Monday, May 31, 2010

Michael Monday: Schooled in Sinatra

Michael surprised everyone on April 18, 1971, when he appeared on Diana Ross's television special Diana! as a miniature Frank Sinatra, singing "It Was a Very Good Year." Not only was his impression spot on, from the costuming to his smooth moves, it was the first time he had sung solo in public, leading some fans to start speculating that Michael would one day launch a solo career, as his mentor Diana Ross had done. They turned out to be right about that.

By all accounts, Michael was a natural when it came to mimicking adult performers. But he probably didn't grow up watching and studying Frank Sinatra's moves in the same way he did with James Brown and Jackie Wilson. So someone on the production staff of Diana! had to teach him how to do it. This tutorial was captured in pictures with the contact proof sheets below.

I'm sorry I don't know the name of the man who's showing Michael how to do it. If anyone recognizes him, please let me know. He did a great job of schooling Michael in Sinatra, and the results can be seen in the YouTube clip embedded below.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Live at the Forum Delayed? is now showing the release date for Jackson 5 Live at the Forum as June 29, instead of June 22. Over on the Hip-o-Select site, the release date still shows as June 4, so it's hard to know when we'll see the disc. I figure we've waited 40 years -- what's another week or two?

Hoy llego el disco ecuatoriano

Foreign pressings of Jackson 5 45s are especially prized by collectors, and I'm no exception. Understandably, most collectors especially like the 45s that have picture sleeves, and I've certainly collected my share of those. But as a collector my favorite 45s are those from Latin America, even though most of them never had picture sleeves. I love the Spanish translations of the song titles, which often vary from country country. Here we see "Forever Came Today" as "Hoy llego la eternidad" which contrasts with the translation on the pressing from Spain, "Hoy empezo el futuro."

Latin American pressings from countries other than Argentina and Brazil are fairly rare. The label shown above is the only Ecuadorian pressing I have ever come across. It's a sentimental favorite of mine because I lived in Quito in 1973, and don't recall ever hearing the Jackson 5 on the radio or seeing any Jackson 5 records while I was there (other than the ones I had brought with me). But this 45 is proof that the Jackson 5 did indeed reach fans in Ecuador. I hope to continue to find more. And maybe one day I'll even find the elusive Bolivian pressing.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Happy Birthday to Rebbie and La Toya

Even though Rebbie doesn't celebrate holidays, I wanted to acknowledge the birthday she and La Toya share. Here they are years ago in the pool with the two youngest members of the Jackson family, Randy and Janet.

Dancing Machine

The Jackson brothers must have endured dozens of photo sessions in the early 1970s, both as a group and as individuals. Many of the photos that were taken ended up in teen magazines, including the Motown-produced all-J5 fan magazine TcB!. I have sometimes been lucky enough to find the original photos that were used, and once in a while, I have found the mother lode for photo collectors: contact sheets from an individual shoot.

About twenty years ago, I connected with a dealer who had some of the teen magazine archives, including the original photos from TcB!. I wish I had had the money to buy everything he had, but unfortunately, I didn't so I had to settle for selections. They included this wonderful contact sheet for Jackie's photoshoot for the Jackson 5 dancing pinups. Jackie was fond of fringed vests, and from the photos, it looks like he really got a kick out of the effect his twirling movements had on the fringe. There is an expression of pure delight on his face in these photos.

The contact sheet is dated September 29, 1970. The photo they ultimately selected for the pinup is circled with red grease pencil, and three others, circled in green, were cropped and used as spot photographs in TcB!

