Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Love at the Forum

Jackson 5 at the Forum, how I love thee! Seriously, I have been playing this cd nonstop since I got it. It is truly a wonder, and I would be hard-pressed to say what my favorite track is. So I have decided to make a list of my top ten favorite things about it.

Top Ten Things I Love about The Jackson 5 Live at the Forum

10) The harmonies are amazing and you can hear all the voices -- even Marlon in the 1970 concert

9) The humor! The clever repartee between songs is actually, you know, clever repartee.

8) Michael's amazingly mature vocal performances from 1970.

7) Tito's guitar playing

6) Jermaine fixing to do his thing.

5) Marlon taking "requests"

4) The crystal clear sound quality (we couldn't really hear them live live)

3) The girls who are screaming when Michael sings "soon you'll hear me knocking at your door" in You've Got a Friend. We can only imagine the stage business

2) The cowbells at the beginning of It's Your Thing

1) Two versions of I Found That Girl!

For those of you who've heard it, what would be on your Top Ten list? And for those of you who haven't, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

You've Changed (Me)

Over the years I've come across a few variants for the Jackson 5's first LP, Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5, which was originally issued on December 18, 1969.

Take a close look at the line up of songs listed on both the front and the back of this promo version of the LP that was sent to radio disc jockeys

You'll notice that the last song on Side One is written as "You've Changed Me," rather than "You've Changed." Given that the correct title was a cover version of an original song the Jackson 5 had recorded nearly two years earlier at Steeltown that had served as the B-side of their first single, "Big Boy" (Steeltown 688), it's undertandable that some Motown staffer got the title wrong. Whoever had written the copy had probably assumed the last track on Side One was the Smokey Robinson song "You've Changed Me," originally recorded by Brenda Holloway. After all, most of the album tracks on this first LP were classic Motown covers.

There's a rarer -- and more interesting -- variant, though. On some LP sleeves, the last song on Side Two is shown as "Reach Out (I'll Be There)" instead of "Born to Love You."

Originally recorded in 1966 by the Four Tops, Bobby Taylor had produced the Jackson 5's version three years later in their original Detroit recording sessions, but it remained in the Motown vaults until 1995 when it was finally issued on Disc Four of Soulsation! This variant sleeve offers evidence that it had originally been intended for their debut album but, for some reason, was replaced at the last minute.

No matter what the differences from printing to printing for the sleeve, there's one constant -- Jermaine's name is always misspelled Germaine. It was never corrected, even on the 1981 reissue. You'd think that by the time he'd become Berry Gordy's son-in-law, they'd have learned how to spell his name.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

When the J5 Sang for Joe

A month and a half after the J5's 1970 concert at the Forum, the group returned to the stage, this time at Cobo Arena in Detroit as part of a star-studded tribute to boxer Joe Louis. By 1970, the Brown Bomber was broke and ailing, and the organizing committee hoped to raise $100,000 to help him defray hospital costs.
Comedians Bill Cosby and Redd Foxx, and music artists Billy Ekstine, Mahalia Jackson, B. B. King, the Four Tops, and the Jackson 5 entertained the crowd of 12,000 on August 12. Louis himself was too ill to attend, although a vacant chair was left in front in his honor. Berry Gordy, himself a former boxer, served as the Honorary Chair for the event, and was probably responsible for getting the Jackson 5 for the gig.

A program for the event featured a line drawing of a young Joe Louis on the cover.

Inside, every performer had a full-page bio with a photo. Here is the page for the Jackson 5.

Over the years, I've collected a few photos from this appearance. The first is a Motown publicity photo with the caption sheet still attached, verifying that this was indeed their concert at Cobo Arena. (Another photo that appeared in Jet magazine corroborates this.)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Michael Monday: The Single that Never Was

Michael's second solo LP, Ben, was issued on August 4, 1972, less than eight months after his first solo LP. Although there were three singles pulled from the first album, Got to Be There, only one single was issued from the second album -- the title song, "Ben."

A test pressing I bought years ago shows that there had, however, been plans for a second single from the album, scheduled as Motown 1218. The A-side was "Everybody's Somebody's Fool," a dreamy slow-tempo number that had previously been recorded by jazz greats such as Lionel Hampton (his wife, Gladys, shared a writing credit on the song), Etta James, and Dinah Washington. But Motown producers Mel Larson and Jerry Marcellino may have been thinking of the version by the high-pitched vocalist for Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra, Little Jimmy Scott, when they decided to have Michael record a cover version.

