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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Michael, Farrah, Ed

Just this month, a friend of mine bought me the 1979 Michael Jackson album Off the Wall on CD, after I noted that I only have it on vinyl and that I believed that Off the Wall was better than the album Thriller.

But my appreciation for Michael goes back earlier than that. The first album where Diana Ross "presents" the boys from Gary, Indiana to us was played often in our household. Not that I owned it; my sister did. On the surface, it was a little too childish to buy the music of a group led by a preteen. But I certainly did listen. I watched them on Ed Sullivan and eventually on their Saturday morning cartoon show. (In Gordon's tribute to MJ, he picked a fine song from that debut album.)

But it was the second collection, ABC, that won me over. Not just the title song - "Sit down, girl, I think I love you" - but especially The Love You Save. I can competently sing every vocal part of that song - save for Michael's. My sister got the third album, cleverly titled "Third Album", and the fourth. I once requested on my favorite radio station of the 1970s that the DJ play Maybe Tomorrow, but she cut it off before that great call and response at the end.

I went away to college, appreciating what I had heard, but they left my consciousness until Dancing Machine in 1974, which I simply could not resist. Ultimately, I picked up that 1976 anthology.

There was this Andy Rooney special circa 1978 who did a riff on who was famous and who was not. Paul McCartney was famous; Michael Jackson, to his mind, was not. That would certainly change.

1979's Off the Wall would sell sell over seven million copies domestically. But Michael's commercial growth was stalled because MTV wouldn't play MJ's music, including the new (1982) Thriller; not their demographic. That is to say, too black. Columbia/Epic said, Fine, we'll take off our OTHER artists from MTV; MTV capitulated. Given the way that MJ made MTV, and vice versa, it seems unbelievable now.

Every teenaged girl i knew thought that Michael was so "cute". For whatever reasons, Michael's appearance began to morph, all the weird stuff began happening. Seriously, I think the vitiligo, the skin disease that I also have messed with his head as much as his reportedly abusive father Joe. But I'm not going there. I choose to remember Michael as this force so powerful that on the Motown 25 special, he performed two non-Motown songs, mesmerizing the audience with his moonwalk, and forever stamped his ticket as a pop legend.
I hardly ever saw Charlie's Angels. I know watched one episode at my parents' house in Charlotte, NC that first season; I think it was the now infamous prison episode. When I bought a notebook with Farrah's famous red bathing suit on the cover, I said I was being ironic; well, maybe. Used that notebook as a journal and I still have it, actually. She showed that she could act in The Burning Bed, which I did see.

So, I didn't have a great deal invested in Farrah the icon. But her very public fight with cancer and her dogged determination to tackle it was admirable, if a little uncomfortable.
I always felt a little sorry for Ed McMahon. It was though, because he "lucked" into a high-profile, long-term job, he was somehow undeserving of it. Stuff happens; if he came onto a great gig, more power to him. Actually, I probably saw him more in his pitchman; he seemed ubiquitous in the roles, and I think it undercut his effectiveness. But he seemed like an OK guy. And in any case, he did not suffer the premature death of the others mentioned herein.
In more upbeat news:
Help Polyvinyl Save 10,000 Records From Destruction. I did and will be getting Of Montreal and other artists in return.
My niece Rebecca's in a Top 40 Cover band, Siren's Crush.
They've been in a battle of the bands and have made it the finals! The final competition is this coming Sunday night, June 28, 2009 at Viejas Casino, San Diego. 7 - 10 PM.
If you're in the area, please come out and show your support. If you can't make it, please send out good thoughts.



Nik said...

I'm a big fan of Of Montreal, I think you'll dig them.

SamuraiFrog said...

That's a nice write-up on Michael Jackson; I wasn't around for the Jackson 5, but my mom always liked them. I remember her telling me about catching them at a state fair when they were just starting out.

Rebecca Hickman said...

I like Off the Wall better than Thriller, too. Dancing Machine is my favorite Jacksons song.