Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Early Photo Clues

Two of the rarest photos in my collection are the ones you see here. They're rare not because you don't see them often -- you do. They're rare because they are originals, not reprints. Each one came with info that helps to date them.

The first is the easiest.

A date is written on the back: 4-25-68. That doesn't necessarily mean that that was the date the photo was taken. It just means it wasn't taken any later than that. This is clearly one of the earliest publicity photos of the Jackson 5.

The next one was taken more than a year later.

I was very excited when I won this one in an auction because it looked like an early autograph. But when I got it, I saw that it had been pre-signed, and since then I've seen others with this exact same signature.

Still, there were some nice surprises in store. It was still encased in its original presentation folder, stamped "Teddy Powell Productions, 200 W. 57th St. New York, NY." A bit of googling revealed that Teddy Powell was a well-known Black promoter. I'm not sure what his connection was to the Jackson family -- perhaps he had help book them into the Apollo Theater, or some other East Coast venues.

Even better, a fan had written the boys' names and ages on the inside of the folder:

Michael, 10
Marlon, 12
Jermaine, 14
Toriano, 15
Sigmund or Jackie, 18

This was before Motown had changed their ages, so it's possible to determine that the notation was made between May 4 and August 29, 1969. The only East Coast performance I know of between those dates was their appearance on Miss Black America in New York City on August 22, 1969. I can't find a connection between the two of them, but I'll keep looking for clues.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Scoop Newsworthy Goin' Back To Indiana w/ Rod Coffman

A few days ago, I had an opportunity to speak to a friend of mine that I used to work with at a major logistics company. Rod Coffman, grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana, and hung out in Gary, Indiana, quite often. When I first met Rod and discovered he was a J5 fan, I had to drill him and test his knowledge. He passed the test! He knew all the songs and would sing them very well, "Lookin' Through the Windows", comes to mind. Thank you Rod for being a fan, friend and exposing me to so much music! So Scoop has the scoop and went back to Indiana with Rod...

1) When did you first catch wind of the J5?
Oh man, I believe the first time I caught wind of the J5 was around the time 'ABC' was a hit!

2) How many times did you see the J5?
I believe I saw them at least 4 times. I never missed an opportunity to see The Jackson 5 when they came to Indianapolis which was at least once a year.

3) What do you remember the first time you saw them?
It was the most phenomenal, most electric concert I ever seen in my lifetime. It was packed, shoulder to shoulder. I believe the ticket was $7. Me and my "play cousin" Sharper Cunningham went to the show. To this day when I think about it, I get chills. Back then, people were mesmerized by the steps of The Four Tops and The Temptations. When the J5 came along, it was a whole new ball game, they took it to another level. The precision in the dancing, the energy, their showmanship, the vocals, they had the whole package! To see a young group so polished, we were stunned, they were good, genuine, they had passion and they played their own instruments, it was exciting!

4) Which J5 album did you have first?
I got it on Christmas...it was..."Maybe Tomorrow". Now, I had 45's prior to the album, but that was my first one. I played the vinyl off that sucker!

5) What was your favorite album?
By Michael, it was "Ben" and my favorite J5 album was "Maybe Tomorrow" and "Lookin' Through the Windows". Oh my god, 'Don't Let Your Baby Catch You'...when I put that on now and thump that bass...I'm tellin you...you will rock! I don't care what age you are, color, when you put it on everyone will stop and say Whoa! That song and that album has a strong hold on me. And you know a lot of people would only go for the hits on the album, I wanted to know every song front to back. I believe I played that album as much as "Maybe Tomorrow".

6) What was it like growing up throughout J5 Mania?
It was crazy for African American kids at that time, you had this little kid that could blow like nobody's business. In school you'd know when they were going to be on tv and the word was out! If you were outside playing and you knew they were on tv, the streets would clear! Everybody wanted to grow the afro like Michael and Jermaine's. We were intrigued by their costumes and we'd see them in all the magazines, we dreamed about being like The Jackson 5. It was a trip! I remember them being a topic of conversation in the barber shops.

7) Do you remember any song that would come on the radio or get played and it made you stop in your tracks? The one particular song was "Get It Together". I went to a house party when I was a sophomore in high school and the whole night we played "Get It Together", not one person complained. Every time they started the song over, we were rockin! I'll never forget a school bully attending the party and everyone was afraid of him, but when we played "Get It Together", he danced all over the house, I never seen him so happy in my life.