And here's the actual J5 Dancing Pinup that was printed in TcB! in the spring of 1971:

Friday, May 28, 2010

Guitar Heroes

I love these two early picture of the J5's own Warriors of Rock, Tito and Jermaine, who just happened to take their guitars to the beach.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

J5 in the Studio

In the spring of 1974, Rock & Soul Songs sent reporter Lisa Robinson to the Motown Studios to observe a Jackson 5 recording session first-hand. As it turned out, Jermaine had the flu that day, so what she witnessed was a two-hour session of Michael, Marlon, and Jackie recording the backing vocals for "It All Begins and Ends with Love," a cut that appeared on the Dancing Machine LP. I'm sure the whole experience would have been more exciting for the young reporter if the lead singer had been been laying down vocal tracks, but she did manage to make her account interesting, in any case, and offered rare insight into the day-to-day studio work of two of the group's frequently unsung members, Marlon and Jackie.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Jackson 5 at the Apollo, May 24-30, 1968

Exactly 42 years ago today, the Jackson 5 were half-way through a one-week engagement at the famous Apollo Theater in New York City, as a supporting act for headliner Etta James. This was actually the Jackson 5's second appearance at the Apollo. They had first appeared as the victors in the famous Amateur Night at the Apollo a few months earlier in February. They proved so popular that they were invited back for a paying gig.

This ad and the accompanying brief article was taken from Harlem's newspaper, The Amsterdam News, May 18, 1968. They were such unknowns at that time that the article gives their name as the "Jive Five."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mystery Photo

Here's a rare photo of the Jackson 5 that looks like it was taken in early 1968, based on their heights and the lengths of their afros. They're wearing matching stage costumes so this may have been taken backstage before or after a performance. And is that the edge of Joe Jackson to the left of Jackie?

The stage costumes themselves may offer the biggest clue. They are dashikis, unlike any other costumes I've ever seen the Jackson 5 wear, especially pre-Motown, when they were a bit more conservative and formal in their apparel. They are similar in style to the ones the actors wore in The Jacksons: An American Dream when they performed in Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater. I wonder if perhaps this photo may have been taken at that time, as a remembrance of that historic performance? They performed there in February 1968, so the timing would be right. But unless someone comes forward with the inside scoop, I suppose we'll never know for sure.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Michael Monday: First American Music Awards Presentation

Michael appeared on the first American Music Awards in February of 1973, not as an honoree but as a presenter, along with fellow teen heart-throb Donny Osmond, and child stars, Rodney Allen Rippy and Ricky Segall, who were apparently intended to be the pint-sized versions of Michael and Donny. (There is a whole strange subliminal black and white message going on with the costuming.) The script is terrible and Michael looks like he knows it. Donny, bless him, is either more experienced at delivering sappy dialogue, or was so thrilled to be presenting next to Michael Jackson that he looks genuinely excited to be there.

Of course, Donny and Michael together on the same stage was a teen magazine editor's dream come true and warranted a three-page spread in 16 magazine detailing the rehearsals (apparently a dress rehearsal for Michael and Rodney only) and the after party, where Michael was too shy to approach his crush, Maureen McCormick, and left early with Donny to take in a 10:30 p.m. showing of The Sting. Ah, the exciting life of a teen idol. Michael would go on to win 26 American Music Awards of his own over the span of his career, more than any other artist.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Working Their Way up the Ladder

As a long-time fan, I love nothing better than to come across a Jackson 5 photo I've never seen before. My friend Raisa sent me this one, taken in the J5's early days at Motown, probably in the summer or early fall of 1969. Their clothes are familiar, but they usually wore matching vests with this outfit. And can you believe that they found lime green patent leather boots to match?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Rappin' with Tito Jackson

One of the nicest things about Right On! magazine was that it included regular feature articles on all the Jackson brothers, not just Michael and Jermaine, as was the case with the white teen magazines. The first issue of Right On! from October 1971 carried this two-page article about Tito, in which he talks about the music business and his life on the road. Unlike most teen mag fodder, this interview transcript sounds like it may have been Tito's actual musings. And how groovy is the accompanying photo showing him blowing a bubble?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Live at the Forum Available for Pre-Sale

You will now find Jackson 5 Live at the Forum available for pre-sale on the Hip-o-Select site, along with a picture of the cd cover, track listing, and info about the cd itself. If the dates on the site are accurate, if looks like it ships from Hip-o-Select three weeks earlier than from other sources. Of course, it's best not to get our hopes up -- it may just be an error. But I'll be ordering from Hip-o anyway because I boycott Amazon.

