Thursday, 2 July 2009

Michael Jackson - Off The Record

Once upon a time, in a fairy tale world called childhood, a tape fell into my open kiddie hands that had two albums on it. This was my introduction to Michael Jackson, and I loved him.

Fast forward to the present day, and I see magazines with his image in black and white across the cover, with the words '50 Years of Genius' and I find myself thinking "Really? They got to him early. And he wasn't really particularly genius by the end either..."

So, ah... why the change of heart?

My first actual memory of Michael Jackson was when Good Morning Britain made a big thing of showing the Thriller video one morning. I must have known who he was, dimly, to have felt the need to watch it and to know who this Jackson character was, but the video was the first time I ever remember seeing the all singing, all dancing (and all shuffling) Michael Jackson.

Just as everyone has their own Doctor, their own James Bond, their own cultural touch-stones that grabbed their attention depending on when they popped into the world, or were popped in front of a TV screen, Thriller era Jackson was MY Jackson. He of the brown face, the cheeky boyish looks, the clothes that were just slightly out there but not yet creeping into eccentric. He did lots of smiling, he was softly spoken, he charmed the ladies. The tape I had collected together Off The Wall and Thriller, and he seemed a thoroughly nice guy, even if I didn't know what he was saying half the time. And, you know, he was a lover, not a fighter. The cheeky scamp.

He had not, at this point, reached the stage where he felt he needed to recapture his lost childhood by surrounding himself with kids, nor had he reached the stage where he thought ladies might somehow find the idea of a grown man grabbing and rubbing his crotch and making odd howling noises attractive. For one thing, these are two very distinct images you don't really want to have in the same headspace. They make, if you'll pardon the image, uneasy bedfellows.

Furthermore the whole grabbing of the crotch and making howling noises just doesn't work. Trust me on this one. I know someone who tried it. Yeah, someone else. Not me. Shut up.

As he grew up and started to adopt more of a cool swagger and wear bizarre costumes and bits of tape around his fingers (and always the white socks with black shoes - what's with that?) and began to look all moody I kind of lost interest. Or, well, turned away for a moment. But Michael Jackson had a way of making you take notice, even if you ended up rolling your eyes.

The Moonwalker film I remember looked quite cool. Having watched it earlier this week I can say that, actually, it's quite rubbish. I still love that one video, the surreal one where he's flying around in a fairground plane, in a fairground world, through nashing teeth and past altars to Elizabeth Taylor and dancing Elephant Man bones. THAT'S still cool. The rest is all a bit shit, especially the whole Smooth Criminal / evil mastermind Joe Pesci planning to get kids hooked to drugs so they become loyal in their adulthood storyline.

Michael, you should've taken note at this point. Drugs bad.

Black and White, a video I always thought quite cool apart from that bloody Culkin kid, who Michael Jackson had inexplicably become best friends with, takes a turn for the very wrong when it ends with Jackson smashing up graffiti'd windows with messages like 'Niggers Out' and 'KKK Rule' and then grabbing his crotch, rubbing his hands over himself and generally making a big and quite terrifyingly grim tit of himself. Now, if this even remotely turns you on, ladies, please go and slam your head in a door. No, better yet, find a lift door to do the work for you. If these are the actions of a sane and charismatic figure of fun, I'm the Pope.

If any of you are in any doubt as to whether I am the Pope, I refer you once more to that door head slamming thing. It may not help, but it'd make me feel better, for one.

Do you think Jackson and Culkin sat down to watch that video with the crew after it had been spliced together? "Good job, gang, good job. Right, let's take these kids to therapy."

A lot of jokes have hung in the air since Michael Jackson died, but to be fair they'd been buzzing around him like flies for years. I personally was never very comfortably making jokes about the whole paedophile accusations, because I consider Michael Jackson a unique case. Plucked from normality at a young age, growing up surrounded by media types and yes men, I doubt that he had any sort of reality gauge. Where as the rest of us can turn around to our peers when we go a little crazy, and they can help reign us in, Michael Jackson has never really had any peers. He's had no blue-print for a solid family life, and in trying to distance himself from the behaviour his dad had towards him, pushing him into the lime-light, he fucked up his kids by putting them into shadows and masks instead.

Ultimately Jackson's death was tragic. But so was much of his life. Perhaps, most tragic of all, was that he was railroaded onto this path from an early age, and later attempts to reconnect with the childhood he never had conflicted with his attempts to retain his King of Pop crown, to live the extravagent lifestyle, because that's all he knew. Poor bastard.

I'll miss him, I guess. But then I've been missing MY Jackson for a while.

He's been gone a long time.

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