ThURGHsday! #9 – Jools Holland

I took up piano much later in life than most people. I believe I was a Junior in high school. I had been listening to lots of synth bands by the time we bought a piano and I started taking lessons. In fact, that was why I wanted a piano in the first place, was to start to learn those synth songs that I loved.

I was drawn to the piano before that, however. My dad had the soundtrack to the movie The Sting, a 1930’s period piece with Paul Newman and Robert Redford. The music was mostly Scott Joplin ragtime tunes and I loved the elegance of the arrangements, coupled with the bounce of the melodies. And of course in the 70’s there was Elton John and Billy Joel, but by the time I saw Jools in URGH! (1982 or 83), both of them had moved on bigger, more full pop and rock arrangements than just the piano songs for which they were originally known.

The dawn of the 80’s also brought synth bands Devo (also in URGH!) and Ultravox to my ears. Neither band was mainstream in the USA, so I had to catch snippets of them on our local public access music video show, FM-TV (later called Teletunes).

Seeing Jools Holland in URGH! hammer out a boogie-woogie song on an electric piano in less than a minute was exhilarating. The lyrics tell of a boy who is in love, with Jools’ falsetto not quite hitting the right note towards the end, but that only lends to the charm.

I’m not sure what it says that a couple of my favorite performers in the film were solo acts (John Cooper-Clarke & Jools) or were such huge personalities out front (Klaus Nomi, Jello Biafra, Jim Skafish) that they dwarfed their backing bands to a degree. Just a sucker for the cult of personality, I guess.

Curiously, the version of “Foolish I Know” on the URGH! soundtrack is almost 2 minutes long – the song basically just repeats – and there’s a short intro by Jools where he says “Little song that might be on my next album…might not! But this is a jazz song! Written by me! Which I think is pretty good show, really!” I love that intro because it’s a little window into Jools’ confidence, up there by himself and seemingly loving it.

Where URGH! They Now?

Jools has been a staple of the BBC with his program “Later with Jools Holland” since 1992. I believe I first saw it on BBC America in the late 90’s. It’s a great show, each guest playing a song or two, with the stage “in the round” – all acts on various stages around the perimeter of the studio, where Jools does a quick spoken segue between acts and throws to the next band who plays live there on the spot, with the occasional interview with certain special guests.

Of course, Jools was a founding member of Squeeze and has played with all sorts of musicians over the years, both as guests on his records and him guesting on theirs. He’s been a television presenter in the UK, dating back to the early 80’s on other programs that I’ve not seen or heard of until I read his Wikipedia entry.

One day in the 80’s as I watched The Young Ones on MTV, I was surprised to see “that piano guy from URGH!” directing a band that included Stewart Copeland from The Police among others, doing a cover of Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”

Jools has always been the picture of cool in my eyes. Kind of a dorky, dapper guy with a lot of energy who is passionate about music and can play the hell out of the keyboards.


Last ThURGHsday! – Echo and the Bunnymen, “The Puppet”

Next ThURGHsday! – XTC – “Respectable Street”

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