Saturday, July 31, 2010

Song of the Week: What You Don't Know

by Corey Sheppard

“What You Don’t Know” is a song off of the Jackson 5’s 1974 album Dancing Machine. During this transitional time for the group, Motown tried a variety of different musical styles on the now young adult group. This song was clearly created to explore a more disco side of the Jackson brothers, instead of the funk/soul direction of their previous album Get It Together. I believe that the boys handled most of these numbers well, and I feel this record was an early example of what they could do. Actually I should say what Michael could do.

This song, along with “If I Don’t Love You This Way” and the top-ten R&B single “Whatever You Got, I Want,” were recorded by Michael only. The trio of songs was originally intended for Michael’s 1974 follow-up to Music & Me but the album was later withdrawn and the tracks were given to the Jackson 5. These recordings were made before the majority of songs from this album were finished. Judging by Michael’s man-child voice on the record, I would say that the songs were recorded sometime in late 73/early 74. It is also possible that “What You Don’t Know” was recorded around the same time as the songs that would eventually feature on the Farewell My Summer Love album were recorded.

It’s very clear to me that Motown was possibly looking to reboot Michael’s solo career after the lackluster sales of 1973’s Music & Me. If they had released these three records as MJ solo tracks, that particular album by far would have been one of his most exciting and rhythmic solo albums to date. But all that changed when "Dancing Machine" exploded onto the charts in early 1974. All the attention from Michael’s album (and possibly Marlon’s) went directly into the Jackson 5’s follow up to Get It Together.

Now let’s get into the actual song, shall we? Right away, the song starts excitingly with its killer bass intro. I have never heard a song start off like this before! That particular bass line might have provided Michael with a little inspiration to create “Billie Jean” (along with Hall & Oates’ “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)”). And the conga work on this record is also very nice (I always thought it was Randy, but this has been proven otherwise).

On the down side, I’ve always thought the lyrics were rather pointless. Michael tries everything he can to make the record interesting but the song seems to get a bit repetitive. Basically the lyrics are about the friends of a man who tell him to not worry about what his woman is doing when she is not around. I would have preferred if the songwriters had gotten more in-depth into what exactly was happening, but they never did in this record. Obviously, this track was based more on the catchy rhythm of the music and words, than the lyrics.

Essentially since this song is a solo recording, we hear lot of ad-libs from MJ. Because there are no background contributions from the other Jackson brothers, you get an early hint of MJ’s future vocal style on this song. He hits some pretty low notes for a 15 year old on the chorus when he does the harmony with himself (something he would do for many years subsequently as a solo act). I always thought it was Jermaine singing the low part on the chorus, but now I’m pretty sure it’s Michael since we’ve learned that this song was meant to be a solo recording. I especially love his low notes at 3:03 and 3:38. Nice range, Mike!

I have to say I do love the bridge section where it’s just the drums and congas stripped with Michael doing numerous ad-libs in this section (very Marvin-Gaye-ish, I might add). This portion of the recording has always been my favorite and I’m sure it was Michael’s favorite, as well, because it was the perfect opportunity to show his dance moves. Some very early synthesizer work is also included on the final part of the bridge, which help bring the record back to the hook.

One major thing I’ve noticed about this track for years is the edit in the recording (basically when the producers stitched two different takes together) that comes right when the chorus repeats once again at 2:02. And once again at 3:39 the record returns to the first hook section at 0:49. I came to this conclusion after hearing the identical snare drum rhythm parts for each section, as well as hearing Michael say the end of the word “but” at 3:39 when he says “But I can’t find” (the part was clearly cut off). This kind of edit was done on another recording off the album, “Dancing Machine.” (Can’t figure out which one… I will post the answer on the comments section below this post.)

Michael actually performed this song twice on television, once by himself, and once with his brothers (that’s a lot for him considering it was never a single). In late 1974, Michael made a solo appearance on Soul Train where he lip-synched his 3 original solo tracks for the Soul Train gang. Not much to comment about on this performance, except for the fact that he chooses to once again wear his infamous brown/orange outrageous hideous looking suit (originally introduced on the boys’ first appearance of The Carol Burnett Show, and worn occasionally on the first run of Las Vegas shows). Michael definitely takes advantage of all the space available on the stage without his brothers (but he does look slightly uncomfortable during the interview with Don Cornelius).

