Thursday, February 15, 2007

Steppin' Out, by Joe Jackson

I moved to Tampa, Florida from Caracas in 1982 when I was 12 years old. During that first year in such an utterly new (suburban, isolated, comparatively dull) city, MTV was my translation machine. I would sit for hours on the weekends in front of a big screen TV watching seemingly endless loops of that brilliant channel. The list of videos was limited but this allowed me to get to know certain favorite songs intimately.

I recently rediscovered this song by Joe Jackson, which I hadn't heard in nearly two decades. I had never bought the album, nor had I thought too much about this song in recent years. But via YouTube, I stumbled across it a few months ago and I'm now enthralled by Jackson's piano playing, so sweetly underscored by the hectic bass lines and polished background voices. And the storyline for the video, with the maid's fantasy of a glamorous night fed by the desire to escape her proletarian situation, the debonair poet returning from his night out with the heiress, inspired by the echo of Jackson's song on the piano keys, the quick shots of taxi cabs on Manhattan streets, a wealth of images and melodies.

The song convinces me of the indelible power a single can have on us, a track you feel like playing over & over. Is the piano player a ghost in this video? Who is dreaming, the maid, the debonair poet, Jackson, the viewer? And who else could the protagonist of this video be but New York City, cosmopolitan greetings.


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