This was not the book I was expecting.
Joe Jackson's recording career has spanned decades - from the late 1970s until the present. But this memoir ends where that recording career began - with the release of his excellent debut album Look Sharp.
"A Cure For Gravity: A Musical Pilgrimage" details Jackson's education and the evolution of his musical style before he secured a recording contract.
Jackson was an outsider in the working class town of Portsmouth, England. He was sickly and introspective and no good at sports, which made him unpopular with his classmates. And he was obsessed with music, which made him odd.
But he loved music enough to pursue it - almost single-mindedly - for his entire youth. He attended the Royal Academy of Music during the Day, while performing at small pubs nights and weekends with rock & roll or punk bands. He was the musical director of a cabaret in order to save money to record an album of his own material.
Through Jackson's education and his musical experience, he encountered many characters and many different styles of music and he was influenced by them all. This helps to explain why his recorded music crosses so many different genres - from jazz to rock to reggae to new wave to classical. "When people ask who has influenced me", he writes, "I always sense that they're expecting to hear certain names: John Lennon, David Bowie, Graham Parker. The truth is that I'm influenced by everything, but especially by the people I've worked with closely, people no one else has heard of."
Jackson's style is often clever and frequently self-effacing. He acknowledges his youthful awkwardness and his lack of success with women. And he tells stories of driving for hours and waiting all day outside a pub, then changing in a small restroom to perform for a small, audience that didn't want to hear a band or didn't like the music they played. He speaks freely of his musical frustrations and his inability to find his voice. But his love of music kept him going.
Jackson was driven to succeed in music, never considering any other career. "I had to succeed in music," he insists. "I was no good at anything else."
Although Joe Jackson had a hit album at age 22, "A Cure for Gravity" chronicles what it took him to get there. The book gave me new insights into an artist I have loved since my high school days when I first heard his music on an A&M sampler LP and (a few months later) when I saw his concert at the Punch and Judy Theater in Grosse Pointe, MI. "A Cure for Gravity" is a delightful story that this lifetime Joe Jackson fan enjoyed immensely.
Joe Jackson in concert, 1979 (photo by D Giard)