Not your average Joe

JOE JACKSON at Massey Hall (178 Victoria), Monday (December 18). $41.25-$51.25. 872-4255. Rating: NNNNNJoe jackson is completely comfortable.

JOE JACKSON at Massey Hall (178
Victoria), Monday (December 18).
$41.25-$51.25. 872-4255. Rating: NNNNN

Joe jackson is completely comfortable with his misfit status. Thing is, when you’re 22 and a bit of a nerd — as Jackson was when he had his first New Wave hit, Is She Really Going Out With Him? — you sound like a hero. But when you’re 46 and groovin’ in your geek skin, you tend to come across as a bit of a snot.

For example, when I ask him why he went back to his 1982 Night And Day concept for his recent release, the beautiful and offbeat Night And Day II, he openly declares that he’s not too impressed with the question.

Oh, well. Just tell me what it is about New York that would make you want to write the city another musical love letter.

“It’s a place that has glamour and romance, but it has a dark side, too,” he allows on the phone from Chicago, where he’s on tour to promote the new disc. “And both sides are very seductive.

“People say you love it or hate it, as if love and hate were opposites. But the opposite of love is indifference, and you can’t feel indifferent to New York.”

Don’t try to use the word “crossover” with this guy. He started out as a classical composer, launched his career proper as a pop star, incorporated jazz and cabaret into his sound and now thinks of himself again as more of a composer than anything else. He says he embraced it all from the start — so there was nowhere to cross over to.

“I don’t fit in very neatly, and that infuriates the marketers. Now we’re completely ruled by marketing. I listened to Sgt. Pepper the other day and I was amazed at how eclectic it is. That was before marketing” — Brian Epstein’s influence notwithstanding — “became the major factor.”

Now, he says, Brit bands like Travis, Dodgy and Pulp turn him on, but he’s not too impressed with what’s coming out of the U.S.

“You’re allowed to make four kinds of records these days. There’s teen pop, country pop, melodramatic ballads. There’s not even that much going on in hiphop.

“I was on the subway the other day and a black kid was sitting there with a boom box playing a song that repeated the lyrics “White motherfucker’ over and over. And the other passengers were too scared to tell him to turn it down. The rebel in me wanted to applaud him, but there’s the part in me that always wants to hear some artistry.

“But I don’t want to talk too much about hiphop, because I just don’t connect to it. There’s nothing in my experience that helps me do that.”

He connects more to fellow New Yorker Philip Glass, who tried to sign him to his record label. And to artists like Marianne Faithfull, who’s featured on the new disc.

“She’d just decided not to do any more guest appearances on any projects, but I sent her the song (Love Got Lost) and she changed her mind,” says Jackson. “It’s a good thing, too. The character in the song is a woman over 50. I can’t think of another artist who could have sung it.”JOE JACKSON at Massey Hall (178 Victoria), Monday (December 18). $41.25-$51.25. 872-4255.

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