Monday, July 20, 2009

Rarities #37: Michael Jackson - Someone Put Your Hand Out (Cassette, 1992)

After years of searching, I've finally found this copy of the exclusive Pepsi release of Someone Put Your Hand Out. This cassette was produced in limited quantities for the Dangerous World Tour, which Pepsi sponsored, hence their big logo at the back.

I got a copy from a friend about 10 years ago, but it came without the casing, so here's finally one with the outer casing, and it's still sealed, so I'm doubly happy.

At that time, Someone Put Your Hand Out was not released officially on any album, so this was the only original recording of it. In 2004, The Ultimate Collection was released, which was a 4CD+DVD package chronicling MJ's entire body of work (well, not entire, because for some strange reason The Love You Save was not included). And this song was available on CD for the first time.

It's a great song but it was never released to radio. MJ however, did use the instrumental of the song as an interlude during the Dangerous Tour. His vocals here are tender and syrupy, and it has a nice melody with a laid back feel.

Side B of the tape contains the Dangerous Medley, highlighting seven tracks from the Dangerous album. However, not all the highlighted songs were released as singles - Can't Let Her Get Away and Dangerous were not singles; Jam, Will You Be There and Gone Too Soon aren't in here.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Remember The Time (Part 6)

So the hoopla is almost over...MJ had his memorial service on Tuesday and it was watched by 31 million Americans on TV and many millions more around the globe, either on TV or streaming online. My guess is that more people watched the live streaming on the Internet.

Especially in Singapore, where Channel 5's decision to broadcast the memorial service as a delayed telecast by half an hour probably caused it to lose a substantial audience. Perhaps sensing so, they decided to air the memorial twice the next day, at 5pm - 7:30pm, followed by another session at 10:30pm - 1am.

But what's the point of airing it twice within the same night? Most of all, why even bother airing it at 5pm, when most people haven't even knocked off from work yet?

Wednesday night was quite unprecedented in the sense that Channel 5 rejigged their whole programming grid for MJ. Besides the aforementioned two telecasts of the memorial service, they also slotted in a 48 Hours Special from 8:30pm - 9:30pm. So essentially, it was MJ coverage all night.

The memorial service was an event to remember. Everyone talked about it the day after. It became a part of pop culture. Even people who didn't like MJ or didn't really care about him couldn't help but watch it and be part of the conversation or discussion surrounding it.

There were many talking points from the memorial. The most stirring speeches came from Reverend Al Sharpton and brother Marlon Jackson.

Rev. Al Sharpton's speech was forceful and full of determination. He didn't read from a prompter or paper, he spoke like a politician delivering his campaign message. It was powerful in a rousing way, though I sometimes felt it was a little over-the-top. But he did deliver the best line of the night, when he spoke directly to MJ's three children, saying "Wasn't nothing strange about your daddy. It was strange what your daddy had to deal with."

But for me, the most moving speech came from Marlon Jackson. It was the one that had me reaching for the tissues so many times. I think it's because it's not often we hear about MJ's family speaking up for him in public, and here is a brother who grew up with him and loved him as a person, as a brother. And even though they haven't remained close for many years now, he is still family. So I felt especially moved by his speech.

One such instance was when Marlon recalled how he could spot MJ in a CD store even though he was decked in makeup and disguise. Michael asked, "Marlon, how did you know it was me?" And Marlon simply said "I'm your brother."

Another line that moved me was when Marlon said "We would never, never understand what he endured, not being able to walk across the street without a crowd around him, being judged, being ridiculed. How much pain can one take? Maybe now, Michael, they will leave you alone."

And as he said this, I saw Janet standing beside Marlon nodding in agreement, and my heart just melted.

But of course, no one was prepared for Paris' speech. While Marlon was speaking, she stood by the side, fumbling with her clutchbag, looking quite composed and normal. After Marlon was done, they seemed to want Janet to speak, but instead, Paris was pushed to the front. I'm not sure whether Paris really did want to say something on her own accord, or whether her family pushed her to do it. I shall assume it's the former.