C'mon, J5 fans -- let's put our money where our mouth is and make this a sell-out. Maybe then they'll be encouraged to poke around a bit more in those vaults.

What Happened to Stand!

When I first saw the track listing for the 1970 Forum concert, I wondered why they hadn't opened the concert with their usual Sly & the Family Stone cover, Stand!, especially since they were clearly performing this song live back in 1969 when they debuted it on The Ed Sullivan Show. It was a great concert opener because it allowed for Johnny and Ronnie to play the opening bars over and over again on the darkened stage, building up excitement and frenzied anticipation in the crowd -- as if any more was needed after the interminable opening acts. The stage lights would suddenly go on and there would be the Jackson 5, standing at their microphones, singing "Oom-pah, bah-bah..."

I posed the question yesterday on Soulful Detroit, and within 24 hours had an answer from Harry Weinger of the Universal Music Group. (That's the thing I love about this forum -- you ask a question and it gets answered, usually by someone who's an expert or industry insider.) HW said that they had opened the 1970 Forum concert with Stand! but they were experiencing technical difficulties at first, so the recording was unusable.

Luckily, we have both audio and video of the original opening number in the Going Back to Indiana special, which you can see here on YouTube. This was recorded nearly a year later in Indianapolis on May 29, 1971, and by then the J5 were performing like a well-oiled machine.

For the TV special, the performance of Stand! was cut from 4:16 to 3:00, but you can hear the full version on the J5's Goin' Back to Indiana soundtrack LP. In his stage patter, Jermaine promises to "get things groovin' up here" by encouraging the audience to sing along to the "Huh! Hah! Ya ya ya ya ya ya ya ya ya ya" part but it sounds like he didn't have much luck. Maybe it's because everyone was too busy watching Jackie, Marlon and Michael's fancy footwork.

Fashion Friday

Marlon proudly models a hot pink bolero hat and a hot pink suede vest that includes both beads and fringe, two mainstays of early '70s fashion. His colorful striped shirt with matching sash was raided from Michael's closet -- he wore them with blue pants and vest at the May 2, 1970, concert in Philly. Marlon wore it well, though. Here he looks like a junior Superfly, dressed to the nines and ready for action. And as an added bonus, Right On! even color coordinated their stamp of provenance in the upper left corner.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Love' s Gone Bad / I Hear a Symphony

One of the rarest Jackson 5 45s from Motown is this 1986 promo-only release from Canada of "Love's Gone Bad" backed with "I Hear a Symphony." It was issued to promote Looking Back to Yesterday: Never Before Released Masters, an LP credited only to Michael even though half the songs were Jackson 5 songs. Interestingly, the 45 lists "Love's Gone Bad" as a solo song by Michael, and "I Hear a Symphony" as a Jackson 5 song, and on the LP the credits are reversed. In actuality, both were recorded by the Jackson 5.

The A-side was originally recorded in 1972, and appeared on the 1979 LP Boogie, and the B-side was recorded in 1970, and also appeared in 1986 on the Jackson 5's second Anthology album.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Fan Club Letter Announcing Early Tour Dates

In the Jackson 5's early days, the first few tour dates were promoted directly to fans through the Motown Fan Clubs:

Hi There!

We would like to tell you personally that we are appearing in our first live concerts next week. We will be at the Cow Palace in San Francisco on Friday, June 19 and the Los Angeles Forum on Saturday, June 20.

We just wanted to let you know and hope that we will be able to see you at one of our concerts. We also wanted to personally thank you for all your wonderful letters.