Three years later, in 1977, the brothers revived the song on the second season of The Jacksons television variety show. The brothers turn the heat up for this performance and, if there was any doubt that the original recording was an early example of disco, please watch this performance. Michael handles the lead with more confidence in this performance than ever. Even though the lead was pre-recorded for the show, it sounds like he is totally into the song. I’m pretty sure the song was performed on the early Jacksons’ tours in 1976-1977. It was probably very refreshing for MJ to sing a lesser-known song from his repertoire.

In the end, I feel “What You Don’t Know” was a nice album cut for the group. If more work had been put onto the lyrics, and perhaps if the song had been a bit shorter -- and more radio-friendly -- it could have been considered as a single for the group. Nevertheless, this song gave Michael an opportunity to show more of his frequent changing vocal style than ever before.

Next week's song hint: “Girl I took your love, for granted. I know, I know I treated you, so unkind.”

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Corey Sheppard, 20, has been a Jackson 5 fan since 1993. His favorite hobbies are listening to music, playing racquetball at the YMCA, and hanging out with friends. Corey’s life passion is centered on music. His latest project is an all-new production company shared with Robert White Jr. entitled "Ask About It Productions."

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I'm Moving!

I'm moving to a new house tomorrow, so that means I'll be living out of boxes for the next few days and may not be able to post on a regular basis. (That's a gigantic cardboard poster of Michael and a Soulsation! promo hat there to the left, in a storage bin.) But we've got a great new Song of the Week column from Corey coming up for Saturday, and some new interviews in store, so stay tuned.

Here's my complete J5 Collection all boxed up, ready to move to the new house, where I will have an entire room devoted to The Five.

I'll post a picture of the J5 Room once I have everything unpacked.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Planet of Marlon Jackson

Virginia Hamilton is my all-time favorite author. She won the Newbery Medal in 1975 for M. C. Higgins, the Great, but I didn't discover her books until 1980 when I was in college and studying children's literature. I read all of her published work at that time, and I remember thinking that the kid on the cover of her 1971 novel The Planet of Junior Brown looked kind of like Marlon Jackson.

In fact, I thought I knew exactly which photo of Marlon the jacket illustrator had used as a reference.

It's a stunning photo of Marlon taken from the 1971 book The Jackson 5 TV Book, and it's one of the solo shots of each brother that was taken at the same time as the group photo that appeared on the cover of the Jackson 5's Greatest Hits LP.

Some of the features in the illustration are a bit different: the lips are fuller, the nose is not quite as broad. But the tilt of the head, shape of the face, hairline, eyebrows, eyes, upper lip, and chin are all so close that it's hard to imagine it was purely coincidental. And what's especially striking seeing them side by side like this is the color palette -- the successive layers of blue, green, and pink are identical.

But why would the illustrator use Marlon as a model? I can remember 1971, and I recall that it wasn't easy to find color photographs of African American children in those years. Even Ebony magazine, the go-to source, usually carried photos of adults (especially Richard Roundtree who was a ubiquitous model in Jet and Ebony before he starred in Shaft). Unless an artist was African American, or knew a lot of African American people who could volunteer their kids as models, he or she had few options.

The Jackson 5 TV Book would have come along at exactly the right time, offering the perfect photograph of a young, attractive adolescent boy with a pensive, soulful expression. It was just serendipity that the buttons and studs on his satin overalls could model for the planets in the solar system swirling around him.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Michael Monday: Digging Mathis, Three Dog Night

The very first issue of Right On! (October 1971) carried a four page piece with Michael talking about his favorite actor and his favorite music artists.

Some of his choices were surprising at the time -- especially Johnny Mathis as his favorite singer, when most of us only knew him from records our Grandmas had. But Michael was so consistent with his responses for so many years that we all soon got used to his eclectic tastes.

