Certain songs evoke a strong emotional response, not on any intellectual level, but instinctually, and instantaneously. The 1983 hit ‘Just Got Lucky’, by the Jo Boxers, is one such song. Wherever I am, whatever my prevailing state of mind, ‘Just Got Lucky’ cuts through the static, dissipates the fog, and leaves me feeling energised and refreshed. It has an inherent vibe, so overwhelmingly positive and vivacious, that the effect of the song echoes reassuringly for hours, even days after each listen. Twenty five years after the song first bowled me over with its ‘Boxer Beat’ brilliance, ‘Just Got Lucky’ still retains its charm, verve, and pop-powers of revival.
JoBoxers’ were led by English based, expatriate American singer Dig Wayne, backed by the Bristol based quartet of Rob Marche (guitar), Dave Collard (keyboards), Chris Bostock (bass), and Sean McLusky (drums). From 1980 to 1982, Marche, Collard, Bostock and McLusky had played together as the backing band Subway Sect, and became the house band at a popular venue near London’s Soho district, under the ‘club’ banner of ‘Cool Bop & Sing’. Mostly they backed singer Vic Goddard, but on occasion played with guest artists like Lady Blue, Bananarama, Johnny Britton (who they’d recorded a single with), and a young American vocalist by the name of Dig Wayne. Such was the popularity of Vic Goddard and the Subway Sect, that they took there regular show on the road, touring with the likes of Bauhaus, The Birthday Party, and Altered Images (see earlier post). Vic Goddard and the Subway Sect also captured their boundless performance energy on the 1982 album ‘Songs For Sale’, before parting ways later that year.
Over the ensuing months all four members of the Subway Sect ran a second hand clothing stall in a local street market, to supplement their income from music. Ex-pat American singer Dig Wayne, was likewise running a stall of his own. Wayne had previously fronted the popular and influential New York based rockabilly band, Buzz and the Flyers (as Buzz Wayne), in the late 70s, before making the move to England, looking to break into the U.K. music scene. Having jammed together on occasions at the ‘Cool Bop & Sing’, Wayne and the lads from Subway Sect, knew they complimented one another well. The quintet shifted their performance base to another local venue Ronnie Scott’s, taking on the new name JoBoxers. The band’s name came about when someone remarked that there seemed be a lot of boxers named Joe - hence JoBoxers.
The chemistry was electric, and JoBoxers soon took their club shows to a new level of surging high energy, soul fused pop. Dig Wayne’s raucous, powerful vocals complimented the tight, pulsating sound of the JoBoxer’s instrumental engine room. The band’s visual image evolved into that of working class, street urchin like personas (and occasionally attitudes followed), attired in caps, bracers, and working boots - not unlike a prior incarnation of Kevin Rowland’s Dexy’s Midnight Runners - see previous post - in fact JoBoxers were big fans of Dexy’s. JoBoxers earned their big break when they appeared on the BBC television series ‘Oxford Roadshow’. The talent scouts at RCA liked what they saw, and signed JoBoxers to a recording deal in late ‘82.
In early ‘83, JoBoxers hit the charts running with their debut single ‘Boxerbeat’. The upbeat song captured the best elements of the band’s live shows, and boasted a great horn section, augmented with the sounds of a live audience to complete the surging, energetic feel - possibly taking its stylistic inspiration from Dexy’s ‘Geno’. Following its February debut, ‘Boxerbeat’ ducked and weaved its way to #3 on the British charts during April ‘83. The Northern soul infused gem ‘Just Got Lucky’ hit the stores and the airwaves in May ‘83, and soon after hit the British charts. It boasted the same kind of irresistible vitality as songs like ‘Town Called Malice’ (Jam), ‘Come On Eileen’ (Dexy’s), ‘Radio’ (Members), ‘Only For Sheep’ (Bureau), ‘Rock The Casbah’ (The Clash), and ‘I’m A Wonderful Thing, Baby’ (Kid Creole & The Coconuts). But there was nothing ‘lucky’ about the fact that JoBoxers had mastered the formula for infectious, inspiring pop-soul - these guys had done the hard yards, rehearsing relentlessly, playing passionately, and earning their collective stripes. Written by bassist Chris Bostock and vocalist Dig Wayne, ‘Just Got Lucky’ got its just deserts, surging to #3 on the British charts in mid ‘83. It also became JoBoxers’ only hit Stateside (#36), and here in Australia, where it bounced on a ball of its own energy to #25 late in ‘83, eventually going on to rack up global sales in excess of 250,000 copies.
JoBoxers released their debut album ‘Like Gangbusters’ during September ‘83. Produced by Alan Shacklock, the set featured a strong selection of JoBoxers’ best numbers, sharpened and refined through their extensive live work. ‘Like Gangbusters’ notched up solid sales in the U.K. (#18), and peaked at #70 Stateside. The next single lifted, was the punk instilled track ‘Johnny Friendly’, reflecting JoBoxers broad musical palette. The single peaked at #31 on the British charts, but the fourth single ‘Jealous Love’, released late in ‘83, only managed a relatively disappointing #72.
JoBoxers took some time to record their sophomore album, and by the time of ‘Skin & Bone’s release in 1985, it seemed the band had lost much of the momentum amassed during 1983. Neither the album, nor lead out single ‘Is This Really The First Time (You’ve Been In Love)’, managed to crack the British charts, which proved to be a huge disappointment to the band. The band had already gone back to the studio to work on tracks for a third album, but before the sessions were completed JoBoxers threw in the towel, and called an end to their three year pop odyssey, but only as a collective.
The individual members all continued their commitment to music, at least initially. Drummer Sean McLusky joined guitarist Rob Marche in the indie-dance outfit If?, alongside Paul Wells. Bassist Chris Bostock joined Eurythmic Dave Stewart’s extracurricular enterprise The Spiritual Cowboys. Keyboardist Dave Collard continued to back singer Dig Wayne, on Wayne’s solo endeavours. In 1987, Wayne released his debut solo album ‘Square Business’, which spawned the single ‘Mastermind’, but when neither album or single made the charts, Wayne turned his creative focus to acting. Still based in London, he appeared in several West End stage productions, then in ‘95 moved back to the U.S. to pursue acting work in L.A.
To the where are they now file - drummer Sean McLusky works in band management and promotion; singer Dig Wayne still turns his hand to acting on occasion, but primarily he has returned to his first love of music. He now fronts the act Dig Wayne and the Chisellers, and regularly tours the U.S. and Europe. He released the album ‘Shack Rouser’ in 2006; after his stint with The Spiritual Cowboys, bassist Chris Bostock became a record producer, worked with The Style Council and Shakespear’s Sister, and started his own independent label. Bostock recently gained a degree in I.T. and started the official JoBoxers website; guitarist Rob Marche continued playing in his band Earl Brutus, in addition to much session work; after working with Dig Wayne, keyboardist Dave Collard toured and recorded with the likes of The The and Lisa Stansfield.
‘Just Got Lucky’ experienced a revival of sorts via its inclusion in the hit 2005 comedy film ‘The 40 Year Old Virgin’ (with Steve Carell). A 2006 anthology, titled ‘Essential Boxerbeat’, was released on Sony BMG, bringing renewed accessibility to the band’s earlier recordings. According to an interview with bassist Chris Bostock in 2007, the previously unreleased third JoBoxers’ album is being pieced together for a planned future release. The official JoBoxers website is worth checking out here: