Tag Archives: Michael Jackson

Time Travel Is Real

Jerry’s brother had a piranha. He was a senior in high school and had moved down into the basement, into what probably had been a storage closet. There was room for a bed, the fish tank, and his stereo. No windows, no closet.

One afternoon when his brother was at football practice, Jerry and I went downstairs and raided his record collection. We dubbed the good songs onto cassette, my first mixtape. I remember a bunch of the songs that were on it, and I can still picture Jerry’s loopy handwritten track list on the j-card. “Tom Sawyer” by Rush, “Dream Police” by Cheap Trick, “T.N.T.” by AC/DC, “Destroyer” by the Kinks. Late 1981, maybe early 82.

I’ve been searching for this tape for years. Decades even. I am a bit of a hoarder so I can’t imagine that I just threw it away. I recently remembered a place I hadn’t looked. There was a small duffel bag of my old crap from my mom’s house that had been thrown in a bin and moved from one storage space to another over the years. Inside the bag, along with a bunch of old journals and my high school diploma, I found an unmarked cassette.

Jackpot? Unfortunately, no.


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Of Residencies, Air Fryers & Gibson Guitars

I haven’t been to Las Vegas since January 2020. Was there for CES, not the tables. Things were still normal then. At least as “normal” as Vegas can be. Although the massive influx of the rabid technology enthusiasts who go to the city for that event—so many people that the only amount of social distancing that occurs would be measured in millimeters, not feet—change the dynamic. Because the Uber and Lyft networks are crushed, cabs are sometimes necessary. The cabbies are not particularly happy with the tipping that doesn’t happen—or happens at an infinitesimal rate—from those who can’t wait to see the latest from Samsung or Qualcomm or companies that essentially only the employees have heard of.

I was staying at The Delano. A hotel within a hotel. A means by which the proprietor can jack the rates disproportionately by providing a modicum of upped amenities. And a separation from the gaming floor. But in order to get an extraordinarily expensive cup of coffee it is necessary to go through to Mandalay Bay, where the shops and restaurants are found.

It was necessary to pass the theatre hosting “Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque du Soleil.” Given what came out about Jackson’s proclivities it seems like a strange show. Yes, there is the music. There is the man. But somehow the sale of jeweled gloves seemed strange. And the pre-show gift shop was always jammed.

But that’s Las Vegas.

One of the things that Las Vegas has become known for regarding concert performances is the “residency.” As in the individual musician or group plays at one of the multitudinous theaters night after night. Presumably they also stay at said hotel casino. But probably in a place like The Delano.
During the past few years there have been seemingly endless runs by people like Celine Dion, and shorter ones for the likes of Van Morrison (five dates at the Colosseum at Caesars). Other performers have included Lady Gaga, Janet Jackson, Cardi B, Britney Spears, Elton John, Cher, Mariah Carey, Billy Idol, Aerosmith, Bruno Mars, Bryan Adams Christina Aguilera, Chicago, Santana, David Lee Roth, the Doobie Brothers, Foreigner, Sting, Gwen Stefani, and, of course, Rod Stewart.

(I once met Donny Osmond in the jetway of a flight going from SLC to LAS. We chatted a bit. Yes, he was going back to perform at the Flamingo with his sister. He was (a) not surprisingly, nice and (b) taller than I would have expected.)

Know that residencies is not a new phenomenon by any extent.

Elvis rocked the Las Vegas Hilton from July 1969 to December 1976. Six-hundred and thirty-six nights of “Burning Love.”

Turns out he was a slouch compared with Donny & Marie: they had a run of 11 years, doing 1,730 shows. And Donny was still nice to some stranger on a Delta flight.

One of the other interesting things—and this is more of a new(ish) phenomenon—is that it has gone from a place where you could find lavish buffets for under ten bucks to a place where you’re going to pay dearly for a meal at a restaurant that is owned and possibly operated by a celebrity chef.

Among them are Wolfgang Puck, Guy Fieri, Gordon Ramsey, Bobby Flay, and Emeril Lagasse. To name but a few.

