Friday, June 26, 2009

My Favorite Michael Thing

I remember having people over one night in 1983. I remember telling them I had to turn the TV on and watch Michael Jackson on the Motown 25th Anniversary Special. And I remember them looking at me like I was the funniest idiot in the world.

But I had read about the taping in that week's Village Voice. The reporter said that Michael lip-synched Billie Jean and the crowd went absolutely nuts. I had never before seen lip-synching described in anything like a flattering light. So I turned the TV on and waited for this:

I know, right?

Sixteen years later, The Stranger ran a piece called 10 Things That've Made Us Say "Wow" Since the Dawn of Time, and one of the 10 was My Favorite Michael Thing.

For those of us who witnessed it, this moment is indelible. On May 16, 1983, mid-way through a lip-synched performance of Billie Jean, Michael Jackson, a hyper-talented little Nellie boy whose album Thriller was about to change pop music forever, unveiled a new dance move -- and blew the world's mind. Known as the Moonwalk, the move saw Michael taking a simple step forward, then gliding effortlessly backward across the stage and into the pop culture stratosphere. Never mind that Michael's earthshaking move had been swiped from inner-city break dancers, or that, in later years, this cute and charming black guy would be replaced by a pasty-white child molester. Michael Jackson's Moonwalk achieved what all great art aspires to -- bonding his audience in awe, propelling its maker to new heights, and simultaneously making and improving upon history. Can Neil Armstrong's boring, actual moon walk of a decade and a half earlier even compare with Michael's dazzling artistic reinterpretation? No.
Exactly right, Stranger. Suck it, Neil Armstrong.


Ginger Mayerson said...

I was in music school when Thriller came out. Quincy Jones was our arranging and composing god, so I spent a lot of time thinking about and through that album musically. I spent a lot of time listening to it because it was ubiquitous. It's brilliant and it still holds up musically because of Quincy Jones, the songs, and Michael. I'm not a pop music expert, but as far as I know, there has never been anything as complete and perfect as Thriller since Thriller. So, Michael is gone but we'll always have Thriller and a few good things after that. That's what will be remembered in a hundred years, just that.

I saw a comment somewhere that at 50, he still had decades of music left in him. Nah, he was done a few years after Thriller. I think he knew that. And when you're done, you're done, even if you keep living.

Anonymous said...

Hey Tom - Thanks for the link - a better memory of Jackson than what is in the media.
Joe L

Anonymous said...

Hola, Mr. Superfrankenstein,
Have to disagree. I realize you're probably on a pop culture high and the DTs haven't yet set in, but Miguel Jack-O's dancity dance dingus can't be compared to Neil DANCING ACROSS THE FUCKING LUNAR SURFACE.
Thanks anyway. BTW, enjoy your site.
When you're calm and the post-MJ sobs have tapered off, you'll know I'm right about this. Cheers! said...

see i had this exact thought BEFORE 1983, when it actually happened,I am actually culture psychic, and at that point i was in New Orleans getting ready to go to a gig ; my eyes and ears hurt and there were stupid white people everywhere, muttering things... and looking up; i noticed i was was the begining of a downfall in my life that has been more of an outward spiral than a straight fall.....well anyway tom peyer has me on a secret enemies list and i have to stay 100 feet away from him; so i can' use the term "I" in any sort of identifiable way...perhaps i shouldrefer this comment to one of my other personalities. i want off the list , what you can have connections, and a winning smile..oh by the way I actually had sex with Micheal Jackson in a bathroom on Teal Ave in Syracuse, but thats another story..

Siscy said...

OMG steven? Is u for real !!! U wish init... anyway...
I saw this performance on TV (obviously, not in 1983 as I was not born yet but later on- imma say late 90s)
I really enjoyed it and I remember to be captivated and amazed by his talent. Yesterday this special video was my mood video on SKYPE :)
Well I never could have imagined he was lip-synching... but we all forgive him as it was a dop performance.
One luv to michael