My name is Doctor Crowtip, And I’m your guide To the work of Cornelius
The Mysterious Engineer: He does what it says on the tin
Late for work, but I’d just blame the bus: wild horses wouldn’t stop me listening to the inaugural airing of posthumous music from Michael Jackson.
Although I hadn’t reckoned with goats.
One minute in; my brow a furrow of confusion. What was this bleating sound? I felt sure the pre-release hype hadn’t mentioned the track being a caprine duet involving a constipated Peter Andre? I was sure. I would have definitely been less excited. When did Michael’s part start?
As did the bewildering vocals.
The lyrics lamented angrily of how John Branca was holding a boltgun to the trembling singer’s head, brutally forcing complicity in the masterplan to impersonate Michael Jackson’s voice. This was necessary – John had said – to counteract the inconvenient dearth of exploitable material left behind in the superstar’s vault.
At least, that’s what I heard.
Track over: mouth agape; mind aghast. Michael Jackson’s voice had never materialised.
It was baa-d. Really, really baa-d.
The full album leaked and the full extent of your experimental attempt to pull the wool over Michael Jackson’s fans’ ears was laid bare. Two other fake tracks had also been used – fake to an embarrassing degree. To imagine that Michael Jackson fans could be so-easily duped like that; the inherent disrespect for our hero and his legacy; the level of audacity required to embark on such a venture only matched by the gargantuan arrogance.
Michael’s own children insisted the vocals did not belong to their father. Their complaints were wantonly dismissed. You watched as two fans were handed criminal records due to their pursuit for the truth concerning the Cascio tracks. A truth that had been clearly evident since the opening seconds of the scandal.
Your PR department threw everything at discrediting the claims of fraud. Yet upon being sued, your defence was:
Neither the Estate nor Sony Music claimed Michael Jackson performed lead vocals on the Cascio tracks.
Personally speaking, the systematic undermining of Michael Jackson by yourself and your associates – both whilst he was alive as well as posthumously – means nothing you could ever do could come remotely close to your garnering even a glimmer of redemption (it’s okay, I know you don’t care). Still, there exists less stoic factions of the fan community. Their eyes are but half-open and don’t yet possess the same loyalty to Michael’s memory as mine and others’.
They’re naive enough to remain on the fence. They can still fall either way. Loathe as I am to offer advice (only doing so knowing your arrogance prohibits its acceptance), I would suggest that officially retracting the Cascio tracks from Michael Jackson’s discography might go some way to endearing such wavering fans to your cause.
You might read this. You might not. Regardless, many others will.
The Cascio scandal epitomises the abject disrespect you consistently demonstrate towards the legacy of a man once the most famous and adored in the world; one who utilised his position to promote peace and justice.
Two themes he taught us a great deal about.
Send your emails to the Estate and Sony; remind them that we will never forget:
Anyone who has authored a book on Michael Jackson and was spurred on to do so by a deep, grateful adoration of the man and a desire to seek justice for him will tell you how motivations such as these are not conducive with the wishes of the Michael Jackson Estate. They will say how when writing their book, they made the conscious decision to sacrifice financial gain at the expense of honouring their principles. They will explain how their books are – truly – labours of love fuelled by wanting – no, craving – to disseminate truth in an effort to counteract misinformation promulgated by the Estate.
I learned this the hard way.
To be clear, I do not regret having written The First Book of Michael. On the contrary, composing the blog that became the book was a wonderful experience. It involved my forging deep, lifelong relationships with fans of a like-minded ilk; friendships that flourished out of a mutual understanding of the importance in protecting and promoting Michael Jackson’s truthful legacy.
I’ll also freely admit to having revelled in the praise my words garnered, with comments I received from people who had been close to Michael – in which they admired my apparent spiritual affinity with him – making me feel nothing less than ecstatic. The way such reviews lifted my heart and encouraged my passion for writing was – and I mean this with absolute sincerity – all and more I could have asked for as recompense for my efforts and sacrifice.
In the introduction to The First Book of Michael, I write how the “book is my heart”. And it truly is.
What I am about to divulge is not some indulgence in martyrdom, nor is it an attempt to elicit sympathy. I’m not sure what it is, to be honest; but I feel compelled to put it down nonetheless. Perhaps it’s merely an expression of closure; an acknowledgment of discovering clarity at the end of an arduous journey.
