On Michael Jackson
There’s currently a rumour doing the rounds that Michael Jackson is dead. Since no one else seems to have picked up on this I thought I’d take it upon myself to spread it.
I may have kicked things off with a joke but I love Jacko. I first became musically conscious around the time of Thriller. Like millions of others I sat up waiting for the first ever full-length showing of the Thriller video. A few months later I was on holiday near Oswestry, hanging out with my friend Welsh Mungo. We’d heard about a woman living in Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant who had a video of The Making of Thriller. So we knocked on her door, invited ourselves in and watched it in her living room. Ow!
Remember Weird Al Yankovic?
In the last few days, as we’ve been inundated by his music on radio and TV, a personal penny has dropped. During my lifetime I’ve had a number of favourite artists including The Beatles, The Doors, The Smiths, Prince, Depeche Mode, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Nick Drake, Eminem, John Martyn, Led Zeppelin and Mott the Hoople (note: one of these is a joke). Yet always lurking in the background was Jacko – and it’s just dawned on me he might actually be my favourite recording artist ever. I realise I have all his albums, including the critically panned ‘Invincible’. I even own one of those glittery gloves (that’s another joke). But jokes aside, he’s there through sheer brilliance. As Paul Gambocini observed this week, with Off The Wall and Thriller it really doesn’t get much better. In an industry flooded with mediocrity, Michael Jackson was a true genius. His talent was supreme, refulgent and resplendent; soaring, intergalactic and at times almost beyond belief, especially when he moonwalked to work.
Ever heard him beatbox?
You have to ask whether anyone from Status Quo could do that.
He was as instinctive as Stevie Wonder but more tuneful; as catchy as The Beatles but funkier; as loud as Mott the Hoople but somehow more contemporary. Plus he invented as many new words as Shakespeare, including cham’on, tenderoni and Naku Penda Piya-Naku Taka Piya-Mpenziwe. Then there’s the enunciation. Check out his highly unusual delivery of the word ‘hand’ in Thriller: it sounds as if he’s just swigged from a bottle of liquid helium. Pop stars needs to mispronounce; it makes them seem otherworldly, mysterious. That’s the problem with Phil Collins – you can hear ever last fucking word. Similarly, who knew that the first line to ‘Don’t Stop till you Get Enough’ is, ‘Lovely is the feeling now’? I thought it was ‘Loving is the feminae’. And the chorus? ‘Keep On With The Force Don’t Stop, Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’. As a child I could have sworn there was a ‘Post Office’ involved.
Finally listen carefully to the fade-out of Bad, where he repeats his mantra that he’s, you know, Bad. I think you can detect him declaring that he’s also, erm, Mad. Is he playing with our preconceptions? Even his preposterously unbelievable tracks like Speed Demon (you can’t go that fast on a merry-go-round…), Bad (whatever…) and Black and White (Michael, do you know what a mixed message is…?) still sound pretty good. Basically I’m a massive MJ fan and I don’t care who knows it. Chamon motherf*cker hee hee I’m a lover not a fighter Ow!
But Didn’t He Possibly Do Dubious Things That Were, You Know, Extremely Dubious, Possibly?
In life we seem to forgive those who provide moments of great insight or pleasure. If we have friends or family who are different or difficult but witty/warm/talented into the bargain we give them leeway. Michael Jackson touched people (insert joke here) and he became part of their lives. It is no surprise that there has been a universal outpouring of love. That’s how it works. He gave pleasure to millions so millions overlook aspects of his personality. I’m not here to debate whether this is right or wrong, simply to point out that it’s Human Nature (“da da da da da da da da, why, why, does he do me that way?”)
Interesting, ain’t it, how often it’s the people that give us the most pleasure who are the most tragic. Why is this?
Is it because all talented people are crazy?
Is it because all crazy people are talented?
Is it Penry, the mild-mannered janitor?
So why then?
Well Susan, it’s hard to say. But here’s my stab at why a certain type of person often seeks out and finds the limelight:
Talented people often become famous. Of course they do. But there are plenty of highly talented folk out there who don’t do much with it. The reason why some become well-known whilst others don’t is because their need to externalise their talent is greater. Why? For many it comes from a sense of inadequacy, an emotional dearth. I would imagine that the greater the internal damage or the feelings of inadequacy the greater the desire to seek external affirmation. I don’t wish to pathologise success and I’m certainly not suggesting that every successful person is a freak. But I would imagine that a disproportionate number are plagued by insecurities. This can sometimes be associated with what is known as narcissistic personality disorder. This is a splitting off of the personality at a young age due to poor nurturing. In later life this may lead to compensatory overachievement, especially in fields where attention comes with the territory, such as the entertainment industry. Narcissism is coupled with an internal emptiness which some may attempt to occupy with drink and drugs – both of which are a route into madness. I’m just pulling this out of my b-hind but thought I’d write it anyway.
So there you go – Saul on fame ©.
Surprisingly, in all the coverage over the last few days the most insightful comment came from that famous bender, Uri Gellar. He said that MJ had been under a huge amount pressure for many years and, what with the 50 O2 concerts just round the corner, “you have to ask yourself: just how much can any man take?” It does seem as if these gigs were too much for a man who at 37 had pretty much draw a line under live performances. By the sound of things, as the dates drew closer Jacko may well have upped his dose of pain killers in an attempt to manage his stress. So you could say that the concerts killed him. In fact you could say O2 finished him off. They’re bastards – why can’t just anyone have an iPhone anyway?
That’s all from me – now Beat It