He cited his favorite group as Three Dog Night, and said his favorite song from them was "Mama Told Me Not to Come." Rumor has it that the Jackson 5 recorded a cover version of this song, but I find it hard to believe, because it seems so wildly inappropriate for young teens to record. But here is the original, performed live by Three Dog Night, so you can judge for yourself. Can you picture 13-year-old Michael singing this?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Poster Puzzle

A week ago I wrote about the first teen magazine cover to feature a photo of Michael Jackson. The December 1970 issue of 16 magazine also included the Jackson 5's first centerfold poster. It was exactly what I had been hoping for an entire year. So imagine my disappointment when I turned to the center of the magazine and found this:

Ugh, double ugh, and triple ugh! "Frenchy" was a not-very-talented staff artist at the magazine who occasionally created the centerfold posters, since 16 didn't start using glossy paper in the interior magazine until a year or so later.

Even so, I had so few photos of the Jackson 5 by the fall of 1970 that I dutifully pulled this one out and had it on my bedroom wall for a few months until something better (cough! TcB!) came along. I used to lie on my bed, listening to the Third Album, studying this poster and mentally cataloging all its flaws. (Marlon's afro is too big and too round; Jermaine's afro is not big or round enough and he looks more like Merrill Osmond; Tito looks like he's about forty; Jackie's eyebrows are all wrong; and I can't even tell for sure which one is Michael and which one is Marlon in the top inset drawing.)

Because I spent so much time studying the few pictures I did have, I knew exactly which photos Frenchy had used as a reference for the poster:

But the picture in the top left-hand corner puzzled me.

I had never seen a photo of the J5 with clothes or a pose anything like this. They are all wearing identical costumes, which they rarely did since they outgrew the lime green suits they wore on Hollywood Palace back in 1969. But these don't appear to be those suits, since none of them are wearing vests. They all seem to be leaning on something, but what? Could it be that Frenchy felt confident enough with her skills to attempt a drawing from memory?

It wasn't until a few months ago when I came across the rare 1969 photo of the Jackson 5 standing around a ladder that I think I may have solved the mystery.

It's not the same pose, but I think it was probably another pose from this same session. They are wearing the lime green suits but without the vests. The shirts have the same big collars and the same puffed sleeves as in the drawing. And the ladder itself may explain the odd pose. I suspect that the photo that was used as a reference for the drawing showed Jackie in the same place and Jermaine on the other side of the ladder, both leaning against it, and the others in various poses around them, hanging onto the ladder. I hope some day the third photo Frenchy used surfaces so I can see if my hunch is right. And so I can finally figure out which one is Michael and which one is Marlon.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Song of the Week: Nobody

by Corey Sheppard

The first time that I heard “Nobody” was through the Jackson 5ive cartoon series around 1997 (for the true Jackson fans it was the weekend VH-1 had a marathon of MJ shows because it was announced then that he had become a father). I believe it was the episode when the J5 assembled a robot called "Groovatron." I immediately loved the song, thought it was sooo catchy, and was wondering why I didn't have this tune in my collection. Four years later in 2001, I remember buying the Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5/ABC CD and listening to “Nobody” over and over again.

“Nobody” is the perfect example of "bubblegum soul" for the Jackson 5. It was recorded around the same time that the brothers first moved to Los Angeles along with “I Want You Back” and “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” (the rest of the album, produced by Bobby Taylor, was recorded in Detroit). I love how you can hear the excitement in Michael and Jermaine's voice on this record. You can tell that they were ecstatic about being able to record for Motown. This tune was one of the first songs that the boys collaborated with the Corporation on. The three recordings the boys did with them on the first album are totally amazing.

My favorite section of ”Nobody” is the bridge, because it takes the soul to the next level. The bass player totally gets into it hitting those notes that only Motown bassists can play. I've always admire the guitar work throughout the record. It's fantastic. I love the vocals on the record as well. Michael is fantastic as usual, and I love Jermaine's early raspy lead. Jermaine's consistent “Baby” lines on the bridge add that little kick of spice to the recipe. And for jokes, the piano-driven intro on the record always remind me of a Charlie Brown ditty :o).

