Friday, June 26, 2009
"Mama-say Mama-sah Mama-kusan!"
Okay, I have to echo every person I hear in the media and say that Michael Jackson's music has been a soundtrack of my life. My sister Angela and I were hooked on his music from the first time we watched that oh so cheesy Jackson Five cartoon that came out in the early 70s, courtesy of Bass-Rankin, the folks who brought you Rudolph & the Snow Miser (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYI8M3aJzR8). Michael was so cute and so talented. I felt very disloyal, liking him more than I liked Donny Osmond. But there you have it. I even saw "The Wiz." Ouch.
Even the songs we didn't like somehow loom large for us. For example, Angela still tortures me by singing that creepy song "Ben," which was all about an evil rat. I'm serious. Look it up if you don't believe me. (http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=1408) I liked "Off the Wall" but it was the "Thriller" album that really got me. Ange was working at Miller Outpost at the time and used some of her money to get us MTV. This was 1982 and the video world was exploding. Sure bands like Journey just filmed themselves playing in an abandoned wherehouse, but cutting edge groups knew this medium could change everything. And Michael Jackson was the king.
I remember going to my girlfriend Amy's house in December 1983 when MTV was premiering the "Thriller" video/mini movie. We watched it over and over and had the dance memorized by the next day. [see guide below] I still do a great zombie and thoroughly embarrassed my kids whenever I hear that song. Or "Beat It." Or "The Way You Make Me Feel." Michael makes me dance. And dancing makes me happy.
And growing up in LA, Michael Jackson was more than just a pop legend, he was a local boy, a Jehovah's Witness who just might show up at your door with a "Watchtower" pamphlet, dressed in a yellow suit with a matching yellow umbrella even though it was June. [I am still so jealous that he came to Amy's house. She even got a picture of the back of his Jheri curled head.] I once fought over a pair of cowboy boots with his baby sister Janet, Miss Jackson if you're nasty (I won). Here is a photo from 1984 that captures the times so well. I'm flanked by Stephanie & Amy and we are on our way to go dancing at some skanky club in Santa Monica or Hollywood.
Of course his whole freakiness took over, surgery after surgery, monkeys and Elephant Man bones and then feeling so embarrassed for Lisa Marie Presley (She had no idea?!) and then the baby dangling incident. Seriously? Top it off with the whole Peter Pan lusting after the Lost Boys and he lost us. We distanced ourselves. We called him Wacko Jacko equated him with the National Enquirer. But alone in our cars, we still sang along, still wanted to HEAR his music if not SEE his unrecognizable face wearing masks long before the swine flu made them vogue.
Now that he's gone, it'll be easier to remember the good times.
One last link that kills me every time I see it. It's from the show Psych about a fake detective. This one they go undercover on an American Idolesque show and perform "Shout" from Tears for Fears but bring a Jacko quality to it. It reminds me why I stayed up all night watching MTV, waiting for "Beat It" to come on. Sham-on! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eS-MMBupQPw