One of the things I appreciated about my particular era of college radio was the sense that we were still allowed to reclaim artists. I get a sense — perhaps incorrectly — that the denizens on the left end of the dial, few as their number may be these days, no longer view that as part of the mission. Once an artist crosses over to more commercial terrain or otherwise falls out of favor with college radio programmers, they seem to be gone forever. The notion of college radio acts still had just a little lingering wisp of that new car smell roundabout the late-nineteen-eighties and early-nineties. There was still a heavy duty radar swipe seeking sell-outs to hit with the nasty barrage of a scorn attack, but affection wasn’t entirely eradicated in the process. And there was a sense that anyone could be welcomed back into the fold if they needed a home.
Truthfully, I can’t say with certainty that Joe Jackson was ever fully shifted off of college radio playlists, even during that brief span when he could claim a Billboard Top 10 hit. Still, there was a sense by the turn of the decade that he was someone who stirred only the barest interest from commercial radio and even the music writers who once piled praise on his intricate, elegant songwriting were starting to check out. Blaze of Glory, his terrific 1989 concept album, received only the most cursory acknowledgments from the music press (as I noted in an earlier One for Friday entry, which took much the same angle as today’s little bit of writing, so kindly ignore my redundancy if you choose to click on that hyperlink). When the follow up, Laughter & Lust, arrived, I and my fellow radio station staffers embraced it whole-heartedly, bolstered by the certainty that we would be among its only champions. And there’s nothing like the feeling of underappreciated nobility to stir a deejay to add certain songs to a playlist.
There were a lot of songs from Laughter & Lust that I played with beaming pleasure back in the day, making the determination of today’s track something of a toss of a coin with many sides. “Stranger Than Fiction” will do nicely.
Listen or download –> Joe Jackson, “Stranger Than Fiction”
(Disclaimer: It appears to me that Laughter & Lust is out of print, at least as a physical object that can be procured from your favorite local, independently-owned record shop in a way that compensates both the proprietor of said shop and Mr. Jackson himself. As I’m tapping this out, I’m remembering that “Stranger Than Fiction” was a single and could be on some sort of “best of” collection, but I’m well past the point of no return on this post. Besides, I believe in “fair use,” and I believe this qualifies. If “Stranger Than Fiction” is on one of those comps, do go buy it. Jackson is one of those artists who’s actually quite well-represented by his hits and singles. Or just get Look Sharp! That will serve you well. Anyway, I will gladly remove this track if I’m asked to do so by any entity or individual with due authority to make such a request.)