My all-time favorite television performance by the Jackson 5 was the one they did for a musical variety special called Hellzapoppin', which aired on March 1, 1972. They performed three songs. First up was a rousing version of "Sugar Daddy." Check out the jumps in the dancing at the end of the number:
Their second number was a medley that began with a full version of Michael's first solo single "Got to Be There." Michael's voice is wonderful here, and the backing vocals by his brothers are superb. It's great to hear it without the annoying double-tracking that was used on the vinyl release, which made Michael sound like he was singing in an echo chamber. Mid-way through the performance, they raise the tempo, kick up the dancing, and sing an original song, "Brand New Thing," something they performed in concert to introduce little brother, Randy. He was just ten at the time, and it was his first appearance on television. You would never know it from the polished performance he turns in, owning the stage from the moment he struts in, gives Jermaine some skin, and then dances over to his conga drums for a percussive solo. Seeing this, it's not so hard to imagine that just six years later he would co-write the Jacksons' hit "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)" with his big brother, Michael.
And Randy is cute as can be, in his little orange sailor suit. Which brings us to our Fashion Friday. (You knew I'd get there, right?) Randy's sailor suit was actually part of a matched set of costumes, designed for the brothers to wear on the show. A photo spread in the April 1972 issue of Star! showed the brothers performing in these matching outfits, and included color pin ups of Michael and Jermaine wearing the orange suits.
But when the show aired, only Randy's orange costume remained. We can only guess that the photos used in Star! were taken at a dress rehearsal, and that, for some reason, they were switched out before final filming. If you look at the set behind them in these photos or on the Youtube clips, it's pretty clear that the costumes were designed to go with the set. And perhaps that was the issue -- they went with the set too well, so well, in fact, that the brothers were indistinguishable from it. Talk about blending in with the scenery!
16 magazine also featured a photo spread from Hellzapoppin', but their reporter apparently stayed past the run-through. Like Star!, they discussed the brothers' "dandy duds" with the usual purple prose, but they were, at least, describing the costumes the rest of us saw.