This song is also unique by the fact that there is no kick drum in the song. Unless it’s completely buried in the mix (which I highly doubt because the hi-hat and snare are very prominent in the song) I have never heard it in the record, or felt it in my speakers. But while I’ve noticed that it was missing, I never felt it was truly needed. The only complaint I have about this record, is that it's not long enough. I’m sure they is an extended version hanging around the vaults and maybe one day, Motown will surprise us all, with the unedited version.

In my opinion, “Nobody” is as much of an enjoyable number as “I Want You Back.” I think it would have been a great choice for a second single on Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5. “Nobody” would’ve been the perfect follow-up to “I Want You Back” and I could totally see Michael, Marlon, and Jackie during the coolest dance moves to it. I was also quite surprised that this cut was never performed live by the J5 throughout their numerous tours.

“Nobody” will always be one of the funkiest grooves that the boys have ever done, and one of the baddest cuts ever IMO! “Nobody” is such a hidden gem by the boys and I feel as though it should as least get the recognition as records such as “It’s Great to Be Here” and “2-4-6-8.” And the fact that always amazes me is that a song off of their debut album, basically defines the sound the J5 have. That statement proves to me that the J5 were hungry and ready for stardom from the jump.

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Corey Sheppard, 20, has been a Jackson 5 fan since 1993. His favorite hobbies are listening to music, playing racquetball at the YMCA, and hanging out with friends. Corey’s life passion is centered on music. His latest project is an all-new production company shared with Robert White Jr. entitled "Ask About It Productions."

Friday, July 23, 2010

Seeing Jermaine and Randy in D.C.

Here's a funny blog post by a woman who ran into Jermaine and Randy at a restaurant in Washington, D.C.

Back in town and with the Jacksons

Why doesn't this sort of random encounter happen to me? The only brush with fame I had on my last trip was with Connie Chung and Maury Povich, who were staying in the same hotel as me. And I didn't even see them -- my sister and her husband shared an elevator with them.

Wannabe Week: The Brady Bunch

Okay, okay, they weren't a real music group. They weren't even a real family. But the fact that the Brady Bunch actually cut albums, even though none of them could sing, just goes to show how everyone -- I mean everyone -- thought they could be the next Jackson 5. The Brady Bunch even had their own musical variety show in the mid 1970s, even though none of them could sing -- or dance.

Check out these lame dance moves in their first televised appearance that showed them pretending to be a musical group. Seriously, this should have led to a disclaimer from Motown on all Jackson 5 albums: Do not try this at home. These kids are such awkward dancers that they make the DeFranco family look graceful.

I'd be tempted to tell these kids not to quit their day job -- except this was their day job.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wannabe Week: The Finger 5

I must confess that my all-time favorite wannabe group is a Japanese family act who called themselves The Finger 5. The group started out in 1967 with the three oldest brothers of the Tamamoto family, Kazuo, Mitsuo and Masao. Originally they performed at the bar owned by their parents in Okinawa as the "All Brothers" and later changed their name to the Baby Brothers in 1970 when they signed with King records and released three singles which did not sell well.

In 1972, they added their younger brother Akira and little sister Taeko to the group and were rechristened Finger 5. Borrowing heavily from the Jackson 5's look and style, they unabashedly released several cover versions of Jackson 5 songs, including "I Want You Back," "The Love You Save," "I'll Be There" -- all in Japanese. They were pop sensations in Japan, where they had several hit singles, made countless concert and television appearances, and even made their own movies. Their music, like that of the Jackson 5 in their early Motown days, consisted mostly of bubblegum songs about puppy love and school-yard affairs. Here they are singing one of their early hits, "Love Call 6700." Akira, the smallest brother here, wearing the gigantic glasses, sings lead vocals, with little sister Taeko joining in for an extra dose of cute.