You see, the months I spent collating and editing the blog into something that resembled coherence were some of the darkest periods I have ever lived through. With naive determination, I was entirely convinced that the efforts I ploughed into the book would ultimately prove worthwhile.
This obsession with seeing the project through resulted in the relationship with the mother of my daughters disintegrating into irredeemable animosity; a heartbreaking consequence of this being prolonged periods in which I was refused access to my beloved children.
Writing the book became a double-edged sword. But I had gone too far to turn back. I existed alone in a dark, rented room: my sole raison d’être being the book’s completion. I didn’t have a job. I ended up months behind with rental payments. I began hiding from my live-in landlord, keeping my curtains closed during the day and creeping out at night. I became anxious. I became depressed. I became homeless. I sacrificed everything in faith that the eventual benefits would make all the suffering worthwhile.
It can be hard to remember who oneself is whilst enduring hardship, and I’m so happy that I will forever have the book as a record of my positive intentions and bravery in times of real pain. Indeed, I look forward to the day when my daughters can read it for themselves.
Whilst I certainly possessed no aspirations of overnight wealth and stardom, I must confess that in the back of my mind there existed the quiet hope that writing the book might lead to opportunities through which I could embark on a fruitful career doing what I love.
Upon publication, however, these dreams were instantly, brutally rendered redundant.
I had pre-empted the release date with increasingly-excited promotional blog posts counting down to what should have been a joyous occasion. Instead, it became the day my work fell prey to coordinated, premeditated sabotage.
Perfectly timed to inflict maximum damage, a tongue-in-cheek article I had written years previously for an alternative music magazine was unearthed and widely distributed amongst the Michael Jackson fan community. An insidious witch hunt ensued in which I was maliciously attacked on social media using images of my children. I was slandered as a hater. My estranged children and my late hero. My desperately missed and lamented loves – the crutches I’d relied on to embolden my determination to complete the project – suddenly became the very things used to undermine me and my work.
My naivety concerning the depths the powerful, paranoid Estate patsies would dive to in order to discredit a book on Michael Jackson contrary to their propaganda was ruthlessly exposed.
Aspirations annihilated. Time I could have spent with my two young children forever irretrievable.
Sales figures were negligible. It was an excruciating anticlimax. My bank account was closed down due to debts incurred as I’d struggled and failed to make ends meet whilst writing the book.
Still, I persisted. I refused to be bullied and chose to throw all my energy into promotion that would counteract the actions of the saboteurs.
I was fortunate to find a friend who watched as I doggedly continued in efforts to make some sort of success of the book. Out of kindness and as a last ditch attempt at promotion, my friend funded a trip to Italy to appear at MJ Day. It was a beautiful occasion. But it marked my acceptance of defeat.
Yet, the obsessive, incessant online promotion I had been undertaking had been the sole factor keeping me (just about) emotionally afloat. My relinquishing hope for the book and acknowledging its failure left me utterly distraught. Life spiralled from bad to unbearable.
It has taken me two years to fully recover.
I sometimes entertain the idea of one day publishing a polished, updated version of The First Book of Michael, one that incorporates the many blog posts I wrote subsequent to its publication. But I’m not ready for that yet. It has taken time and space to be able to reflect upon the experience with any sense of objectivity at all.
Battle-scarred I may be. But I’m also rested, wiser, empowered and eager.
Eager to resume my role as a thorn in the Estate’s side.
As Michael once put it: I’m right back where I wanna be.
Let’s get one thing straight. Michael Jackson’s place in the canon of pop horror is indisputable and infinitely assured. This aspect of his legacy is frequently demonstrated in full glory throughout contemporary popular culture. Michael’s dedication to the quality of his art means no further assistance is required. Take the recent cinematic remake of cult demon clown classic, Stephen King’s IT.
The movie takes place in the late eighties and involves the adventures of a gang of young teenagers. The tangible zeitgeist of the film and the age of its protagonists naturally lends itself to the incorporation of Michael Jackson as a cultural reference.
The first scripted nod is a straightforward allusion to Michael’s hair having caught fire during filming for the Pepsi commercial. The second reference is somewhat more subtle, however. It is part of some throwaway dialogue used to demonstrate typical childhood chat of the era. As the gang walk into a room, they wistfully discuss how “he’s in a rollercoaster with a chimpanzee then he dances with the elephant man’s bones… it’s fucking cool”.