Which brings me to the Emeril Lagasse Power Air Fryer 360, the device you can buy for about $200 that allows you to bake, broil, toast, slow cook, air fry, and more.

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Ticketstubs: The Jacksons Victory Tour, 1984

I’ve always said that this was my first concert, but I’m pretty sure I’m wrong. I saw the Oak Ridge Boys at the Ionia Free Fair around the time of “Elvira” and the internet tells me that must have been on August 5, 1981. (I think I also saw Cheap Trick there, which would have been August 2, 1983).

But the Jacksons Victory Tour was the first concert that I was super excited about. I was 12 years old and I was a very big fan of Michael Jackson. Like everybody else on the planet I had been completely captivated by Thriller. I had watched all of his videos and cheered for him on the American Music Awards and the Grammys, but this was the chance to see him in person! At the time of this show I don’t think I had yet listened to Off the Wall and I had definitely never heard Destiny and Triumph (still haven’t). All I knew was that I was going to see Michael Jackson!

Getting tickets was something else. First of all, they were $30 each which may seem cheap now but was crazy at the time. Especially for my recently widowed mom. And you couldn’t just buy them. There was some convoluted process whereby AAA members could purchase blocks of four tickets. My mom’s best friend had AAA and she had a babysitter who was about my age and liked Michael Jackson too. We came up with a plan where the babysitter would stay in line all night and buy the tickets for us. In return, my mom’s friend would buy her a ticket.

This seems preposterous to me as I think about it today. We dropped an 11 or 12 year old girl off in the evening to wait in line all night long with a bunch of strangers? With $120 in cash? Her parents let her do this? Really?

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Teenage Dreams & Liz’s Multitudinous Husbands

Katy Perry - California Gurls video still

The first question you have to ask yourself is this: Does anyone really care about the Billboard Hot 100 chart anymore? Isn’t that measuring something that’s rather irrelevant to anyone who gives a rat’s ass about music? Wasn’t it meaningful to those back in the proverbial day when moving discs from racks is what really mattered?

And when’s the last time you saw a disc (OK: a bad question to ask this audience which maybe has far too many physical discs for purposes of storage; but think of the average Billboard Hot 100 sort of person: does s/he know what discs are outside of a musical museum?)?

So now it seems that there is the possibility—if not likelihood—that pop confection Katy Perry, who has now tied Michael Jackson with five BH100s from her Teenage Dreams album, five that he received for Bad, may actually eclipse the King of Pop if her label goes for six.

Does this mean that Katy Perry is a more talented musician than Michael Jackson was? Or that she has better marketing? Or that she is simply a musical equivalent of Lay’s potato chips of yore, as in nobody can eat just one, and nobody can get enough of Katy, although in the not-so-long-run a diet of potato chips is completely unsustainable, no matter how tasty the damn things are?

Justin Bieber sells a remarkable number of units. Good for him. And we can roll it back, through the Jonas Brothers and their spiritual kin, going back through the Spice Girls to the Monkees and possibly beyond that. (I recently heard Davy Jones doing a promo on a record station, one of those, “This is Davy Jones and you’re listening to. . .” and it sounded to me like someone’s late grandfather—won’t these people just let it go?)

Good for these demographically created acts.

But really: who’s counting?

Isn’t it sort of like all of those husbands that Elizabeth Taylor had? I mean: unless you were the person of the moment, did anyone really care if it was number three or four?

So here’s hoping that Katy continues to get out there with those sexy outfits and croon her heart out. Let’s hope she makes every cut from her album a BH100.

Because for those who really care about music, it is no BFD.

The King of Product

Michael Jackson - MichaelIn a piece on the latest Michael Jackson album, Michael, appearing in the New York Times, Jon Pareles writes:

Pop careers are built, among many other factors, on quality control, on a musician’s instincts about what to reveal to the world and what to hold back. And Jackson, who had not released a studio album since ‘Invincible’ in 2001, was notoriously perfectionistic.

Now other people have sorted through the discards, the rough drafts, the fragments, the songs that could have interrupted the flow of an album, the songs that might be forgotten gems or embarrassing dead ends. And other people have decided how those songs will be heard.

