A Musical Pilgrimage
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One of New Wave’s original “angry young men,” Joe Jackson highlights his journey from Portsmouth, England to the Royal Academy of Music to pop star in this lively musical memoir. Jackson, who emerged in the late ’70s as a contemporary of Elvis Costello and Graham Parker, and went on to score pop success with such songs as “Is She Really Going Out With Him?,” “Steppin’ Out,” “Breaking Us in Two,” “Jumping Jive,” and “I’m the Man,” has proven to be one of rock’s most enigmatic performers. In fact, he’s often been accused of being confrontational and pretentious. The latter trait is evidenced early in A Cure for Gravity, and often slows down the flow of the book, as Jackson eschews the linear autobiographical route for sometimes lengthy digressions into a form of music criticism (on subjects that range from Steely Dan, whom he calls one of his biggest influences, to Beethoven). It’s not that his views aren’t interesting, as he clearly knows his material; it’s that they disrupt what is a sometimes comical, dead-on portrayal of coming of age as a musical outcast. Growing up in a portside town as a young asthmatic, Jackson was gawky and unathletic, a deadly combination that often attracted what he calls the “hardnuts” (bullies who ostracized him for being different). However, by the time he was a teenager, he’d discovered his musical gift, first playing solos in local pubs (despite being underage), then looking for bands to showcase his talents. His tales of the horrible gigs he had to take early on, as in a Greek restaurant where his group backed up a screaming singer and a belly dancer, are often as hilarious as those in The Commitments. Jackson has a remarkable recollection of his days as a struggling musician, and those anecdotes not only entertain, they make Jackson remarkably human, a characteristic not even his fans have always seen. A Cure for Gravity should be required reading for anyone who’s ever attempted to start a band, either for fun or to make it as a professional musician. And even those who’ve only thought about it as a passing fancy will find much delight in this touching musical journey. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-891620-50-9
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2000


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