8) Do you recall when the Jackson 5 left Motown?
Yes, people were discouraged and we thought that they were breaking up. The music during the transition didn't seem to capture the passion, however they would always have that one or two that would pull them through that rough period. I believe that was the key to their survival.

Adam Worthy (Scoop Newsworthy) has been a Jackson 5 fan since 1981 when he first saw the Jacksons on TV at age four, and he has been a collector since 1991. He loves to listen to music, dissect music, make music, and spend time with his wife and children.

August 29, 1971

I only ever saw the Jackson 5 in concert one time, and it was exactly 39 years ago on Michael's 13th birthday. The group did two back-to-back shows at the Iowa State Fair. My dad was nice enough to take me, along with my best friend, Janet.

I don't know why it didn't occur to us to go to both shows. Maybe it did, and our parents said no. It was an outdoor concert and we saw the second show. Since it was outdoors, however, we could hear the first concert throughout the fairgrounds. Janet and I headed for the midway to ride the double Ferris wheel to see if we could catch glimpse of the J5 on stage. We could't see much -- our view was blocked by the roof of the grandstand. But it was still fun riding the double Ferris wheel over and over with the sounds of all the J5's hits live in the background.

I'm sorry I don't have a photo of myself in the purple overalls my Grandma made me to wear to the concert. I'm sure you will all be able to imagine them. The only thing I have other than my memory of the concert is the newspaper review written by Lucia Herndon. A few years later, Lucia married my older brother and became my sister-in-law.

I wonder if Michael did anything special to commemorate his 13th birthday, other than singing his heart out on a hot August night in what must have felt like the middle of nowhere to him.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Song of the Week: My Cherie Amour

by Corey Sheppard

Jermaine Jackson was one of music’s first teen idols. His voice and bass playing sent thousands of girls through a frenzy. Jermaine (as said by J5C….numerous times) was the sex symbol out of the five boys. His chilled, mellow leads were the perfect opposite of Michael’s piping lead, but their two styles totally blended together. He was an integral part of the group, and was often looked at as the “fan favorite.”

Jermaine had shown potential from the very beginning and producer Bobby Taylor must’ve known it. Jermaine was given two tracks to record on the J5’s debut album Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5. One of the tracks chosen for Jermaine was a frantic version of the Temptations “(I Know) I’m Losing You.” As for the second cut, Bobby Taylor must have wondered: hmmm, what would be the perfect song for a growing 14-year old to sing to the young ladies……ding…a-ha Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour.”

Stevie Wonder was flying fresh off of one of his biggest hits that winter of 1969, when the J5’s version popped up on their debut album on December 18. Jermaine’s first lead comes right directly in the middle of the album, sandwiched in between Michael’s leads on the J5-original “You’ve Changed” and the masterpiece “Who’s Lovin’ You” (the perfect spot if you ask me).

I have always looked at Jermaine’s version of the tune as the acoustic, unplugged version of Stevie’s classic, if you will. With brushes being the only percussion being used, (also a triangle used in the intro and outro), and an acoustic guitar strumming beautifully throughout the song, it gives an opposite affect to Stevie’s version with his relying more on the string orchestra, and a prominent snare drum on the track. It definitely helped the soul-vibe of the track by it being recorded in Detroit, Michigan.

Being that this track is one of the first J5 recordings that we hear Jermaine singing on, we get a slight hint of Jermaine’s man-child voice. This record comes at in interesting time for Jermaine’s voice. He had a very raspy tone at this time. Jermaine’s voice would not fully change until late 1971, partially due Jermaine getting rid of his tonsils, and the other factor just being Mother Nature.

With that being said, I like his voice here. He sounds a lot better than most of the young boys that are out now (these kids now are just whining up a storm!!!). The main reason why I love Jermaine on this record is because he sings this song with a lot of passion. From his very beginning notes, to the finale (listen to the fade-out Jermaine is still wailing away till the very end of the take) this kid was extremely eager to make a statement.

My two favorite sections of this record are the intro and the bridge. The intro is nearly flawless (except for a slight flat note from the acoustic guitar at 0.14 ) and the bridge is simply excellent. The background vocals are a delight as well (it sounds like it might just be Michael and Jackie here). The brothers totally wrap themselves around the bridge leading in to the final verse (which is slowed down a bit). The harmonies and delivery from the boys is downright perfect. Who would expect this kind of delivery from young kids who haven’t even graduated from high school yet?

