Thursday, July 9, 2009

Tell-A-Tale (Part 44): HIStory

Over the past week, I've been catching up with old friends, really old friends and the one inevitable topic that we discussed was the departure of Michael Jackson.

Circa 1983-84 was a great time for pop music. What would a pre-school kid like me know about music back then, you might ask. Well, for one, I remember the choruses of some songs that were nominated for a Grammy that year (1984). There was a show on public television that played the videos of those songs and a relative actually recorded it on an audio cassette which later became a prized possession of mine. Back then, I would play the tape on what we called a mini-compo that worked on power of less than 15 watts. It was a lightweight, flat, mono-stereo Sanyo. So, you can imagine how fascinated I was when I first heard of a 1000 watts sound system from Sharp back in the early 90s. But the Sanyo was good enough for someone who couldn't differentiate the treble from the bass until he started keeping sideburns.

I can't remember the sequence of the recorded songs now but there was the mellow Every Breath You Take by The Police. And Billy Joel's Uptown Girl from his An Innocent Man album. It was also the year of Flashdance, which I believe I'd watched at the Rex cinema along Jalan Sultan, Chinatown. The smash introduced Irene Cara's What A Feeling and Michael Sembello's Maniac to the world. And for some strange reasons, the sight of those sweat socks that girls wear these days reminded me of the two songs a lot. It was also the year when I couldn't decide who was scarier-looking; Annie Lennox from the Eurythmics or Boy George. But of course, one can't deny the catchy, synthesizing beats of Sweet Dreams (remember the cows in the video?) and the slightly reggae-influenced Karma Chameleon. Lionel Richie had it big too, that year, with All Night Long. David Bowie said Let's Dance, remember?

And there was Beat It by Michael Jackson.

Who could forget the simple phrase that took the world by storm. I really thought it was about beating each other up (the video was suggestive of that). You can't blame me. I was only an innocent kid who knew of nothing but good hokkien mee from the Pekeliling flats back then. It was later in life that I understood the meaning of that song. Eddie Van Halen's guitar solo only made the song more powerful, with a rock edge. Who was Billie Jean? It was another song that I didn't understand as well. But the soundscape of it all, including the funky bass line, was just too amazing that one can't help but groove along. And that moonwalk! A perfect blend of pop and R&B, it remained as one of my favourite Michael Jackson songs (remixed or not).

We were in primary school when Bad was released. While Smooth Criminal, Bad and Dirty Diana were the most popular singles from that album, it was Man In The Mirror that had an impact on many of us. The poignant song had traveled with us to leadership camps and other school functions. In my list of cool, uplifting songs, I placed it only slightly below U2's awesome One. If the melodies of the song (got to love the electronic keyboard-led intro) doesn't hit you, the words will.

If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself
And Then Make A Change

While his subsequent albums were deemed to be less successful than Thriller and Bad, I thought there was progressive maturity in song choices. Gone were the mainstream pop tunes and came urbanized beats that were rather cool. My personal favourites were Stranger In Moscow (which I thought had a slight trip-hop element in it), You Rock My World and Blood On The Dancefloor.

The King Of Pop will be missed for there will only be one who can dance, sing and be Michael Jackson. But I guess on the positive side, we should believe that his legacy will continue to evolve with time through artists whom were inspired by him; like Ne-Yo, Justin Timberlake and Usher.

In our conversations, we confessed that we were not big fans of The Gloved One but it was through music icons like him that we had memories, good and bad memories that reminded us of the friendship we shared.

So, thank you Michael Jackson, for adding to the unforgettable moments of our lives.

We shall celebrate your legacy soon with a karaoke session of nothing but your songs. And we hope to do you proud!


Sugar Bean said...

Shocking, I'm actually listening to Man in the Mirror when I read your post. I missed him so much, so much. So sad that he left this early. His songs are inspiring and meant a lot to me. Collect some of his CDs when I was young...

Haha, and I didn't know the meaning of Beat It and Billie Jeans until I read them carefully lately!

Nice post, I'm missing him so badly...

ck lam said...

This post brings back lots of memories.
At that time, was just curious seeing Annie Lennox from the Eurythmics dressing up as a male and Boy George in full make up and long wigs.
And the most popular phrase was .....beat it, beat it by MJ.

qwazymonkey said...

thanks for the trip down memory lane. we pretty much shared the same music soundscape and experiences as kids growing up in the 80's. What a wonderful time that was.

great tribute to the king too!

CUMI & CIKI said...

i shed tears. love man in the mirror.

wmw said...

Yeah, reminds me of the time I was listening to all those 80s hits. Feeling melancholy ...

babe_kl said...

nic, you so young only arh??? :p

like you i'm not a bif fan too but somehow he's part of me. he's no doubt, a legend. somehow i cant sleep last night, ended up watching the live memorial till 4am!

thenomadGourmand said...

There is no other like him. Really original and superbly amazing style.

backStreetGluttons said...

A great tribute to the all but gone.

It was a pity that his signature black and white got too deep through to him , just as it was for when the man in the mirror cracked the minute Priscilla's daughter slithered to him.

That was really bad. We can only hope somehow he can finally heal da world.

Nic (KHKL) said...

sugar bean, yeah, it was a tragic lost. i actually thought that i might catch his concert, if he's gonna be in this region.

ck lam, yeah, Beat It was the phrase of the year! haha! oh, and Annie Lennox definitely look less scary these days, i think! hehe...

qwazymonkey, hi5! yeah, that was a really great era, wasn't it? hey, the 90s was pretty cool also, right? vanilla ice? haha! thanks for the compliment, dude!

cumi & ciki, awwwww...passing a tissue. and lighter. let's wave to the song! :D

wmw, yeah, i'm sure you'll feel that way cos you are a big fan of music from the 80s. we'll do a michael number in our next session! :D

babe_kl, hahaha! actually, yeah, still quite young. *shy* i watched the memorial as well, but the recorded one la. that actually sorta inspired me to write this post.

thenomadgourmand, he was one of pop's finest moments, i think. he rocked the world.

backstreetgluttons, yeah, all the allegations that were related to him really tarnished his image as the king of pop. i guess, us, being strangers can only believe in the power of music and acknowledge the fact that his music is incredible.

sc said...

i think all of us can relate a memory or two (in our earlier years) from his songs. amazing talent taken away so suddenly..many are still in shock..

mimid3vils said...

Not a fans of him but it's really a lost to music industry~~

Jun said...

eh, no celebration of legacy with food ar? ;p *surprised*

these days i'm catching up on all his old songs. i've too long forgotten his ability to dance and entertain until i watched his moves on youtube. ah, bless youtube!

UnkaLeong said...

1984 was a very good year for music. There was David Bowie's Let's Dance,Lionel Rithchie's Dancing on the ceiling, cyndi lauper's girls just wanna have fun as well to add to that amazing list..a friend who was lucky enough to catch his concert when he came to town siad, "Man dances as though he has no bones in his body"


*grabs crotch and shouts woo hoo!*

Nic (KHKL) said...

sc, yeah, it was all abt MJ in our earlier years! and that soft drink..haha! oh yes, i am still in shock too, especially after yesterday's news.

mimi, yupe, he is a music icon. and a humanitarian as well.

jun, haha, i really dunno what kinda food to relate to la...well, a can of that famous soft drink came to mind though..hehehe...yeah, it was MJ on the tube for me as well, the whole of last week! thanks, youtube!

unkaleong, ya lor, am still wondering how MJ can dance liddat. can tilt somemore!!! that smooth criminal video, right? respect! LOL on the crotch and shout. dont do it in public, dude. nanti kena tangkap..haha!