Dollar Bin Darlings: Joe Jackson - Look Sharp!

Dollar Bin Darlings is a regular column wherein we profile a record you can likely pick up in your local store's bargain bin, or maybe even at a nearby thrift shop. This time around, we take an in-depth look at Joe Jackson's debut LP 'Look Sharp!'

It seems hard to believe now that Look Sharp! was the debut for Joe Jackson. After all, Jackson's signature hit "Is She Really Going Out With Him" - which was the singer/songwriter's very first solo release - seems not only like the smash hit it was and is, but also sounds like the work of a performer at the very top of his craft. It has the sonic confidence of a veteran artist at the top of his game. 

Jackson had performed in bands Edward The Bear and then Arms and Legs throughout the mid-70's, but both bands dissolved fairly quickly. Undaunted, he began to tour the English cabaret circuit in the hopes of raising enough cash to record a demo. That work and the subsequent demo tape, caught the ear of a producer at the A&M label and Jackson went off to form a band.

The recording of Look Sharp! took place during the Fall of 1978 and the Spring of 1978 and the result was a mash up of New Wave and punk that invoked comparisons Graham Parker, Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe. "Is She Really Going With Him" was released as a single in the fall of 1978 to little fanfare. Singles for "Sunday Papers" and "One More Time" were issued in February and May of '79 and the response was still minimal.

Thankfully, Look Sharp! - on the power of those three singles and terrific album tracks like the title song, "Baby Stick Around", "Pretty Girls" and more - managed to persevere and make the Top 20 in the US despite only getting to spot #40 on the UK album charts. "Is She Really Going Out With Him" was reissued as a single and became a worldwide hit on its' second effort.

Buoyed by the reissue of that single, the power of the debut material on Look Sharp!, Jackson and his band headed back to the studio to record a new batch of songs that would become I'm The Man, which hit streets in October of 1979. That duo of LPs not only make for an impressive start to Jackson's career, but one hell of a year for any artist.

Because Look Sharp! sold in droves and appealed to both new wave and punk fans, it remains plentifully available. Copies in very playable condition seem to be available at almost any shop you care to visit and it often finds a home in the dollar bin. It's worth far more than a buck or two and I'm The Man is a often a steal in the same price range. Maybe this Dollar Bin Darling could even lead you to a double dip.

Dollar Bin Darlings: Buck Owens & The Buckaroos - Tiger By The Tail

Dollar Bin Darlings is a regular column wherein we profile a record you can likely pick up in your local store's bargain bin, or maybe even at a nearby thrift shop. In our first installment, we feature a dandy from Buck Owens.

If you're of a certain age, you probably think immediately of TV's Hee Haw when you hear the name Buck Owens. Beginning in 1969, Owens was one of Hee Haw's co-hosts for more than fifteen years, but long before that he and his backing band, The Buckaroos were a powerhouse of country music and one of the primary architects of the Bakersfield Sound, perhaps most famously by writing and performing "Act Naturally" before the Beatles covered it and turned it into a rock and roll hit.

In a six year period, spanning from 1964 to 1969, Owens & The Buckaroos released a torrent of something like 18 albums and amassed a catalog that only legends can even dream of. One of the true highlights of that golden era is the 1965 release Tiger By The TailBuoyed by a cracker jack rhythm section and the lead guitar lines and tight harmony vocals courtesy of Don Rich, the 12 tracks breeze by in less than a half an hour and pack tale after tale of heartbreak, woe and sorrow, but not without a bit of a ruckus.

The title track was written by Buck Owens and Don Rich in the back seat of a car after they had spotted an Esso gas station sign that featured a tiger and the phrase, "Put A Tiger In Your Tank". Owens jotted down the phrase "Tiger by the tail", he and Rich then began trading chords and lyrical suggestions and within minutes they had crafted a pop country gem.

Much of the Buck Owens discography can be found in bargain bins high and low because of the sheer volume of albums he sold during his heyday, and while almost any of those is worth a buck or two, if you're just getting started with Buck Owens & The Buckaroos, there seems no better place to start than with 1965's Tiger By The Tail.