Once again, I recognize and appreciate Bobby Taylor’s versatility on this track. He created the perfect cool, relaxed instrumental for Jermaine and the boys to lay their vocals onto. No one would’ve thought to give the young group such a strong and emotional tune. But just like every other obstacle in the Jackson 5’s early career, they were successful in breaking through.

After this recording, the Jackson 5 had a long history and association with Stevie Wonder for many years. While only covering two more songs from the Wonder catalog, the Five collaborated with Stevie on his number one recording “You Haven’t Done Nothin.” Around the same time, Stevie Wonder returned the favor by giving the brothers a tune called “Buttercup” (a song speculated in the press around 1975, but not released until 2009) and according to sources a couple more songs including a song entitled “You’re Supposed to Keep Your Love For Me.” Ironically ten years later, Stevie Wonder found himself working side-by-side with Jermaine on the latter track and also on Jermaine’s top-ten single “Let’s Get Serious.” It must have been a real delight for Jermaine to be working with one of his mentors.

But now back to 1969. This record was very important for the boys (and especially Jermaine) in more ways than one. It showed Motown that Jermaine was quite capable of handling not only a lead vocal but a classic tune with a unique arrangement as well. Motown paid attention to this and less than six months later was given his first B-side entitled “I Found that Girl” (which actually replaced “My Cherie Amour” in the Five’s live concert act).

Because of the significance of this record (and the fact that I just simply adore the arrangement) I would say this is my favorite early Jermaine record. A major thanks goes to Bobby Taylor, for reintroducing Jermaine as a lead vocalist. Jermaine (more than likely) had only one shot to prove himself as a vocalist to the eyes of Motown. And luckily for all of us fans, he passed that test with flying colors!

Next Weeks Song Hint: Since You’ve Been Gone/I’m Just Not the Same Baby

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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."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Feelin' Alright

One of the rarest Jackson 5 45s is a promo-only live version of "Feelin Alright," as they performed it on Diana Ross's first solo television special Diana!, which aired on April 18, 1971. Miss Ross joined them at the end of the song, so it is billed as a duet, even though the Jackson 5 sing 3/4 of the song without her. Oh, and because it's Miss Ross's show, she gets top billing on the 45 itself.

The flip side features Diana singing a novelty song with Bill Cosby, and it's more of a true duet. But "Feelin' Alright" was a complete musical performance, a cover version of a Dave Mason song that the Jackson 5 performed live in concert from 1971 on.

The 45 also came with a picture sleeve that shows it was released to promote the soundtrack album.

In the spring of 1971, the Diana! soundtrack is as close as most fans ever got to a live Jackson 5 performance and many of us wore the threads down on all the J5 tracks here -- in addition to "Feelin' Alright," we got "I'll Be There," "Mama's Pearl/Walk On/The Love You Save." The medley was a bit longer on the soundtrack album than it was in the televised appearance where "Walk On" was considerably edited.

I was lucky enough to get a copy of the soundtrack years ago when it was reissued on cd, and it sounds as fresh today as it did back in the spring of '71 when I had it in heavy rotation on my turntable.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What's New, Jackson 5?

The Jackson 5 recorded several cereal commercials in the early 1970s that were aired on Saturday morning during children's programming. I was too old for Saturday morning cartoons at the time, but I used to watch them, just for a chance to glimpse the J5 hawking Alphabits.

I thought I had seen them all a hundred times, but there was one that my friend Jeff used to talk about that I just couldn't recall. He said he clearly remembered one with a group of kids, sitting around a table outside eating cereal when, all of a sudden, the Jackson 5's heads pop up from behind a fence. I thought Jeff must be remembering it wrong, until I came across this picture.

I knew for sure that Jeff had it right. And then, at long last, I found the commercial itself, through the wonders of YouTube and a Spanish-speaking fan.

I can see why I missed it. This one looks -- or, more accurately, sounds, from Michael's voice -- like it was made a bit later. I'm sure by then I was opting to sleep in on Saturday mornings. But I'm glad to find it now because it's hilarious. I love the way the kids act like it's the most ordinary thing in the world to have the Jackson 5 pop up in your back yard. And they're more excited by the cheap-ass magic trick in their cereal box than they are by the sight of Michael, Marlon, Jermaine, Tito and Big Jackie suddenly appearing, as if by magic.

