Thursday, July 2, 2009

Wanna be chartin' something, and when did Jacko go wacko?

From the other side of the pond, the Guardian's Rob Fitzpatrick reports that Michael Jackson has, post-demise, entered the charts.

A lot.

[The] Official Chart Company's midweek sales report [is out] and Jackson is right there at one (with Man In The Mirror), nine, 10, 11, 13, 19, 21, 22, 23, 28, 31, 34, 38, 41 ... shall I go on?

In total, he has 31 records in the Top 100 singles chart and 10 albums in the Top 100 albums chart, with four in the Top 10.

Yet Fitzpatrick feels a little odd about the whole affair.

With three 'best of' albums back to back, it also highlights how ruthlessly Sony Music have milked his work.

It's odd, because one would think that one would be celebrating the music of Jackson - and he was clearly musically talented - but the emphasis on superlative numbers that colored all perception of Jackson throughout his life continues to haunt him after his death. Sadly, part of this was Jackson's own fault - even Prince wouldn't name his best-of album "HIStory" with a capital "HIS."

But the music...the music. Over the last few years, my favorite Michael Jackson song has been "Stranger in Moscow," one recorded years after "Thriller" and "Bad" and child abuse charges. A powerful musical work - but, as I noted earlier, the product of a completely paranoid mind. Let's look at those lyrics again (historical note: this song was written AFTER the fall of the Soviet Union):

I was wandering in the rain
Mask of life, feelin' insane
Swift and sudden fall from grace
Sunny days seem far away
Kremlin's shadow belittlin' me
Stalin's tomb won't let me be
On and on and on it came
Wish the rain would just let me be....

Here abandoned in my fame
Armageddon of the brain
KGB was doggin' me
Take my name and just let me be
Then a beggar boy called my name
Happy days will drown the pain

One theory is that Jackson was an OK guy, and then at some point became Wacko Jacko. But if so, it happened before "Stranger in Moscow." And it happened before he invited boys to the Neverland Ranch. And it happened before the oxygen chamber. And it happened before he went to the White House wearing Sergeant Pepper rejects. And it happened before he got acne - something that he claimed completely changed his life. (Yes, I bought the autobiography.)

Sadly, Michael probably became Wacko Jacko much earlier in his life.

Joe was determined to turn his sons into a successful pop group and forced his children to rehearse to the point of exhaustion, and would whip them if they missed a step or note....

In an interview with British TV journalist Martin Bashir, Michael said his father was a bully who emotionally and physically abused his sons. 'If you didn't do it the right way, he would tear you up,' he said....

Michael told talk show host Oprah Winfrey he was so afraid of his father that he was sometimes sick when he saw him.

Perhaps I'm being an armchair psychologist, but it's quite possible that the insomnia, the drugs, the boys, the single glove, but most importantly the drive to be number one - all of that can probably be traced to his childhood. Whether that excuses Jackson's actions as an adult is an open question.

Normally on this blog I try to concentrate on the music, and not delve into the personal issues regarding the musicians. But in the case of Jackson, the music and the personality are intertwined in life, and in death.
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