Sunday, 13 June 2010

Michael Jackson

On the 25th June this year it will have been 1 year since the death of Michael Jackson. Whatever the reasons behind his untimely death the world lost a true entertainer and musical genius. Like most things in his life, his death has caused enormous controversy and there have been millions of words written about it, all differing in opinion. I have decided too concentrate on what he meant to me as an artist, performer and icon, as personally I would rather remember him that way.

The first memory I had of Michael Jackson was as a child waiting for the Thriller video to be shown on television. There was no Sky back in those days, no 24hr music channels either. To get our music we had to listen to the radio and wait for Top Of The Pops to come on.

There had been reports in the press that Michael Jackson had made the first £1 million video. An unprecedented amount of money back in the 80's. As I watched Top Of The Pops, I sat there with the video on pause,  I was going to tape this and didn't want to miss a thing. The presenter then said that they would be showing the full video, another first as it was over 10 minutes long. I unpaused the video and sat there staring at the screen.

We all know how it plays, but for me as a 12 year old child it was like someone had taken me into another world. I had never seen anything like it. The make-up, the dance moves, the laugh at the end of the video, it was pure magic and so started a life long obsession with anything Michael Jackson.

I pestered my parents for weeks to buy me the album but was told I had to wait for my birthday, so one of my cousins taped it for me onto a cassette which I still have now. I listened to that album everyday, learnt every word, knew every beat, it is in my opinion the most complete album ever made.

I bought every magazine with him in it, money earnt from a paper round I did as a child, I covered my walls with every poster I could get my hands on. I asked all my aunts and uncles if they had Jackson 5 albums and if so would they do me a cassette of it. I didn't listen to anything else.

A few years later the rumours started about a new album (Bad) and a possible tour of Europe. In 1987 my dream came true, Michael Jackson was coming to London for 5 nights the following summer. My parents tried desperately to get me a ticket but couldn't get through the lines were constantly jammed. I was upset for days at the thought of missing my idol.

As time passed I became more jealous of people I didn't know who had been lucky enough to get a ticket. The album Bad came and went and the summer grew ever closer. The dates arrived and still I had no ticket, there were photos in the press, and I savoured every detail, disappointed I wouldn't be there to see it.

A friend of my mum had a son who like me was a huge Michael Jackson fan and we hatched a plan. We would go too Wembley and see if we could buy a ticket on the day. We set of at 7.30am and got there at 9am. The doors didn't open until 4pm so we sat on the steps outside the turnstile and waited. As the day progressed more and more people arrived, some with stereos playing Michael Jackson music, others dressed like him, but all there for the same reason, to see the King of Pop.

As time grew closer to the 4pm deadline, we still hadn't bought our tickets yet, we hatched another plan to get in, we would offer money to the bloke on the gate and see if that worked. Believe it or not it did and we were in.

We raced across the pitch and got 3 rows from the front. Now we only had 4 hours to wait until he came on stage. It was worth every minute, Thriller with the mask on and a crane that lifted him across the audience where he hung on with the tips of his fingers and toes, Billie Jean where he did the moonwalk and threw his hat into the audience, Man In The Mirror him on his own with a spotlight and nothing else, Smooth Criminal where he lent forward defying gravity, The Jackson 5 Melody. Memories I will never forget, it cemented him as the King of Pop, no-one could touch him.

The memories of that night haven't faded even with the onset of time, I was lucky enough to see him in 1992 for the Dangerous Tour but something was missing, it didn't have the same spark, the moves were slower, the breaks between songs longer, it wasn't a patch on the Bad Tour just 4 short years earlier. I enjoyed the concert don't get me wrong, but it wasn't the same, and I left slightly disappointed. This concert would allow me to make another decision later on about whether I wanted to see him, a decision I didn't take lightly, but one I made all the same.

At the end of the European leg of the tour the story broke about him and Jordy Chandler. Did I believe it? Honestly no, I like most Jackson fans thought it was lies and with no solid evidence I gave him the benefit of the doubt. There were further allegations down the years and another court case. The tabloids went after him, how much plastic surgery had he had, did he want to be white, he slept in an oxygen tank, he wanted to marry Elizabeth Taylor. Endless ridiculous rumours, he never denied them and that seemed to add more fuel to the fire. To me even though he had been found innocent from the court case, there was, in my eyes, no smoke without fire.

I had long ago removed my Jackson posters and my music tastes were beginning to change, I still bought the albums but after the second trial I stopped listening to them. They didn't hold the same feel anymore and felt tainted somehow. Before his death he had agreed to do 50 dates at the o2 arena. He was never going to be well enough to complete these dates as rumours had started about his drug abuse and ill health. I was offered the chance of getting tickets but declined them as I didn't want to be disappointed.

I awoke on the morning of the 26th June to hear he had passed away, I was stunned by this, Michael Jackson dead it took a few hours to sink in. I watched the news and read the papers taking it all in. It was true Michael Jackson my idol through my teen years was dead.

A few weeks later I was clearing out some cupboards and found that old Thriller cassette. I put it on and listened to it for the first time in years. It brought back so many memories, happy memories of a time long ago. I found my Dangerous programme and the scarf I had bought, my Bad programme, I dug through my Cd's and started to listen to them again. My daughter asked who it was and I told her, not bad she said and I listened to them with her. I did what all parents should do, I passed on my knowledge of a great music artist, like my dad had with me with the Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

To me I want to remember him as the ultimate artist, doing the moonwalk for the first time at the 25th Motown Anniversary in 1983, the man I saw in Thriller at 12, the man who amazed me at Wembley in 1988.  All the scandal should not take away from the man who changed the way music was made, watched and performed forever. He was found not guilty twice. Let it be. Remember him the way he wanted to be remembered The King Of Pop, Michael Jackson, R.I.P.

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