But even the magic trick itself is funny in this context: "We lost a kid!" Stick around, buddy, and you'll see it happen for real in a few years when the Jackson 5 lose Jermaine. You should have asked for his autograph while you had the chance.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Will Success Spoil the Jackson 5?

With all the press coverage the Jackson family has had over the years, none has been as kind or as constant as the coverage they've had in Johnson Publications, the Chicago-based company that publishes Ebony and Jet, and, for a time Black Stars and Ebony Jr. The group -- or individual members of it and the Jackson family in general -- has been featured frequently on the cover of both Ebony and Jet. During the heyday of the Jackson 5, scarcely a week went by without a mention somewhere within Jet's pages -- if only in the list of weekly TV programs showcasing Black performers or in the Soul Brother Top 20.

Given that, it's odd that the Jackson 5 didn't get a major feature in Jet or Ebony until August 6, 1970, almost a year after they were formally introduced to the press by Diana Ross. By then the group had had three number one singles and were causing the sort of mass hysteria among teens that hadn't been seen since The Beatles arrived on American shores. Sounds to me like that alone would be cause for a good solid report, especially from the Black press.

By the time Jet ran its first cover story on the group, they were already wondering if fame would go to their heads. Would the Jackson 5 turn into les enfants terribles of the pop world? But, no, readers were assured by Joe Jackson and a Motown spokesperson, they had had good home training and they weren't going to change. We could all breathe a sigh of relief.

Much as I loved seeing our Five on the cover (and still do), there were a couple of puzzling things about the story. Like why, after nearly a year, could they not tell Jermaine and Jackie apart? Why were they still calling Jackie and Tito "Sigmund" and "Toriano?" Why were half of the photos they used a year old, taken at the time of the family's return to Gary on their way home from a live television appearance in New York City?

And, most puzzling of all, why did Jet have all those photos in their files? They obviously had a photographer there, covering their return in August 1969, when they appeared in a parade and sang at the Festival Gary. Where's that story? It's here, but you'll only find it in the pictures.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Same Old Song

Yesterday's mention of the two new compilation releases, coupled with the recent unpacking and organizing of all my Jackson 5 cds, got me thinking about compilations in general.

Motown compilation cds are a frequent pet peeve over in the Soulful Detroit forum, due to the company's habit of circulating the same old songs over and over in new packaging.

And when I say over and over again, I mean over and over again. Here, for example, are the two shelves of cds I have in my J5 collection:

The top shelf includes the cd version of every J5 and Michael solo LP ever issued, including all the two-fers, remastered, and Japanese releases, as well as all of the Jacksons' and Michael's post-Motown LPs. The shelf beneath it holds all the Motown compilation cds I own. I don't even own them all because, even though I am a completist collector, I've got to draw the line somewhere. They are all so much the same that any Motown fan could probably recite the track list of his favorite artist's compilation cd before he even saw it.

But I don't automatically dislike every compilation disc. Some of the ones in my collection I like a lot, for different reasons. Take this one, for example.

There's nothing particularly outstanding about the track listing or the artwork, but it's notable because it was the first Jackson 5 cd, a fact that was so unusual at the time, they named it after the format: Compact Command Performances. There was a whole series of these for Motown artists.

This next one is the first cd I ever bought. I bought it before I even had a cd player. In fact, I bought a cd player just so I could play it.

It was originally issued in August of 1986 and it's everything a good compilation disc should be. It has all the J5 singles (not just 1969-70, plus Dancing Machine and Michael's first four solo singles), as well as some great album tracks and a few rarities, like "Teenage Symphony" and "I Was Made to Love Her." It includes as many Jermaine solo songs as it does for Michael, and even has one Jackie solo, "Love Don't Want to Leave." (In fact, the only sour note here is that it credits Jackie's solo to Jermaine.)

The packaging was also great. It came in a custom longbox (seen to the left here -- of course, I saved it!) and it included a 32-page booklet that had extensive liner notes and many rare photos, all in the correct chronological order. There was also a Michael solo Anthology put out at around this same time that has the same features. (Note: These are not to be confused with other compilations called Anthology or Anthology or Anthology.) Whoever put these two collections together did an amazing job that was not topped until almost ten years later when the amazing Soulsation! was issued.

A compilation doesn't have to have everything in order to please me. All it has to do is surprise me. My all-time favorite compilation disc is a single disc collection from Japan called Free Soul: The Classics of Jackson 5.

