Monday, September 27, 2010

The Philly Set May 2, 1970

As promised...Scoop comes with the news. Thanks HW! Here's the set list from the J5's first Motown headlining show :

1. Stand!

2. Hum A Song (From Your Heart)

3. My Cherie Amour

4. Feelin’ Alright

5. I Want You Back

6. Yesterday

7. Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah

8. There Was A Time

9. It’s Your Thing

10. Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin

11. ABC

Ok, boys and girls, which track is obviously missing? Just a clue below...

Adam Worthy (Scoop Newsworthy) has been a Jackson 5 fan since 1981. He first saw the Jacksons on TV at age four during their summer variety show 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.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Song of the Week: Give Me Half a Chance

by Corey Sheppard

"Give Me Half a Chance" was a beautiful ballad that truly didn’t get its chance to shine until 1986. And, boy, does it shine bright with most J5 fans.

"Give Me Half a Chance" was written by songwriter/actor Clifton Davis. Although he didn’t write too many songs for the Jackson 5, the songs he did compose for the group were always standouts. I truly loved his selections for the boys because he chose not to write “bubble-gum soul” tracks for the group, instead he mostly wrote mature love songs that would have been a challenge for any other teen group; but not the Jackson 5. Davis, who started his career as a songwriter ended up becoming an actor (he is mostly famous because of his role on the 80’s sitcom Amen.

"Give Me Half a Chance" was never released as a single or an album track throughout the Jackson 5’s stay with Motown. Instead, it was released over twenty five years later on Looking Back to Yesterday in 1986. It is absolutely absurd to me that this track was not released on either Third Album or Maybe Tomorrow. To me, the song has hit potential written all over, or it’s at least album placement material.

Maybe the reason Motown didn’t release the track was that they possibly felt the boys were doing too many ballads at this time. Just look at the difference between Third Album and Maybe Tomorrow and you’ll find it’s like comparing night and day. Third Album was more a ballad album, while Maybe Tomorrow was straight up bubble-gum pop mixed with a few soul ballads.

Since this track wasn’t released on an album, Jackson 5 fans had to use their imaginations as to when the song was recorded. It wasn’t until 2009 when Hello World: The Motown Solo Collection that we get a hint of when the track was cut. According to the booklet, "Give Me Half a Chance" was recorded between the years 1969-1970. It was apparently mixed, in 1971, and was considered a Got to Be There outtake (despite the brothers singing background vocals behind Michael.)

I would say this song was definitely not recorded in 1969, since neither Bobby Taylor nor the Corporation produced it. My opinion is that the song was recorded in 1970 or possibly 1971. The major hints to me are the instrumentation, and Michael’s high-pitched, slowly maturing lead. Also since Clifton Davis produced the record, I would speculate that this record and “Never Can Say Goodbye” were recorded around the same time. And since I’ve always suspected that “Never Can Say Goodbye” was recorded a little earlier than the rest of the sessions, it leads me back to my opinion that this song was recorded sometime late 1970.

Now on to the actual record! I love the persistent, urgent, back beat of the song. It keeps the track from becoming too mushy in my opinion. I would say this was one of the first Jackson records to use a harpsichord as the keyboard arrangement. Motown became literally obsessed with this instrument beginning in 1971 until about 1972. Also this track uses bells as well, which were also used in “Never Can Say Goodbye.” Michael sings this song as if his life depends on it. He never disappointed his fans when it came to a vocal delivery of a song, especially ballads.

In the end, "Give Me Half a Chance" remains a standout for me and for many others. I’m actually kind of happy this song isn’t very well-known in the music community, because once people think they have heard most of what the Jackson 5 has to offer, "Give Me Half a Chance" comes and takes them by surprise. I’m am thankful that it was finally released by Motown, so that we are can cherish this song in our collection. We truly can never get enough ballads from the Jackson 5. So to the Jackson 5: your chance finally came!

Next week’s song hint: Don’t take the easy way out/Believe there is a maker.

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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."

Saturday, September 25, 2010

J5 Fanfiction?