The third homage is found within the visuals during a scene in which IT becomes manifest through a projector screen. It is vividly evocative of the sequence in Ghosts when Michael assumes the role of a giant demonic force. Too evocative to be coincidence.
The denouement of IT shows the gang defeating (or have they?) the demon through discovering the power they can wield by overcoming their respective fears and working together as a team. It mirrors the final scenes in the original version of Michael Jackson’s Ghosts, when children rebuild the destroyed Maestro character through their innocence and love.
The comparisons are genuine and poignant. Stephen King co-wrote the Ghosts screenplay, after all.
I’ve written much about Michael Jackson. In all honesty, I have little left to say. I’ve said my piece.
There’s one thing that reliably provokes me enough to write again about Michael Jackson. One thing that really gets me blood-lusting after those in an unjustly esteemed position. One recurring thing that inevitably, biennially rears its grotesque head just to ruin every other Christmas for me.
The news of the latest MJ estate ruse.
The spirit-rinsing predictability of yet another cynical repackaging of Michael’s much-milked music, created solely with the intention of further lining the fat, bloodied pockets of the conmen that accelerated his demise, at the expense of the great man’s artistic integrity.
The free chalk.
Alas, there is no free chalk on this occasion.
No. This time the cheap gimmick is a glow in the dark vinyl edition. Less useful for scribbling offensive graffiti on the walls of Branca’s office. But nice and shiny nonetheless. Perfect, in fact, for those fickle, deluded, magpie anti-fans determined to assist the estate in its attempt to discover how viciously a barrel can be scraped before it ceases to qualify as a vessel anymore. They want to help break the record.
Still. Though there might not be free chalk with this one, neither is there included any songs performed by an imposter. Which – considering the ostensible theme of the project being Gothic Michael Jackson – begs the question as to why Cascio-produced, estate-endorsed, fake as a three dollar bill track Monster hasn’t been included?
Especially as it seems that whichever genius compiled the tracklisting appears to have quite rapidly run out of thematically relevant ideas. Apparently due to a dearth of knowledge concerning Michael’s discography.
Is It Scary? You know, the one about being scared of ghosts and stuff? No. Scared Of The Moon? You know, the one about being scared of the moon and stuff? No. Little Susie? You know, the one about the murdered child and that?
Leave Me Alone? You know, Michael’s analogous lamentation about suffering at the hands of the tabloid press? Dirty Diana? You know, the sex-sodden ode to a lifetime of having to deal with groupies? Unbreakable? You know, the defiant comeback track in which Biggie’s posthumous rap was specifically sampled so as to optimise Michael’s rage at the unjust state of things?
Yeah! All of those! Why not? Hell! Chuck in Butterflies whilst we’re at it!
At least some people are actually scared of butterflies.
Imagine the extent of the cognitive dissonance any fair-weather fans will have to muster when handing over their money to obtain this contrivance? The magnitude of self-chicanery required to counteract the aching immorality inherent in such a soulless purchase?
That is scary.
Show me a scar and I’ll show you a survivor. Show me someone who can proudly exhibit their scars, and I’ll show you a hero.
Michael’s face was adorned with scars. Scars from his acne-plagued adolescence. Scars from his plastic surgery. Michael was riddled with insecurities about his facial appearance. Many of Michael’s idiosyncrasies manifest as a consequence of these scars. His use of long wigs as a masking device. The wearing of a wide-brimmed hat as a masking device. The Aviator sunglasses as a masking device. The mask. A masking device.
Yet he persisted. He continued to show himself to the world.
The days of tattoos as the exclusive hallmark of angry, wayfaring bikers are long gone. Possibly to said subculture’s chagrin.
For at least two decades now the trend for inking one’s heart on one’s sleeve has been prevalent in mainstream society. When the trend began, most people visited parlours and selected from a pre-sketched gallery of quasi-tribal symbols or oriental lettering. The joke being that there must also be people in China walking around with the word ‘LINEN’ or something equally banal indelibly inscribed on a buttock. Proudly wandering around half-naked, oblivious to the bland truth, but satisfied that it definitely increased their sex appeal.
So… what exactly does that wrinkled depiction of Donald Duck on your ankle mean to you?
Well. It might mean that you had the time of your life in Marbella. And there’s no shame in that. For to be enjoying a moment to the extent that one feels compelled to honour it with a permanent visual reminder is a beautiful thing.
