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2023/4 Albums Thing 247 - “Mr. Joe Jackson Presents Max Champion In What A Racket!”

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Now here’s something different. Released in November 2023, the claim is that these are songs written in the late 19th and early 20th century by Music Hall artiste Max Champion. Max’s burgeoning career was cut short by the First World War, and his songs faded into obscurity. That is (it is claimed), until 2014, when Max Champion sheet music started to surface, first in Malta, then in England, and, intriguingly, in Belgium, where Max probably met his end in the trenches. By 2019 enough songs had been found for Joe Jackson to take it upon himself to record these “lost” Max Champion songs for posterity which is how we come to have this album. Jackson said of the songs “These were wonderful songs in their time, but they're surprisingly modern, too. Sometimes it's almost as if Max is speaking, from his London of the early 20th century, directly to us in the early 21st.”…wink-wink…

Now then, track 5 on side 2 is entitled “Health And Safety” and I can’t imagine that a songwriter whose career was cut short before the start of the 1920’s was writing odes to health and safety rules back then, we’re there any? Which kinda puts the kibosh on the idea that these are period songs…or does it ?

Whatever the authenticity questions, Mr. Jackson has conjured Max Champion to existence and has written him a pretty convincing set of early 20th century music hall tunes, from songs about how much he hates participating in sports to the maudlin tearjerker about his dear old Mum and ribald ditties jam packed with double entendres (a “French” phrase which hasn’t been commonly used in France for centuries BTW). The only thing I can liken it to is Tommy Steele belting out “ Flash Bang Wallop What A Picture” in the musical “Half A Sixpence”.

If you’re expecting “Is She Really Going Out With Him” or “ Steppin’ Out” then forget it, that Joe Jackson ain’t here. The cockernee accent is turned up to 11 (which is weird as he’s from Portsmouth) and if you were played this without being told who was singing I’m pretty sure Joe’s name wouldn’t even cross your mind. 

The Sporting Life - https://youtu.be/5WGQjNXxDT4?si=AGjnxpo1YhbDoHa8

WHAT A RACKET! - The Documentary - https://youtu.be/sLN9OehqnrY

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