June 30, 2009
Posted: 06:02 PM ET
In June of 1983, the top 5 albums in the United States were:
1. Thriller, Michael Jackson (Epic)
2. Flashdance, Irene Cara (Casablanca)
3. Pyromania, Def Leppard (Mercury)
4. Let's Dance, David Bowie (EMI America)
5. Cargo, Men at Work (Columbia)
And here are a few articles that we read then, not knowing how interesting they'd be today.
Tom Shales' article from January, 1977's Washington Post. It's a not-too-positive review of the Jackson Family variety show.
By Tom Shales
No one could reasonably have expected "The Brady Bunch Variety Hour," which premiered Sunday on ABC, to be anything finer than insipid. Even in television, it makes no sense to build a musical show around nonmusical people.
That would scarcely seem to be the problem for "The Jacksons," the new CBS half-hour musical-variety series premiering tonight at 8:30 on Channel 9. And yet despite the proven pop prowess of the group – which has sold 60 million records first as the Jackson Five, now as the Jacksons – the hastily arranged show proves listless and slipshod.
Perhaps it will get better. There doesn't seem to be much choice.
Part of the problem for producer-director Bill Davis and the talented Jackson family is that this is a short-notice series, hurriedly thrown together when Norman Learn's "A Year at the Top" fell apart and was scrubbed on the launch pad. Still, one would think that five Hollywood writers would be able to come up with better comedy material to fill the gaps between numbers than the staff handed the Jacksons. By comparison, the Captain and Tennille are hilarious and Sonny and Cher positively Shavian.
Somehow, though, even the songs, which include the recent hit "Enjoy Yourself," don't really register either, partly because canned audience hysteria has been ladled over them and partly because the Jackson seem a bit surprised at being on television, even after three previous attempts.
One of those was a well-received CBS summer series last year. Another was an animated version still in syndication. Sadly, the real-life Jacksons on CBS tonight come off just about as dimensional as their cartoon counterparts did. "It's been great fun," says Michael Jackson, 17, at the show's close, but he could only be speaking for himself. "The Jacksons' have a long way to go before it is either an approximation of fun or an intimation of great.
The Jackson Decade;
June 11, 1979
Michael Jackson, now 20, an elongated version of the cute, spindly youngster who fingerpopped into teen hearts 10 years ago, knows what he wants for the next 10.
"To do everything I feel I should do," says Jackson, his trademark airy pitch unchanged. His dark eyes are direct, making no excuses for that goal. "Really, more music, films, everything. I want to go all the way." His smile grows into grin, testing the boundaries of a cresent fact that, up close, is small and sandpapery. His answers are the quick, flippant retorts of any 20-year-old, their tone mixed with the blase worldliness of someone who has spent half his life in the limelight.
Dressed in brown slacks and print shirt with a gray cavalry hat perched on a wayward Afro, Jackson leans back onto the bedpost. His brother, Marlon, 22, one of the original five who started out as the Jackson Five in 1969 and renamed themselves the Jacksons three year ago, joins the conversation. Three hours before the group will bring 20,000-plus fans to their feet, on a night when a reported 5,000 were turned away, Michael and Marlon are totally relaxed. In fact, they are cutting up like the Smothers Brothers.
"What! There aren't any girls downstairs," mocks Marlon, camouflaged behind sunglasses and a worn cream-colored jogging suit. From the corner, one of the managers announces that the lobby of the Sheraton Lanham Motor Inn was packed earlier in the day. "Well I guess they'd expect us to be at the Regency, or the 'Gate," says Michael (who is given to abbreviations: 'Gate for Watergate Hotel, 'tics for politics, 'Town for Motown Records, their first label).
Ten years ago, the Jacksons were all terribly green, painfully shy, leaving all the declarations to their father, Joseph Jackson. What they offered to the music scene were five blemishfree faces, heart-throbbing in their close-cut hair, chino pants and matching sports jackets. Out of Gary, Ind., they marketed bubble-gum soul, which brought them adulation and riches. But, even then, when they spoke, they were coy: their sound, explained one back then, "is a secret; too many people might find out and start doing it."
Now, with their youth no longer a salable part of the act (Randy, the youngest, is 16), the Jacksons have to compete with established male acts like the O'Jays and Commodores. "We have to strive to set trends, instead of following them," says Michael. They are succeeding. Their latest album, "Destiny" is certified platinum and has birthed two top 10 singles.
Yet 10 years has produced some changes. Chinos have been replaced by coordinated gold lame stitched into a medieval-futuristic combination. The screams have cultivated layers, from those whose years are marked by Jacksons' pin-ups and from a younger generation that can't be called bubble-gum, though that's its age and beat. In personnel, there have been alterations – one brother, Randy, substituting for another, Jermaine, who remained with Motown when the rest switched to CBS Epic Records.
But what has remained constant is the dominance of Michael Jackson. His career has gone further, expanding to movies with the role of the Scarecrow in "The Wiz," and joining the gossip mystique, escorting Tatum O'Neal. On stage Michael's dancing is an impeccable sample of disco and acrobatics, stylishly flamboyant and patterned. The packaging has killed the spontaneity but, nevertheless, three women were carried over the rails in dead faints during Michael's solos Saturday night.
"In Charlotte, it was a little unreal because they carried the girls out in stretchers across the stage," says Michael. That was Friday night, and a day later, he sounded slightly stunned. Marlon explains that they never get used to the screams, and Michael elaborates, "it honestly feels fresh each time."
September 19, 1983
By JEFF WILSON, United Press International
From around the web
Go Behind The Scenes
LARRY KING LIVE'S Emmy-winning Senior Executive Producer Wendy Walker knows what it takes to make a great story.
With anecdotes, provocative emails, scandals, show transcripts and insights into Walker's long working relationship with Larry King, her new book PRODUCER issues readers an invitation to listen in on the most intriguing conversations on the planet.