Who did you idolise growing up?
This is going to be a fun one. I mean there are folk I liked well enough but idolise is a really strong word. Its okay though; I can tell you just who it was that I adored the absolute most as I was getting older.
Are you surprised? Well you shouldn’t be; this man, in his life was an incredible influence on me when I was younger.
The very first (and I mean very first) album anybody bought me was Bad on vinyl. My dad has it at the moment – he says its his, though to be honest, he was never a Jackson fan, so I don’t know how he gets off saying that! – and is keeping it safe for me. The disc is better off with him anyway, since I have nowhere to keep it that would satisfy me as to its safety. I want to wall mount the thing. Anyway; Bad was my very first album. I was six, possibly seven, and his songs would have me jumping around the room, leaping off sofas, waving my arms around and singing at the top of my lungs.
My favourite songs were Speed Demon, Liberian Girl and Just Good Friends. I enjoyed Man In The Mirror, but it just didn’t seem to have the same power as those three. I’d sing into a hair brush or a small roll-on deodorant and dance around the living room while my mum tried to hoover.
When my sixth birthday came along; and even I’ll always remember because we had it at Mc Donald’s and we had a truly AWESOME She-Ra cake, I sat down at the kitchen table three weeks before and hand wrote a very long letter. I addressed it to Mr Michael Jackson, in Never Never Land and invited him to come to my Mc Donald’s party. I made sure he understood that he could stay over if he needed to and that there would be plenty of food to go around. I told him which of my friends would be coming and that if he liked cake then he’d love love mine because it was She-Ra. I was gutted when he didn’t show up though I think I reasoned, at the time, that he was probably very busy. He would have loved to come if he had the time; I just knew it!
Then I got a smidgy bit older and Michael Jackson wasn’t quite cool enough for me to pay attention to his work, or talk about him with my school friends. We moved onto artists like R Kelly and Aaliyah and I bought my first album with my own money. I bought Alanis Morrisette and, just as an aside, I think that moment in WH Smiths marked me out for a future of eclectic and scattered music tastes. Never mind that I’d grown up listening to Bob Marley, John Holt, Desmond Dekker and Jimmy Cliff (with a bit of Peter Tosh thrown in).
But Michael Jackson was always at the back of my mind. I was always paying attention to his music and, when I started to get a regular run of pocket money I was starting to buy magazines that I saw with him in. Mainly Sugar, Top of the Pops and Bliss (awful magazines, what was I thinking?!) but they were a chance for me to keep up with what he was doing, what music was out, what tour dates were…. Then I realised that a lot of these magazines had posters in them too. Posters that I could take out and stick on my wall.
If I can find a photo from that time, I’ll dig it out and scan it so you can see just what I did to my bed room, but from the second I realised I could do such a thing; every magazine, newspaper clipping and cut out I could find was trimmed down and stuck on my wall with blu tac. Michael Jackson was all over my room, staring down at me from all four walls in various poses, moods and guises. I used to go to sleep at night and watch all the eyes in the semi dark, trying to figure out if it was weird or not (I decided it wasn’t, by the way). Soon the room began to be almost perpetually dark as all the glossy paper snagged the light out of the air and swallowed it up. The walls, the colour of which I’d picked myself, didn’t see the light of day for almost three years.
I can’t even remember clearly how it ended. I do know why though.
Do you remember a group called 3T? Taj, Taryll and Tito Jackson. If you don’t remember then, then its not what you’re thinking. these three lads are not Michael’s kids, they’re his nephews. Their father, Tito Jackson of the Jackson 5, sent them out into the world in 1995 and they released this:
I LOVED this track. Hell I still do and the reason I heard about it in the first place was because Michael Jackson appeared on it. Well… he sang on it anyway.
And then the obsessions shifted. Pictures of Michael slowly shifted to become pictures of these three (predominantly Tito) until suddenly the ‘Michael Jackson’ phase, as I like to call it, was over.
…fast forward quite a few years. Its 2009. I’ve left home, been through university and I’m living with four other housemates and I’ve just got back from a DnD game on a cold and slightly soggy June evening. I walk through the door to the house, into the living room and Neil looks up from the TV to tell me flatly; ‘Michael Jackson is dead.’
I swear for a second, the world went black and white. My eyes did this weird sort of blanking out thing which utterly wiped out all colour. Then it came back and I was telling him not to be such a lying bastard. But he just points at the TV, showing me the news headline in massive white letters at the bottom of the screen; ‘Michael Jackson; dead.’ GAH!
I cried. I really, honestly did and spend the next three months listening to nothing but his music. I pulled it all out, uploaded what wasn’t already on my computer and essentially didn’t come out of my room. I couldn’t believe it. I’d been trying to figure out how I was going to get tickets to the O2 tour and feeling horribly jealous at one of the girls at work who already had a pair. I’d been learning the Thriller Dance so I could take part in Thrill The World. Then, suddenly, just like that, BANG, he was dead.
Two years on I still feel it sometimes. I listen to one of his tracks and get a very odd little twitch in my chest. My sight retains colour – thankfully – but I take a moment to stop and feel sad that such a marvellous artist is now gone from the world. There will never be another like him. Ever. Justin Timberlake, Chris Brown and Usher can try as much as they damn well like, but no one, anywhere, ever again, will grab their balls with the same class, style and flash as Michael Jackson.
My 80 Post Challenge is brought to you with help from Tom Slatin’s 80 Journal Writing Prompts.