The Jackson 5’s First Studio Recording Unearthed

One-derful Records

This is, quite simply, the best piece of investigative music journalism I’ve read in a long, long time: “The Jackson Find” by Jake Austen for the Chicago Reader.

Many hardcore fans know that the Jackson 5 released a pre-Motown single called “Big Boy” on Steeltown Records. It was recorded in November 1967 at a small studio in Chicago’s West Englewood neighborhood. But what was unknown until this article was being researched was that a few months earlier—on July 13, 1967—the Jackson brothers had recorded the same song at legendary One-derful Records, home of the Five Du-Tones (“Shake a Tail Feather”).

The decades to come may well bring a wealth of unreleased Jackson songs, on par with the from-the-grave output of Hendrix or Tupac. But most observers expect this onslaught to consist principally of overproduced late-period jams, many of them unfinished at the time of Jackson’s death and augmented posthumously. The possibility that the first unreleased track to surface will instead be a decades-unheard recording of the Jackson Five’s first studio endeavor—a stripped-down 60s R & B tune, cut without adult ringers at a better studio than their debut single—is almost too good to be true. The One-derful session is worlds away from the slick and calculated work the Jacksons would soon do for Motown. It captures an eager, unjaded nine-year-old only months away from the end of his childhood, a childhood he would pursue for the rest of his life: Michael, a big boy now, soulfully lamenting that “fairy tales and wishful dreams are broken toys.”

Let’s hope this gets actually gets released.

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