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Jakko M. Jakszyk (born Michael Lee Curran on 8 June 1958 in Londonmarker, and universally known as "Jakko") is an English guitarist, singer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer (as well as being an occasional comedian and raconteur).

In addition to pursuing a solo career, he has collaborated with - or been a member of - a number of groups and solo musicians (including Level 42, Tom Robinson, The Lodgemarker, The Tangent and 21st Century Schizoid Band) and has had an extensive, well-respected career as a session musician.


Roots and childhood

Jakko's background is culturally and genealogically mixed. His birth mother was Irish singer Peggy Curran and his father was an unknown US airman. At 18 months of age, he was adopted by Norbert and Camille Jakszyk, both refugees from the Second World War (the former Polish, the latter French) who had settled in England. (Jakko would later reconstruct a complex family tale from all of this for his extended radio piece The Road to Ballina, which incorporated both Camille and Norbert's stories, an account of Jakko's own childhood and adolescence, and his subsequent search for his birth mother.)

Jakko has described his childhood as being unhappy. Despite his adoptive mother's love, there was frequent friction with his adoptive father (although the two appear to have reconciled later in life). Leaving home at a young age, Jakko vigorously pursued a musical career from his teenage years, having already developed a high level of skill on guitar (inspired as much by Allan Holdsworth and progressive rock musicians as by pop).

Early bands

By 1976, Jakko had already fronted the band Soon After which his self-confessed “dictatorial tendencies” ultimately reduced to a lineup of “two screaming lead guitars and a trumpet” (the latter played by ex-National Youth Jazz Orchestra member Ted Emmett). Performing “jazz/rock-inspired oddness”, Soon After managed to reach the finals of the 1975 Melody Maker National Rock/Folk competition (ultimately coming third to a heavy metal band featuring future Clash co-leader Mick Jones and to a big band featuring future top-ranking saxophone sessioneer Gary Barnacle). Jakko had subsequently toured with a “strange little band” and supported Camel, Stackridge, Judas Priest and others before joining a Tringmarker-based Canterbury-scene-inspired/progressive rock band called Synthesis.

64 Spoons (1976-1980) and Warren Harry

Jakko's first significant band was 64 Spoons which he joined as guitarist and lead singer in 1976 and which also featured Lyndon Connah (drums, keyboards), Tam Neal (keyboards, drums) and Andy Crawford (bass) plus Jakko's former Soon After bandmate Ted Emmett (trumpet, vocals).

Jakko initially found it difficult to commit to 64 Spoons, abruptly quitting the band after his first concert with them when he saw the opportunity to join Warren Harry’s punk/pop band (which had the advantage of already having a recording deal with Bronze Records). He later admitted that he'd made this choice entirely for mercenary reasons and that he'd soon regretted it as the music was entirely unrewarding and the success he'd hoped for failed to materialise. By 1977 he was back in 64 Spoons. (During his absence, Ted Emmett had covered as lead singer.)

Now committed to the band, Jakko dedicated himself to working with them, co-writing much of the material with the songwriting core of Connah and Neal. The band continued for another three years, working hard on a cleverly-arranged and tightly-drilled blend of pop, progressive rock, jazz and comedy (typified by their single "Ladies Don't Have Willies"). Further boosted by an exuberant and funny live show, they proved popular with audiences but failed to gain the right kind of record deal or media breakthrough. Jakko subsequently described them as "the wrong band at the wrong time".

By 1980, perpetually passed-over and broke, 64 Spoons' collective confidence began to disintegrate. The band went through some changes in name and hairstyle plus a line-up adjustment in which Emmett was ousted due to his instrument being "unfashionable" (ironically, he immediately joined the then-highly fashionable The Teardrop Explodes). Following a particularly unsuccessful series of gigs in the North-West of England, the band split up. Their only album - Landing on a Rat Column - was eventually released in 1992, many years after it was recorded.

All five members of 64 Spoons went on to satisfying musical careers of one kind or another. Tam Neal diversified into theatre music, Andy Crawford returned to playing flute and performing baroque music, Ted Emmett played with Joan Armatrading and in jazz bands, and both Lyndon Connah and Jakko established themselves as successful pop session players. Jakko and Connah would remain occasional collaborators on more challenging projects outside the session world, and both were subsequently members of Level 42 (although at different times).

