Sep 07

The Freaky Trigger Top 100 Tracks Of All Time: No. 52, Joe Jackson – It’s Different For Girls

FT/5 comments • 2,114 views

DIFFERENT FOR GIRLSLook over there! Where? There in wikipedia where it tells you that Joe Jackson has been putting out records (but not cigarettes) constantly since the late 70s. Not just those two songs once. Yes JJ is one of those unfortunate artists that you know more of their songs than you realise. “Stepping Out” that was him too — a song I know very well, but didn’t even know the title or that it was by him until 20 minutes ago. (Go find it on youtube.) But that was later, smoother 80s JJ — you don’t get more dinner-party-smooth than playing piano for Suzanne Vega, and Stepping Out is even on one of the GTA soundtracks – so perhaps the right phrase is “Mondeo Pop”. If it is I have to insist there are no pejorative connotations. Good, that’s settled.

Anyway. Earlier in 79/80, It’s Different for Girls, and Is She Really Going Out With Him?. These merge into one another in my head. Partly because, well , they do sound the same (they do!), but also because they are in a particularly malleable bit of my memory (someone find me a JJ megamix plz!). The late 70s was the environment that formed my own pre-teen musical tastes, and they were part of the furniture. Everyone knew these songs. Well in the UK – IDfG didn’t chart or wasn’t released in the US despite being his (still) highest charting single in the UK. Shame.

These two songs have a similar tone too — a ‘reportage’ sense of conversation. Something that seems prototypical of my favourite sort of indie — mid 80s shambolic uk guitar indie. “Relationship” conversations overheard/reported or from a dissociated 1st person is key to the songs of David Gedge for one. There is a strong “IT’S NOT FAIR” sulky injustice in common too.

Though ISRGOWH? is clearly a ‘what a bitch!’ conversation between Joe and his gang of mates (in which you are included), IDfG is more ambiguous and more generous to the ladies. It’s not certain how the narrator relates to the people in the song — he could be repeating what he overheard at a bus shelter, or he could be, more conventionally, the bloke in the story. But then that story is non too clear either:

“Don’t you know that it’s different for girls!? [sez lady presumably] You’re all the same”

Women, eh? Bless them. It’s as if they were, i don’t know, from another planet or something — as if Men were from Ceti Alpha Six, and Women were from Ceti Alpha Five. And guess what? THIS is Ceti Alpha Five! Because a close look at the verses can seem to imply a reversal of stereotypes — that it’s the girl here who is just out for no-strings ‘fooling around’. Or, looked at another way, perhaps she’s saying she just wants to be friends. WHO CAN BLOODY TELL WITH WOMEN?

And perhaps that’s also the point. Negotiations are fraught when you don’t speak the same language. (Just like that episode of Star Trek where Picard… why do i keep coming back to star trek??) And because the title is one of those unreasonable trump-card lines to which there is no comeback, it’s a win-win — the boys get to sulk (yay, so indie) and the girls get to feel good (yay, so empowered).

†Unclear as it is, the story here has little in common with the film of the same name — Tony ‘TV drama’ Marchant’s transgender rom-com. You ‘eard. Being generous you could draw a gender role-reversal parallel. I don’t want to know about Jo Brand’s book of the same name. But the wide appropriation of the phrase in titles and headlines does make me wonder if JJ was the first to the presses of popular culture with it.


  1. 1
    Pete on 14 Sep 2007 #

    The full tracklisting for this tribute album:

    1. Is She Really Going Out With Him? / Elaine K
    2. Happy Loving Couples / The German Art Students
    3. Look Sharp! / Lisa Mychols
    4. Got The Time / Beth Thornley
    5. Got The Time / Fabulous Disaster
    6. On Your Radio / Fiona Lehn
    7. It’s Different For Girls / Maxine Young
    8. Another World / Idle Mirth
    9. Steppin’ Out / Essra Mohawk
    10. Breaking Us In Two / Whitney Mccray
    11. Be My Number Two / Shanghai Sky / Amy Fox
    12. Home Town / Mary Lee’s Corvette
    13. Sea Of Secrets / Alice Lee
    14. Take It Like A Man / Darkblueworld

  2. 2
    Marcello Carlin on 14 Sep 2007 #

    Nice to see Essra Mohawk’s still going. I’d be interested to hear her track.

  3. 3
    Alan on 14 Sep 2007 #

    if you click through the album cover image the site has samples of each track.

  4. 4
    Brian on 25 Sep 2007 #

    I saw JJ in Tornoto, a few years back. It was not planned and I ended up going on the spur of the moment.

    I don’t regret it. Although I don’t like all of his material he was surrouned by A-1 musicians ( about 10 of them , I recall ) and it was a very , very good show that highlighted his abilities as a writer, musician and band leader. So good was the show, in fact , that the ” hits ” seemed like a cosy dessert after a substantial main course.

    Sorry for the food metaphor – it’s lunch time over ‘ere…

  5. 5

    Woah this site is spectacular i like understanding your site content. Sustain the great artwork! You understand, many person’s feel the need around with this info, you can assistance these individuals greatly τσιγαρο ηλεκτρονικο τιμη.

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)


Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page