First, the butterscotch-colored design fits perfectly with the original photo from Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5, a brilliant photo that is under-utilized, in my opinion. And the track listing opens with a real surprise: "Christmas Won't Be the Same This Year" followed by "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." Well... why not? As someone who listens to the Jackson 5 Christmas Album year round, it's a real treat to have these two cuts on a non-Christmas compilation.

They are followed with two upbeat album tracks, "E-Ne-Me-Ne-Mi-Ne-Mo" and "It's Great to Be Here" from Lookin' through the Windows and Maybe Tomorrow respectively before we get into the standard compilation fare "I Want You Back" and "ABC." But then it moves right on to two songs with Jermaine leads, "I Will Find a Way" and "Live It Up," something you hardly ever find on compilations. From there on out, we get a good mix of familiar hits with lesser known album cuts interspersed -- 25 tracks in all. Whenever I listen to this disc, I am reminded of how much I like particular albums, and it sends me back to listen to all the tracks on an LP, like Maybe Tomorrow.

A recent compilation I like is this 2009 release, Love Songs.

While about half of the tracks are the same ones that were on a 1984 vinyl release called The Great Love Songs of the Jackson 5, the cover art on the cd is a vast improvement over the original. It's also nice to see so many tracks from their later LPs, and some unusual ones at that, like "Breezy" and "Through Thick and Thin." But I confess that the real reason I bought this cd was for the photo on the back. It's one I had never seen before, although I've seen many others that were taken at this same time.

I bought this cd for its cover picture as well. I like it for its weirdness.

It's an undated Polish release, but I think it would be safe to say this came out before the wall came down. How else could it be that the artist they hired had never seen a photo of Michael Jackson, let alone the Jacksons? In fact, I'm not sure the artist had ever seen a real person of African descent.

And on the oddness scale, this one comes out near the top. The entire compilation is different remixes of "I Want You Back." Eighteen of them, to be exact.

I love the song, but I can't imagine listening to it eighteen times in a row, even with variations on a theme.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

What Is Wrong with This Picture?

1) The graphic artist forgot to white out Jackie's missing tooth.

2) Icon -- singular? Really? I see five in this picture.

3) The track listing... yawn....

4) They didn't stop at one:

They are apparently so bored themselves with the track listing, they can't bear to list them. But let's take a wild guess. Let's see... "Rockin' Robin," "Ben," "Daddy's Home," "Dancing Machine" ... zzzzzzzzzzzzz


MJJCollections launches tomorrow, and it looks like a promising new site.

It's always nice to see Jackson collectors organizing and cooperating.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Song of the Week: Listen I'll Tell You How

by Corey Sheppard

"Listen I’ll Tell You How" is a song recorded by the Jackson 5 in May 1969. It is one of the first recordings the boys did at Motown and, wow, what a great recording! I first heard this record on Motown’s official Jackson 5 webpage. They were having a listening party for some of the songs that were on last year’s I Want You Back! Unreleased Masters a few weeks before it was released in stores. From the first opening seconds, I knew immediately that this was a record from the 1969 Detroit sessions, and I took comfort in the fact that I was in the safe hands of producer Bobby Taylor.

An incredible producer, Taylor brought out the best in the growing group. The Jackson 5 (at the time) had very little experience in the recording studio, but he surrounded the boys with the original terrific “snake pit” musicians, and great cover songs by Motown’s hottest artists. He gave them a confidence that helped prepared their transition to stardom. Bobby Taylor stopped producing the boys in early 1970, and what a shame. Michael has said in interviews about how much they loved working with Taylor . There was even talk about the boys reuniting with Taylor for their first album for CBS, and while songs were recorded, none have seen the light of day. I’m sure the Jackson brothers would have totally loved if Taylor would’ve continued producing a couple of records for not only the boys, but Jermaine and Michael solo.

I feel that this record has one of Michael’s best early vocal performances ever. This ten-year-old totally throws himself into this bombastic production. What amazes me is how many vocal runs he fits into each verse and hook. I also love the background vocals on the track. Jermaine’s early vocals are clearly audible on the hook section of the song.