Many of us will forever carry these scars. And whilst many of us might also now feel somewhat less confident about their sex appeal, as a needled mnemonic, as a nostalgia spur – they hold a treasured place in one’s personal history.
And therein lies the entire point of tattoos.
In the same way there is a sense of identity in having Michael Jackson as one’s idol, there is a sense of identity in a tattoo. Those prudes that self-righteously ridicule the choices other people make in their attempts to fill the void of self (so long as no-one is hurting anyone else), should probably take a look at what they themselves are choosing in order to satisfy their own vacuum. Those that dismiss The Inked and feel superior in “not having to ‘resort’ to visual reminders” of who they are, are quite simply and very markedly missing the point.
Are you a mother? Then that is a huge portion of your identity. Do you have stretch marks? Those beautiful scars of pregnancy? If you’re in the demographic that judged Paris Jackson for acquiring ink, it’s probable.
To expect Paris Jackson to somehow not be representative of her generation and its trends is both cruel and bizarre. Considering her unorthodox upbringing, it’s a testament to her own strength of character and her dad’s adept parenting that she is.
Paris Jackson is a self-harm survivor. She has emerged from an adolescence the tabloid scrutiny of which can only be rivalled by the experience suffered by her father. Indeed, she exhibits his fortitude. Paris’ tattoos are a proud gallery displaying adornments for her adored and lamented father as well as expressions of her uniqueness. In the same way Michael used love and the embracing of individual expression to combat his insecurities, so does his daughter.
As if it should ever have been the case that the sensitive teenager was forced to defend her choices, Paris remarked:
Today i can look at my inner forearms and see art that has meaning for me. I don’t see a dark past anymore. My scars and past of self-hatred have been covered by loving marks, creativity, ingenuity… and depth.
The pricking pain of the inker’s needle can be a panacea for the burning lungs of an agonised soul. We can be certain that Michael isn’t scowling down upon Paris from his celestial abode. More likely, his brow is furrowed in disappointment at those who would hurriedly explain away his very own atypical, oft-inexplicable choices without a second’s thought, yet assume some kind of right to nanny by-proxy and by-tabloid his beloved daughter.
Judgement under the guise of concern. Isn’t that what Michael had to so-often endure?
It is absurd to deny Michael’s own daughter this assertion of devotion to her father. Especially from middle-aged whingers whose sense of self is entirely based on Michael as their idol. Paris is his actual daughter for God’s sake.
Of course, there’s a whole other debate to be had about whether or not the trend for tattoos is in itself indicative of an increasingly insecure and terrified world. That the fear of expressing oneself through having an actual personality is instead tentatively made manifest through wearing superficial hearts on sleeves. However, lest we forget the many ancient, more ‘spiritually intelligent’ civilisations that incorporated the art-form of inking skin into their cultures.
Warriors in particular were traditionally well-adorned.
To acquire a tattoo is a courageous decision, irrespective of any underlying reason. Indeed, those that acquire ‘MJ’ tattoos are consciously inviting inevitable ridicule. And perhaps the fact that it was social pariahs such as bikers who were the ones once synonymous with being heavily inked is significant.
Besides, it’s not like Michael ever had any tattoos, eh?
Apart from those on his face.
Italian translation available here: http://amzn.to/1O85aRV
The Leave Me Alone video is a trip. Not merely one aboard a rocket and a rollercoaster, but also in the psychotropic sense. Watching it is like dropping LSD then getting lost in the Dangerous album artwork – witnessing the rich, exotic imagination of it all becoming animated before your very eyes.
It starts with Michael being ejected from a trailer park, foreshadowing the subsequent short film Michael would release, Black or White – when the fat, patriarchal embodiment of North America is blasted into Africa for an educational experience. Upon the doorstep of the trailer van is thrown the tabloid junk that distracts the masses from the real problems of the world. This motif in the Leave Me Alone short film would later be echoed in the Dangerous track Why You Wanna Trip On Me.
In Leave Me Alone, the sun is setting on Michael’s Barnum-comparable circus. The red stars that appear on the rollercoaster presage those on the Dangerous album cover. Michael pilots a rocket and laughs gleefully as he loses the dogs in suits in pursuit of him – the same dogs that during the video’s denouement are attempting to keep him tied down. Michael the Gulliver-esque giant frees himself from their constraints with the same gleeful ease we witnessed as he danced fastened to a ball and chain accompanied by the reanimated bones of a stylised Joseph Merrick in an earlier scene.
