OK so I haven’t posted much lately but I couldn’t let a momentous event like the death of Michael Jackson go by without posting could I? As many of you know the first gig I ever saw was the Jackson 5 at the Wembley Empire Pool (now known as the WembleyArena). I went with a school friend, Brian Taylor who later found fame as an incredibly talented drummer for the Tom Robinson Band and the Stiff Little Fingers amongothers. (Brian if by some weird twist of fate you’re actually reading this feel free to get in touch). The importance of the group to Motown was apparent in the choice of support acts; Junior Walker and the All Stars and a pre-fame Commodores.
Sadly I actually had a jacket similar to that, but it was the 70s!
If my memory serves me well the Jackson 5 had recently released the fabulous “Looking Through The Windows” single, which I still love to this day. In fact I still play a few Jackson 5 songs in my DJ sets. Most recently I ran “I Want You Back” next to “ABC“. Indeed the former has been the ring tone on my mobile phone for months now. Those early J5 songs were fantastically produced, supremely well written and perhaps most importantly performed so brilliantly. I think that at the time, perhaps because I was pretty much the same age as Michael Jackson (he was born in August 1958 and I was born in January 1959) the J5 were by far my favourite group. I’m not ashamed to admit either that I used to mime to those early singles in front of the mirror using my hairbrush (for in those days not only did I possess one I actually needed to use it) as a microphone. Go on there must be more of you who did that kind of thing, like maybe miming to Hendrix using your tennis racket as a guitar? Post a comment about it, let’s have a series of ‘Confessions Of A Teenage Mime Artist’
Mike on the mic
Anyway back to the late great Michael Jackson as the J5 was the first live act I ever saw (I’m not counting the dreadful covers bands that played in hotels when my folks took me to Spain as a youngster – “Guantanamera” in-bloody-deed!) I was always going to interested in them to some degree. I followed their recording career quite closely throughout the 70s. Stuff like “Dancing Machine” is excellent. Then they left Motown to join Epic and produced some great stuff there too, for me the best being “Enjoy Yourself” and “Show You The Way To Go“. I felt that from around 1972 until “Off The Wall” Michael’s solo releases were at best patchy. But when “Off The Wall” hit the record racks that has to be the moment he began to ascend the stairs to super-stardom. He probably reached a level of fame that no one else ever has. In terms of fame he was probably far bigger than the Beatles or Elvis ever were. That level of celebrity must bring such pressure to bear on the way you need to live your life and maybe that’s perhaps where things began to go a little awry. Now is not the time to discuss the allegations of child abuse and whether I believe he was guilty or not is irrelevant. But I will say that it might have been better if he wasn’t surrounded by ‘yes men’ who did nothing to control his excesses. Did those people really care about him or about their own wealth? I’ll let you make your own minds up on that one! What is undeniable though is that he was one of the most talented individuals ever to have graced the world of music. His contemporaries from an age perspective at least were Madonna and Prince. Both of them are also supremely talented, but on the same level as MJ? I don’t think so. I reckon that Michael would probably appear in the top tens of more music fans than any other artist. What do you think dear readers?
A still from the Billie Jean video
The ‘Off The Wall’ album was the first in what proved in my opinion at least to be a trilogy of his greatest recordings. This was followed by the juggernaut that was ‘Thriller’ and then by the underrated (in my opinion) ‘Bad’. After that I never felt he reached those artistic highs again and I’m not sure that he ever would, but now we’ll never know will we?
‘Thriller’ sold in excess of 50 million copies worldwide, I wonder how many more copies will be sold now he has died? Remember that people tend to buy lots of product of immediately deceased stars. Just recall all the hits that Elvis and John Lennon had after they died, in some cases many years after they died
A still from the Zombie dance in the Thriller video
I would like to think that history looks reasonably kindly on Michael Jackson. He was a truly talented individual and yes he had flaws, some allegedly quite serious. But then how many of us can say we are completely flawless?
So let’s celebrate MJ’s life with another view of his superb performance at the Motown 25th Anniversary show in 1983. Click here to see it. Additionally Mojo Magazine has an excellent collection of Jacko videos on their website, click here to see them.
Also did any of you ever see his collaboration with my favourite author, Stephen King? It was a short but superb movie called “Ghosts”
I happened to visit HMV at lunchtime today and oh boy have they moved quickly. Nothing but Jacko on the sound system and stacks of his CDs now occupying prime positions in the store whereas last week they were all in the sale items (2 for £10). I know that sales people are often seen as cynical but to do that so soon after the guy is dead really takes the biscuit!
The tributes from other celebrities are quite interesting too, here are some words from Celine Dion; “He was not only a talented person, but he was unique – a genius. It’s such a loss. It feels like when Kennedy died.” Now it’s kinda strange that she seems to remember how that felt when Kennedy was killed in 1963 and Ms Dion wasn’t born until 1968.
Thanks to Popbitch for the following joke I know that the usual crop of sick jokes are doing the rounds as well, but I actually found this one quite amusing, here goes, but don’t read it if you think you might feel just a little bit offended ok. You have been warned;
There will be a post-mortem today to determine which was the cause of death:
A) Sunshine B) Moonlight C) Good Times D) Boogie
And a bit of fun to try and cheer up Jacko’s fans, here is an excellent Bollywood version of Thriller (thanks again to Popbitch for pointing this one out too)
Overall the BBC coverage of Michael’s death has been excellent, check it out here.
As a bit of an epilogue to this story I actually received my 15 minutes of fame this morning (well more like 15 seconds actually) when I made a brief appearance on BBC Radio York (thank you to Liam for arranging that!) this morning to comment on MJ and how it was the first gig I’d ever seen.