Clearly, Pareles is not happy with the album.

But that’s not the point here.

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Robbie Fulks + Shellac + Michael Jackson

Man oh man, this Robbie Fulks Michael Jackson tribute album is getting more awesome and more crazy with every new detail. Now, we find out that Steve Albini‘s noisy three-piece Shellac plays on it:

Shellac is a magnificent punk band in Chicago whose three members I’ve been friends with for years and years. If we haven’t gotten together on record before, it’s only because we have absolutely nothing in common, musically speaking. After hearing our collaboration, you may still think we have nothing in common.

Everything Fulks has said about this album leads us to believe that it’s going to be very, very far removed from the stripped down, acoustic renditions of these covers that initially won us over. Instead, what he’s describing is a much weirder and potentially more fascinating project than just a country singer with a beat up Martin doing quirky covers of soul-pop songs.

Robbie Fulks: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

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Robbie Fulks Completes Michael Jackson Tribute

Anyone who has had the pleasure of seeing country artist Robbie Fulks in concert over the last ten years is going to be thrilled to hear that he is in the process of finishing up his long-rumored collection of Michael Jackson interpretations. If you’ve never seen him, you might think this sounds like a stupid, jokey idea. It’s not. It’s awesome. And sincere:

So the period of my life (2000-2009) during which I get to arrange and track and mix great songs like “Billie Jean” and “The Man in the Mirror” to suit my own voice and aesthetic interests comes to an end, which makes me sincerely sorry. Nine years, six studios, 21 tracks (don’t worry, I won’t foist all of that on you); and amid it all the tributee made a comeback record that fizzled, was jailed, fled the US, became ever more a figure of pathos and contempt and fun and disgust, began to stage another comeback, died. The aughts were happier times out where I live.

Fulks says it could be out by Christmas. To share a feel for what some of this might sound like, we found a 20-second live video snippet of Fulks doing “Going Back to Indiana” at the 2008 Hideout Block Party here in Chicago. Check it out after the jump…

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Michael Jackson – Is This It?

Stream: Michael Jackson – “This Is It”

It’s not very good, is it? Oh well. Co-written with Paul Anka in 1983, it was originally released as “I Never Heard” by Safire on her 1991 album I Wasn’t Born Yesterday (Polygram). You can stream her version on her MySpace if you wanna compare. Let’s hope they find better stuff in the can than this. Boo.

Michael Jackson: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki, web.

Autopsy results: Michael Jackson was healthy

Michael Jackson, 2009The Associated Press has obtained a copy of Michael Jackson‘s autopsy report, and the doctor who reviewed it for the AP says, “His overall health was fine” (Variety, Billboard). Nevertheless, there are some interesting tidbits in the report.

The good:

• Jackson weighed 136 pounds, which is “in the acceptable range for a 5-foot-9 man.” I.e., not skeletal.

• His heart was strong, and his kidneys and “most other major organs were normal.”

• Aside from two sedatives and the propofol that caused his death, the only substances found in his system were Lidocaine, which he probably used to numb injection sites and ephedrine, which doctors probably administered to attempt to resuscitate him. The AP reports that “No other drugs – legal or otherwise – were detected, nor was any alcohol.”

The bad:

• His lungs were “chronically inflamed and had reduced capacity that might have left him short of breath.”

• MJ had “arthritis in the lower spine and some fingers, and mild plaque buildup in his leg arteries.”

• Jackson’s death was ruled a homicide caused by “acute propofol intoxication,” with the other sedatives listed as a contributing factor.

The weird:

• Jackson had “several tattoos, all them cosmetic, including dark tattoos in the areas of both eyebrows and under his eyes, and a pink tattoo around his lips.” He also had “what appeared to be a tattoo” across his the top of his head where his “short and tightly curled” hair was receeding.

• He had multiple scars on his face and body. The AP’s doctor said that most of the scars “appeared to be from plastic surgery.”

• There was “depigmentation of his skin around his chest, abdomen, face and arms.” Which seems to confirm his claims of vitiligo.