Friday, 26 June 2009

Johnny Remember Me - Revisited

Gordon Brown is a jammy sod. On the day he finally commits political suicide, urging the credit-crunched West to cough up £60 billion A YEAR to help Third World countries with dubious climate change, news of this foolishness is virtually obliterated from broadcast news by the death of Michael Jackson.

As I write surgeons in Los Angeles are carving up the singer's body and poking about in his innards, looking for clues to explain why his heart arrested. The operation wouldn't look out of place on the video of Thriller.

In the past hour or so I've heard an awful lot of emotional tosh spoken about MJ, principally that he was the first black singer to put black singing/dancing on the world map. Er, anyone ever heard of Sammy Davies Junior? That man was a brilliant singer, dancer, musician, comedian and a reasonable movie actor.

Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly did more for popular dance back in the 1940s and 1950s; they could sing and act as well. Mr Astaire gave it elegance, Mr Kelly gave it power and energy. They were, respectivly, the John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier of dance.

As for music, I would say that Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry were much more important historically and musically; they didn't just galvanise fellow black musicians, their influence was trans-Atlantic. Without them no Beatles, no Rolling Stones.

And don't forget a certain James Marshall Hendrix, former US paratrooper and the first Ziggy Stardust who played guitar left-hand and was, reportedly, well hung.

From 20 to about 30, Michael Jackson put out great songs and exciting dance videos. He was a thriller on stage and he knew it. Millions of people got a lot of happiness from his creativity. He had a lot of good people to help him to make the impact credited to him on MTV - Quincy Jones, Martin Scorsese. The increased budgets for his videos were commensurate with his rising fame - from $50,000 for the first to $7,000,000 for Scream. That helped too.

He was a considerable artist the best of whose work will live on. Right now, the dollar possibilities of his demise are being calculated. When Elvis Presley keeled over in 1977, he unwittingly resuscitated his career. He went from mortality to myth overnight, with the media cashing in every anniversary. It's an ill wind.

I wouldn't be surprised if negotiations are underway for the movie rights. Michael Jackson's albums will dance up the charts. Millions of greenbacks will change hands. And Elizabeth Taylor will make a public appearance to express her grief.

In death, Michael Jackson is going to be bigger business than ever. That is neither a jealous nor a cynical assessment. It is what happens in a world where celebrity and entertainment matter more to the media than truth and justice. His death is not a greater tragedy than the murder of Veronica Guerin and the killing of Neda Soltan in Iran.

But I do feel saddened. A shooting star has fallen. When people die, unless they were exceptionally wicked, the good they did far outweighs their human frailties. That's how it should be. I never thought Michael Jackson was a child abuser; but I did foresee that the court case brought against him following the television interview with Martin Bashir would bring him endless trouble.

This afternoon I saw Nick Moran's engrossing film Telstar - The Joe Meek Story. I came away with the Sermon on the Mount plagiarisation going through my head, 'Joe Meek will inherit the earth'. That man created two pieces of music that formed part of the soundtrack of my youth: Johnny Remember Me, and Telstar.

Until a few years ago I had no idea who Joe Meek was, let alone that he recorded those evocative, stirring sounds in rooms above a handbag shop on a North London high street. Three weeks after he killed himself in 1967, a French court released his royalties for Telstar. Like Michael Jackson, he died broke, in a certain amount of torment

At such times the best we can do is take Eric Cantona's advice in Ken Loach's fine film Looking For Eric. "Say non! From your balls!". Non to the bullshit, hypocrisy and sentimentality that inevitably follow the death of a star.

And Michael Jackson's legacy? His video Black and White should be played all over Tehran, throughout Iran, by the opposition to President Dinnerjacket and his turbanned jackasses. Now that would be something.


Since posting this blog on Friday evening, I have seen, heard and read quite a lot about MJ, his life and music.

I would only like to add the following. James Brown should have been mentioned as an influence on the young Michael's idea of stage-craft. So should the BeeGees, perhaps. They created the disco dance music craze, with that distinctive style of falsetto singing, in the1970s.

The notion that MJ was a one-hit wonder with Thriller is an opinion, but an ill-judged one. Of all the songs I have heard repeatedly this weekend the ones that stand out for me are:- Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough; Billie Jean; Rock With You; Black and White; that rain song from Invincible; I Want You Back, from his time with the Jacksons; You Are Not Alone. I also like the Earth Song.

You'd have to be brain dead to fail to get a buzz from the opening riff of Black and White. I saw Slash from Guns 'n' Roses play it on stage with MJ. We have lift off.

Childhood is an adult idea. You only have a view of your own in retrospect. Children are too busy in their eternal present. I think MJ was happy enough as a child while he was performing, but if the story is true that his father and brothers ridiculed him about the size of his nose, no wonder he did something about it when he was rich enough to do so.

Children need to be loved, disciplined, encouraged and put right when they go wrong; one thing they don't need is ridicule. The humiliation that attends ridicule is never forgotten; it is felt as a physical hurt.

As for Michael Jackson's eccentricities, he wasn't the first famous public figure to act oddly.

Howard Hughes, multi-talented genius though he was, had a phobia about germs that got worse with age. William Gladstone chopped trees and consorted with prostitutes to offer them moral correction. Yorkshire textile magnate and philanthropist Sir Titus Salt had a partality for crows and liked to grow pineapples in his greenhouses. Michael Jackson had a pet monkey. Lord Byron had a pet bear. Alice Cooper loves playing golf.


Anonymous said...

4) All his future dates have been cancelled: that's Darren (aged 9), Wayne (aged 11)and Jimmy who is 10.

5) Michael Jackson is now in Muslim heaven banging boys, who are as "fresh as pearls".

Anonymous said...

6) Well he shouldn't have suffocated, he had an extra nostril, didn't he?

7) It was said he died of cardiac arrest in the hospital car-park, but it's now thought he had a stroke in the childrens' ward.

8)He has willed his body to be recycled: into carrier bags, so that he can be white, plastic, and a danger to children.

Chris edwards said...

Im with the writer, he was no paedophile,but naive, childish and very,very talented. I bet there were parasites swarming round the poor soul. I do hope he now has peace.
Chris Edwards

Anonymous said...

As for music, I would say that Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry were much more important historically and musically;

Dude, I can't believe you left out Robert Johnson

ted said...

slash is a half black