I always thought that fanfiction -- at least outside the Star Trek fandom -- was a relatively recent phenomenon. But back in their January 1974 issue, Right On! not only published a work of fan fiction, they encouraged it with introduction on a new column called "Creation Station."

In this bit of creative writing, a fan named Gerrie (coincidentally the name of the author), attends a Jackson 5 concert, and has a premonition that a "speaker or something" falls from the ceiling, landing on Randy's hands and damaging them forever. Gerrie, of course, is able to save Randy's livelihood -- and possibly his life -- by getting the attention of "Ronnie or Johnnie, whoever is on the drums" (Gerrie wasn't terribly precise), who is able to jump in and push Randy out of harm's way. Oh, you just have to read it for yourself.

Gerrie may be a prototype of Mary Sue. Or she may be a variant of another character with a similar-sounding name -- Stephen King's Carrie. After all, speakers don't usually just fall from the ceiling onto people's hands all on their own.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Scoop To The Forum w/ Harry Weinger

Harry Weinger has been in the music business for more than 30 years, and for the past decade and more he’s been the VP of A&R at Universal Music Enterprises, the catalog division of Universal Music. A two-time Grammy® winner, HW most recently produced, among many other classic compilations, the two-CD Jackson 5 set Live At The Forum. He sat down with J5 Collector to give us the scoop of the production of this amazing release.
Additionally, Harry is also a guest speaker at the Michael Jackson symposium at Columbia College, “Genius Without Borders,” sharing the stage with Ed Eckstine, Siedah Garrett, Greg Phillinganes and Ricky Lawson, on a panel covering MJ’s entire career. Read about it here:

How did the Forum project come about?
Once I began work as the catalog guy for Motown I had, as a research and listening source, a box of DAT tapes from my predecessors. Among the tapes was a treasure trove of music that had been pored over for the J5 Soulsation! box set, and within those were concert recordings from the Los Angeles Forum and the San Diego Arena. They were fascinating, but – what to do? A few years went by and a friend, a real J5 fanatic, strongly suggested I go back and listen again, especially since the 40th anniversary of the Jackson 5 was coming up [in fall 2009]. I was listening to a lot of the unreleased studio tracks at the time and, in fact, the original plan for the I Want You Back: Unreleased Masters collection was for it to contain a disc of live stuff. After a few more listens, though, it was clear that the entire Forum shows should be a separate release.

Can you take us fans through the process once the tapes are located? What goes on next?
It’s not a given that every tape is perfectly marked with song titles and dates and venues. What we do is look up in a database every reel that looks “live” – meaning, an unusual sequence of titles that doesn’t match an actual LP but has familiar names. Sometimes the database does display a venue name and at least a year, but to be sure we order every physical multi-track reel and if we’re lucky end up with reels that are indeed live, with venue names, dates and other markings that were not entered into the computer database. This allows us to see, among other things, how many shows were recorded and if two tape decks were used in order to pick up the remainder of a song being sung; otherwise we would be stuck with an incomplete song. We then build an inventory of material to decide what the record will be. The tapes were transferred to digital format and I was able to make rough mixes and piece the puzzle together. During the Forum project we found that in the San Diego show the J5 followed the exact set as the LA show from the night before – except that they did “Ain’t No Sunshine” during the San Diego show, and that in general the crowd was much quieter and not as frenzied. “Sunshine” was not performed during Michael’s solo set, it was elsewhere in the San Diego show, but as you’ve heard it was so great that it had to be included on the live release. Rather than make “Sunshine” a bonus track, separate from the Forum live album, I edited it into Michael’s solo set. Then we – meaning engineer Kevin Reeves! – had to do some finessing in the final mix to make it sound seamless.

How did Motown decide to record at The Forum vs. Madison Square Garden?
It’s hard to say the reason. Logistics, perhaps? Motown was spending more time in LA – it may have been more difficult to record them in NYC. But why they even recorded them may have been out of a curiosity to hear what the 5ive sounded like live or maybe a decision was made based on the J5 hysteria at the time – you know, “Let’s capture the moment.”