The Jackson 5

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Art for Live at the Forum

It's not surprising that our friend Yoann is the first kid on the block to have the cover art for the new Live at the Forum cd, more than a month before its release, which you can find over on his fabulous site. But what is surprising is that of all the photos that were taken of the Jackson 5 performing at the Forum, especially from their 1970 concert, Hip-0-Select would choose this photo from a 1971 concert in Indianapolis.

Too bad someone over at Soulful Detroit couldn't hook them up with Weldon McDougal III, an active participant in their online forum, who was Motown's still photographer at the time. I'm sure he has dozens of unpublished photos they could have used.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Track Listing Announced

I am still on the road but had to pop in with some breaking news about the upcoming Live at the Forum double-cd that is scheduled for release on June 22. It will include two full-length Jackson 5 concerts, both recorded at the Los Angeles Forum, one in 1970 and one in 1972. At the left you see the J5 promoting the 1970 concert at the Forum with Elgin Baylor (better known for his professional basketball career than he was for his brief stint as a concert promoter).

My friend Justin has just sent me the track listing for the cds:

Disc 1 – June 20, 1970
1. Introduction
2. I Want You Back
3. Feelin' Alright
4. Who's Lovin' You
5. Walk On
6. Don't Know Why I Love You
7. Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah
8. ABC
9. It's Your Thing
10. I Found That Girl
11. There Was A Time
12. Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin
13. The Love You Save

Bonus Track
14. Mama's Pearl - May 29, 1971 - Live from Indianapolis

Disc 2 – August 26, 1972
1. Brand New Thing
2. Medley: I Want You Back/ABC/Mama's Pearl
3. Sugar Daddy
4. I'll Be There
5. Introduction by Michael
6. Goin' Back to Indiana/Brand New Thing/Goin' Back to Indiana
7. Bridge Over Troubled Water
8. I Found That Girl
9. I'm So Happy
10. Lookin' Through The Windows
11. Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing
12. Introduction by Jackie
13. Ben
14. Rockin' Robin
15. Got To Be There
16. You've Got A Friend
17. Ain't No Sunshine
18. I Wanna Be Where You Are
19. Introduction by Jermaine
20. That's How Love Goes
21. Never Can Say Goodbye
22. Walk On
23. The Love You Save

Bonus Track
24. I Wanna Be Where You Are - September 1972 - Live from Chicago - from Save The Children

It looks great! Now all we have to do is wait. And wait.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Packing My Bags

Hi, J5 fans, I'm packing my bags and heading to California for the next week or so. I won't be able to post during that time, but will try to check in from time to time. There will be lots more in store when I return on May 20. See you then!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The ABC Album Cover That Never Was

In late 1969, Berry Gordy commissioned portrait artist M. Werlin to paint a portrait of the Jackson 5 for their ABC LP cover. You see the results of his labors above. Although he captured their youthful energy, I'm just as glad they went with the photographic cover. Young fans were hungry for photos and would have felt cheated with an art cover, even if it had been painted by Michelangelo.

A local L.A. newspaper published a story about the artist and the painting, and the accompanying photos show him with the Jackson 5 posing patiently. Even in black and white, with their grainy newsprint quality, I prefer both of the photos below to the painting. Thank you, Mr. Gordy, for scrapping this plan!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Michael Monday: He Was Nice to Mice

Seeing the photos from the August 10, 1970, issue of Soul that I posted last week, made me think of all the photos I have of a young Michael Jackson, posing with his pet mice.

Michael was always an animal lover and mice were his earliest pets (although it probably didn't happen quite like it was depicted in The Jacksons: An American Dream). He seemed to love posing with them. There is a look of sheer joy on his face in this photo, where he is balancing no fewer than five mice on his shoulders.

A Look magazine feature from 1970 showed him playing with his mice and his baby sister, Janet.

It's hard to tell if Janet likes the mice as much as Michael, or just enjoys the undivided attention of her big brother.

