Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What Color Is Your Parachute?

I've always loved the sepia-toned photos on the cover of the Jackson 5's 1973 LP, Skywriter. The photos on the front and the back were made to look like old photos, and the clothes the boys wore also went with the vintage look of the bi-plane they are posing around.

So it came as a surprise to me the first time I saw this shot from the Skywriter photo session in living color. I had never imaged they were all wearing colorful scarves, or that the plane itself was red.

And it came as an even bigger surprise to me the first time I came across photos from this session that included Randy.

Okay, so here's what I wonder... were there plans to include Randy on the LP sleeve? This album would have been released shortly after Randy started making regular television appearances and touring with his brothers. And it's not as if Randy would have just wandered into a photo shoot, as it sometimes appeared at around this time. Here he is, for example, looking like he horned his way into the Lookin' through the Windows photo session.

But, no, the Skywriter photo session involved obvious costuming. It's not as if Randy would have been wandering around Southern California in a bomber jacket, aviator cap and goggles.

To add to the mystery, Randy was also included in a brief filmed Motown promo that showed all the brothers in their Skywriter gear, jumping into the screen with parachutes, each one saying his name as he jumped into view. At the end, Randy comes in with "Me, too, I'm Randy!"

So what gives? Do these photos -- and the promo -- provide evidence that Motown was on the fence about whether to give Randy his due as a full member of the Jackson 5? Were they holding him in reserve, in case Michael should decide to leave the group for his solo career, as was the pattern with other lead singers of Motown groups? Or were they just humoring a little kid who wanted to do what his big brothers were doing? I don't suppose we'll ever know for sure, but these photos sure are intriguing.


  1. Ahh, very interesting post. I suppose if they included Randy they could acurately call them "Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5" -- man those photos are great. I also like to see Randy next to the J5 coz I was his age and I could see how I would've looked next to my heroes.

  2. I wonder how that made Randy feel. I'm sure he was always disappointed feeling left out. Espeically on the Skywriter cover where a costume was designed just for him. But then again I'm sure that's how the Jackson sisters felt as well.