What reason do you believe The Forum shows were not released at the time they were recorded?
Perhaps because, for one example, the 1970 show actually started and ended badly, with technical problems at the head and the frenzy at the end where the group fled for their lives. For the ’72 show, MJ’s voice was changing. We had technology advantages not available back then; we did a lot of work to manage the levels and other problems. At times, where Michael’s voice started to waver, we would fade his lead track slightly to make it appear that he’s falling away from the microphone; that way the listener could focus on the excitement rather than an occasional bad note. Not to say Motown’s engineers couldn’t have nailed it. But separate from those challenges, I think one must also consider where the group was at the time. Why mess with the long string of studio hits? For Motown and the J5, there was no need for a live album to fill a release schedule.

Why haven’t we been able to see any commercially released J5 concerts on DVD?
From a record company perspective, we don’t own the material. It would have to be licensed in and we’d have to get permission from everybody involved. It’s a long

We are coming up on a 40-year anniversary of the Goin’ Back To Indiana TV special (September 19, 1971 air date). Will we ever see the complete concert on CD?

I’d love to do the complete concert along with the TV special. I’d like to have both before we work on one. Again, the video portion is not something we control.

Did you have to consult with any of the Jacksons while putting together the Forum CD?
Once it was out we got copies to them and they loved it!

What is your favorite Jackson 5 record?

“Get It Together,” produced by Hal Davis, and I wish it was longer. Of course, I have great love for “I Want You Back,” but “GIT” always did something for me – that and “I Am Love.”

What do you think happened with the Skywriter LP?
Skywriter was an attempt to mature them and their sound – I mean, they did a tune from a Broadway show. What I found fascinating in reviewing the unreleased material is that there are outtakes from Skywriter that are fantastic! You do stop and think, gee, why didn’t they use these tracks? Those are earmarked for possible future rarities releases. The Skywriter and Get It Together period was very prolific, as was earlier, during their first year of recording with Bobby Taylor.

Will the J5 get a deluxe edition treatment for any LP’s? (For the fans – a deluxe edition is a 2-disc release of the original studio album accompanied by a second disc containing alternate takes/versions of the same songs as well as studio outtakes).
I hate to say we’ll see…but we’ll see. There’s a lot more in the vault – even after Motown seemed to clean it out when MJ was hot with Thriller, and then in 1995 with Soulsation!, there are plenty of quality recordings left. A few titles include a studio version of “Feelin’ Alright”; the Beatles’ “Yesterday,” which was also part of their first live sets and then dropped; a great cover of “Up On The Roof”; some cool funk tracks; Corporation outtakes that I hope to have Deke Richards put back together; and a song called “We’re The Music Makers,” a fun up-tempo song that is similar in subject matter to “We’re Here To Entertain You.” Man, for all that hysteria and the crazy schedule they were on, the boys recorded like crazy. There are also things that aren’t finished and in my opinion are not great, but that’s to be expected from so much volume.

Are there alternate versions of Michael’s solo work at Motown?
Motown in general didn’t save takes; they only kept a master take. So, there wouldn’t be a session reel with several takes of “Got To Be There.” I haven’t seen or heard a lot of unreleased Michael solo stuff, but there are a few cuts.

How has the response been for the Live At The Forum disc?
The response has been pretty good. I believe we sold more overseas than in the U.S. In regards to sales, if I get to do another project you know the numbers were good.

*Now here’s a Scoop bonus, Thanks HW!
It turns out that the May 1970 Philadelphia show was recorded. What the!?!?! As any fan could imagine my jaw dropped to the floor. Your roving reporter was hit with an Ali left hook and a Tyson uppercut! As most fans know, there is footage circulating on the internet of the J5 performing “ABC” and Sly Stone’s “Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin,” but who knew the entire J5 Philly show was also recorded? HW states that the J5 were really raw, the sequence of the show wasn’t strong and the audio recording is quite distorted. One interesting discovery from the Philly show: the J5 performed a cover of the then-current Lulu single, “Hum A Song (From Your Heart),” which for her was not a hit. After our discussion I went out on the internet highway and found a snippet of the Lulu track. Indeed, it sounds like a tune fit for the J5, during the breakdown. Here’s the link.