The instrumentation on this track is dynamite. Nothing beats the sound of late 60’s soul music, in my opinion, and this track carries it to the max. The intro is totally outrageous with the horns and the strings wailing away. I loved it from the first time I heard it. The hook section on this track is incredible. The buildup to the chorus takes the anticipation up a notch. And the drummer is in a league of his own, providing the track with pretty much all of runs and improvisation that Motown was famous for. The song had a very inspirational, uplifting vibe to it, along with soul horns and breakdowns that only James Brown could have bested.

The main reason I feel that this song was not released on the Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5 LP is because of the message in the lyrics. In my opinion, the message in the song is about people looking after another, and helping your fellow brother. This is not the direction that Berry Gordy wanted the Jackson 5 to go in. He wanted the Jackson 5 to sing only of things kids think about: girls, girls, and girls! To me, that’s the main reason that records like this and “I’ll Try You’ll Try (Maybe We’ll All Get By),” also from the Unreleased Masters cd, never were released, until now.

Overall, I enjoyed this record a lot, and was very appreciate that Motown decided to finally release it 40 years later. Once again it shows a lot of versatility for the (at the time) very, very young group. I hope more unreleased Bobby Taylor productions get released in the future. It has been said that the J5 recorded about 30 tracks with Taylor , so I hope that means more records from that summer will be released in the future, which truly gives me a reason to live every day!!!

Next Week’s Song Hint: This record was Jermaine’s first solo lead on a Jackson 5 track.

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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."

Interviewing Michael: "I just tell the truth"

Here's a cute picture of Michael being interviewed by Lisa Robinson at his home in 1972. See that little portable tape recorder Lisa is holding? That means there was an audio record of this interview. And guess what? The tape is still in Lisa's possession. She also saved tapes from later interviews she did with Michael, and she interviewed him a lot.

I didn't know that tapes still existed until one of readers (thanks, Dannie!) sent me a link to this YouTube video where you can hear Lisa talking about what it was like to interview Michael through the years. She includes snippets of the actual interviews throughout her ten-minute monologue. And you can find more from her about her interviews in this article that she published last year in Vanity Fair.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Song)

I came across this ABC music book in a downtown record store in the summer of 1970, shortly after the ABC LP had been released. It contained the music and lyrics for all but two songs on the LP, plus a few from Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5. For kids like me, who used to struggle to understand the lyrics to J5 songs (I could have sworn they were singing "2-4-6-8 / Who do you appreciate / This thing annoys me"), it was a Godsend.

Inside there was a short bio and a few black-and-white photos, like the one you see below.

I was disappointed, however, that the individual blurb about each brother was accompanied by a charcoal drawing that would make Frenchy look like a skilled artist. Here's Jackie's, for example:

I suspect that these were similar to the charcoal drawings by "famed Hollywood artists" advertised on the first product sleeve (and, boy, am I glad I didn't spend my money on them.) This doesn't even look like Jackie. But the worst of the bunch is the one of Michael, which makes him look like the comic strip character Dondi.

But I digress.

The truly interesting thing about the ABC music book is the mysterious inclusion of "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)."
Even the most casual Motown fan will recognize this as Diana Ross's first solo single, which had been released a few months earlier in April 1970. How did it end up in the Jackson 5's first music book? Had it originally been intended as a Jackson 5 release? It was, frankly, much more like the kinds of songs the Jackson 5 were recording in 1970 (e.g. "I'll Be There," and "Give Love on Christmas Day") than what Diana Ross was known for.

Or did the Jackson 5 record a cover version, like the Supremes & Four Tops did that same year for their first joint album, Magnificent Seven? If that's the case, why would it have been scrapped, in favor of the much weaker selections on ABC, "True Love Can Be Beautiful" and "LaLa Means I Love You?" (Just guessing these two cuts since neither was included in the ABC music book.) Could it be that Diana didn't want the competition from Michael, who may have sung it better?

To add a further bit of intrigue, this is the song Diana and Michael sang together in The Jacksons: An American Dream. As the young Michael Jackson, actor Jason Weaver gives us a taste of what the song might have sounded like, sung by Michael in 1970. Watch Michael and Diana (played by Holly Robinson) fight for control of the microphone in this scene. An inside joke, perhaps?

Or was was the inclusion of the song just a simple error?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Brand New Thing: Cool Stuff from the First Product Sleeve

I've written elsewhere about Motown's inner LP sleeve that was advertised Jackson 5 mail-order products. Prior to Maybe Tomorrow, when this sleeve made its first appearance, there was another Motown product sleeve, found in LPs pressed from 1970-71. It advertised fan clubs and products for several Motown artists, including the Jackson 5.

