Picture yourself the member of a family band. You and your siblings are all talented and have worked hard to get the band where it is. But one of you is, well...better than the rest. Perhaps, he may even be, the King of Pop.
Back in high school after I slipped further and further (or is it farther and farther?) out of my NSYNC trance, my appetite for obsession grew. And it found satisfaction in Michael Jackson. Fortunately for me, he had been making music for decades, and there was so much to delve into (and people definitely had less to tease me about than with NSYNC...or not).
Many people are familiar with the Jackson 5 and their hits ("I'll Be There", "ABC", "I Want You Back") and Michael's solo albums Off the Wall ("Don't Stop Til You Get Enough", "Rock With You"), Thriller ("Beat It", "Thriller", "Billy Jean"), Bad ("Bad", "Smooth Criminal", "The Way You Make Me Feel", "Man in the Mirror"), and Dangerous ("Black or White", "Heal the World", "Will You Be There?") are legendary. But did you know about the Jacksons? I didn't, until I visited my personal mecca at the time, Tower Records, a music store that managed to have rows and rows of obscure CDs in stock. And lo and behold I found Jacksons albums.
In the early 70s the brothers left Motown for CBS/Epic records and officially dropped the "5" and added an "s" to the band name. This allowed them more artistic freedom, but they lost Jermaine who decided to stay on with Motown (so they brought in Randy--gotta love having a family band and nine kids to fill it with when one decides to be lame and unfamous for the rest of his life by not following his ridiculously more talented brother...).
In the summer of 1976 all the Jackson children minus Jermaine were signed onto a Jacksons variety show, the first ever hosted by an African American family (but it was canceled that March). Michael recorded the highly successful Off the Wall album in 1979 yet continued to stay with his brothers recording the album Triumph (1981) and touring. But Triumph was inevitably trumped in 1982 by Thriller.
There was once last "death rattle"--as Lester Bangs would put it--with Victory (1984), but Marlon, Tito, Randy, Jackie, Rebbie and LaToya (Janet on the other hand...) could not catch up with their brother Michael's genius (who can say why he stayed with them for so long in the first place after going solo?). That genius is best displayed in some of the greatest music ever recorded: Thriller, Bad, Off the Wall, Dangerous.
BUT that does not mean that the Jacksons albums do not have some seriously good stuff on them. If you like the 70s. And dancing. And disco. Who doesn't? At this point Michael's voice had changed and he was a growing adolescent, figuring out his identity as a singer. It was useless for any of the other brother's to have any kind of solo on the songs--your ears have to sit patiently, straining for Michael to hit the microphone and send shivers down your back and straight to your booty.
(here's "Blame it On the Boogie"--Jackie had a big thing at the time with being shirtless and wearing a scarf. We should bring that back.)
If you want to know more (and I'm sure this was already too much), be sure to catch the spectacular mini-series: The Jacksons - An American Dream (1992). Last night I drove to Chehalis to drop off a backpack to my mom (our usual family drug deal) and forgot my iPod, so I listened to all Jacksons. Here are my suggestions and observations (holy mother, if you're even still reading this) on the family's best stuff:
Best Dance Bets:
"Blame it On the Boogie" (Lyrics Sample: "Boogie's got me in a Super trance"
"Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)" (Lyrics Sample: "Let's dance, let's shout" --Irresistible song.)
"All Night Dancin" (Lyrics Sample: "And the music's taking me on a trip from nine to five")
Best Dance Bets:
"Can You Feel It" (Lyrics Sample: "every breath you take is someone's death in another place" --boogie down to that!)
"Lovely One" (Lyrics Sample: "walking down the street so pretty, gone with your bad self")
"Everybody" (Lyrics Sample: "I love the way you shake your thing, you make me want some more")
The Jacksons Live (1981)