A big Thank You goes out to J5C for making this interview possible. Another big Thank You goes out to Mr. Harry Weinger for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with me. I learned a lot and I hope I was able to bring the fans the scoop, the only way I know how to bring it…straight up and down! THANK YOU FOR LETTIN’ ME BY MYSELF…

Adam Worthy (Scoop Newsworthy) has been a Jackson 5 fan since 1981. He first saw the Jacksons on TV at age four during their summer variety show 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.

Life of the Party

The only way I'd ever pay $300 for this eBay item would be if it came with a time machine that would take me back to the party itself. No one really wants a snapshot of Joe Jackson in a plaid leisure suit posing with a bunch of strangers. The real prize here is the actual invitation to the press party the Jackson family threw back in 1973.

On the J5's 1973 Soul Train appearance, Don Cornelius ran some footage from the party that included Randy hobbling around on crutches and Tito showing off his first-born son. A magic moment came when Don asked Joe the baby's name and Joe couldn't remember his own grandson's name, clumsily covering by saying "We call him... uh, Jackson. Little Jackson, that's what we call him." (For the record, it was Toriano Adaryll Jackson Jr, a.k.a. Taj. I could almost see Joe not remembering IF HE HADN'T NAMED HIS OWN SON THE SAME THING!)

Other fun involved the J5 playing basketball against the Temptations and Marvin Gaye. Here's Jermaine going up the Temptations on defense (good luck with that, Jermaine!).

And here's the whole group posing around the pool. I love looking at the awestruck faces on all of the kids on the left side of the photo, contrasted with the little boy on the right who is more interested in playing ball. But the best is the tiny interloper who sneaked into the group photo, standing right next to Michael like he was a member of the Jackson 5. Maybe he thought since Randy was on the disabled list, they'd be looking for a replacement.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Early Home Movies

While looking for other footage on YouTube the other day, I stumbled across this home movie footage, narrated by Michael, showing the Jackson 5 in their early years. We see Tito, Michael, Jackie and Jermaine playing in the snow in front of their house, beginning at about 2:14.

But more interesting for music lovers is the early performance footage. The home movie shot in the Jacksons' living room was used in the closing credits of The Making of Thriller, but here you can actually hear the music they were playing, something I've always wondered about. It also shows footage of the J5 performing at a party in Gary. I'd love to see more footage like this. Maybe Katherine Jackson will release it some day.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Better Late Than Never

Looks like the BBC finally got around to reviewing ABC. Their reviewer describes it as "...just enough soul, just enough raunch, lashings of pathos, all bound together with an elegant sufficiency of feel-good sentiment." Nice!

I just love how seriously British critics have always taken the Jackson 5, not to mention their descriptive prose. Talk about your elegant sufficiency!

2-4-6-8: Part 3

I think the Philippines may have issued the entire Christmas Album as a series of 45s, but so far as I know, the only LP songs from ABC they issued were "2-4-6-8" backed with "La La Means I Love You."

It's one of my all-time favorite 45s, just because it was such a great 45 release. Judging from the scratches on the disc I have, Nancy in the Philippines agreed.

In Japan, "One More Chance," the B-side of "I'll Be There" was issued as a single, as Motown JET-2005. It, too, had been an LP cut on the ABC album. It was issued with a simply wonderful picture sleeve.

And the lyrics sheet on the back of the picture sleeve are the source of the infamous "Sir Leventhol" reference.

In spite of the fact that the picture sleeve lists "La La Means I Love You" as the B-side (always the bridesmaid...), the B-side is actually "Never Had a Dream Come True," a nice Stevie Wonder cover on which Michael and Jermaine traded the lead vocals back and forth. Here's the beautiful red Motown JET label to prove it.

There are so many strong cuts on ABC that any number of them could have been issued as a 45. Both "2-4-6-8" and "One More Chance" are among my all-time favorite J5 songs. What a talented group, working with some of Motown's most gifted producers.

Monday, September 20, 2010

2-4-6-8, Why Can't You Enunciate?

