Next Up: “Steppin’ Out”

The latest cover we’re releasing in Smallpox’ _Covers Album_ project is “Steppin’ Out,” originally recorded by Joe Jackson and released on his _Night and Day_ album in 1982. Listen to it “here”:

For me (this is Al from Dromedary writing), Joe Jackson circa-1979 was an introduction to a whole world of new sounds. Thing is, they were _punk_ sounds in 1979 – snotty, aggressive, and yes, mainstream – but they opened doors to a whole new place for me. _I’m the Man_ was an absolutely critical record in my own development. The music was aggressive, the subject matter literate and interesting, and man, the _hooks_. And next came a record that turned me on to reggae, and a Jimmy Cliff cover. Amazing. These were life-changing albums for me.

Next, though? Next was a big band record, _Jumpin’ Jive_. Young me just figured it was a novelty thing, like a Joe Jackson’s covers record, or Bing Crosby doing a duet with David Bowie, or like the Kiss solo albums – not something to be taken seriously.

When “Steppin’ Out” came out, though, that was it for me. My own tastes had gotten angrier and louder; at that point I was listening mostly to metal. My intro to angry rock had sold out. Joe Jackson was playing elevator jazz, and I most certainly was not buying in.

It was only years later, when discovering the unbelievable musicianship of Joe Jackson’s band (particularly Graham Maby’s amazing bass work) that I took time to revisit those later Joe Jackson records, with fresh, more mature ears. Unfortunately, I still hate them.

Still, Dan Smith is one of my favorite bass players, and so is Graham Maby, so when I saw “Steppin’ Out” listed among the covers that Smallpox would be releasing with this project, I gave it _another_ set of fresh ears, and found Dan tearing the song apart, layering it with heavy guitar and a driving beat, only a tiny hint of Maby’s signature bass line remaining from the original. Not a bad song for rolling down the windows and barreling down some highway somewhere, if I may suggest a weekend activity.