The B-side was a cover of a Stevie Wonder song, "Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day," produced by Hal Davis. Michael turned in one of his strongest vocal performances of his early solo years with this song, which was filled with riffs showing an amazing amount of vocal control for a singer of any age, let alone one on the brink of an adolescent voice change.

We'll probably never know why Motown decided to cancel the single. We do know, however, that the same catalogue number was used in April of 1973 for Michael's next single, taken from from his third album, Music and Me. It, too, was a cover version of a Stevie Wonder song, "With a Child's Heart."

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bobby Taylor Discovers the Jackson 5

It's not news to fans that Bobby Taylor (leader of another Motown group, Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers) discovered the Jackson 5 when he saw them performing at the Regal Theater in Chicago.

We all know the back story: Diana Ross got credit for the discovery because Berry Gordy asked her to "present" the Jackson 5 to the public, thereby launching their career and Ross's solo career in one fell swoop. Immediately -- and it may have had something to do with the language Motown used in their promotional materials, such as "the Jackson 5 were discovered by Diana Ross" -- the story began to circulate that Ross had discovered them while doing a benefit show for Mayor Richard Hatcher in Gary, Indiana. I suppose it was a more romantic story than the truth -- that they were performing on a gritty Chicago stage during a 10-night run when they were discovered by another struggling singer who just happened to have a recording contract and connections.

For years the story swirled around that it wasn't Diana Ross but Gladys Knight who discovered the Jackson 5. And sure enough Knight has gone on record saying that she had called the Motown office when she had seen the Jackson 5 on stage some months earlier and she suggested they might want to send someone down from Detroit to see them. But at the time she was new to the label and, by her own admission, didn't have much clout, so her suggestion was ignored. The Diana Ross discovery story stuck, even though many were suspicious of its veracity.

I always thought the truth came out about Bobby Taylor's role with getting the group to Motown in the 1988 documentary, Michael Jackson: The Legend Continues. During an interview, Marlon sets the record straight by telling us that it was Bobby Taylor who had discovered them. I always thought that was the first time Taylor was given credit. that is, until I found this article in the New York Amsterdam News from August 20, 1975:

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Japanese Tour Programs 1973

When it comes to quality, no one surpasses the Japanese. The program from their 1973 tour of Japan is a ting of beauty. It measures 14 x 10" and has a brilliant full-color cover.

Inside it's filled with rare photos, and enough text to make me wish I could read Japanese to see what it says.

My friend Annalisa (an amazing collector from Italy) had sent me a color scan of the cover and a photocopy of the interior many years ago and for a long time I sought out my own copy in vain. Finally I found an ad for a Jackson 5 1973 Japanese tour program in a record collectors' magazine. I sent away for it, but when it arrived in the mail, it was something else:

It was an elegant program printed in brown tone, also 14 x 10" in size. It had more white space inside overall, but still lots of lovely photos and mysterious (to me) text. Since they used Arabic numerals on the front cover, however, I can at least ascertain that this program was printed specifically for the concert the Jackson 5 gave in Tokyo on April 27, 1973, at the Imperial Theater.

This second program is definitely the rarer of the two, which makes sense since it would have had a more limited distribution. I don't know if the Tokyo venue was unusual in this regard, or if any of the other Japanese venues printed their own programs, too. I suspect the former is true, but I'll keep an eye out, just in case. And if there are any Japanese fans out there who would be willing to translate the text, please let me know.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Gone Too Soon

Born to amuse, to inspire, to delight
Here one day
Gone one night

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mischievous Marlon

Many years ago, I bought an autographed copy of Maybe Tomorrow. The dealer's ad indicated that it had only been signed by Michael, Jackie, and Tito, the three brothers pictured on the front of the gatefold sleeve. (Jermaine and Marlon's pictures appeared on the back of the album.) While I was disappointed that it wasn't signed by all five brothers, early autographs are hard to come by, especially with both first and last names included in the signatures. So I bought it anyway.

I got a surprise when the LP arrived in the mail, and I opened it up to find that Marlon had, indeed, signed it on the inside of the gatefold sleeve.

And then I got another surprise: Marlon had not only signed it, but it appears that he also he had drawn a mustache on Michael. I assume it was Marlon's work because it was done with the same pen and Marlon is the only one who opened the LP to sign, -- besides what fan would draw a mustache on Michael? It looks like he had also started to draw horns on Jackie but was apparently interrupted since Jackie only got one completed horn on the right side of his head and a mere squiggle on the left side. I wonder if the album was snatched out of Marlon's hands before he could do more damage.

Maybe if Marlon hadn't spent time enhancing his brothers' photographs, Jermaine would have gotten a chance to add his signature. All things being equal, I guess I'd rather have the mustache and horn.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Double Delight

When Jackson 5's third single, "The Love You Save," was issued on May 16, 1970, Motown found that it had two hits -- and two J5 lead singers -- on its hands. There was the upbeat A-side of the single, and the slow tempo, more mellow B-side "I Found That Girl," with lead vocals by Jermaine, the group's bass player. At 16, Jermaine was the right age to be a teen heart-throb. It didn't hurt that his good looks, shy demeanor, and sexy singing voice drove all the girls wild.

In the early years, Michael was the obvious stand-out in the group, with his talent and stage presence. Michael was entertaining, but Jermaine was the one we all wanted to go home with. The Corporation-penned song "I Found That Girl," seemed to be custom-made for Jermaine and his female fans, who could all fantasize that he was singing about them. When the single came out, it was issued as a double A-side, and color vinyl promo copies of "I Found That Girl" were sent to radio stations, along with "The Love You Save."

It climbed the charts throughout the summer of 1970 and Jet magazine's Soul Brothers Top 20 during that time showed it neck to neck with "The Love You Save."

One of the coolest things about the new Jackson 5 Live at the Forum cd is that we get to hear two different versions of "I Found That Girl," the first recorded on June 20, 1970, soon after the song had come out, and the second recorded two years later on August 26, 1972 when Jermaine's sex symbol status had been well established. It's fascinating to hear how he works the crowd, in the earlier version as the soft-spoken boy next door who, on Jackie's prodding, shyly points out the girl he's found ("She's the one over there in the yellow dress."), and two years later as the smooth superfly who teases the audience ("My rap is too heavy for them. They can't dig it.") Both songs end with Jermaine singing an extra song-within-the song that starts "Won't you take me with you?" Girls regularly fainted at J5 concerts when Jermaine sang that line. In some cases they even stormed the stage, trying to get to him. Just a few weeks before the 1972 concert at the Forum, Jermaine had been mobbed by 6,000 fans at Chicago's Midway airport.

And by then he was already secretly dating Hazel Gordy, so he had indeed found his girl. Perhaps that's why he could make the song sound so convincing.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Out in our audience tonight...

Yesterday's post on the J5Live blog mentioned that Diana Ross, Berry Gordy, and Deke Richards were all sitting together in the audience at the J5's 1970 concert at the Forum. That inspired me to dig out a press photo in my collection from the Forum concert that shows the people sitting in the front rows of the audience -- at least those seated stage left (Jermaine's side).

I re-scanned the photo and enlarged the audience to see if I could see any of the three of them. I don't -- unless Berry Gordy is the one in the center, bending over to hear something from the man in the hat who's crouching down in front of him.

But there are some other familiar faces here. There are two women holding children in the center of the photo. The one on the right is Katherine Jackson and the child she is holding, covered with a blanket, is probably Janet. The elderly couple beside her are the J5's grandparents, and I think the young woman sitting beside them in the short black dress is Dee Dee Martes, the future Mrs. Tito Jackson.

Looking to the far left side of the photo, there are two teenage girls seated next to a bearded man holding a little boy. The girl on the right with the big afro, wearing the darker pantsuit, looks like it might be Hazel Gordy. And it would make sense that she would get a front row seat, with a great view of Jermaine.

If you recognize anyone else in the audience, let me know.

Interview with Michael in 1972

On August 20, 1972, the Los Angeles Times ran a feature story about 14-year-old Michael Jackson in order to promote the Jackson 5's upcoming concert at the Forum on August 26 [misidentified at the end of the article as being at the Hollywood Bowl]. Michael's ebullient spirit and love of music comes through strongly in his responses to Kathy Orloff's interview questions.

