man” was the title track from his second album, I’m the Man, released in 1979. The song was not a huge hit single but depicted the whole entire new wave sound almost better than anything Joe Jackson had ever done at that time. Yet nestled within the tracks rhythmic groove was the sound of the 1960s songs like Neil Diamond’s “Cherry Cherry.” The same chord changes that the band The Romantics would use on their huge hit “What I like About You,” and John Mellencamp would also utilize on R.O.C.K. in the USA fueled the Joe Jackson song “I’m the Man.”

We also loved the great track “On Your Radio,” from the I’m The Man album. This is the first of two ties on this Joe Jackson songs list. It’s sort of sneaky way to fit two extra songs on this list.

# 6 – Stranger Than Fiction

Joe Jackson’s great song “Stranger Than Fiction” was released on his Laughter & Lust album. The record was released in 1991. The song contains one of our favorite lyrical lines of all time when Joe Jackson sings “Love grows like a flower or grows like a tumor, Love shows God has a sense of humor.” “Stranger Than Fiction” was released as the second single from the album. It was never a big hit, but it was, and still is a great pop-rock song.

The album featured musicians Joe Jackson on vocals and keyboards, Tom Teeley on guitar, Joy Askew on keyboards and backing vocals, Graham Maby on bass, and Dan Hickey and Sue Hadjopoulos on drums and percussion.

# 5 – One More Time

Joe Jackson’s stunning song “One More Time” was released on his debut album Joe Jackson. The song opens with a dynamic guitar riff that bleeds new wave. The bass line further confirms the style that Joe Jackson was helping become very popular at the time. The song is perfectly written with an addictive verse that swings into a memorable chorus that sticks with you long after the needle has swung back to rest.

# 4 – Sunday Papers

If there ever was a new wave song that made you want to get up and dance based on the opening guitar riff, it was Joe Jackson’s “Sunday Papers.” It might not have become a dance hit because the song was more rock and roll than dance, but baby, this was enjoyable. I remember when the song came out, it became a favorite of bar bands to play. Sunday Papers was released on Joe Jackson’s incredible debut album. When fans talk about the best debut album of all time, Joe Jackson’s first record doesn’t get enough love. It should because it indeed stands as one of the best.

# 3 – Breaking Us in Two

Oh, can’t you feel the pain in this one? Joe Jackson’s “Breaking Us In Two” appeared on his glorious album Night and Day. The record was released in 1982. “Breaking Us In Two” was released as the third single from the album. It was a top 20 hit in the United States. The song’s beginning always reminds me of the Badfinger song “Day After Day.”

# 2 -You Can’t Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)

As we get closer to the end of our top 10 Joe Jackson songs list, we turn to the great Body & Soul album. This does not sound like the Joe Jackson who sang “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” only five years earlier. The album’s great lead-off single, “You Can’t Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)” became a U.S. Top 20 hit for Joe Jackson. The album cover was a tribute to a famous Sonny Rollins jazz album cover. The song’s title also seemed to be a play of words on the famous Rolling Stones song. Regardless of the tributes, Joe Jackson’s Body & Soul album was one of the finest albums he ever released. It was a great follow-up to the previous album entitled Night and Day.

# 1 – Stepping Out

We end our Top 10 Joe Jackson songs list with the fantastic song “Stepping Out.” The song was released on Joe Jackson’s landmark album Night and Day. “Stepping Out,” deservedly so, was the biggest hit of Joe Jackson’s career. It was a brilliant, breathtaking piece of music. The song reached number five on the Billboard Top 100 in 1982. It was also a top 10 hit in the United Kingdom.

Top 10 Joe Jackson Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2024

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