But when she spoke, you couldn't help but be moved. Here was a girl who meant so much to MJ, who dedicated his life to ensuring that his own children lived their lives as best as they could, and she was remembering him as a daddy, a human being. And it was the first time the world ever heard from any of MJ's children. So it was very moving indeed.

After spending almost all their lives being covered by veils and masks whenever they were in public, the world saw the kids as they were for the first time (not counting the papparazzi shots). They looked perfectly normal and well-groomed and well-behaved (except maybe for the incessant bubblegum chewing by Blanket. But then, he's only 6 and probably didn't have a clue of what was happening).

A part of me wishes that the children will continue MJ's legacy by striking out as a performer in future. Apparently Blanket can really dance. But another part of me hopes that they will grow up out of the spotlight and live normal lives that their father never had. But being a Jackson, it's not easy being "normal". I think we should hope for "well-adjusted" instead.

While the television audience figures didn't smash records, MJ continues his dominance in the charts, just like before.

In the US, he ruled the Billboard Top Pop Catalog charts, where the entire Top 10 were his. All in all, MJ's solo albums sold a whopping 800,000 units last week:

Billboard Top Pop Catalog Albums
1. Number Ones
2. Thriller
3. Essential Michael Jackson
4. Off The Wall
5. Dangerous
6. Bad
7. Ultimate Collection (Jackson 5)
8. Ultimate Collection
9. Invincible
10. HIStory - Greatest Hits Vol. 1

Remember, MJ hasn't released any new material since 2001's Invincible (save for the one track One More Chance that appeared on 2003's Number Ones), and these are albums that have already sold more than 50 million copies combined in the US, yet people are still buying them. This proves that the people who bought the albums this week are a new generation of music lovers, who might have just discovered MJ's music for the first time.

On the Digital Songs chart, MJ had five of the Top 10 songs:

2. Man In The Mirror
4. Billie Jean
5. Thriller
7. The Way You Make Me Feel
10. Beat It
13. Black Or White
14. Smooth Criminal
16. Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough
18. P.Y.T.

He sold 2.2 million songs this week, and including the 2.6 million last week, that's a total of 4.8 million in 2 weeks!

In the UK, it is a similar story. MJ had the #2 single last week with Man In The Mirror, a song that only peaked at #21 in its initial release but has since struck a chord with music listeners today. He owned 13 of the Top 40, which is "the most total domination of the chart by one act in history and on a scale you cannot ever imagine being repeated."

I've been re-listening to the albums and to my surprise, I found myself sitting through the entire HIStory album without skipping any of the tracks. I used to think that it wasn't a very good album, but I found that it is pretty good upon closer inspection.

Sure, it is a little over-pompous on tracks like HIStory (trying too hard) and Little Susie (its intro is too long), but the melodies in these two songs are beautiful. And MJ's voice sounds really good in Little Susie. And then the album closes with Smile, a Charlie Chaplin cover which Brooke Shields revealed was MJ's favourite song of all time. So listening to it now adds an extra dimension to it.

I have often wondered what are my Top 10 favourite MJ songs and it's really hard to pick just 10. I know that the Top 2 are fixed, but I can't seem to decide on the remaining 8 positions. Let me try.

1. Man In The Mirror
2. Will You Be There
(The rest of the Top 10 in no particular order):
- Scream
- Beat It
- Billie Jean
- Smooth Criminal
- Black Or White
- The Way You Make Me Feel
- Thriller
- Remember The Time

Coincidentally, most of these songs have got great videos, perhaps with the exception of Man In The Mirror, which shows how much the video has become part of the song.

Man In The Mirror is #1 because one of my earliest memories of watching MJ in performance was contained in the Moonwalker film, which was one of the first LaserDiscs I ever owned, and it opened with a powerful live performance of the song. That stayed with me forever. I can never figure out how he doesn't hurt his knees after doing a 3 rounds of quick spins and dropping to the ground on his knees.

