A beautiful thing happened to me this weekend and I thought of you. You’re one of the only people I know who will fully appreciate the magic…
With all the Michael Jackson bashing lately everywhere you look, and I’ll admit that he seems to make it pretty easy, I got to thinking about the music. And how everybody has all of a sudden accepted as fact that Off the Wall is a great album, and that Thriller was a real classic. “And it was all downhill from there,” the story goes, as MJ got weirder and weirder and the headlines started focusing on his skin color and his chimps rather than his music.
Is everyone forgetting Bad? Not that Billboard chart position is any real indicator of artistic merit, but Bad contains FIVE number one singles. That’s a big fucking deal. So anyway, Saturday night I was feeling a little weird. General stomach discomfort, edginess, etc., that I might attribute to the fact that the next day (March 2) was the first anniversary of the death of my mom. So it’s safe to say that I may have been a little emotionally fragile.
My mom loved to watch Michael Jackson dance. Loved it. But the “Thriller” video freaked her out because he looked so ugly and scary. So I would cover his face on the tv with my hand after he turned into a zombie, so she could still watch it. These were the days when we still had MTV in the house, before she called the cable company and paid $10 to have them come out to the house and scramble that one channel. What? You didn’t know the cable company could do that? Well, they can. And they did. Why? Because one time after my mom told me to do the dishes or something, I started jumping around my room, banging my head, and singing, “We’re not going to take it. No! We ain’t gonna take it!” That was the last straw, the glaring evidence that MTV truly was a bad influence on me. Dee Snider, I blame YOU that I missed the entire mid-80s era of music video (1984-1988).
So anyway, I put on the Bad cd (that I bought the day it was released at Believe in Music on Plainfield and 4 Mile—no longer there) into the Bose Wave System (that my mom bought me for my birthday a few years ago), and I listened to our man, Michael Jackson.
I was immediately struck by how cool the synth bass intro to “Bad” was. It’s fucking funky and cool. It has a surprisingly warm, “real” tone for 1987 r&b/pop. “Your butt is mine,” Michael snarled, and I snickered like I did when I was 16 and first heard the line. But then something crazy started to happen. Shamoan! I found myself uncontrollably dancing around the living room and scaring the piss out of my little dogs with all my sweet moves. I was feeling that bass line, I was becoming that bass line, just like Michael told Bashir Whateverhisnameis in that interview, explaining the inspiration of his dancing. I was seriously shaking my ass.
“The Way You Make Me Feel” is a great song too. And I was starting to get tired from the dancing. I’m out of shape. I don’t excercise. What’s the point? So I was starting to sweat a little. But I wasn’t going to stop until I got enough. The force was definitely not stopping.
I knew I still had to feed my dogs and let them out before we had to leave, so I skipped ahead to “Man in the Mirror,” the emotional highpoint of the album. Granted, it is a little cheesy sounding. But not nearly as bad as you remember. And sure, MJ is a little more sniveling in the beginning than he needs to be. But man! When those choruses come in and he’s fucking SCREAMING at us, at himself, at God, “You got to! You got to! Make that! You GOT TO! Make That! CHANGE!” I swear to God he conjures all the deep soul of Otis Redding into his voice and you can feel it. You fucking feel it. It’s just so fucking good. And by then I was completely warn out. Drained.
And yeah, he’s an easy target. He’s weird. He’s not normal. The only normal people are people you don’t know well enough to find out what’s weird about them yet. Michael Jackson is not normal. So what? Neither am I. And neither are all these assholes who think it’s okay to be so mean about him. Even if he is mentally disturbed—and I’m not saying he is—since when is it okay for otherwise nice people to make fun of crazy people? We’re all freaks. So fucking what?
My mom and I both read his now out of print autobiography, Moonwalk, on the train while we were traveling around the UK back before I came home from foreign study. At that time in our lives we didn’t really see eye-to-eye on very much, but we both still loved Michael Jackson. And we both felt like we understood him, where he was coming from, what he was trying to accomplish. Later, when he was accused of sexually absuing children, neither of us believed the allegations. And I still don’t believe them. And as for his face, it’s obvious he’s had a terribly overzealous nosejob, but who fucking cares? He’s no freakier looking than Joan Rivers.
I don’t know. But I do know that Michael Jackson’s music can still stir me up and make me feel. And it moves me. Literally. Shamoan!
“If you can feel what I’m feeling then it’s a musical masterpiece / But if you can hear what I’m dealing with then that’s cool at least.”—Beastie Boys, “Pass the Mic.” Michael Jackson makes you feel it.
PS – Hey, remember when the Pixies released Bossanova and how amazed we were during the second song, “Rock Music,” when Black Francis started screaming “Shamoan!” just like our man, Michael Jackson? Remember that?
Check out Johnny Loftus’ MJ-bashing from November, 2001: I Wanna Rock with You – Please?