Unfortunately, fame took its toll on the young pop stars, and in 1975 the oldest brother Kazuo dropped out of the act. After a goodbye tour in Japan that year, they relocated to the United States and sank into obscurity -- otherwise known as adulthood.

Tomorrow: The Brady Bunch

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wannabe Week: The DeFranco Family

The DeFranco Family was comprised of five siblings from Ontario, Canada, fronted by 13-year-old Tony DeFranco, the youngest member of the group. The DeFrancos had an interesting path to fame: rather than laboring for years in the industry as the Jacksons, Osmonds, and Sylvers did, they simply cut to the chase and sent their demo (and photos, I'm sure) directly to George Laufer, the publisher of Tiger Beat magazine. Laufer was so impressed with their marketability singing talent that he arranged for them to sign with Capitol Records, where they released their first hit single "Heartbeat, It's a Love Beat." [Warning: this song contains one of the most painful and persistent ear worms ever. If you listen to it now, you will be hearing it your head next week.]

Tony was the clear star of the group, and his face dominated the covers of Tiger Beat magazine for the next two years until Laufer told the family he was only interested in working with Tony and no longer wanted the other four siblings. To their credit, the family refused to let him drop the other kids: it was all or nothing. Laufer chose nothing, and that was the end of the DeFranco Family's singing career.

Tomorrow: The Finger 5

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

How "What Goes Around Comes Around" Came Around to Michael

Our friend Christina's latest article is about the men behind the song "What Goes Around Comes Around," a cut on Michael's Ben album. Turns out they live practically next door to her!

Wannabe Week: The Sylvers

The Sylvers were another family group who saw a rise in their visibility and popularity after the success of the Jackson 5. Hailing from Memphis, Tennessee, they started out in the 1960s with the four oldest siblings, Olympia, Leon, Charmaine, and James, as the Little Angels and they worked as an opening act for artists such as Ray Charles and Johnny Mathis. In 1972 they added the next two brothers, Edmund and Ricky, to their line up and changed their group name and their sound.

Of all the imitators, the Sylvers came closest to giving the Jackson 5 a run for their money. Their talent and good looks (not to mention their amazing afros) helped them push the Jackson 5 from their regular spot on the cover of Right On! magazine, and there were countless stories with titles like "Will the Sylvers Replace the Jackson 5?" And a couple of things made them distinct as a teen group: they were all equally talented on lead vocals and they also wrote a lot of their own music. Here they are singing "I Wish I Could Talk to You," on their first Soul Train appearance, where you can hear Leon, Ricky, and Edmund on lead vocals.

Other than being another young and talented Black family group, there were a couple of other connections between the Jackson 5 and the Sylvers. In the early '70s Edmund Sylvers provided Marlon's speaking voice in the Jackson 5ive cartoon series on Saturday morning television. And their biggest hit, "Boogie Fever," was written and produced by Freddie Perren who had been a member of the J5's early production and song-writing team, The Corporation. By the time The Sylvers recorded it, they had added three more siblings to the group: sisters Pat and Angie, and little brother, Foster, who had had his own solo hit, "Misdemeanor," in 1973, sounding very much like a young Michael Jackson. In this live performance of of "Boogie Fever" from a 1976 Midnight Special, Foster comes in with the counter lead to Edmund's lead vocals.

Check out the bow at the end of this performance. I'll think you'll find it familiar.

Tomorrow: The DeFranco Family

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wannabe Week: The Osmonds

The Jackson 5's popularity in the early 1970s spawned dozens of imitators, as record companies tried to apply the Jackson 5's formula for success to other teen groups. This week, we'll take a look at some of the family groups that tried for the J5's sound, look, and style, starting with the most notorious wannabes, The Osmonds.

There is no denying that the Osmond brothers -- Alan, Wayne, Merrill, Jay, and Donny -- were talented performers. They had been in the business professionally since they were small, and had been regulars on the Andy Williams Show for years, as well as having a recurring role on a dramatic series The Travels of Jamie McPheeters.

