What Up Yo.
Michael Jackson. Baby, I grew up LOVING Michael.
I want to track it back to Beat It.
I listened to it over and over.
MICHAEL JACKSON BEAT IT
I was 8 when the album Thriller was released.
I had the tape and we, my brother sister and I, played it over and over.
Most kids in America did.
Most kids in the world did.
65 million album sales, it remains the best selling record of all time for a reason.
I’ve written my articles on classical music (Beethoven & Conductor Herbert Von Karajan), 80’s rock music (Van Halen), on alternative (90’s hard rock) music (Nirvana & Pearl Jam),
I’ve written about Brit-pop (Oasis & Blur), hip-hop (Kanye West, Beastie Boys & Eminem), rap (Run DMC)…
But pop music,…
With the exception of The Queen Of Pop, Madonna, not sure I have ever mentioned pop music before.
I just don’t dig on it or relate to it anymore.
To me, pop music is the equivalent of a Hollywood popcorn flick;
Mass produced nonsense for the masses.
MTV helped change (destroy) which artists can break through into the mainstream music industry and which can’t.
In the early days, You had artists like The Boss (Bruce Springsteen) and The Cars and Cyndi Lauper and Prince and The Police toying around with the new video format.
And that’s when Michael Jackson came along and changed everything.
Along with genius music producer Quincy Jones, they took over and made MTV come to them instead of the other way around.
The album Thriller remains one of those essential albums that you can listen to backwards and forwards.
“Beat It” featured guitar by a personal hero of mine, Eddie Van Halen, but before Beat It, there was Billie Jean
And I don’t mean the video, I mean the performance where Michael performed the Moon Walk for the first time live.
This was on March 25, 1983 during a broadcast of the speacial “Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever“.
Michael performwd Billie Jean in that special and closed it with a move that looked like he could glide across the stage by moving his feet in such a way you thought he was magically gliding.
I remember watching this video on my uncle Denis’s VCR, we played it and rewound it and played it over and over again.
You couldn’t believe what you were watching. It looked like Michael could perform magic by dancing.
MICHAEL JACKSON MOTOWN 30
This was the year of Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
Billie Jean, the video came first on MTV, like Cesar preparing to conquer, it was unleashed… beginning an assault on MTV that would ultimately bring them to his knees.
A haunting video with that thumping bass line and Michael lighting up the sidewalk every time he tapped on a piece of it.
MICHAEL JACKSON BILLIE JEAN
At this point, we had Beat It & Billie Jean.
He was yet to deliver his final blow to the new channel before conquering it forever.
“I want to turn into a werewolf.”
Landis wasn’t into making a music video. Luckily neither was Michael.
He wanteto to create a film.
Landis was down with that.
They would have to rush, time was of the essence.
And on December 2, 1983, my brother Derek and I sat in my grandmother’s living room watching MTV waiting all morning, begging her to let us watch that cursed channel…along with probably millions of people.
I don’t remember which VJ announced it, we knew them all.
But finally it was ready to premiere.
Our eyes were glued to the television as we were about to watch something we had never seen the likes of before:
Michael Jackson’s new 14 minute video
MICHAEL JACKSON THRILLER
There was a lot of racism on MTV before Michael and Prince. They deny this, but if you look back it’s pretty fucking evident.
They broke walls down & made it possible for future generations of artists of all races to utilize the channels platform to express and market themselves.
It’s one of the many reasons I was so disappointed by the change of Michael Jackson’s skin color as he became more famous as time went on. I understand he said it was medical, that he had contracted the disease that change the color of his skin. It also seemed to straighten his hair and changed the color of his entire body so that in later music videos he would dance across the screen exposing his bear white chest for the world to see.
But I digress. I’m not gonna focus on that now.
I just wanted to talk about what it was like to experience Michael Jackson’s Thriller for the first time.
You had never seen a music video like that. MTV put it on hourly rotation for a while.
The demand for it was so high it was insane and a year later the album Thriller would become, and still remains, the best selling album of all time.
Here’s to Michael.
MICHAEL JACKSON THE MAKING OF THRILLER
Michael Jackson Thriller Artwork