Tuesday, June 28, 2016

"Memphis" by Joe Jackson

Song#:  1702
Date:  11/26/1983
Debut:  94
Peak:  85
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Jackson's Night & Day would the biggest charting album of his career (#4) thanks in part to the #6 showing of the single "Steppin' Out." Around this time, film director James Bridges approached Jackson about the possibility of him writing music for an upcoming project. Bridges wrote a script title Mike's Murder specifically for Debra Winger (Bridges had directed her in Urban Cowboy) and it was given the go-ahead by the studio. Jackson said yes to the project and wrote songs and instrumentals to be used in the film. Unfortunately, after a re-edit of the film, most of Jackson's music was removed and replaced with a score by composer John Barry. Regardless, the record company still forged ahead and issued his songs as a soundtrack to the film. This song was selected for release as a single to promote the album. It didn't get very far and neither did the soundtrack. It didn't help that the film was a box office dud. Jackson would rally back with his next studio album.

ReduxReview:  If Joe Jackson collaborated with The B-52's, I think this is what it might sound like. That beat and the surf-ish keyboard riff is straight out of the B's playbook. It makes for an interesting track, but not necessarily a good single. With Jackson practically rapping and just an emphasis on "Memphis!," there is not much for a pop radio listener to cling on to. I like this song and its quirkiness, but it's just not in the same league as Jackson's other classic singles.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  After working with Debra Winger on 1980's Urban Cowboy, director James Bridges set out to write a script specifically for Winger. She signed on for the lead role and filming began early in 1983. Bridges' original cut of the film had the story being told in reverse chronology with Joe Jackson's music being used as the score. The movie was completed and shown to test audiences. It did not go well. This gave the studio pause and they were also concerned that audiences would not understand the reverse timeline aspect. The issues caused the studio to cancel the film's original release date in order to make fixes. In the meantime, another film that Winger had completed was quickly becoming a major hit - Terms of Endearment. With her soaring popularity and Oscar nod for that film, the studio moved to get Mike's Murder out. The new version of the film put the story in a regular timeline and composer John Barry was brought in to do some score work to enhance certain scenes. Most all of Jackson's music was removed from the film with a couple of his songs being used in the background during some scenes. With Jackson at a career peak, his label (A&M) made an unusual move and went ahead and issued Jackson's full score and marketed it as both a soundtrack and as Jackson's new LP, even though most of the music would not be heard in the movie. This was done way in advance of the film's new release date set for March of 1984. Although Jackson's album didn't do very well, it still did better than the actual film which completely bombed at the box office.


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