[Review] Joe Jackson: Mike’s Murder Soundtrack (1983)

The real mystery is why Joe Jackson’s soundtrack to the film didn’t appear in the film when it was released months later.

Kronomyth 6.0: The difference between night and day.

The film Mike’s Murder, like its titular character, was dead on arrival. By the time the movie was finally released in theaters, Joe Jackson’s songs for the film had already been in record stores for months. Mostly out of interest in Joe Jackson, I saw the film when it came to the local theater. I didn’t much care for the characters and was disappointed to find that the movie featured mostly songs from his last album, Night and Day. Apparently, Jackson liked the characters even less than me. Cosmopolitan, 1-2-3-Go (This Town’s a Fairground) and Laundromat Monday are some of the nastiest songs he’s ever written.

Musically, Mike’s Murder Soundtrack is a continuation of his last album, with the caveat that these songs feel like outtakes from the far-superior Night and Day. The second side features instrumentals including the 11-minute Zemio, which is one of his jazzier/proggier excursions to date. Jackson plays alto sax on a couple tracks, and the results are interesting enough to make you wish he released an entire album of instrumental jazz.

While it’s not one of Jackson’s better albums, Mike’s Murder Soundtrack is better than most soundtracks and nearly stands up as a proper solo album. Fans will certainly enjoy this music on some level, and a few of these songs (e.g., Moonlight, Breakdown) are quite pretty. Some have even championed this album as a lost classic, although I think that stems more from a nostalgia for this period of Jackson’s work than any intrinsic merit in the music. Honestly, even “Chinatown” (my least favorite song on Night and Day) is more fully realized than the songs on Mike’s Murder, and Memphis, which combines “Peter Gunn,” “Steppin’ Out” and “Gimme Some Lovin’,” may be the most embarrassing song he’s ever written.

Despite the mixed success, Jackson returned to film composition again for Tucker, this time earning a Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental Background Score. As a mix of songs and instrumentals, Mike’s Murder is the better bet to please Jackson’s pop fans. Unfortunately, A&M has yet to release this album on compact disc, so you’ll probably have to settle for an old vinyl or cassette copy. Or, you know, listen to it once on YouTube and move on with your life.

Original elpee version

A1. Cosmopolitan (4:36)
A2. 1-2-3-Go (This Town’s a Fairground) (3:00)
A3. Laundromat Monday (3:31)
A4. Memphis (4:44)
A5. Moonlight (4:21)
B1. Zemio (11:05)
B2. Breakdown (3:59)
B3. Moonlight Theme (3:25)

All songs written and arranged by Joe Jackson.

The Players

Joe Jackson (vocals, all keyboards, vibes, xylophone, percussion and alto sax), Sue Hadjopoulos (congas, bongos and percussion), Graham Maby (bass), Larry Tolfree (drums) with Joe Askew (Prophet V synthesizer programming). Produced by Joe Jackson; engineered by Brad Leigh, remix engineered by Phil Jamtaas, soundtrack executive producers: Jeffrey Gold and Becky Shargo.

The Pictures

Photography by Greg Gorman. Front cover photo by Peter Sorel. Art direction by Chuck Beeson. Design by Melanie Nissen.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette in September 1983* in the US and Canada (A&M, SP/CS-4931), the UK (A&M, AMLX-64931), Italy (A&M, CAM 64931), Japan (A&M, AMP-28071) and the Netherlands (A&M, AMLH-64931). Reached #64 on the US charts. (*First appeared on 9/3/83 issue of Billboard.)

  1. Re-issued on compact disc on January 31, 2006 in the US (Lilith, 103).

1 thought on “[Review] Joe Jackson: Mike’s Murder Soundtrack (1983)

  1. I have this on cd from Amazon and actually bought the movie on iirc vudu. It’s certainly surprising and probably risky for that Era. Using Debra wingers popularity at the time, it’s a stark scary movie like a precursor of David lynch’s Mulholland drive introducing the audience ie Debra wingers mainstream audience to the underbelly of drug dealers and gay hustlers.

    Thr ending to me is the real message. That ugly face home invader is what the pogroms were like and how terrified the victims must have been.

    I think Joe Jackson didn’t see that terror. I think he thought she was a bimbo. I love that song Cosmopolitan. I feel that the mate to this movie is Dream Lover. Kind of like pogrom Ukraine vs at home in Ukraine.

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