But it was only after the Jackson 5 hit it big that the Osmonds began to hit the pop charts with their songs that borrowed heavily from the J5's sound. In fact, their first hit, "One Bad Apple," had actually been written with the Jackson 5 in mind, but Berry Gordy turned it down. Here is one of the better renditions of it, with the Osmond Brothers singing it live in about 1971:

I remember the first time I heard this song on the radio. I knew immediately that it wasn't the Jackson 5 because neither Merrill nor Donny sang as well as Jermaine or Michael -- they both have to strain to reach the higher notes. But I knew that it was someone trying to sound like the Jackson 5. And, of course, I was incensed that they were stealing the Jackson 5's sound. The Osmonds began to get all the space in the teen magazines that I thought the Jacksons should have had instead.

But before long, the similarities between the two groups got almost comical: Donny went solo / Michael went solo. Jacksons had a little brother waiting to join the group / Osmonds had a little brother waiting to join the group. They were even scheduled to tour England during the same week in 1972. Check out the slide show I put together a while back for more eerie similarities between the two groups.

Of all the groups that imitated the Jackson 5, no other evokes the ire among hardcore J5 fans that the Osmonds did. Maybe that's, in part, because they came closest to capitalizing on the group's success.

Tomorrow: The Sylvers

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I Want You Back Acetate

To record collectors, acetates are like gold. They are never easy to come by, and J5 acetates seem to be especially scarce. They are prized by collectors because they sometimes offer unreleased songs, or unreleased versions of familiar songs.

I took a chance on an eBay find several years ago -- an acetate of "I Want You Back." I had read that the Jackson 5 had been used as singers on the demo versions as the members of the Corporation were working out the tune and lyrics, meaning that the song was recorded in multiple alternate versions. I had hoped that this would be one of them but alas! it was not. It's still a nice little piece of music history.

Don't get me wrong -- I think the finished version of "I Want You Back" is about as close as one can get to a perfect song. I don't particularly want a different version as a replacement of the original. I'd just like to hear how they got there.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Song of the Week: (We've Got) Blue Skies

Note: Today we roll out a new regular feature, Song of the Week. I'm pleased to announce that Corey Sheppard will appear on this blog as a regular columnist, writing each week about an individual song from the J5 songbook -- some hits, some misses, and lots of album cuts.

I've known Corey since we was a young teenager who was a regular in the old J5 Forum that was connected to my original J5Collector website. At that time, I think Corey was the youngest regular on the Board, but he quickly impressed even the more seasoned regulars with his J5 knowledge and enthusiasm, and, most especially, with his incredible ear for music. I have always felt I can listen to an old song with new ears after having read Corey's comments about it.

This week Corey makes his debut with "(We've Got) Blue Skies."

♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♫ ♪

“(We’ve Got) Blue Skies” is a song that appeared off of the Jackson 5’s 1971 album Maybe Tomorrow. As long as I’ve been a member of several MJ and J5 boards, this song has always sparked a lot of discussion over whether this record was a great song choice for the group.

I must admit that growing up with the Jackson 5 (in the ‘90’s of course!). I was never really fond of the song. I always remember immediately skipping it after hearing the first few seconds and the background singers (which sounds like Jackie predominately) singing “(We’ve Got) Blue Skies.” Something about that annoying sound panning all around the speakers used to really irritate me (sounds like a bug flying around your ears, never leaving you alone lol). I truly never gave the song a chance. Every time I would list my favorites from this album, it was never included on my lists or many others.

But now…. I have found a new appreciation for the song. By 1971 slowly but surely, things were changing for the Jackson 5. They were going through a romantic period if you will. Records like “I’ll Be There” and “Never Can Say Goodbye” were becoming the norm for them instead of records such as “I Want You Back” and “The Love You Save.” Michael’s voice had a very pure sound to it around this period. He didn’t do as much shouting as he had done on the first two albums. This song gave the boys an opportunity to sing a song more folksy, more alternative instead of bubblegum-ish. After all, who can you imagine singing this song other than the J5?

