Joe Jackson Reunites "Sharp" Band

Group to reconvene after twenty years for new album, tour

June 24, 2002 12:00 AM ET

Although he vowed it would never happen, Joe Jackson is reuniting his original rock band for a new studio recording and twenty-fifth anniversary tour next spring. The band -- Jackson (piano, vocals), Graham Maby (bass), Gary Sanford (guitar) and Dave Houghton (drums) -- created Jackson's classic late-Seventies albums Look Sharp! and I'm the Man.

"It sort of hit me a few months ago that next year would be twenty-five years since Look Sharp, and once I got over the shock and picked myself up off the floor I started to think about a possible reunion," says Jackson. "We can all play a lot better than we ever could back then, and I'm a much better writer and singer. And we're not fat -- I've still got a thirty-two-inch waist!

The band performed its last gig on December 15th, 1980, in Utrecht, Netherlands, parting ways shortly after the release of Beat Crazy, its third album. Since then, Sanford has played with Joan Armatrading, Aztec Camera and the late Kirsty MacColl; Maby has played with Natalie Merchant, They Might Be Giants and on and off with Jackson; and Houghton has kept a low profile in the South of England.

"I think that you need to get to a certain point of maturity to be able to indulge in nostalgia," says Jackson of the reunion. "Ten years ago I would have laughed at the idea, because I was still evolving."

Jackson promises the new album will be "high-energy, fun and definitely in the spirit of the first couple of albums -- without trying to recreate it. We've all evolved and matured and the music will reflect that." He is nearly done writing the fourteen-song record, his first commercial release since 2000's Night and Day II.

Although song titles and label details are nebulous, he and the band will begin recording in the U.K. this October.

Assessing the band's capabilities, Jackson says, "Graham plays better than ever, Dave plays the same or better than he ever did, and Gary probably has the easiest job. The guitar is not the lead instrument and never was, so as long as he doesn't play worse, which is a pretty safe bet, we'll be fine. Gary was always, in my estimation, overqualified."

For the ensuing worldwide tour, Jackson intends to work some of his newer material into the set. "It's an intriguing idea to bring post-Beat Crazy stuff to these guys," he says. "In recent tours I've re-worked my old songs with newer players, but this will allow me to do the exact opposite. For awhile I was really sick of [Look Sharp's breakout hit]'Is She Really Going Out With Him,' but now I like it again. I really still love [I'm the Man's] 'Different for Girls' and fast ones like [Look Sharp's] 'Got the Time,' and we'll be playing all of those on tour."

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