Monday, August 11, 2014

off the wall

Michael Jackson rode the boogie and came into his own with epic force on this sensational pop exhibition.  After smashing records (their first four singles 'I Want You Back', 'ABC', 'The Love You Save', and 'I'll Be There' were chart-toppers) with his brothers in the Jackson Five, Michael had begun his solo career in 1971 at the age of thirteen with his smash hit 'Got To Be There'.  Other hits like 'Rockin' Robin' and 'Ben' came while he continued to record and perform with the Jackson Five.  All in all, he released four solo albums ('Got To Be There', 'Ben', 'Music & Me', and 'Forever Michael') while at Motown and the Jackson Five put out ten.  

 Tensions arose within the group when they sought more creative control over their music within the Motown system.  They made the move to Epic Records in 1975 without Jermaine, who chose to stay with Motown and pursue a solo career (his marriage to Berry Gordy's daughter Hazel also influenced his decision).  Jermaine was replaced by younger brother Randy and the group changed their name to The Jacksons.   Two albums 'The Jacksons' and 'Goin' Places' failed to match the massive success of their Motown years; but they persevered.  

Michael broke into film when he played the Scarecrow in 'The Wiz', a musical based on 'The Wizard of Oz' and directed by Sidney Lumet that also starred Diana Ross and Nipsy Russell.  Although the film was a flop, it marked the meeting of Michael and Quincy Jones, who was doing the score for the movie.  Jones agreed to produce Michael's solo debut for Epic and they went to work in Los Angeles with rhythm tracks and vocals being recorded at Allen Zentz Recording, horn tracks done at Westlake Audio, and strings cut at Cherokee Studios in West Hollywood.   Recording engineer Bruce Swedien did the mixing.  

 'Off The Wall' features Michael Jackson on lead and backing vocals, co-producer, and percussion;   Randy Jackson on percussion;  Michael Boddicker, George Duke, David Foster, Greg Phillinganes, and Steve Porcaro on keyboards, synthesizers, and programming; Kim Hutchcroft on saxophone, flute, trumpet, and flügelhorn;   Gary Grant and Jerry Hey on trumpet and flügelhorn;   Larry Williams on saxophone and flute;  David "Hawk" Wolinski on electric piano;  William Reichenbach on trombone;  Larry Carlton on electric guitar;  Marlo Henderson, Phil Upchurch, Wah Wah Watson, and David Williams on guitar;  Louis Johnson and Bobby Watson on bass guitar;  John "JR" Robinson on drums;  Richard Heath and Paulinho da Costa on percussion;   and Patti Austin, Jim Gilstrap, Augie Johnson, Mortonette Jenkins, Paulette Mc Williams, and Zedrick Williams on vocals.   The music broadened the bubblegum soul for which he had become known with elements of funk, rock, and disco.  Songwriters Rod Temperton,  Louis Johnson, Paul McCartney, Tom Bahler, Stevie Wonder, Susaye Greene, Carole Bayer Sager, and David Foster all contribute to the album, which keeps the party moving.  

The success of 'Off The Wall' was unprecedented, becoming the first solo album ever to have four singles enter the top ten of the pop singles chart.  It went to number twenty-seven in France and Switzerland, twenty-five in Germany, eleven in Spain, eight in the Netherlands, four in Canada, three in the UK and the US, two in New Zealand, and number one in Australia.  Jackson won American Music Awards for Favorite Soul/R&B Album, Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist, and Favorite Soul/R&B Single for "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough";  Billboard Awards for Top Black Artist and Top Black Album; and a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance with "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough".   'Off The Wall' has sold more than twenty million copies worldwide.  

Jackson would express at the time:    "I’ve always thought of success and failure, as being somewhat like two girls – one who’s super beautiful, the other one quite unattractive. The beautiful girl, which could represent success, shouldn’t be boastful about her beauty; she shouldn’t go around bragging about it, and she shouldn’t poke fun at the less attractive girl. Neither girl made herself; God made them both. I feel that way about the success The Jacksons have achieved. We didn’t make ourselves; God did. And He gave us whatever talent we have, and we always think He’s projecting something through us for the whole world to share and enjoy. That’s how we have always seen ourselves ... I love folk music myself; because it tells of the problems people really face. Folk songs can lift people’s spirits and they often have such a great message. Like the peacock thing is with us, really. The message makes people feel like real people and that they should stand up for their rights and not give up ... I totally enjoy what I’m doing and bringing joy into people’s lives. To me, all joy is young and if I can bring one second of joy into a child or a grown-up’s life, then I have achieved my lifetime ambition. That’s why we (the Jacksons) have been travelling all over the world entertaining people for these ten years... So, I’m thankful. It’s such a wonderful feeling to make hungry, crying children smile."

"Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" went to number fifteen in France; thirteen in Germany; four in Switzerland; three in Canada and the UK; two in the Netherlands and Spain; and number one in Australia, New Zealand, and the US.  

"Rock With You" was another number one smash hit.

"Off The Wall" reached the top ten in the UK and the US.

"She's Out of My Life" was also a top ten hit in the UK and the US.

 'Off The Wall'
full album:

1. "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough"   (Michael Jackson) 6:04
2. "Rock with You"   (Rod Temperton) 3:40
3. "Working Day and Night"   (Jackson)  5:14
4. "Get on the Floor"   (Jackson / Louis Johnson)  4:39
5. "Off the Wall"   (Temperton)  4:05
6. "Girlfriend"   (Paul McCartney)  3:05
7. "She's Out of My Life"   (Tom Bahler)  3:37
8. "I Can't Help It"   (Stevie Wonder / Susaye Greene)  4:29
9. "It's the Falling in Love"   (Carole Bayer Sager / David Foster)  3:48
10. "Burn This Disco Out"   (Temperton)  3:41

'The Wiz'

interview on 20/20

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