This last photo is a snapshot that shows Michael in his bedroom with his mice in their cage. At first glance he looks like any ordinary 10-year-old boy showing off his pets, until you notice the stage costume hanging up to behind him, to his left.

Later he would move on to more exotic pets like boa constrictors, llamas, and, of course, the famous chimpanzee, Bubbles. But when he was ten, he was the original Mice Elf.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

When Jermaine Was the Baby of the Family

Once in a while, pieces of the Jackson brothers' schoolwork comes up for auction. I have no real interest in collecting Marlon's math papers or Randy's spelling tests, but I couldn't resist this autobiographical piece written by Jermaine at age 15, where he talks of his early life. He writes in an odd -- and rather inconsistent -- third person voice and he dwells so much on being the baby of the family that it's pretty clear he wouldn't have minded being the youngest of four. At the end of his essay, he talks about "this young man" (i.e. Jermaine) growing up to be the singer of the family. It must have been harder for him than we have realized to have had his little brother push him out of the spotlight.

It's also pretty clear from this essay that the Jackson brothers missed out on a lot of formal education, due to being on the road from the time they were small. The teachers at the Walton School must have had their work cut out for them dealing with show-business children in similar situations.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Forty Years Ago Today

On May 8, 1970, the Jackson 5's second album, ABC, was released to stores. Correction: it was released to all stores except the one in my neighborhood. It was a head shop called Elysian Fields about ten blocks from my house.

Every day I would trek there to see if the new Jackson 5 album was in yet and for excruciating weeks on end, it wasn't there. It got to the point where I would just walk in the door and the hippy at the counter would say, "It's not here yet." And I would make the long walk home, dejected. In retrospect, I don't know why I didn't just phone them to ask, or have my parents drive me downtown, but I was a dumb kid who didn't think of stuff like that. I'd just go home and play my "ABC" 45, over and over. Sometimes I'd flip it over and play the B-side, "The Young Folks," the J5's cover version of a Diana Ross and the Supremes song that I didn't like as much.

Finally, one day when I walked in, my hippy friend cried out with joy, "It's here!" I could see it from across the room -- a bright blue cover with the Jackson 5 themselves wrapped around gigantic colorful letters that spelled "ABC." The price sticker on it read $3.88, and with tax it came to $4.00. (All the LPs in this store cost $3.88, probably so that the stoned cashier wouldn't have to make change.) I plopped down my four dollars and rushed home to listen to it. I tore off the cellophane wrapping and breathed in the smell of new vinyl as I warmed up my crappy little portable record player. A few seconds after the needle dropped, I heard the opening notes of "The Love You Save" for the first time, and loved the song immediately. I would play it over and over in the weeks to come, trying to catch all the lyrics. In the meantime, I soaked in the sounds of great songs like "2-4-6-8," "One More Chance," "La-La Means I Love You" and (be still my heart!) "I Found That Girl."

And, best of all, while I listened to these amazing new songs, I could pore over the photo collage on the back of the LP. In May 1970, this collage alone had more photos of the Jackson 5 in one place than I had ever seen. I never got tired of looking at it.

To this day, I feel a little thrill when I see the cover of ABC -- maybe because I had to wait so long to see it for the first time.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Fashion Friday: Afro Outfits

We all loved the J5's cool clothes and amazing afros back in the early 1970s. They had a style that was both of its time and completely original. They all wore lots of fringe and flowers, and leather vests. And Jermaine's afro, in particular, was a thing of beauty (and the cause of heated arguments about whether or not he wore a wig).

But still there were times when you would look at what they were wearing and wonder "What were they thinking?"

