Something more than a journeyman and less than a superstar, Joe Jackson
has a reputation for being a reclusive and prickly character. But he refuses the low road with A Cure for Gravity
, a resolutely non-lurid autobiography of a man who considers music to be a noble calling. It matters not that the author was once lumped in with England's insurgent first-generation punks and new-wavers; here Jackson insistently focuses on his development as a composer, player, and performer, approximately in that order. Born to modest means in a setting where a sickly, creative youngster such as Jackson was regarded with suspicion, if not contempt, the young Brit was trained in the classics and developed his keyboard skills, playing everything from cabaret to progressive rock before finally setting off on his own as a sharp-tongued, ska-influenced Angry Young Man. A more sophisticated musician than his rag-tag running mates (he's recently released an ambitious fusion of pop, jazz, and classical elements dubbed Symphony No. 1
), Jackson revels in the intricacies of his craft--as much or more than he does in telling his own up-from-the-gutter tale. Old new-wavers who remember the author from his 1978 Look Sharp!
debut and devotees of his more stylish early '80s recordings may be caught off guard by the short shrift Jackson gives his actual recording career; indeed, he shrugs off a couple decades in the final pages of the book. But the articulate, idiosyncratic author is clearly more interested in addressing what makes a musician than what happens once a musician has it made. --Steven Stolder
From Publishers Weekly
To the credit of popular 1980s British singer/composer Jackson ("Is She Really Going Out with Him?" "Steppin' Out"), there is little melodrama to this bookAhis hit recordings, beginning with Look Sharp in 1979, receive only brief mention in the final chapters. Instead, Jackson presents a portrait of the artist as a young geek, detailing the quiet undulations of his life as an intensely introspective, gifted musician growing up outside of London, studying at conservatory and touring around in much derided bar bands. We see the 14-year-old Jackson obsessing over Beethoven's Eroica symphony ("As the fanfare comes to a halt, there's a pregnant pause: What's this lunatic going to do now?"); we see him on his way to the Royal Academy of Music ("As the ferry docked, the workers poured like a sluggish plague of locusts through the Dockyard Gate, and I boarded the London train"); and we see him pouring beer on drunk women during bar fights in obscure locations. Fellow musicians, no matter their chosen genre, may see themselves in Jackson's accounts of pathetic pub gigs and unpleasant music industry dealings. Jackson is an easy, natural writer, sometimes an excellent one. He is often funny, and though a bit digressive, the book is worth reading for its style alone. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.