The 1980s

Solo career

In 1980, Jakko began a fitful (and initially ill-fated) solo career, releasing a variety of singles over the next few years on labels such as Chiswick Records and Stiff Records. His debut solo album, Silesia, was recorded for Chiswick in 1980 but shelved at the last minute due to the label going bankrupt when it was at printing stage.

A subsequent album recorded for Stiff in 1983-85 suffered the same fate, as did Jakko's third attempt (this time for the Virgin-associated MDM Records in 1986-87). Some of this "lost" material resurfaced on Jakko's 1996 compilation album Are My Ears On Wrong?, and Silesia was briefly issued on CD in the late 1990s.

Sessions and sideman projects

In parallel to his efforts at a solo career, Jakko established himself as a well respected sessions musician, playing on many contemporary pop albums and tours during the 1980s including work with Swing Out Sister, Sam Brown ("Stop") and Italian singer Alice.

In 1980, Jakko became a regular collaborator with one of his early heroes - keyboard player Dave Stewart. He joined Stewart in the band Rapid Eye Movement (1980-1981) and contributed to Stewart's duo work with Barbara Gaskin. Jakko also played a prominent role on the Stewart-produced Neil's Heavy Concept Album (a 1984 spin-off from the Young Ones comedy series). During this period, Jakko also met one of his other regular collaborators in the shape of up-and-coming drummer Gavin Harrison (ex-Renaissance, and a future member of both Porcupine Tree and King Crimson).

Jakko subsequently worked with various musicians from the art-rock world - Van der Graaf Generator's saxophonist David Jackson (for whom he played on 1982's The Long Hello Vol. 3) and the maverick songwriter Peter Blegvad (ex-Slapp Happy/Henry Cow). In 1987, he joined Blegvad and fellow ex-Henry Cow member John Greaves in the short-lived band project The Lodgemarker (which also featured Blegvad's brother Kristoffer and drummers Anton Fier (Golden Palominos) and Gavin Harrison.

Also during 1987, Jakko spent some time living and working in Los Angeles (with producer Larry Williams). This period was notable for a ludicrous encounter with Michael Jackson.

During the 1980s, two Jakko songs ("Behave Yourself" and "Don't Blame Me") ended up being performed by The Nolans. This was the result of a typically convoluted set of circumstances following Jakko's refusal to let the then-unknown Whitney Houston record one of the songs.

The Kings Of Oblivion

In 1987 Jakko and Gavin Harrison recorded their first significant collaboration - a Frank Zappa pastiche album called Big Fish Popcorn (released on the Bam Caruso label) recorded under the name of The Kings Of Oblivion. The liner notes claimed that the album was in fact the first and second sides of a "lost" 1967 double LP recorded in the back of an auto shop. Both musicians used ridiculous pseudonym (Jakko as "Mario 'Fat Man' Vanzetti" and Harrison as "Helmo 'Hairdo' Hudson").

The album has been compared to "the absolute worst of Frank Zappa or Ween" but also dubbed "inspiring".


Jakko and Harrison's work on The Kings Of Oblivion project led to a more serious band in the shape of Dizrhythmia, a project mixing jazz, folk, art-rock and Indian music. Jakko served as main songwriter, singer, guitarist (including the use of "sitar guitar"), flute player and occasional keyboardist, with Harrison on drumkit, former Pentangle member Danny Thompson on double bass and Pandit Dinesh on tabla and Indian percussion.

Dizrhythmia's self-titled album was released in 1988 for the Antilles label, and featured a wealth of guest musical talent. In addition to contributions from Lyndon Connah, Dave Stewart and pedal steel guitarist BJ Cole, Pandit Dinesh had brought in several highly-regarded Indian classical musicians such as Sultan Khan. The album gained good press attention but the band - for unexplained reasons - did not follow up on this.

The possibility of a second Dizrhythmia album has frequently been raised during the intervening years, but not pursued (apparently due to the busy schedules of all four core members).

The 1990s

Tom Robinson and Level 42

In 1990, Jakko recorded an album with Tom Robinson. This was released (credited to both musicians) as We Never Had It So Good and gained very positive press attention.

This in turn brought him to the attention of the highly successful Britfunk band Level 42, who had lost guitarist Alan Murphy a few years previously and had subsequently worked with Allan Holdsworth for studio-only recordings. In addition to his own Holdsworthian guitar skills, Jakko's knowledge of pop music (and his extra abilities as keyboard/flute player and singer) made him a natural choice to be recruited for the band.

