Thursday, October 7, 2010

Happy Birthday, I Want You Back!

Forty-one years ago today, kids across America awoke to the opening piano glissando of a brand new song that had just been released by a hot new group called The Jackson 5. We were hooked from the get-go, and many of us ran out to buy the 45 as soon as school was out.

We played the song, and its fabulous flip side, over and over again. At that time, most of us didn't even know what the Jackson 5 looked like. They wouldn't make their first big TV appearance until a few weeks later. But, for us, the music alone was enough. It's hard to imagine in this YouTube era of instant gratification, but back then, all we had was a shiny black disk and the sounds it made when we placed it on a turntable. We would listen again and again, then flip the record and listen some more, and then flip back and listen again. We listened alone and with friends, at home and at parties. We'd wait for those opening strains to show up on our favorite radio stations, finding comfort in the fact that other people were hearing it, too.

Whenever you come across used copies of "I Want You Back," you'll find that most of them are scratched up and battered, showing clear signs of how often it was set down on the turntable, how many times it was flipped from the A-side to B-side and back again, and how many times someone picked up the needle at the end to place it back at the beginning of the song to start it all over again.

Over the past forty-one years, I have probably listened to "I Want You Back" a few thousand times, and every time I hear that opening piano glissando, it's like hearing it for the first time.


  1. This was my first Jackson 5 song and I loved it from the beginning, and I STILL love it. I'm so thankful for "I Want You Back." There's something very special about the Jackson 5 and it's so geat that soooo many people all over the world recognize it.

  2. I wrote a whole thing and then hit the wrong button and it disappeared....:-( Anyway....Thanks for this J5Collector!!! I wore out that 45 on the little record player in my room. What a different time that was in terms of listening to music. We couldn't easily skip around, you listened through (unless you needed to get the lyrics and then you scratched up the record by pulling the needle off and putting it back on a thousand times, LOL!) And, yes, those 45s were well worn by the time we got through with them. And how frustrating it was when you lost or broke the little plastic doo-hickeys that kept the 45 rotating properly! Ah, those were the days.


  3. Great post J5Collector!
    BTW, Michael's first solo single was also released on the same day two years later. Coincidence?

  4. MJMéxico:
    HEY, why didn't I ever notice that! What a fun fact!

    J5 Collector:
    What fun memories, and all the sleeves are overwhelming! I guess my answer to why Motown didn't make more picture sleeves is that they wanted to sell their other items on them. Such groovy graphics!
    -Sir Leventhol

  5. A question...was this the original sleeve for I Want You Back? As I understand most singles released in the U.S. were in a simple white sleeve.

  6. No, most Motown singles from this era were issued in the company sleeve with the LP covers. they were usually printed in Blue and white, but you would occasionally see red/white, green/white, and (rarely) orange/white. If you look in the corner of the back of the sleeve, it shows you the month and date of issue.

    I still have all of the original J5 singles I purchased at the time they were released in their original sleeves.

  7. Do you also know if the singles that Jermaine released for Motown came in an company sleeve like 'I Want You Back'?

    I recently bought the single 'I Want You Back', but I guess the company sleeve that came with it, was not originally from 'I Want You Back'. On the sleeve it's written 10/70 (a date I guess) and of all the Motown album covers there is also a picture of 'Third Album'...

    - JermaineJacksonFan

  8. Yes, Jermaine's singles all came in Motown company sleeves as well.