Joe Jackson interview

A unique new style of show featuring two of the world’s finest songwriters, Todd Rundgren and Joe Jackson, rolls into Portsmouth on May 30th. Can it be mere coincidence that Portsmouth is the city chosen to be the first on the eight-date UK tour? Yes, according to Joe, who although famously faithful to the maritime city, denies having strong emotional ties to it.
“It’s actually a pure coincidence. It’s true that, although I wasn’t born there, I grew up there. Portsmouth feels like my home town, but that’s about it. Your home town will always be your home town”.
Nonetheless, Joe’s song “Home Town” is one of the most goose-pimple inducing evocations of a sense of belonging that have ever been recorded. One of the most heart-stopping musical moments of recent years came on the “Laughter and Lust” tour, when the piano introduction to the song was played as the Guildhall clock struck eight o’clock, but still Joe insists that the song is less personal than it seems: “It was an intellectual exercise in writing a nostalgic song. I tend not to be a nostalgic person, but I was trying to create a song which had a sentimental, nostalgic flavour. I guess it expresses a kind of idealized nostalgia”.
“Don’t ask me how this joint tour with Todd Rundgren came about”, warns Joe, “because it’s not remotely interesting. It wasn’t any meeting of minds, it was put together as a one-off event by various players, but what happened was that the show worked so well that the idea of a full tour came up. It was a mad experiment which just clicked. What happens is that there’s an opening set by the string quartet Ethel. That’s not to be missed, so get there early. Then there’s a solo set by me, a Todd solo set, and at the end we all come together and play some JJ songs, some Todd songs and some by other writers.”
On the subject of nostalgia, last year’s reunion tour by the original Joe Jackson band was considered a huge success for all involved. How does Joe feel about it now?
“I feel great about it, although it was always intended to be a one-off. The original band made three albums, but the third one wasn’t that great. What we should have done was taken a couple of years off and come back with the killer fourth album. We did – twenty years later! So now the stake has been driven into the vampire’s heart and we can lay it to rest.”
Local readers may remember observing Joe striding up Winchester High Street on numerous occasions in the mid-nineties. “The reason for that was that I rented a flat in Winchester for eighteen months. It was an attempt to find somewhere convenient between London and Portsmouth, and I love Winchester, but in the end I was falling between two stools and not spending much time there.”
So has Joe now committed himself to New York? “Not at all. I always kept a pied à terre in England even when I was living in New York. Even today, I don’t really know where my main base is, Portsmouth or London. But don’t feel envious of my freedom of movement. Indecision is stressful and not knowing where home is can drive you nuts.”
That won’t prevent Hampshire fans from doing their very best to make Joe feel at home on Monday.

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