Corey's Song of the Week for this week is not only one of the best-loved Jackson 5 album cuts, it is also one of the least understood. In spite of Michael's attempt to hyper-enunciate the lyrics, they are almost impossible to decipher -- until you figure out the extended Mother Goose/elementary school mixed metaphors that are used in it. Honestly, if Smokey ("I Second that Emotion") Robinson had written for the Jackson 5, he might have come up with songs like this.

I remember standing around the turntable with my friend Janet, playing this song over and over, trying to catch the lyrics. For a while, we were sure Michael's first line in the chorus was "This thing annoys me" -- and we couldn't have agreed more at that point.

It turns out we weren't the only ones. There are misheard lyrics to 2-4-6-8 all over the internet.

Most everyone gets the chorus right:

2-4-6-8, who do you appreciate?
Please say that boy is me
2-4-6-8, who do you appreciate
I'm the one who wants to be
Your baby, yeah.

But the first verse is tricky. Here's what the actual lyrics are:

I get up early to see you in the morning
But you just pass me by.
If I were Jack Horner, sitting in the corner
With you I'd share my pie.
I pass your homeroom, wish it were my own room
Every time I look inside.
I simply hope that some day you'll notice
The look here in my eye, oh!

Over at ZoneLyrics, they start off by admitting the first part is incomprehensible. They probably should have just left it at that.

[Incomprehensible] sitting in the corner with you I share my time
I past your homeroom wishing you were my own room
Every time I looked inside
I sit at home and someday you'll notice the look here in my eyes

Even the usually reliable Jackson5ABC site misses the Little Jack Horner reference:
Get up early to see you in the morning
But you just past me by
Havin a quarter sitting in the corner
With you I share my time
I past your homeroom wishing you were my own girl
Every time i look to see you
sit at home but someday you'll notice if you look into my eyes ohhh

I know my friend Sir Leventhol will be wondering how the Japanese transcribed the lyrics. The Japanese were famous for always including a handy lyrics sheet with each release. But they were equally famous for getting the lyrics just a little bit wrong. Their mistakes were always interesting, sometimes more interesting than the actual lyrics. They would hear, for example, "I'm crying outside heaven's door" in the song "One More Chance" as "I'm crying out, Sir Leventhol."

Well, Sir, you will be pleased to know that the Japanese got the Jack Horner reference. In fact, they nailed the first verse... until the last line. There "I simply hope that some day you'll notice" was heard as "I said to Hope that someday you notice." Hope? Who is Hope? A friend of Sir Leventhol?

Nearly everyone gets the spoken lyrics at the bridge:

I may be a little fellow
But my heart is as big as Texas
I have all the love a man can give
And maybe a little bit extra.

(I've always thought that last word was supposed to have been excess to rhyme with Texas, and I wonder if Michael was having another "look over your shoulders" moment when he recorded it.)

By the second verse, we're back in the weeds. It's too bad Little Jack Horner didn't send his friend Little Bo Peep out to help guide us through them. Here are the actual lyrics:

The best time of day for me is at recess
That's when you talk to me
I think I'm the boy you like the best
I want more than a friend to be.

Sing365 heard it this way:

The first time I wonder why you were in
But you said that you talked to me
I stick up for your mess
You mean more than a friend to me.

Most other lyrics sites heard the same thing. (There's a lot of copying going on with lyrics -- not everyone can be so far off in the same way!)

The Japanese, of course, heard it differently:

Every time you think of me you've got to reset
Which way you talk to me
I pick up the phone and say Miss
Want more than a friend to me.

Then Jermaine comes in, and everyone almost understands what he really says, which is this:

Ooh, he wants to be your fella
Just tryin' to tell ya
But you pay him no mind.
He's no Prince Charming
But still he keeps trying
And, girl, you're so unkind.

I never realized Prince Charming was such an obscure figure. On about half the lyrics sites, he's identified as Prince Charma and the other half as Price Charma. Oh, except for the Japanese, who hear "no Prince Charming" as "a hopeless charmer."