I think it would be very interesting to know what the boys thought about this particular tune when they first heard the song. There might have been some hesitation on their behalf. I must say that I’ve always loved Michael’s chuckles on the final chorus; it always makes me laugh and reminds me of how young he actually was when he recorded this song. Hopefully as you continue to grow, you will learn to appreciate the versatility and talent that comes with “(We’ve Got) Blue Skies.”

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Corey Sheppard, 20, has been a Jackson 5 fan since 1993. His favorite hobbies are listening to music, playing racquetball at the YMCA, and hanging out with friends. Corey’s life passion is centered on music. His latest project is an all-new production company shared with Robert White Jr. entitled "Ask About It Productions."

Friday, July 16, 2010

J5 Fashion Friday: Hair and Make Up

Most of the photos we have of the Jackson 5 show them posing in very carefully planned photo sessions, but we rarely get a look of the Five behind the scenes, making themselves beautiful for their close ups. Here are some rare shots of Michael, Marlon and Jermaine getting ready for photos shoots.

First up is Michael, getting his make up applied, followed by a captioned photo that makes it seems as if he is seeing make up for the first time in his life.

Next is Marlon, being helped into his snakeskin suit for the African-inspired suits the brothers posed in in 1970.

Here's Marlon having his make up applied. If you look behind him, you'll see a rack of shirts for the brothers to change into during the course of the photo session.

Marlon's ready to go but Papa Joe has to put a few finishing touches on his hair.

Jermaine puts on his own finishing touches...

...and admires himself in the mirror.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Breaking the Color Barrier in 16 Magazine

I recently purchased a photo lot from a teen magazine archive and got a jolt when I came across this image:

I knew immediately what it was -- the photo from which they had extracted Michael's head for the cover of the December 1970 issue of 16 magazine. When I turned over the photo, it confirmed my memory.

And here it is on the cover itself:

But why the jolt, you may ask? Well, believe it or not, this was the first time a member of the Jackson 5 had appeared on the cover of a U.S. teen magazine. December 1970. (Okay, actually more like October because for some reason the teen mags always had a cover date two months ahead of real time. But still.) Keep in mind that the Jackson 5 had been riding the top of the pop charts for almost a year, and were playing to sold-out concert venues around the country. And here was a group with five attractive, clean-cut, talented teenagers, all of whom were perfect fodder for the teen idol machine.

16, what the hell took you so long?

That single photo with Michael's head outlined in white took me back to those long months in 1970 where I recall rushing to the news stand each month to look through all the magazines, desperately searching for articles and photos of the Jackson 5. We didn't have TcB! yet, or Right On! We had Soul which had great photos of the Five and offered extensive coverage. Thank heavens for Soul. But Soul is a publication I've come to appreciate with age.

When I was a young teen, I wanted the J5 to get the complete teen idol treatment. I wanted to see their faces on my teen magazines. I wanted the hyperbolic, over-the-top reporting, the lurid -- and mostly false -- details of their love lives, and the color posters. I wanted, more than anything, the larger-than-life color centerfold poster.

I wanted the fantasy that only a teen magazine can give you.

So I about died right there in the corner Rexall store when I saw Michael on the cover of 16 magazine. My Michael. Not Michael Cole, the white guy on Mod Squad who was big in 16 at that time. It was Michael Jackson, trick or treating with Danny and Keith Partridge, and some other white guy who looked just like every other white teen idol.

I probably didn't realize at the time that I had just seen the Jackson 5 break down a color barrier in the pop culture world. I have no idea what it took on the part of the Motown publicity department or the management team at 16 magazine to make this happen. But I know it must have been a struggle because, even as a 13 year old, I could feel it. And I could feel the importance of that one small photo, and can feel it again today as I hold the original production art in my hands. I am so thrilled to have it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Happy Bastille Day!

Source: Michael Jackson Photo Collectors

It looks like they're standing in front of a painted backdrop, but that's the real Eiffel Tower behind them.