Jakko played with Level 42 between 1991 and the band's split in 1994. Although politics ensured that he never performed on a Level 42 studio album with them and was never a core member of the band, he remained as their consistent live guitarist on all tour dates during that time. He also wrote material with the band, which was unfortunately shelved immediately after initial recording when the band decided to reunite with their former drummer/songwriter Phil Gould. Following Level 42's second split with Gould, Jakko brought in Gavin Harrison as drummer to fulful tour obligations.

Solo career resumed

Around the time of Level 42's disbandment, Jakko was introduced to three ex-members of Japan - Richard Barbieri, Mick Karn and Steve Jansen - who were considering forming another band following the disintegration of their post-Japan project Rain Tree Crow. Although the musical combination of the four players worked well and led to a lasting musical friendship, it did not result in a full-time band project. The results of the collaboration were released - under Jakko's name - as the 1994 EP Kingdom of Dust, on the new art-rock/progressive rock label Resurgence.

In 1995, Jakko's first (formally released) solo album, Mustard Gas and Roses - was released on Resurgence. A mixture of sharp, intelligent pop songs and progressive/art-rock instrumentals, it featured more contributions from Karn and Jansen, as well as guest appearances from Danny Thompson, Gavin Harrison, Sam Brown and BJ Cole. In 1996, this was followed up by another Resurgence release - Are My Ears On Wrong? - which compiled material from Jakko's 1980s singles and previous "lost" albums.

Radio productions (The Road To Ballina & The Church of Lanza)

Also in 1996, Jakko wrote and recorded the autobiographical The Road To Ballina, a mixed music-and-spoken word project exploring his own family history and his bittersweet search for his birth mother. In addition to Jakko's own account of growing up as an adoptee, the work included extensive contributions from both of his adoptive parents relating to their often harrowing wartime experience in Europe as refugees and conscripts and as people under occupation. Several of the recordings were conceptually arranged (including specially made recordings of Norbert Jakszyk recorded in Auschwitz-Birkenau).

The Road To Ballina was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in December 1996 - a slightly shorter and compressed version was released on Resurgence in early 1997. The music tracks featured Gavin Harrison and two of Jakko's former Level 42 colleagues (Mark King and Gary Barnacle).

In March 1999 BBC Radio 3 broadcast a second Jakko piece called The Church of Lanza, which used many of the same techniques as The Road To Ballina. The piece dealt with the nature of fame and celebrity - focussing on "the deification of stars who die young" - and used the life of Mario Lanza as its focal point (consequently incurring the wrath of a number of outraged Mario Lanza fans. The Church of Lanza remains unreleased on commercial CD.

Guest musician

During this period, Jakko maintained his connection with Jansen, Barbieri and Karn (adding significant contributions to Karn's 1996 album The Tooth Mother and Barbieri's 1996 Indigo Falls project). In 1998, he sang lead vocals on three tracks on Pip Pyle's 7 Year Itch album (as well as contributing guitar, flute and production skills).

2000 onwards

21st Century Schizoid Band (2002-2007)

In 2002, Jakko was instrumental in setting up the 21st Century Schizoid Band, which specialised in performing the 1960s and 1970s repertoire of King Crimson and featured several ex-members/associates of the band - Ian McDonald, Mel Collins, Peter Giles and Michael Giles (the latter later replaced by Ian Wallace). Jakko fronted the band, playing guitar and singing.

Over a five year period, the 21st Century Schizoid Band released a couple of live albums and played occasional tours in the UK, North American and Japan. Though well received by audiences, the band came to a halt circa 2006 due to lack of funding and difficulties in finding worthwhile arrangements for tours. Wallace's death in 2007 has rendered it further unlikely that the band will reform.

Solo career

Jakko spent several years assembling another solo album, which was eventually released as The Bruised Romantic Glee Club in 2006. Hailed as his most accomplished work to date, the album included a remarkable sweep of guest performers assembled from the full length of Jakko's career and associations. As well as contributions from long-standing allies Lyndon Connah, Gavin Harrison and Dave Stewart, the guests included Danny Thompson (double bass, from Dizrhythmia and Pentangle); Pandit Dinesh (tabla and vocals, from Dizrhythmia); Mark and Nathan King (bass guitar, both Level 42); King Crimson members Robert Fripp (guitar), Peter Sinfield, Mel Collins (woodwind) and Ian Wallace (drums); bass player Hugh Hopper (Soft Machine) and drummer Clive Brooks (Egg).

