”Is She Really Going Out With Him?” is the track that put Joe Jackson on the musical map. Released as a single in the fall of 1978, the song became a Top Twenty hit on both sides of the Atlantic. To mainstream ears, the songs distinct humor threatened to reduce the track to odd novelty status, encouraged no doubt by Jackson’s talky narrative verses that describe the boy/girl laws of attraction with a string of priceless quips. To a soft seesaw rhythm of plunking guitar and bass, Jackson uncorks one of the great opening lines in pop, “Pretty woman out walking with gorillas down my street”, immediately setting a vibe of cool indignation. As Jackson would go on to prove throughout his brilliant debut album, the nervy New Wave/Pub Rock hybrid Look Sharp!, he is a master of capturing mood and meaning through minor detail, much like a practiced short story writer, as he coos the rest of the verse with a mixture of hurt and bemused detachment, “From my window I stare as my coffee goes cold / Look over there (where?) / There, there’s a girl I used to know / She’s married now or engaged or something so I am told”. The song also manages to avoid being crushed under the weight of its own wit by kicking into a strong and emotionally compelling chorus, the sound filling with clean guitars and tight bass and drum groove set to a gently rolling rhythm as lush vocals ask, “Is she really going out with him? / Is she really going to take him home tonight? / Because if my eyes don’t deceive me there’s something going wrong around here” In a short bridge section, we get a glimpse of Jackson jazz training, with a loose sweep of piano chords over a musical build that has Jackson venting some pent up frustrations as his vocal takes a more earnest stance, “But if looks could kill / There’s a man there who’s more down as dead/ ‘Cuz I’ve had my fill / Listen you! Take your hands from her hair! / I guess I’m mean around this scene / Hey, hey, hey…” ”Is She Really Going Out With Him” was just the tip of what was to follow, the lead salvo from one of the stand out albums of the late 70’s New Wave/Pop era.