"What can you say about a wonderfully well-adjusted package of entertainment dynamite?" Read on...

Monday, June 21, 2010

J5 Heaven!

I just got the new Live at the Forum cd, and it is absolutely incredible! I've listened to the 1970 concert in its entirety, and loved every minute. I'm just about to move on to the second disc with the 1972 concert.

I continue to be amazed at the depth of the J5's talent and showmanship. Michael's patter between songs is hilarious. I find myself laughing aloud one minute at how funny and brilliant he is, and the next minute I am moved to tears by his limitless gifts and our unfathomable loss. What a wonder this live music is.

Michael Monday: Soul-Mate Kit

The Soul-Mate Kits were first advertised in early 1971 for mail-order purchase from the back of TcB! magazine, and later on the Jackson 5 product sleeve included with all their vinyl LPs. Unfortunately, I didn't send away for one* when I could have gotten it for $2.00, but over the years, I have been able to re-assemble Michael's complete kit by finding bits and pieces for sale from various sources. The original membership card and Soul-Mate letter were part of a 16 Magazine archive I bought years ago. The card is filled in for 16 editor, Nola Leone.

And here's what else you'd get, according to the exclamation-point-heavy ad:

1) Your own Michael Jackson Personal Soul-Mate Poem Poster! Written by Mike!

2) A giant (12 x 18!) Personal Soul-Mate Poster of Michael!

3) A portrait-size (5x7) signed photo of Michael!

4) Nine different wallet-size photos of Michael!

5) 65 (just count 'em!) Official Michael Jackson Soul-Mate letter seal stickers! All 65 have Michael's photo! Great for all your letters to Michael and the Jackson Five!

This was actually a pretty nice package of stuff. The only real disappointment was the heart stickers, which were cheaply made and not self-adhesive. They weren't even heart-shaped -- they were little squares that you'd have to pull apart and glue onto whatever surface you wanted to stick them on. And the letter from Michael was hardly "personal," seeing as how it was mass-produced, but even as a starry-eyed 13 year old I wouldn't have expected a personal, handwritten letter from one of the brothers. But everything else was nice, especially the posters, and the 5 x 7 portrait photo on heavy card stock.

Overall Fan Satisfaction:
(Jackson 4)


*For the record, I would have chosen Jermaine as my soul mate.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Jackson 5 Press Kit from 1969

In August 1969 Motown issued a rather extensive press kit related to Diana Ross's introduction of the Jackson 5. At first, seeing the title printed on the front of the custom folder, I thought this was a press kit for the group's first LP, but that wasn't issued until December 18, and there's no mention of the LP or even the group's first single, and this material pre-dates the album release by four months. Also, their album was originally going to be called Introducing the Jackson 5. It looks like whoever gave the press kit its title, was unknowingly naming their first album, too.

Inside are all kinds of goodies, including a group biography; a press release about the recent event at the Daisy on August 16 and a promotion for their upcoming August 20 concert at the Forum; a copy of a telegram to Diana Ross from Gary's Mayor Richard Hatcher; and five 8 x 10 glossy photos.

I've had this for so long I can't remember where I got it from, other than it was long before eBay and I don't think I paid much for it. It remains one of my all-time favorite collectibles.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

J5 Live at the Forum

If you're not doing so already, be sure to check in regularly at the J5 Live at the Forum blog. There are sound clips and, best of all, rare archival materials posted nearly every day.

Life Magazine Photoshoot

The Jackson 5 graced the cover of Life magazine's September 1971 issue as part of a feature entitled "Rock Stars at Home with Their Parents." They are seen standing on the spiral staircase in their family room (where did that staircase lead to, anyway?), surrounded by their gold records and awards. At the bottom of the staircase, Joe and Katherine Jackson pose proudly.

There was just one more photo inside that showed the five brothers outside with their parents, sitting around their pool on their minibikes. It was photos like these that led fans to believe that the Jackson 5 lived an impossibly charmed life.

An outtake from the session shows all the Jackson siblings and their parents, along with their grandmother and Rebbie's baby daughter. Janet is not much more than a baby herself, sitting on Jermaine's lap. And La Toya is rocking an afro that makes her look more like a member of the Sylvers than one of the Jacksons.

I'm not sure who took this picture of photographer John Olson taking one of these pictures.