Will You Be There is just a very moving song with a great poem at the end. And combined with the angel descending at the end and wrapping its wings around MJ, that sealed it.

Scream will always be one of my faves because it has two of my favourite singers together. The video was out of this world. It's the coolest video ever. My only regret is that the two of them did not perform this song together live.

The rest of the songs are classics that really sound different from each other. The instrumentation, the voice, the beats, they all sound nothing alike. And that's what makes them great.

MJ will live on forever. Like Madonna said, Long Live The King!


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Remember The Time (Part 5)

So Day 5 since the unfortunate demise of MJ, and people are still talking about it everywhere. It's no longer front page news, but everyday, there are still several pages and sections of the papers being devoted to the latest going-ons.

Some are talking about MJ's will (and whether he even has one), some about the custody of his children, some about father Joe Jackson's insensitivity in plugging his Blu Ray business publicly when he should be grieving, some about yesterday's BET Awards tribute to MJ and more.

In fact, there are dozens of different stories that I'm beginning to lose track of what's happening. It's just too exhausting to read it all. And that's coming from a die-hard fan like me. I guess the average Joe must be sick of all these MJ stories by now.

However, the one story that really got me interested is the possibility that MJ's rehearsals for the This Is It concerts would be released as an official live CD+DVD album. Apparently, AEG Live filmed all the rehearsals in high definition, multi-camera, so they got everything captured. While MJ doesn't give all out during the rehearsals (understandable, since there's no real audience), it is still going to be fascinating to watch these rehearsals.

In fact, there were some leaked videos of rehearsal footage from the Dangerous Tour, and it's fab. Here's one of them, Smooth Criminal:

AEG Live also released some photos taken during the rehearsals for the This Is It tour. It's great seeing MJ so happy in these pics, and totally in his element. He still got it for sure.

I hope there will be more pics and that the live album does get released. After all the preparations and hard work, the world deserves to see it, especially the 750,000 people who bought tickets. The album will go on to sell at least 10 million copies worldwide, guaranteed.

I was also reading about how MJ has impacted radio, and it's been reported that over the weekend, MJ's songs saw a massive 1,735% increase in airplay in the US. That's right, 1,735%! His 143 songs were played 67,383 times over the weekend, with Billie Jean getting the most spins - 4,540.

And that's just the US alone. I'm sure it will be the same around the world. In Singapore, all the English stations played MJ songs every hour, so the 1,735% increase is not exaggerated, given that MJ songs normally get played once a day or less.

On the iTunes chart, MJ also rules. Here's how the Top 10 currently looks like:

In the entire Top 100, MJ has 39 songs, including tracks he recorded as the Jackson 5 and USA For Africa. 39% of the charts, that's incredible!

MJ is also expected to top the Billboard Top Pop Catalog charts this week, with 3 titles vying for the top slot, as Number Ones, The Essential Michael Jackson and Thriller each sold around 100,000 copies. Billboard's rules prohibit titles that have been released for more than 18 months to chart in the Billboard Top 200 albums chart, thus MJ can only chart in the Top Pop Catalog charts.

Nevertheless, the most impressive thing is that it is projected MJ will sell even more albums than the #1 album on the Billboard 200 this week, as Black Eyed Peas is projected to sell less than 100,000 copies to claim the #1 spot. It will be the first time in history that the #1 album on the Billboard 200 sells fewer copies than the #1 album on the Top Pop Catalog charts.

In the UK, after MJ claimed the albums charts last week, it's shaping to be another battle for #1 this week. MJ is contending for not only the albums chart #1 but also the singles chart #1 with Man In The Mirror. Last week, the song reached #11. It will be pretty amazing for a 1988 song to hit #1 now, especially since it wasn't that big a hit when initially released, peaking only at #21 back then. It's my favourite MJ song, so I hope it can reach #1!

Each day brings new surprises, so I can't wait to see what other "shocking" revelations will be uncovered tomorrow. The mystery continues...