Obscuriosity: Week 3 (Something Going Wrong Around Here)


I have only two Joe Jackson CDs. Both are part of a set, so really, I own but one Joe Jackson release. You remember Joe Jackson, right? Not to be confused with the domineering patriarch of the Jackson Family, this Joe Jackson had his first real hit in 1982 with “Steppin’ Out.” I was ten and MTV had only spent a few months in our house, brought to us through the still new miracle of cable television. CableVision, actually. “Steppin’ Out” was different, so unlike anything else on the channel. It was piano-based, for one thing, but that wasn’t all that unique in the grand scope of things. No, what made “Steppin’ Out” different was that it was so smooth without sounding plastic, so polished without sounding formulaic.

I was taking piano lessons at the time, so maybe that was part of the appeal. But to be honest, at the time, I wanted to just skip the whole piano stage of learning all together, leap over all the boredom of practicing and step right into the awesomeness that only a bank of Moog or Roland synths had to offer. Or better yet, maybe I could have a keytar! This was all to my Mother’s chagrin. Eventually, both of us realized that I was never going to really master any set of 88 keys, no matter how electronic they may or may not be.

I never picked up a Joe Jackson album until I got to college and heard a song known by countless glee clubs across the country. “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” I swear, this song has to be part of the secret initiation that permits a group of four or more young men to gather in an auditorium and harmonize. To this day, I’m quite sure there’s not a single a cappella group that doesn’t have this song in their back pocket. But the great thing is … the song is, frankly, awesome.

Why? Because it asks the question that has crossed everyone’s mind at one time or another. She’s going out with who? He’s dating her? This incredulous reaction isn’t always because you’d rather the person in question were going out with you instead, but it usually is. It’s a precious and inescapably universal shared source of interpersonal frustration.

Those kinds of things always make for decent songs.

In 1988, Joe Jackson released Live 1980/86, a double-album of tracks from three separate tours over six years. As a result, we get not one, but three different versions of “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” So I’m sharing the full-band original and Joe’s own a cappella version. If you want to hear the acoustic cut, then you’ll just have to seek it out yourself.

Joe Jackson – “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” – track 4 from Live 1980/86 (1988)
Joe Jackson – “Is She Really Going Out With Him? (A cappella)” – track 10 from the same album

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4 responses to “Obscuriosity: Week 3 (Something Going Wrong Around Here)”

  1. I think I have ten Joe Jackson albums. I’ve seen him several times in concert, and hope to hit his show at the Variety Playhouse at the end of April.

  2. Speaking of all things JJ, he’s just released a new album called RAIN which is pretty phenomenal. Check it out.

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