No matter how you hear it, you can't help but sing along because the tune is so catchy. It really is a hopeless charmer. And I think Hope would agree.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Song of the Week: 2-4-6-8

by Corey Sheppard

"2-4-6-8" is a huge favorite among Jackson 5 fans. It’s truly an irresistible, catchy pop number that came at the perfect time for the Jackson 5. While never released as a single (except in the Philippines), it became one of the most beloved and well-known Jackson 5 album tracks of all time. It even charted in Jet's Soul Brothers Top 20 the week of September 10, 1970.

The lyrics in the song tell a story a boy who tries desperately to get a girl’s attention. He wakes up early to see her before school; he waits for the girl at her home room; he even offers to share his pie with her (despite Jack Horner’s refusal). For years and years, I had no clue of what the lyrics were in this song. Michael and Jermaine sing it at such a fast rate that I would just mumble the words because I had absolutely no clue what was being said. It wasn’t until I joined the one and only J5 Collector Forum that I learned the complete lyrics (thanks J5C!).

Now I know the title and subject line seems very juvenile, but it’s too extremely catchy for it to have been passed on. If the song right before this record on the album is entitled “ABC” you gotta have a song called "2-4-6-8" placed directly right after it. I’m sure Motown completely planned it for these songs to have complimented each other. If would have been cool if "2-4-6-8" had been the b-side to ‘ABC’. How do you think the Beatles would have felt if their very mature, serious ballad “Let It Be” had been knocked out by the Jackson 5’s double-sided hit “ABC/2-4-6-8?” In fact, the saying “2-4-6-8, who do you appreciate” was quoted seven years later in the movie The Wiz, starring none other than Michael Jackson.

One thing I did not recognized about "2-4-6-8" until now is how fairly simple and bare the groove and chord progression is. Unlike most of the early Jackson 5 numbers, this song has no strings provided by Motown. No auxiliary percussion was provided in the background by Motown session players. No tambourines or shakers, just drums and handclaps only. But I like it, even without the normal production practices, you get a bit of variety with this song. By the way, take another listen to the drums at the end… Phenomenal.

There are two other things that stand out to me with “2-4-6-8.” First off, for some reason this track has more “air” in it than most Jackson 5 tracks. I know that the record is from 1970 but compared to even “Never Had a Dream Come True” or “(Come ’Round Here) I’m the One You Need” it has much more “air.” Maybe the record wasn’t mixed or mastered to the top of the producers’ abilities. Also, a unique form of instrumentation was used in this track. The bass guitar sounds as though it was plugged into a fuzz box to give it that “fuzz” sound throughout the recording. I really like that it gives the song an rock/pop edge that is totally opposite of the subject matter.

I truly loved the way Michael sings the first verse of the song. I’m not sure who he was trying to sound like but the way he pronounces the words when he sings the verse is very interesting and slightly hilarious! Perhaps he was trying to sound like William Hart (from the group Delfonics), someone he mostly only intimated on when the boys covered Delfonics numbers. I’m not sure, maybe he was just trying to make sure he could sing the complete lyrics correct in its very fast pattern.

"2-4-6-8" always stands out to me more than other songs because it’s a tune I distinctly remember listening too as a child. When I turned five years old in 1994, my mom brought me two Jackson 5 CDs from Sun TV, the first CD being The Jackson 5ive Greatest Hits and the second turned out to be ABC. I was definitely more excited to hear the latter because it meant that I could listen to and learn new Jackson 5 songs! I also remember listening to "2-4-6-8" over and over again. I even got the neighborhood kids to jump rope to the beat of the song!

"2-4-6-8," I imagine, must have been a favorite of Michael himself because it was one of the only records (that was not released as a single) that was included in the opening segment of 1988’s Moonwalker. The bridge portion of the song that they used in Moonwalker was actually the first time I had heard a portion of this song.

My mom will sometimes walk around the house singing the lines “2-4-6-8, who do you appreciate” constantly all day, keeping it in my head all day -- which is totally fine with me!

Next Week’s Song Hint: Love put us two love birds/but we don’t know how to stay

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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, September 17, 2010

40 Years Ago Today: The Jim Nabors Hour

On Thursday, September 17, 1970, the Jackson 5 made their first guest appearance on a musical variety show. These types of shows were the mainstay of network television from the 1950s-1970s but today they are are completely extinct. They always featured a big star as the ongoing host, who usually could sing and act, and every week there were different guests stars who participated in a combination of musical numbers and comedy sketches during the hour-long show.

