So, last week’s brief tribute felt a bit inadequate. So here’s summat from the Getintothis archives which hopefully paints a more clearer picture of what the King of Pop brought to my world.
I always tell people that my fascination of music began with Prince. But this isn’t strictly true.
I started to understand the complexities and multi-faceted pleasures of music through Prince‘s genius, but it was the simple fun translated through Michael Jackson‘s pop that got me hooked in the first place.
Jackson’s 1987 record Bad, along with greatest hit compilations by the likes of Status Quo, ELO and Bananarama, were perhaps the biggest rotators on my cassette walkman as a seven-year-old.
But it was Jackson who was the indisputable King. He wasn’t just a pop star – he was an event.
I, like many other kids, was as equally attracted to his unique star quality as to his inimitable style and near-flawless music in the early to mid-80s.
There was something otherworldly to Jackson – long before he transformed into something truly interplanetary.
Bad was my undeniable favourite but Thriller, which has this past week celebrated the release of its 25th Anniversary Special Edition – Thriller 25 – a close second.
From the former, a staggering nine tracks were lifted as singles while seven were taken from Thriller, an LP which is – and by some distance – the highest selling record of all time.
But Jackson’s appeal was about far more than music.
His cinematic videos accompanying those singles meant Top of the Pops became the day’s ‘not-to-miss’ family gathering, with friends invited round to huddle in front of small television sets as fingers hovered at the ready to press the huge red record button on Betamax videos, so we could re-watch in earnest his latest delving into the spectacular.
News clips of his tours were eye-poppingly ridiculous; like somekind of musical magician he’d disappear in an instant from one side of a stadium to the other leaving audiences wowed by his ingenuity. And that was before you mentioned his bone-breaking dance manoeuvres.
It’s almost incredible to believe he actually graced Aintree Racecourse with his presence during the Bad sold-out world tour on September 11, 1988. A staggering 125,000 were there to witness that one-off. I’m told the day was farcical, lacking in organisation and poor sound quality – but just imagine if he attempted to do the same again today!?! It would probably be impossible – it’s bad enough on National Day.
Years later I infrequently dip in and out of his catalogue, with Off The Wall my particular favourite largely thanks to Quincy Jones‘ slick disco-funk orchestration.
Having revisited Thriller 25 it’s impossible to ignore the influence Jackson has had on today’s musical climate, with opener Gotta Be Startin’ Somethin’ a particular tour de force, infusing the electro of Daft Punk and the chrome-honed hip-hop of Dre and even Kanye West, who features on the assorted remixes and bonus tracks on Thriller 25.
By the release of Dangerous, I was still a fan and remember receiving the cassette along with Prince‘s ‘Symbol‘ and The Shaman‘s Boss Drum on Christmas Day 1991 – but my musical tastes had broadened significantly. And while Jackson’s music was still good in patches his erratic behaviour and the perpetual circus that accompanied him always overshadowed any musical significance.
And by then that’s what mattered more to me. Not his fading star…
* Sixteen months on and Michael Jackson the man is no more. I heard the news via text during the encore of Kasabian‘s gig at Liverpool University – and predictably thought it a wind-up.
Like, everything latter-day Jackson, this kind of news, particularly given the timing in the run-up to his projected 50 dates in London, seemed too fantastical to be true.
Sadly, as we left the gig, confirmation of the news was on everyones lips, not Kasabian’s fine performance – that simply faded to insignificance.
Over the last few days, watching the mountains of news, tribute and archive footage it has inevitably brought with it a voyeuristic fascination of a truly unique character, but more so it’s rekindled a passion and delight in music which is genuinely magical.
Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough
Top 5 Michael Jackson songs:
1. Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough (from Off The Wall)
2. Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ (from Thriller)
3. Rock With You (from Off The Wall)
4. Dirty Diana (from Bad)
5. Man In The Mirror (from Bad)
Originally printed February 27 2008.