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Wednesday night at the London Palladium

Looking forward to seeing Joe Jackson at the London Palladium tonight.

This is my second visit to the Palladium this year. The previous time was in January when I saw Snow White starring Julian Clary, Dawn French and Nigel Havers.

There may be fewer laughs tonight but it's still sold out!

Joe is on the European leg of a tour that began in America on February 5. Over the next three months he will return to the US and revisit Europe before finishing in Tel Aviv in July.

It’s called the Four Decade Tour because it's 40 years since the release of Joe’s first album Look Sharp.

He has recorded 20 studio albums to date and the current tour features songs from five of them - Look Sharp (1979), Night and Day (1982), Laughter and Lust (1991), Rain (2008) and the new album Fool (2019).

I was still at university when I bought I’m The Man, Joe’s second album, because it featured one of my favourite songs, ‘It’s Different For Girls’.

In 2005 I saw him play in Leicester where he shared the bill with Todd Rundgren, and I'm a big fan of Rain, his 2008 album. The CD is in my car and I still play it a lot.

Fool, the new album, is excellent too. Thankfully, when it was delivered by Amazon, I managed to retrieve the CD before the dog could chew more than just the packaging (see below).

(Reissues of two XTC albums weren’t so lucky. The discs survived but not the CD covers and booklets.)

I recommend that you read some of the interviews Joe has given to promote the new album and tour. Unlike many of his peers his responses to questions are always thoughtful and engaging.

Here are some examples:

Joe Jackson Looks Back on Four Decades of Doing It His Way With Anniversary Tour, New Album (Billboard, January 8, 2019)

Joe Jackson on His New Album and 40 Years of Following His Muse: 'I Have a Horror of Being Trendy' (People, February 4, 2019)

Catching up with Joe Jackson (The Current, February 15, 2019)

For the benefit of newer readers, I should explain that Forest’s association with Joe came about as a result of an article he wrote in May 2003 criticising the introduction of the New York smoking ban.

Writing in the New York Times (Want to smoke? Go to Hamburg), he commented:

I came to live in New York to be a musician and a bohemian, but the last time my band played in the city, in April, there were no fewer than five ''No Smoking'' signs in our dressing room. Two weeks later in Hamburg, Germany, our dressing room had five ashtrays. You can guess where we felt more welcome.

In November that year he wrote another article on the subject, this time for the Daily Telegraph (‘Stubbing out? Not if I can help it!):

I’m a moderate smoker myself; I enjoy a couple of cigarettes or a cigar with a drink. But I’m also a health-conscious person and over the past few years I’ve done extensive research into all sides of the smoking issue. I’ve concluded that smoking is risky, but not as dangerous as zealous officials and anti-smoking activists would have us believe.

More to the point, I’m convinced (as are many reputable scientists) that the danger of “passive smoking” is pretty much a hoax, with dodgy statistics manipulated and exaggerated with the express intention of stigmatizing smokers and scaring the hell out of everyone.

In 2004 he wrote and released a song, ‘In 20-0-3’, that was written “to send up Mayor Bloomberg and the New York smoking ban, but also to help those fighting to get the ban repealed and to prevent similar bans elsewhere.”

Around the same time he went head-to-head with Prof John Britton, a leading anti-smoking campaigner, in the Guardian, challenging Britton to provide evidence that passive smoking is a serious health risk.

The ‘extensive research’ Joe referred to in his Telegraph article was the basis of a wonderfully written essay, ‘The Smoking Issue’, published by Forest in 2004. An updated version, ‘Smoke, Lies and the Nanny State’, appeared in 2007.

Meanwhile, at the 2004 Labour party conference in Brighton, Joe was invited to share a platform with Secretary of State for Health John Reid at a fringe meeting on the Sunday night. (I remember it well because I was in the audience.)

Coinciding with the conference, Joe wrote a letter to The Times criticising the Labour Government’s plan to ban smoking in public places. Signatories included Stephen Fry, Bob Geldof, Simon Cowell and David Hockney.

According to the paper (Pro smoking lobby decries ‘hysterical’ ban):

Some of Britain’s leading artists, playwrights and entrepreneurs have launched a fierce attack on the Government over plans to introduce a ban on smoking in public places.

Celebrity supporters of the pro-smoking lobby say that there is a “climate of hysteria” around the issue of smoking in public and that the risks of passive smoking have been exaggerated ...

The musician Joe Jackson, who signed today’s letter, said that anti-smoking groups represented a “fanatical fringe”.

He said: “There are those of us who are sick and tired of being abused for indulging in a legal pleasure. We feel that a smoking ban is unjustified.

“David Hockney said to me that people are like sheep and follow whoever shouts loudest. So we are going to make some noise too.”

The following year Joe returned to Brighton with Hockney for a fringe meeting organised by Forest at the 2005 Labour conference. (I've written about that day several times so I won't bore you again.)

On another occasion I remember listening to Joe on the Today programme then switching stations to hear him interviewed moments later on Five Live Breakfast.

Media appearances like that frustrated the hell out of him because he felt he wasn't given enough time, or the presenters didn't take him seriously.

No-one however did more to fight the smoking ban and we will always be immensely grateful.

The fact that I like his music is both a coincidence and a bonus!

Below: Joe’s new album Fool after a close encounter with my dog

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Reader Comments (1)

It would be valuable to reprint Joe Jackson's 'pro-choice' essays from time to time since alternative voices to the antismoker propaganda are rare these days.

Thursday, April 18, 2019 at 2:44 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

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