Secret Single: Joe Jackson, “The Harder They Come”

A&M Records was a fun label during their time of existence. They always had unique ideas for presentation like 10-inch album versions of The Police’s Reggatta De Blanc and Oingo Boingo‘s debut EP. They released a picture single of “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” and “De Doo Doo Doo De Dah Dah Dah” on a slab shaped like a badge. Later down the line, they put out the Carpenters cover collection If I Were a Carpenter as a 7-inch box set.

The A&M artist that seemed the most amenable to creative formats was Joe Jackson. Look Sharp came out in a special 10-inch version, I’m the Man had the 7-inch box, and we also were privy to this, a 45-rpm EP highlighting the band’s cover of Jimmy Cliff’s “The Harder They Come.”

The cynical might say that this was just a way of getting fans and other freaks to part with more money for albums they probably already bought, and that might be true. “Double-dipping” is not a new concept for record labels and other associated interests, but there seemed to be a real desire to do something a little bit special with these packages. This EP is a good example as none of the songs on it were from one of Jackson’s albums of that time. They’ve all, over the years, wound up on compilations but the goal of releasing a 45 that didn’t explicitly try to sell an album, but stood on its own, was a dare.

The band consisted of Jackson, Graham Maby (bass), Gary Sanford (guitars) and Dave Houghton (drums). These tracks, it is assumed, were recorded during the sessions that produced the reggae-centric Beat Crazy! album released in late-1980. The EP represents the last effort from this band formulation until 2003’s reunion offering, Volume 4
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There are few artists who attempted three track singles-as-EPs; Elton John did it a couple times and Genesis released the Paperlate EP in the UK with “You Might Recall” and “Me and Virgil” on the flip side. In the US, “Me and Virgil” was stripped off and the standard single was used by Atlantic Records to sell the Three Sides Live album. All three of the Paperlate EP tracks and two more B-sides comprised that fourth, non-live side of the set. When cassette singles came into existence, with CD singles not far behind, the specialness of having more than two songs on an offering like that was gone. Both mediums offered a semblance of limitlessness to their running times, so neither seemed like such a big deal.

A Side – The Harder They Come

B Side – Out Of Style, Tilt

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