Certain Songs #792: Joe Jackson – “Is She Really Going Out With Him?”

Album: Look Sharp!
Year: 1979

When Look Sharp! debuted, Joe Jackson was almost instantly compared to Elvis Costello, not just because they were both U.K. singer-songwriters who flirted with punk rock without ever fully crossing over, but also because they wrote barbed-wired songs about relationships.

As their subsequent careers showed, of course, they weren’t anything at all alike, but in the late 1970s, I guess we could be excused for trying to sort it all out by lumping them in together. If Jackson wasn’t quite as narsty as Elvis the C, he still sported still a pretty decent lyrical edge in songs like “Fools in Love,” “Sunday Papers,” “One More Time,” and the stone cold classic “Is She Really Going Out With Him?”


Certain Songs #791: Joan Jett – “Bad Reputation”

Album: Bad Reputation
Year: 1980

When Tim & I saw Joan Jett & The Blackhearts at the Warnors Theatre in May of 1982, “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” had just finished its seven-week run as the number 1 song on the Billboard chart (where it had replaced “Centerfold,” so as you can imagine, there was a shitton of heat around her at that time.

What I remember mostly about it was that the crowd was incredibly young and female: this was clearly tons of teenage girls first concert, and I hope a lot of them were inspired to pick up guitars (or whatever) and start bashing out their own versions of the straighforward rock ‘n’ roll that was Jett’s forte.


Certain Songs #790: Jimmy Cliff – “The Harder They Come”

Album: The Harder They Come
Year: 1972

I will confess that I don’t think I’ve ever seen The Harder They Come film itself, but the soundtrack album was the second reggae album I ever bought (the first was Catch a Fire, and that was bought just the day prior), and I’m most certainly not the only person for whom this soundtrack was a key reggae album.

And all of these years later, many of the songs remain utter classics, with the key tracks for me being Toots & The Maytals unrelenting “Pressure Drop” and Jimmy Cliff’s title track, the only song on the album written specifically for the film.


Certain Songs #789: Jimmie Dale Gilmore – “Santa Fe Thief”

Album: Spinning Around The Sun
Year: 1993

Jimmie Dale Gilmore is part of an unfortunately large cohort of country (or country-associated) singer-songwriters whose work has either completely missed my radar or only touched it occasionally. It’s a big world, and I’m just one bad hombre.

And while Gilmore has been at it since 1972, when he was part of a legendary-in-some-circles band called The Flatlanders, the only albums of his I think ever heard were the ones he recorded for Elektra, After Awhile, Spinning Around The Sun and Braver Newer World, and the only that ever stuck was Spinning Around The Sun.


Certain Songs #788: Jimi Hendrix – “The Star Spangled Banner (Live at Woodstock)”

Album: Woodstock Motion Picture Soundtrack
Year: 1969

Let’s face it: “The Star Spangled Banner” is not a great song.

Not only does it have musical roots in a British drinking song — let us never forget that our national anthem is basically stolen intellectual property — it’s also fucking impossible to sing if you don’t have the range of a Whitney Houston.