Alternating Fridays on this blog will be devoted to J5 fashion -- the good, the bad, and the ugly. We'll start off with the good -- the fabulous African-inspired costumes designed by Boyd Clopton. Motown's J5 magazine TcB! from the spring of 1971 gives us a rare glimpse into a costume fitting that included these lovely costumes. I especially love the photos of Jermaine preening in front of the mirror.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

ABC Test Pressing and Color Vinyl Promo

Two of the most collectible items from the Jackson 5 are these two 45s. The first is a test pressing I found on eBay a while back. Note that the timing strip says 2:00 when the original single version almost a full minute longer. As soon as I get a turntable that works, I am going to have to play this one to see what it is. Perhaps it's a version we've never heard.

The second item is the color vinyl promo for "ABC." Motown had originally sent out one of their standard white label promos, but sent this one out with a printed sleeve 12 days later to give it an added push. You occasionally see the gold vinyl promo for sale, but it rarely includes the printed sleeve. When it does, it goes for a bundle. I was lucky to get the vinyl 45 with the sleeve from a dealer about 20 years ago for $50.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Autographs from 1972

Although there are plenty of photos of the Jackson 5 signing autographs for fans, early Jackson 5 autographs are fairly rare. If that's what you're looking for, don't be fooled by the signed Jackson 5 photographs you see on eBay. While the autographs themselves may be authentic, most of these were signed by the group members when they were much, much older.

Since the Jackson brothers were still quite young when they first started signing autographs, early ones are fairly easy to distinguish from later ones. Here's a good set from 1972 that even includes Randy and Joe. You can see that Michael's signature is still childish, although he is already beginning to develop the characteristic M and big looping L that he would carry into adulthood. As an added flourish, he's even included a J5 heart to the bottom of his signature, as did Jermaine. (It's hard to tell who is imitating whom here -- although Jermaine did go on in later years to add a smiley face to the inside of his initial J. Just sayin') This particular autograph was acquired by a fan on-board an airplane, so the Jacksons were a captive audience with plenty of time to write with care and flourish. (Poor Johnny and Ronnie must have been sitting in coach.)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Happy Birthday, Jackie!

Years ago I bought a contact sheet from an eBay dealer that included pictures from a double birthday party for Jackie Jackson and his mother, Katherine, who share a May 4 birthday. There are plenty pictures of Jackie blowing out the candles surrounding his unusual basketball-shaped cake, and in this photo you can see in the background Tito's wife, Dee Dee (next to one of their sons' baby bottles), J5 drummer Johnny Jackson (it makes me happy that he was invited), and on the right, supervising the birthday wishes, a young Janet Jackson.

But what really interested me were the posters hanging on the walls at the event, blown up from family pictures of mother and son.

Through the wonders of Photoshop, I was able to capture this lovely professional photo of the oldest Jackson son, probably taken around the time of his first birthday.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Sit Down, Girl!

Okay, now I've seen it all. Isn't yoga music supposed to be... ohm... relaxing? Check out the track listing (and note that although the cd cover just names Michael, the official release title is Yoga to Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5). I love the J5 but I can't imagine meditating to ABC. This is a compilation I'll take a pass on.

Michael Monday: Soul Cover, August 10, 1970

In the early years, no publication covered the Jackson 5 like Soul, a weekly newspaper devoted to Black music that was published in Los Angeles, kind of the Black version of Rolling Stone. Soul quickly recognized the talent and the importance of the Jackson 5, as well as and from 1970-72 so many pages (and covers) were devoted to the Jackson 5 that readers regularly wrote in, asking the editors to please give some other stars a chance.

In July and August of 1970, each Jackson brother had his own cover story in Soul. Later, all of the profiles and pictures were compiled in a special J5 Extra edition of Soul.

Michael's cover story appeared in the August 10 issue. It's filled with rare photos and interesting tidbits, including a mini photo-drama about finding and capturing a snake while on the ABC photoshoot, with the assistance of Motown singer, Chris Clark. It gives an interesting portrait of Michael as a child and as a performer. Here it is, in all its glory. [click on thumbnails for larger images]

Want more Soul? Download the fabulous eBook SOUL Remembers the Jackson 5, with reprinted articles from 21 issues published during the J5's heyday.