Here is that first product sleeve from my own childhood copy of ABC:

You'll find that the order coupon is missing. That's because I dutifully cut it out and sent it to Motown with my heard-earned $1.50. Like a good little fledgling collector, I left a note in its place, recording what I had ordered, and when.

You may wonder why I didn't just order one of everything back when I had a chance. Well, money was scarce in 1970, and I'd much rather have spent my hard-earned babysitting money (50 cents an hour in those years) on actual music. With singles costing 49 cents a pop and LPs at nearly four dollars, I didn't have a lot left over for Motown memorabilia.

So I read over all the descriptions and selected what I thought were the best deals. The 11 x 17" wall poster for 75 cents was a no-brainer. But why on earth would I buy a calendar (or, calender, as I spelled it back then), instead of an 8 x 10 glossy photo for just 10 cents more? I can't remember my reasoning, but I'm sure I was swayed by the fact it was an 18-month calendar. I probably figured there would be a different picture for each month, and I'd get 18 different photos of the Jackson 5, right?

Instead, here's what my money bought me:

Huh? That's it? Well, I had to look on the bright side -- at least the 18 months didn't begin for another five months. I'd have felt really cheated if it had been a 1970-71 calendar. Of course, that also meant I'd have nearly two years to be reminded of my folly on a daily basis.

Overall Fan Satisfaction:
(Jackson 1)

And I couldn't feel completely ripped off because the poster I ordered at the same time offered a cool way to decorate my room, as promised. I also got my first glimpse of each brother's signature, including Toriano and Sigmund. I only wished the poster had been in color and had been a photo I hadn't seen a million times before.

Overall Fan Satisfaction:
(Jackson 3)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

J5 Collection

I'm not sure what, exactly, the J5 Collection is, but I hope they offer more than old Victory Tour merchandise. And, of course, I hope they develop more than a splashy place-holder site. But I won't hold my breath.

Just... Jermaine

I may have mentioned once or twice that Jermaine was my favorite brother when I was a young teen, dreaming of growing up to marry one of the Jackson 5. I wasn't alone in my passion -- Jermaine took his position as the group sex symbol early on (although, in retrospect, I can't see why Jackie wasn't considered the sex symbol instead. Too old, you think? Perhaps, but he was still a year younger than David Cassidy, and probably about 20 years younger than Bobby Sherman).

Anyway, I not only loved feasting my eyes on Jermaine's adorable face, perfect afro, and gorgeous body, I also loved his singing voice. In fact, I first fell for him when I heard him singing his lead parts in "Stand" on The Ed Sullivan Show. "I Found That Girl" was my favorite Jackson 5 song and I would still place it in my top five. Songs with Jermaine leads were just a bit more mellow and mature -- more appropriate for someone at the ripe old age of 13.

When I first heard that Jermaine was working on a solo album, I was ecstatic. I couldn't wait for an entire LP with Jermaine singing lead vocals. I even had a title picked out for the album -- Just... Jermaine. (I never got word through to Motown on that one.)

I can clearly remember the day when I first saw the album. I was in the record section of a downtown department store called Younkers. And there was Jermaine, on display.

Oh, my God, he had never looked so perfect, so cute. It didn't even bother me too much that they had given the album such an uninspired name, like they thought it was going to be Jermaine's only solo album. I stared at the cover for a long time before turning it over to see what he sang, noting that there was another adorable picture of him on the back. He's holding a stick (he's holding a stick!) and looking very pensive. Soulful. Just... Jermaine.

I recognized some of the song titles -- "Ain't That Peculiar," a great Marvin Gaye song; "Homeward Bound," okay, why not, he did a good job on "Bridge Over Troubled Water," I'll give it a try; "If You Were My Woman," hmmm... Gladys Knight song? I'll have to see... The other songs I didn't know, but I would soon enough because I played that album over and over again for the rest of the summer and into the fall.

Nothing, however, prepared me for the surprise awaiting me when I got the album home and took the cellophane off.

Are you kidding me?! Are you kidding me?! Unbelievable! I had to run and call my best friend Janet to come over to look at my new Jermaine album, even though her favorite brother was Tito. We spent the afternoon, sprawled out on the floor with the album open, staring at Jermaine while we listened to all his new songs, over and over again. Then Janet's mom called and she had to go home. So it was back to just... Jermaine -- and me.