Song of the Day #666: ‘Steppin’ Out’ – Joe Jackson

I recently had a request for a Joe Jackson song on the blog, so here it is.

I’m actually surprised this is the first time I’ve featured Jackson. I like his music a lot, own several of his albums and consider him a uniquely talented artist. In fact, he’s not just worthy of a SOTD, he’s worthy of his own theme week.

I’m guessing the reason I’ve avoided Jackson is that for all his talent he tends to leave me a little bit cold. There’s a studied quality to his music that I don’t find all that inviting.

I can see the same criticism of Elvis Costello, one of my favorite artists, and I do see some similarities between the two men. But the best of Costello contains a warmth that melts away some of the cerebral posturing.

I could have gone in a lot of directions when picking a Joe Jackson SOTD — my two favorite albums of his are his debut, the fantastically frenzied and biting Look Sharp!, and 1991’s baroque pop collection Laughter & Lust. And a number of songs from the albums in between have made an impression on me.

But I’m making what might seem like the obvious choice, Jackson’s biggest U.S. hit, ‘Steppin’ Out.’ I’ve always adored this song… it’s one of those ubiquitous hits that somehow never gets old.

I remember when a local radio station was changing its format sometime in the late 90s or early 00s. They played David Bowie’s ‘Changes’ and a couple of other “change” songs on a loop for 24 hours building up to the relaunch. Then, at the moment of truth, they announced that they were now a modern rock station and they kicked things off by playing ‘Steppin’ Out.’ I think it was all downhill from there.

On a side note, it’s interesting how much of Jackson’s music can be read as having a gay theme. I don’t know if he’s ever confirmed that ‘Steppin’ Out’ is at least partly about coming out of the closet, but that seems to be a common interpretation.

Now –
The mist across the window hides the lines
But nothing hides the colour of the lights that shine
Electricity so fine
Look and dry your eyes

We –
So tired of all the darkness in our lives
With no more angry words to say
Can come alive
Get into a car and drive
To the other side

Me babe – steppin’ out
Into the night
Into the light
You babe – steppin’ out
Into the night
Into the light

We –
Are young but getting old before our time
We’ll leave the T.V. and the radio behind
Don’t you wonder what we’ll find
Steppin’ out tonight

You –
Can dress in pink and blue just like a child
And in a yellow taxi turn to me and smile
We’ll be there in just a while
If you follow me

Me babe – steppin’ out
Into the night
Into the light
You babe – steppin’ out
Into the night
Into the light

3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #666: ‘Steppin’ Out’ – Joe Jackson

  1. Amy says:

    It’s funny that your criticism of Jackson is that you find his music cold. I’ve always found his music almost overwhelmingly emotional. Not that he manipulates emotions. Rather, his lyrics and song delivery feel infused with passion, and I always feels as though he’s completely invested in whatever he is singing.

    So… when he sings a song that gets to me, it REALLY gets to me. This song does what so many of his best songs do – it offers the listener the chance to interpret it in whatever way he desires. “Steppin out into the light” could certainly be a metaphor for a gay couple able to be themselves without concern about “darkness” or “angry words,” but that darkness is in their lives and the angry words said by them, so it’s possible to interpret the song as a person who wants to step out of that period in his life and into a new, brighter one.

    Regardless, I love it. And I’m ready for the theme week. Just be sure to include my very favorite, “The Other Me.”

  2. Dana says:

    Thank you for honoring my request. 🙂

    I can see to some extent the criticism that Jackson’s music is a bit more “cold” and calculated. Yet, as Amy said, there are a number of songs that display a great deal of passion and emotion, lyrically if not musically.

    My favorite album from Jackson remains Big World. I find it amazing that all of the songs on that album, save one (the last), were recorded live with an audience asked to remain quite. The quality of that record is truly astounding for its time, and you can feel the energy and passion in a number of the songs, including “Right and Wring” and “Wild West.”

    As for today’s song, it was probably my introduction point to Jackson (as it probably was for many slightly younger and casual fans). I was instantly hooked. Loved the piano, loved the sound. And the video always made me associate the song with “stepping out” into the streets of New York. I never thought much about the gay metaphor, but it certainly makes sense

    Anyway, bring on the theme week!

  3. Tiffini says:

    I absolutely love, love this song. Always liked the video too. The maid dancing with the dress, falling on the bed. Great stuff.

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