Monday, 3 December 2007

Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive

I’ll let you in on a secret. I’ve been in a covers band almost constantly since I was 17. (That’s not the secret.) We played for corporate functions and other private and public events over the years in Wellington. (Still not the secret.) We played a whole range of popular music for people to dance to; everything from rock and roll to Top 40 chart stuff. Here’s the secret: what people don’t realise is that we don’t play the music we like, we play the music you like. In fact, often we play songs we hate, and the songs that we start out liking … well, if we can still listen to them for pleasure after playing them for a couple of years, they must be structurally superb – a rare gem. The trick is to make you, the audience, feel that we enjoy these songs as much as you do, even if we’re totally over them and could happily never listen to them again.

For a couple of years, we played the Christmas season at a particular dine and dance venue in Wellington. This involved playing most Thursday-Sunday nights from mid-November until late December, by which time we’d had enough of our song list, drunken revellers, over-excitable dancers, and Christmas in general. To survive so many nights on top of full-time jobs, you form a routine with your performances. The set list remains similar (with a few changes depending on the function, timing etc), and there are usually 3-4 CDs you play in between your set breaks. By the time the season is finished, I just want to stay home for the next few Saturday nights and curl up in front of the TV; the last thing I want is to party with my friends or, even worse, listen to other bands or DJs play the songs I’ve had to play for years while entertaining others. Sometimes it takes several years after having finished playing a song for me to be even be able to tolerate hearing it on the radio again!

Why am I telling you this? Well, today I decided to listen to one of the backing CDs we used to play before gigs started. Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive (1981) is a collection of covers of classic 1940s swing and jump blues songs. I’ve been going through a bit of a jazz and swing renaissance recently, so thought it might be time try it out again. Two tracks in particular always take me back to those gigs: "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby" and "What's the Use of Getting Sober (When You're Gonna Get Drunk Again)". Would you believe I actually enjoyed it? Yay – I’m over that one! I wonder how long it will take to get ‘over’ the other hundreds of songs I’ve played to death. What will be next? How exciting! So, for old time’s sake … “"You Run Your Mouth (and I'll Run My Business)".

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