Immortal and omnipotent in legend. Unconstrained by physicality or death.
The short film is fertile with symbolism:
Pirates attempt to down Michael’s rocket; during the sequence in which Elizabeth Taylor is featured, Michael stops singing out of respect for her; there’s a rotating barber’s pole – very feasibly a reference to Michael’s recent hair loss and subsequent reliance on wigs; there’s a haunted mine, a goldfish bowl and a peacock – the latter of which Michael had been fond of using as an emblem for racial equality since The Jacksons’ Destiny album; Michael rescues Bubbles from slavery; he bursts through doors that when closed form a broken heart.
Long before conspiracy theorists were over-analysing pop music videos for signs of Illuminati messages, Michael was incorporating such themes into his art:
There is a perspicacious incorporation of Orwellian CCTV; there’s a Baphometian pushmi-pullyu; there are pyramids and reptiles aplenty – even an alligator controlling a piano that spins atop its snout. Other things spin: Michael’s brain, rom which cascade depictions of a cookie, a nose, a scalpel and planet Earth. Polarities of importance? Or how both personal and macrocosmic issues carry equal importance?
By the final “Make that change” of the Bad Tour, Michael’s exorcising of the significance of commercial success as a barometer for self-worth was in full swing. After unsuccessfully throwing his all into efforts that would surely ensure Bad outsold Thriller, it seemed to dawn on him what an impossible, self-defeating aspiration it was. Sales of Thriller were a phenomenon, insurpassable due to the project’s uniquely perfect storm of brilliance, endeavour and happenstance.
So, rather than let the obsession control the rest of his career, Michael psychically discarded the shackles. The Leave Me Alone short film was a segue into the Dangerous project. It showed Michael embracing his responsibility as “The World’s Strongest Man” – as a poster in the video depicts. Michael focused his energies on humanitarianism and philanthropy: “There’s a time when you’re right… / There’s a choice you must take”.
This emancipation from his self-imposed standards of success (a liberation that cannot have pleased his record company) enabled Michael to grow artistically. Quincy Jones’ expertise as Executive Producer was bravely, poignantly abandoned, allowing Michael to experiment with different musical genres on the Dangerous album. The themes of which are loneliness, humanitarianism and self-fulfilment.
Dangerous was Michael’s coming-of-age magnum opus, in which he courageously incorporated religiosity. In the song Jam, Michael laments the confusion in creed and its incongruity with world peace, proclaiming, “She pray to God, to Buddha, then she sings a Talmud song.” Michael began using the Sign Of The Cross in his choreography (often followed by a crotch grab). The lyrics of the song Dangerous both quote the Bible and describe a woman as “divinity in motion.” In Will You Be There, Michael begs us to remember that he’s “only human”, whilst also, with the words “lift me up, lift me up” implores that we elevate him as a totem for peace.
Divinity exists. Inside every human. But Michael was the most famous one that ever lived, and the reality of divinity is evident in this man’s choice to use his peerless fame as a catalyst for peace.
And whilst the dogs in suits might continue to chase, we can forever throw our heads back in untouchable glee.
Italian translation available here: http://amzn.to/1O85aRV
March 15th was a fitting date for the announcement that Michael Jackson’s precious fifty-percent share of the Sony/ATV music-publishing catalogue had been sold to Sony Music at a knock-down price. At a depreciated cost that coincidentally and conveniently just about covers the Estate’s IRS tax fine. With an extra two million thrown in perhaps as a bonus for the architect of the Estate’s deliberate mismanagement.
For March 15th marks the Ides of March. The day Julius Caesar uttered the words “Et tu, Brute?” as he recognised his friend Brutus amongst the assassins that had conspired to murder him.
Of course, there would have been no “Et tu, Branca?” – Michael had long-since realised that the duplicitous lawyer was no friend of his. What with Michael firing him for conflict of interest, due to his representing Sony Music as Michael protested against the company. As well as Michael screaming at people who even mentioned Branca’s name, insisting that Branca was in cahoots with Sony Music and Sneddon in helping bring about the child molestation prosecution.
Furthermore, in his song ‘In The Back’ it takes no wild stretch of imagination when considering who Michael is referring to as he sings of how he is still trying to “deal with the fires that they made”. Indeed, a lifetime of litigation is inevitable when its your own lawyer conspiring against you. Neither is it far-fetched to imagine who the “Johnny” might be that Michael references in ‘Superfly Sister’ – “Johnny” who is “begging pretty please, keep that brother on his knees.”