Darlin' Marlon

Here's another contact sheet from the TcB! archives, showing portrait shots of adorable Marlon at about age 14. Most of these pictures found their way into pin-ups and solo shots printed in TcB! or Right On! magazine in 1971. Even one of the ones where he's making the funny face found its way into TcB!

I'm always interested in seeing the shots from famous poses that didn't make the cut. Seeing these leads me to conclude that Marlon may have been the most photogenic brother. He even looks good in the shots where he has his eyes closed.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

5ive Questions for... Lina Stephens

Today we launch a new regular interview column in which we ask five questions of someone whose life has somehow intersected with the music of the Jackson 5. We begin our series with Lina Stephens, curator of the Jackson 5 exhibit at the Motown Historical Museum in Detroit, Michigan.

Photo by Gloria Rzucidlo / ©

On June 29, the Museum opened a special Jackson 5 exhibit, which will be on display through October. At this time, the Museum has no plans for a permanent J5 display, due to space limitations. But they hope to expand some day so that they can have permanent displays for many Motown artists.

What could a visitor expect to find in the Jackson 5 exhibit?
The exhibit is a bit of a chronology of the group's time at Motown Record Corporation, from getting their audition, and clearing up who did, in fact, bring the group to the attention of Motown.

How did the Museum acquire the J5 items it has?
We have a uniform belonging to Michael Jackson that he donated at the same time he donated the hat & glove he said he wore at Motown 25th Anniversary Special. We have a set of uniforms from the Goin' Back to Indiana special which are on long-term loan from the Universal Music Group. The other items are part of the items that our founder, Esther Gordy Edwards, had as a Motown Record Corporation, Senior Vice President.

How did you go about selecting the items to put on exhibit to showcase the group?
I started with my basic story and the special pieces in the collection that would best tell the story. I was looking for some special items to borrow from collectors, but had very little luck with that.

Is there anything you found that surprised you, or that you think would surprise a J5 fan?
There was nothing that surprised me, it just made me remember stuff I had not thought about in a while. It made me remember some good music and where I was when I heard some special J5 tunes.

What is it that a fan could only experience by going to museum in person?
Being in the place where history was created, not a replica.

Lina Stephens makes the final adjustments
on Jermaine's outfit from Goin' Back to Indiana

* * * * *

If you visit:

Summer Hours (July through August)
• Monday-Saturday 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM
• Closed Sunday

Regular Hours
• Tuesday through Saturday 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM
• Closed Sunday and Monday.

• Adults: $10.00 per person
• Seniors and children 12 & under: $8.00 per person

Want to support the Motown Historical Museum? If you can't visit the Museum in person, you can make a cash donation (the Museum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit ), or shop at the online Shop-Around store.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Michael Monday: The Dating Game

One of the hippest game shows of the late 1960s-early 1970s was The Dating Game, a Chuck Barris production, hosted by Jim Lang, in which a bachelor and or "bachelorette" asked a series of questions to one of three strangers hidden behind a screen. Based on their responses, one of the contestants would then be chosen as the winner of a date, with all expenses paid by the game show.

Occasionally the show would feature a famous person as the one asking the questions. (They didn't want to risk the embarrassment of having a star passed over.) In 1972 Michael Jackson appeared on the show, posing his scripted questions to three very nervous, nearly hyperventilating little girls on the other side of the screen. After a series of not-very-probing questions, Michael selected Bachelorette #1, Latany Simmons, a basketball player and aspiring math teacher.

You can watch the complete show on YouTube, and it's all pretty funny until you see the looks of utter disappointment on the faces of the two girls he didn't select. Poor girls!

The October 1972 issue of 16 magazine devoted a double-page spread to the show.

And whatever happened to lucky Latany Simmons? I'm not sure if she ever became a math teacher, but she did have her date with Michael at Sardi's the night before the Jackson 5 concert at Madison Square Garden on June 30, 1972. In an interview a month later with the Los Angeles Times, Michael described their date.
"We went out to dinner in New York. The next night we had a concert there and she came and was in the front row and everyone recognized her from television and started grabbing at her [giggles] and wanted her autograph [more giggles]. They had to put her backstage."