Sunday, September 8, 2013

Joe Jackson - Mike's Murder (soundtrack)

Welcome to another edition of Soundtrack Sunday.

After his successful 1982 release Night and Day (click here for that review), Joe Jackson was invited to contribute a track to Mike’s Murder. The film was written and directed by James Bridges and starred Debra Winger. Jackson ended up writing a number of songs and instrumental pieces.

Deciding to release all of it as an album, Mike’s Murder soundtrack came out in September of 1983. The film, however, was delayed and did not open until March of 1984. Much of Jackson’s work was replaced with a score by John Barry. Despite this disconnect, Jackson’s album reached number 64 on the US Billboard Album chart. Today we will give it a listen to celebrate its thirtieth anniversary.


Jackson played harmonica, percussion, keyboards, saxophone and vibraphone as well as provided the vocals. Sue Hadjopoulos contributed on flute, percussion, bongos and conga. Graham Maby played bass and provided additional vocals. Larry Tolfree played the drums.

The piano plunking of the opening of “Cosmopolitan” kicks off side one. It then shifts into pulsating rhythm, like the heart of a big city. It has a bit of a dark underside too, hinting at something dangerous.

“1-2-3 Go! (This Town’s a Fairground)”, with its anxious and restless beat, as lyrical allusions to the Wizard of Oz.

“Laundromat Monday” has a casual, jazzy saunter to it that fits perfect to the everyday musings of the lyrics. I can picture someone lost in these thoughts while their clothes are visibly tossed round and round behind the glass door of the dryer.

“Memphis” was released as a single and peaked at number 85 on the US Billboard Hot 100. I have known the live version of this song for many years, thanks to a compilation CD, but this was my first time hearing the original. The song has a mix of a blues vibe with a 60’s surf beat that I like a lot.

Side two begins with “Moonlight”. It starts off with a piano and synthesizer duet; the two instruments play off one another very well. Jackson then comes in with the hushed vocals that carry the cautious mood.

The rest of the record is devoted to instrumental tracks.

The eleven minute long “Zémeo” is first. It brings back some of the gritty and urban elements of the side one opener.

“Breakdown” earned Jackson a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. It has a simple yet steady thump-thump heartbeat behind the rest of the instruments.

“Moonlight Theme” closes the record with the instrumental version of the earlier song that opens this side.

I had never heard of the movie Mike’s Murder before compiling my album lists for the month. Apparently, according to IMDB, it tells the story of Betty who has a crush on her tennis coach Mike; he keeps promising to call but never does. When disappears for a long period of time, she goes looking for him and discovers the secret world he was mixed up in.

Putting all that aside, I did enjoy this soundtrack album. Joe Jackson always delivers on songwriting and compositions. And, from what little I learned of the plot, I can almost craft scenes in my head for how the music would fit in that kind of narrative.

Like the film, the soundtrack is pretty rare to come across. Other than the initial vinyl and cassette releases in 1983, the only other way to get some of these songs is from a German CD in 2006 or on 2003 deluxe reissue of Jackson’s Night and Day which included the first five tracks as bonus cuts.

1 comment:

mls said...

One of my favorites from that year as it was basically an extension of Night and Day. My favorite tracks are Cosmopolitan and Moonlight. I remember reading somewhere that Memphis (a blatant rip off of Gimme Some Lovin') was actually recorded during the Night and Day sessions. I still have this one on vinyl and transferred it to CD and mp3 about 10 years ago. I also have side one on the Deluxe Edition of Night And Day that you mention. It still would be nice to have an official US release on CD or, at the very least, make the songs available on iTunes or Spotify.

I've seen the movie. Don't bother (44 at Rotten Tomatoes). If I remember correctly, the only time any of this album appears in the movie is when a background radio briefly plays Memphis. Everything else is the Barry stuff.