The Jackson 5 were the only guests on the Jim Nabors Hour for his 1970 season premiere. Nabors was an affable, goofy actor who had achieved national fame as a country bumpkin named Gomer Pyle on the situation comedy, The Andy Griffith Show. In spite of the flagrant southern hillbilly stereotype, Gomer proved so popular as a character that he got his own spin-off show when he joined the Marine Corps in Gomer Pyle, USMC.

In addition to being an actor, Nabors was a gifted singer with a beautiful baritone voice. Unfortunately, he could never shake the Gomer image, and there was always a bit of a disconnect when he went from talking the voice that made Gomer a household word to singing in his deep, rich voice. The transition itself became funny.

When it was announced that the Jackson 5 were to be the guest stars on The Jim Nabors Hour, J5 fans everywhere were excited enough that they were willing to put up with an hour of Nabors' corniness for some airtime by the Five.

And we were treated to lots of airtime! The Jackson 5 sang "The Love You Save" and "I'll Be There," their latest single (with an oddly truncated counter-lead from Jermaine), and they acted in a skit set in a hotel in which Nabors played a bellhop being duped by the Jackson 5 and their manager, who was trying to sneak all five boys into a hotel room that had a limit of two guests. I remember this skit specifically because I was watching it ad my best friend Janet's house, and it was the first time we had ever heard Jackie's speaking voice. We were surprised it was so high because we had both had assumed he would have a low speaking voice, since he was the oldest and he looked so manly. When he popped out of the closet to place his sandwich order ("I'll have a tuna and tomato!") we both fell out laughing, and often quoted the line after that. Here's the skit on YouTube. I just watched it again for the first time in forty years, and it's genuinely funny.

On musical variety shows, it was nearly always incumbent on the musical guests to perform a number with the host. The Jackson 5 performed two songs with Jim: they sang a gorgeous a cappella introduction to the Beatles' current hit, "Let It Be" before Jim took over with a version that wasn't going to make Paul McCartney nervous about the competition. The embarrassing ensemble of dancers at the end of the song was also a strange requirement of musical variety shows (that always made my older sister cry out "Stop the dancers!")

But then they sang a song that was a very odd choice: an hip, updated version of "Shortnin' Bread." The song, written in a faux Negro dialect, was popularized in minstrel shows of the early 20th century, and at least Jim had the good sense to sing it without blackface and to tweak the lyrics a bit.

Although the Jackson 5 (and particularly Michael) sing their hearts out in this, we can only imagine what the Jackson family and the folks at Motown must have felt like when they saw this insulting song listed in the script. But Motown must have had a hand in the re-write, because at 1:38, the tune Jim sings comes directly out of "Love Comes in Different Flavors," a Jackson 5 song that went unreleased until last year when it was included on "I Want You Back! Unreleased Masters." At the two-minute mark, there is a complete line with lyrics and music lifted from the song ("Thank your folks for the recipe" has become "Thank your mom for the recipe").

"Love Comes in Different Flavors" was produced by The Corporation, but it was written by Deke Richards, Jerry Marcellino and Mel Larsen. Richards was especially known for his early work as a song writer for the Jackson 5, both by himself and as a member of the Corporation, while Marcellino and Larsen were known as a writing and production team for the Jackson 5 a bit later. Perhaps it was Richards who wrote the updated "Shortnin' Bread" for the group to perform, and then the other two added to it later to create a completely new song. I don't suppose we'll know for sure until we get the complete show so we can see the writing credits for the song at end. Whoever did it, deserves credit for getting the Jackson 5 and Motown out of what could have been a humiliating experience.

Maybe that's why the whole group looks so happy and relieved at the end of the show, except perhaps for Jermaine who looks like he's hoping none of his friends back home in Gary are watching.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

That Spiral Staircase!

The spiral staircase in the Jackson family's Hayvenhurst was made famous in the iconic cover from September 24, 1971, where they are posing on stair steps with their parents standing at the bottom of the staircase.

