Hey MJ, I Want You Back

25 06 2010

Today is the 1 yr anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death. By now everybody knows what happened and it goes without saying that just about every media outlet will be doing something to honor the guy so I will spare you any overly verbose statement of reverence and just give you the goods. I wanted to showcase a few moments from his career. Some of which are monumental, while others are just pieces I really appreciate.

As a big Motown fan, I had to start with the early days of the Jackson 5. There are actually quite a few videos that capture the boys at this period in their career. This one is from Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. Per Dick’s intro, it commemorates their hit “I Want You Back” going platinum in 1970. The video quality is not great but the performance is supercharged. They amp it up just a bit by increasing the tempo… it burns.

This next one is, perhaps, from one of their low moments but I find it to be a really interesting piece that I had never seen before. It’s a medley of two popular covers done as part of a western themed sketch from the Jackson 5’s mid 70’s variety show. The segment shows the boys doing War’s “The Cisco Kid” and Bob Marley’s “I Shot The Sheriff”. It’s not their best work but, like I said, really neat to watch. The theatrical stage antics are way too much for my taste but who knew they had covered War and Marley. That was the one cool thing about this TV show, they used to show off their talents with material beyond their own catalog or that of other Motown artists.

This next one is without a doubt one of the biggest moments in Michael’s career. It’s that famous performance of “Billie Jean” from the Motown 25 show live at NY’s Apollo Theater in Harlem. This is the first time Micheal displayed his trademark moonwalk. The whole performance is phenomenal but once he hits the move, the audience erupts… it gives me goosebumps to watch it decades later.

This is just a song that I happen to like, despite its down tempo beat.  As one of his more mellow tracks, it’s a real standout. It’s “Man In The Mirror”, live from the Moonwalker concert film. The audience footage here really shows how big of a superstar the man really was. He touched millions upon millions of people (pardon the off-color pun).

This is the ever famous “Thriller” video from 1983. This 14 minute John Landis video is usually referred to as the greatest music video of all time and has had a huge impact on pop culture as we know it. As many times as you’ve seen it (I know, countless), it’s always pretty cool. I, like many, absolutely loved it when I was a kid.

Mac & Jack

23 02 2010

I wanted to put this in my recent Guilty Pleasures post from last week but it’s so… well, um… amazing (?), that it requires it’s own spot. This song, “Say Say Say”, is a Michael Jackson/Paul McCartney duet from McCartney’s 1983 album Pipes of Peace. Not surprisingly, the song is a good one but it’s extremely lame in all aspects… catchy but lame. I was going to just slide it in with the rest of the guilty pleasures but then I started to look in to it more and a little research made me realize this is deserving of it’s own post. First there is the song itself. The lyrics are ridiculous, they are a sappy blend of the two artists as they grow into their later years. Keep in mind, Paul had just done “Ebony & Ivory” with Stevie Wonder and Michael would go on to do “We Are The World” just a year later. Which all makes sense because that’s kind of the vibe here. Well, maybe that’s an overstatement but it’s certainly no “Beat It” or “Helter Skelter“. The song is not that bad, it did go Platinum and in comparison to their other attempt at a duet (“The Girl Is Mine” from Thriller), it’s fantastic. It’s the video that’s just awful. The year it came out one critic said it’s both  “horrifying and compelling”. You will likely agree upon viewing. It’s very typical MJ in that it has dialogue and a story and seems more cinema than music video. In it, they play two benevolent vaudevillian conmen, “Mac & Jack” (how clever). When I watch this I just imagine what it would have been like if they had actually made a full length feature of it. It’s hilarious to see two of the biggest figures in pop culture running around the Wild West selling “wonder potion” only to give the profits to an orphanage, Robin Hood style. If that weren’t enough, Linda McCartney and La Toya Jackson make cameos. Linda is Mac’s girl which is no surprise but La Toya oddly plays Jack’s  love interest, which only makes this whole tale that much weirder. It was directed by Bob Giraldi, who also did the “Beat It” video and the infamous MJ Pepsi Commercial in which Michael’s hair caught on fire. Between the fire incident and this, I’m not sure which is the bigger disaster.

These 2 guys both did a bunch of collaborations throughout their careers. Here are a few:

Michael & Freddie Mercury

Paul & Stevie Wonder

Michael & Macaulay Culkin

Paul & Michael – The Man

Michael & Freddie… again

Michael & Diana Ross

Michael & Friends – We Are The World

Dance Lessons with James

26 01 2010

I got some really funny feedback about James’ dancing in my Sunny post. Yesterday I just stumbled upon some great video of James showing off a few of those trademark moves. Go ahead and give these a try…if you can actually understand what the hell he’s talking about.

This is a mashup of all his baddest moves in action. It’s funny to see that all the different clips are on beat when edited to a live version of the song “There Was A Time”. It’s like the guy only worked in one tempo or something (180+ bpm).

Here’s James passing the torch to a young Michael Jackson. This is part of a much longer video where James invites Michael up on stage despite the fact that he was only there as a spectator that night. I edited a little so you don’t have to sit through the whole thing though.

And finally, just a good song from the old days, “The Payback”. Some good dancing but terrible camera work. It’s worth it for the mustache though.

Here are a few songs from the JB’s that I happen to love. I felt I was doing them (and you) an injustice if I didn’t include these. They are REALLY funky.

The Grunt

Pass the Peas

Same Beat

Gimme Some More

Breakin’ Bread

JB’s Shout

Hot Pants Road

For more info on the JB’s & this album check it out here. Also you can buy Funky Good Time: The Anthology here.

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