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Classic Album covers : Look Sharp! - Joe Jackson

Look Sharp! is the debut album by Joe Jackson, released by A&M records on January 5, 1979

Joe Jackson took himself fairly seriously back then. As well as the winklepickers, he had sharp creases in tapered black trousers, a pin-stripe jacket and a black-and-white polka dot tie - the ‘spiv’ look

Brian Griffin was a broke 31-year-old photographer when he took the picture. Armed with his Olympus OM-1 and with just two lenses to his name, he headed to his favourite London location

“The South Bank was like my studio at that time,” says Griffin, speaking from his riverside apartment in Rotherhithe further east along the Thames, the neighbourhood he’s based himself for the past 30 years. “I would use all the nooks and crannies. I’d met Joe at the Wimpy in Waterloo station and we walked to the Hayward Gallery. It was a sunny day and the light was peeping through the crevices. Joe was wearing white Denson winklepickers and a chalk-stripe suit. I just said to him, ‘Joe, can you stand there’, pointed the camera to the ground and I had the cover”

Joe Jackson : “I’d just bought these white shoes. At the time I wanted everything to be in black and white. Anyway, it was Brian Griffin’s idea to take a picture of the shoes. I think the first reaction was ‘You must be joking!’, closely followed by “Oh, all right then, what the hell!” I’m not sure if I ever liked the cover or thought that it represented the music”

Mike Ross, A&M Art Director at the time, disagrees : “Those shoes in that shaft of light say more about Joe Jackson than a picture of his face could ever say”

Twelve years later it was voted the 22nd best record cover of all time by Rolling Stone magazine, despite being one of the most simple music shots Griffin ever took. He went on to create many of the most celebrated cover images of the 1980s, for recording artists including Depeche Mode (A Broken Frame made number 75 on the Rolling Stone list), Kate Bush and Echo & The Bunnymen

Mike Ross again : “The US single sleeve for ‘Is She Really Going Out With Him?’ borrowed Joe’s shoes and recreated the shot to include a pair of girl’s shoes standing next to a pair of extremely scruffy suede boots. My reaction was of horror - good grief, how could you? - but I guess it was a compliment”

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