There is so much to look at in this photo, beyond The Five: the gold records for hit singles on the shelves underneath the steps, and for the ABC LP on the wall behind Joe; keys to two cities; their NAACP Black Image Awards; the Billboard chart in a frame, probably showing their first Number One single; and the street signs from their trip home to Gary early in 1971, when Jackson Street was temporarily renamed "Jackson 5 Boulevard."

And the spiral staircase itself is interesting. Where does it lead? Nowhere, apparently. But it does make a great place to pose for pictures. And pose they did! Here are the brothers in a slightly more creative pose that was used in the Jackson 5 TV Book at around the same time.

(Note the side placement of Marlon's belt buckle that launched a mini-fashion trend in 1971 with kids buckling their belts on the side to try to be as cool as Marlon.)

Here are Jermaine and Marlon, caught in a "casual pose" by Weldon McDougal III.

And Michael, taking a seat at the bottom of the spiral staircase, his hula hoop at the ready in case David Geffen should stop by to play.

The Jacksons, like many American families in the early 1970s, obviously fell victim to shag carpeting, oversize pillows, and orange and gold.

A few years after the Life magazine photo shoot, the decor is behind them is almost exactly the same.

By then Marlon had given up on the side buckle position, but he was still rocking the patch pockets on his pants, and the well-practiced casual pose.

When the boys were on the road, the Jackson women took a turn on the spiral staircase. If they look less than thrilled, it's probably because they had to dust all that stuff on the shelves behind them, while they waited for the return of the prodigal sons.

The baby is Rebbie's oldest daughter, Stacee. Her grandma looks a little bit worried about the baby's position at the top of the staircase. And understandably so -- I worry about her myself every time I look at this picture. Someone please take hold of the baby!

No need to worry about that youngest Jackson, though.

She's sure to end up on top.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

On the Road with Jackie

I bought an eBay lot a few months ago that included an interesting series of snapshots taken by someone who was obviously a fan of Jackie. Judging from Jackie's clothes, I'd say these were taken early in 1970. He's wearing a vest he wore a lot in the early days. In the first one, he's posing with an unidentified man (who looks official, even if anonymous).

And then things heat up a bit as the camera follows Jackie to his hotel room -- room 1229 to be exact.

Don't you wonder who was cut out of the picture?

The same lot had two snapshots taken on an airplane. I don't know if they were taken by the same person, or even at the same time. The first one is of the group's drummer, Johnny Jackson.

The second one shows Jermaine in the window seat (first class!), next to a kid about his age that I don't recognize. He looks kind of like Diana Ross's brother, Chico, but I can't imagine why he would be traveling with them, unless they were headed to their concert date in Detroit and he was along to visit family.

For some reason, everyone in this photo is wearing red socks. Maybe they were headed to Boston.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Michael Monday: I Wanna Be Where You Are

When Corey wrote the other day about "Maria (You Were the Only One)," the B-side of Michael's first solo single, a reader asked about picture sleeves for Michael's solo 45s. There was only one picture sleeve issued in the U.S. for a Michael solo on Motown, and that was for "I Wanna Be Where You Are," the third single pulled from his debut solo LP.

The sleeve uses the same photograph of Michael that appeared on the LP, so it wasn't terribly creative or exciting, but it was better than nothing, which is what we usually got with our American 45s.

Kids in other fared better when it came to picture sleeves. Germany could always be counted on for a nice picture sleeve... could Italy.

The Italian sleeve had the added bonus of using a rare photo of Michael which was seldom seen in 1972.

And when it came to dependability and consistency for exciting and beautiful packaging, no one topped the Japanese...

...although this photo paired with the song title does make Michael look a little bit like a stalker.

The Japanese could always be depended on, too, for including a lyric sheet. And in the case of "I Wanna Be Where You Are," the lyrics were correctly translated, except for the second verse.

But considering Motown's stinginess with picture sleeves here in the U.S., maybe the Japanese translation comes closer to the truth: Motown, you are "making to disturb us" when you show us you can make picture sleeves, but choose not to.