Sunday, August 8, 2010

Words, Chords, and Pictures

Back in the early 1970s, daily newspapers regularly printed the lyrics and guitar chords for Top 40 songs. These usually ran in the entertainment section of the Sunday newspaper. When I was a young J5 fan, I would rush to check the entertainment section each Sunday morning to see if they had a J5 song, for two reasons: (1) to read the lyrics that were often difficult to completely understand, even after playing a 45 over and over again, and (2) because the lyrics always included a group photo. The very first photo of the J5 I had on my bedroom wall, in fact, was cut out of the newspaper and it had accompanied the lyrics to "I Want You Back." I watched the newsprint slowly yellow for the next few months while I waited patiently for another photo.

So when I saw this set of newspaper printing plates for "Mama's Pearl" offered on eBay several years ago, I recognized what they were immediately and placed a bid. I was the only bidder. No one else seemed to want them, and I'm not even sure today why I thought I needed them. Maybe it was because my dad was a newspaperman, so I was being hit with two-fisted nostalgia. With changing technology, these sorts of things are going the way of the dinosaur. They will one day be as hard to find as J5 photos were in early 1970.

It's kind of hard to see from the scan above, but for the "Mama's Pearl" lyrics they were still using the same photo they had used for "I Want You Back"more than a year before. It was one of the earliest Motown press photos of the Jackson 5, and it's one of the first photos I ever saw of them. It's the one I used to study when I was learning their names and ages, and deciding that Jermaine was my favorite. I loved that photo.

And because my dad worked for the newspaper and I knew he had access to files of press photos, I used to beg him for a photo of the Jackson 5. Any photo. But a real photo, one that wouldn't turn yellow. He would always say no, he couldn't do that because they didn't belong to him, that would be stealing from the newspaper. But one day, he came home from work and handed me this 8 x 10 glossy:
The newspaper had gotten a duplicate and the librarian said he could have it. I was thrilled to see he had gotten me my favorite photo. It is still my favorite photo for sentimental reasons. And it became the very first item in my Jackson 5 collection.


  1. I totally love this story J5C! You have the best memory along with the best collection!!

    When I started becoming a fan of the J5 when I was a child, this photo would always wind up on the internet. I used to always feel this photo was older than 1969, because of how young they look. Especially Jermaine Marlon and Michael.

    This photo was totally before Motown gave the boys their own 70s style, but I kinda like that. On a funnier note, I always thought Jackie looked like he had some light scruff in this photo. lol

  2. You've got that right, Corey, in terms of the style. This was pretty much the way the Five would dress back in Gary. Michael wore those same trousers on the cover of "Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5" where you can see that they were a little too big for him. In those days, parents often bought clothes a size too big so you'd have room to grow. After they started getting a regular paycheck from Motown, Michael's clothes were always exactly the right size.

  3. In those my parents did the same thing for my brother and I till we were about 15 lol. I invented baggy pants matter of fact lol jk

    Jermaine looks very young in this photo, he always looked and sounded young in 69, he grew a lot in 70.

  4. A wonderful story, and I never knew newspapers would print the chords for songs back then, but I guess until recent times, lots more kids played piano and other stuff. I'm impressed they got the key right! When I was buying sheet music it wasn't unusual to be in a different key! Same chord progression but different key. I'd play along with the record and wonder why it didn't sound right. I'm happy to say that NOW I can play the entire piano on "I want you back" -- and it ain't easy.

  5. I too remember Words and Chords in The Tribune. I'm amazed that the key is correct. Even The Jackson 5 TV Book has the key in G major and Jobete was the publisher!