Yet – I’ll say it again – in the will that was signed by Michael whilst he was provably three thousand miles away, John Branca was granted stewardship of Michael’s Estate in the event of his death.
Such a tragic turn of events how it has become Michael’s true fans that will never buy anything again that they release in his name. The thought of lining the pockets of those criminals makes me feel physically sick.
Michael was killed for his catalogue. He explicitly told us that this would happen.
Julius Caesar’s death marked the start of a civil war, though how there can possibly be a civil war between Michael Jackson fans is beyond me. I simply cannot begin to imagine the mindset of any faction that defends this egregious undermining of Michael’s life work and wishes. Who are these people? Can there really be enough of these avaricious imbeciles in order to form an army? Regardless, their battle is immoral; their Estate built on sand.
Branca has succeeded in both his straight-faced farce and in his aplomb as a conjuror – he has offered just enough glittering explosions to distract just enough people to support him as he saw Sony Music over the finish line.
And Branca is continuing with this technique, with Michael’s children taking the heat. After once again going public with her anti-Sony stance, Paris suddenly became the victim of a media smear claiming that her boyfriend was racist.
Also in the same week, Prince launched his own production company, ‘King’s Son Productions’.
And in this lies some hope.
For in the civil war of Roman times, the throne was ultimately won by Julius Caesar’s son.
Italian translation available here: http://amzn.to/1O85aRV
My instant reaction to the announcement of Michael’s appearance at the O2 was to leap on the first available train down from the Lake District to London. I bought an umbrella to present to him and decorated it with gold ‘MJ’ lettering, a drawing of a butterfly and the words ‘Welcome Back.’
I was drunk on excitement. I was going to see Michael again!
Michael’s words were meant to ignite a year of intermittent encounters with him. Yet there was a tangible uneasiness amongst fans. Something seemed terribly amiss.
Michael was killed mere weeks later.
The subsequent inquest into how this happened revealed that behind the scenes of the O2 press conference, Michael had been being bullied. That Randy Phillips had hit Michael and screamed at him “so hard the walls were shaking”, complaining the reason why a terrified Michael was taking so long to take to the O2 stage was because “we still have to get his nose on properly.” Referring to Michael as “the freak.”
Of course, us fans knew none of this. And in spite of our reservations, we chose hope and the seductive thrill of anticipation.
After all, Michael was back.
The consequent ‘This Is It’ project was an empty hearse. A soulless vehicle. It was a snuff movie that took advantage of the world’s grief at Michael’s death, in order to feed the greed of those that coerced Michael into cooperating with the project by using his vulnerabilities and insecurities against him.
In the opening of the ensuing AEG case, the defence threatened “to expose the ugly of your family and your son.” Katherine’s lawyer, Brian Panish asked her, “And how does it make you feel to hear that they’re going to tell everyone that your son is a bad person?” To which she replied, “Makes me feel real bad, because I know my son was a very good person. He loved everybody. He gave to charity. He’s in the Guinness Book of Records for giving the most to charity of all the pop stars. I’m so nervous. I’m sorry.” Panish also asked, “And why is it that you’re here to testify today?” Katherine replied, “Because I want to know what really happened to my son, and that’s why I’m here.”
The distressing details Katherine Jackson had to endure as the court described her son’s physical and mental demise towards death evoked tears, both for justice and remorse. Her recounting the moment she learned Michael had died was nothing short of harrowing,
“Everything went dark, and I just heard screaming.”
A majority of the jury agreed that AEG Live escaped prosecution on a mere technicality.
The Estate refused to support Michael’s mother and children in the lawsuit against AEG.
‘This Is It’ tickets sold out in record time. Hundreds of thousands of people continued to queue and crash websites even after a million had already been sold. A dearth of confidence after the media’s attempted assassination of Michael after the 2005 trial had crippled Michael.
This record-breaking reaction that demonstrated how much he remained loved by the public must have provided Michael with some solace and happiness in his final days.
I hold onto this.
Italian translation available here: http://amzn.to/1O85aRV
Four pairs of unblinking eyes had watched her reading out the numbers on the newly-acquired credit card. My mum settled the phone back in its cradle and looked up at the four unusually silent and well-behaved children perched apprehensively on the couch across the room.