Once again, the album release was blighted by bad luck and the collapse of the record company releasing it, although the album is scheduled for re-release on the King Crimson-associated record label Panegyric in 2009 or 2010.

The Tangent

In 2007, Jakko joined British progressive rock band The Tangent for their album Not as Good as the Book (released 2008). Following one guest appearance and one full live show at the Summers End festival in September 2008, he resigned from the band.


Session work done during this period included work with Akiko Kobayashi.

Soundtrack work

Jakko has written and performed title and incidental music for the following television programmes:

  • Jo Brand's "Through The Cakehole"
  • Chef (BBC - music for all series)
  • Hard Cases (Central TV)
  • Clive James' Postcard From Bombay
  • In Dreams (BBC TV movie)
  • Birds Of A Feather (BBC - music for one season and a Christmas special)
  • Rugby World Cup coverage (ITV)
  • various documentaries and series for the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet

He has also composed orchestral scores for the CD-ROM games World War II and The War in the Pacific.

Work in comedy and acting

Jakko has had a sideline in comedy work parallel to his solo career (ranging from radio programmes to character work on television) and has spent some time as a member of the actor's union Equity.

His work as a character comedian has included playing the demented but fleet-fingered Italian guitarist Eduardo, a sidekick to comedy music duo Raw Sex (Simon Brint and Rowland Rivron). As Eduardo, Jakko appeared on the French & Saunders TV show in 1987, as well as being part of Raw Sex's subsequent theatre show at the Kings Head in Islington and three-week stint at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Jakko also impersonated Lindsey Buckingham in the French & Saunders TV parody of Fleetwood Mac.

In the BBC TV movie In Dreams (starring Lenny Henry and Bill Patterson), Jakko makes a cameo appearance as Michael Jackson's recording engineer. He has also appeared in the BBC sitcom Birds Of A Feather.

Under the pseudonym of "Grand Master Jellytot", Jakko produced the novelty hip-hop single "The Stutter Rap" (performed by "Morris Minor and the Majors", who included future comic star Tony Hawks). This record was a sizeable chart hit in 1987.

Private life

Jakko is married to model Amanda Giles (daughter of King Crimson/21st Century Schizoid Band drummer Michael Giles). They have several children and live in Hertfordshire, England.


Singles & EPs

  • "The Night Has A Thousand Eyes" / "Something Tells Me" (with David Jackson, 1982)
  • "Straining Our Eyes" / "Fall To Pieces" (with David Jackson, 1982)
  • "Grab What You Can" / "Tell Me" / "Would I Be The Same" / "I'd Never Have Known" (with David Jackson, 1982)
  • "Grab What You Can" / "I'd Never Have Known ; Chiswick Records DICE 14)
  • "Dangerous Dreams" / "Opening Doors" (with David Jackson, 1983; Stiff Records BUY 183)
  • "I Can't Stand This Pressure" / "Living On The Edge" (with David Jackson, 1984)
  • "I Can't Stand This Pressure" / "Living On The Edge" / "Cover Up" (with David Jackson, 1984)
  • "Who's Fooling Who" / "A Grown Man Immersed In Tin-Tin" (with David Jackson, 1984; Stiff Records SBUY 193)
  • Kingdom of Dust, Resurgence RES101CD, 1994


  • Silesia, Chiswick Records, 1980 (deleted prior to release - briefly available in 1990s as reissue)
  • Mustard Gas and Roses, Resurgence RES103CD, 1994
  • Are My Ears on Wrong?, Resurgence RES110CD, 1995
  • The Road to Ballina, Resurgence RES127CD, 1997
  • The Bruised Romantic Glee Club, Iceni ICNCD 2007

(with Tom Robinson)

  • We Never Had It So Good, 1990, later reissued as Blood Brother (Castaway Northwest CNWVP 001CD, 1997)


  1. ”Jakko – A Potted History” from Jakko’s homepage, retrieved 27 September 2008 – [1]
  2. 'Michael Jackson Likes My Shoes' - account by Jakko Jakszyk in "life stories section of website, accessed July 28 2009
  3. AMG review of Big Fish Popcorn, accessed July 29, 2009
  4. 'The Stutter Rap' - account by Jakko Jakszyk in "life stories" section of website, accessed July 28 2009

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