She piqued the moment with a mischievous pause.
“So… who wants to go to a Michael Jackson concert in the summer holidays?”
We leapt into her lap and smothered her with kisses of ecstatic gratitude, each of us promising we’d never be naughty ever again.
My mum had recently been discharged from hospital, where she had spent months recovering from illness. This was her way of apologising for not having been around. Not that she ever needed to.
Immediately – in our naivety – my brother and I began fantasising about which songs Michael might perform. Would the concert simply consist of each song from the Dangerous album? Played in order? We had no idea. My brother was ten years old. I was twelve. This was our first ever gig. Our comprehension of a pop concert had been informed purely through perpetually-repeated viewings of the Moonwalker version of Man In The Mirror. As far as we could vaguely appreciate such an abstract event, the ensuing experience would most-likely entail us weeping ourselves unconscious, before being dispatched from the crowd by a conveyor belt of hands and into the custody of some burly men at the front. Strange men, who apparently preferred to throw water at people rather than watch the Michael Jackson concert happening behind them. Even though they all wore Michael Jackson T-shirts.
We four siblings had already been Michael Jackson fans for five years. But the idea of going to see Michael live in concert set our fan status on fire, instantly rocketing us far and away into the stratosphere.
We were somewhat excited.
Our appetite for all-things Michael became insatiable. We collected everything. We studied him. We imbibed him.
Roundhay Park, Leeds – the scene of the shout. August 16th, 1992 – the day with an infinite echo.
And the infuriating view of a fluorescent shell suit.
We were walled-in by adults making early-nineties fashion mistakes.
Alone, my mum had brought four young children to a Michael Jackson concert. I can only imagine it was our delirious level of excitement and regular reminders of our oath to never misbehave again that helped made the scenario manageable for her.
That neon cage is all I can recall prior to Michael’s arrival on stage. My brain was no-doubt drenched in adrenaline. (Although I know that the support act went by the quite ironic moniker of D’Influence.)
But the memory of the crowd’s roar announcing Michael Jackson was now amongst us is invincible. It remains the loudest sound I have ever heard.
The Michael Jackson.
I couldn’t see a thing. It was bewildering. I felt terrified.
The smash of glass.
Michael had kicked things off.
I turned to look at my mum. Her face was beaming.
I felt exhilarated.
Whenever I could manage, I stole glimpses over the shoulders of the garish giants that jumped around me. With the Jumbotron providing a contingency view.
The details I can recollect are few. I remember feeling embarrassed at not knowing the lyrics to Human Nature for the call-and-response section. I remember instinctively turning to my brother as the words “My footsteps broke the silence of the pre-dawn hours…” began to emanate, to find him looking right back at me; whereupon we both simultaneously screamed “Heartbreak Hotel!” Although, of course, it wasn’t. Unbeknownst to us, Michael now used that spoken intro for Smooth Criminal instead. And as that song’s bassline burst open, the mutual exclamation “Smooth Criminal! Ha ha!” was our delighted response.
During the denouement of She’s Out Of My Life I remember laughing at hearing a man shout, “Cheer up, Michael! She’s not worth it mate!” I remember marvelling at the dancing skeletons in Thriller – from my hindered perspective, all I could see were the puppets, not the puppeteers. I remember Billie Jean. Because two men hoisted my younger brother and youngest sister onto their shoulders so they could see the show better.
Yeah. I remember that.
I remember my mum worrying that Workin’ Day And Night and Beat It were too noisy; before relaxing again in the beauty of Will You Be There.
But most of all, I remember Man In The Mirror.
At its climax I witnessed my hero fly.
I watched Michael Jackson fly.
At least, as far as I was concerned as a twelve year old boy.
The magic. The atmosphere. The adoration.
I became a mere one of millions privileged to see the uniquely superlative spectacle that was a Michael Jackson concert.
The stage lights faded for the final time. Michael Jackson had left the stadium. Fireworks blossomed in the sky, stroking strobes across the faces of a dazzled crowd.
We made our way out of the arena. On our own feet – neither crying nor unconscious. But awestruck and soul-altered all the same.
Little had my mum known what a profound impact the experience of seeing Michael Jackson in concert would have on her young children.
The echo of it.
And she reckons she’s still paying off that credit card.
Italian translation available here: http://amzn.to/1O85aRV