Friday, 28 November 2014

Wacko Jacko

Welcome to the final ‘proper’ WWR post of 2014: next week we will commence our annual Christmas Cavalcade (and I’ve got some real horrors lined up for you) but for now we’re going to visit the career of one of the biggest stars of all time. Well, sort of.

To ‘celebrate’ the release of even more scrapings from the bottom of the Queen barrel (or the official issue of the Michael Jackson and Freddie Mercury/Queen duet There Must be More to Life Than This if you prefer) we’re going to have a quick butcher’s at a few of the low spots in the King of Pop's oeuvre.

Jackson was one of the most creative people in pop music; he was also a total nutjob. He recorded some truly remarkable records but, like most artists who allow their egos to run rampant, he was not always on the ball, quality control-wise. Have a listen to The Girl is Mine, the first of the three – seriously, three – duets he recorded with Paul McCartney. The horrendous spoken tag (including the infamous I’m a lover, not a fighter line) is enough to make anyone puke. Written by Jackson and produced by Jackson and Quincy Jones, The Girl is Mine was released as the first single from Jackson's mega hit Thriller album. Jackson and McCartney would go on to record the duets Say Say Say and The Man for McCartney’s 1983 album Pipes of Peace. Although it was released as a single, Jackson never performed the song live - I wonder why? 

This dull duet peaked at Number Two on the Billboard Hot 100 and Number Eight in the UK. In 2008 one –man ego factory remixed The Girl Is Mine, thankfully wiping McCartney’s dire vocals, adding his own and slathering the whole thing with a new drum track. Unfortunately it was no better than the original.

Jackson had real form when it came to performing with others. Admittedly he got it right occasionally, but more often than not his duets are simply dreadful.  A full decade after his recordings with McCartney he decided to add his vocal chops to a track from Eddie Murphy’s third album Love’s Alright: Watzupwitu. Voted by MTV viewers in 1999 as the third worst music video of all time, not even Jackson’s performance could compensate for Murphy’s shortcomings as a singer. Michael would, of course, revisit the thin eco message of the song’s pathetic lyrics in Earth Song. Murphy's album also included covers of songs by U2 and the Beatles and featured Paul McCartney amongst a number of stellar guest artists. I'm sensing a pattern here.

To round off today’s post a couple of Michael-related tracks. First up is When the Rain Begins to Fall, a rubbish slice of hi-NRG Europop by Michael’s brother Jermaine and failed actress turned singer Pia Zadora. This piece of drivel was – perhaps unsurprisingly – a huge hit in Europe, reaching Number One in France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands and Number Two in Switzerland and Austria.

Taken from the dismal 1984 movie Voyage of the Rock Aliens, When the Rain Begins to Fall was written by Peggy March (who, as Little Peggy March, had enjoyed a Number One hit of her own in the US in 1963 with I Will Follow Him), Michael Bradley and Steve Wittmack. Zadora remains best known for her first two film roles, in the 1964 kiddie flopperoo Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and the 1982 sexploitation mess Butterfly - that's the film that focusses on an incestuous relationship between Zadora and Stacy Keach and includes a cameo from Orson Welles as a scenery-chewing judge.

Finally for this month and for this year (bar next month’s Christmassy countdown) here’s the cheesy novelty I'm in Love with Michael Jackson's Answerphone by Julie (sometimes credited as Julie B). Co-written and produced by Biddu – the man behind a bunch of UK hit singles in the 70s including Action Speaks Louder Than Words, Kung Fu Fighting, Now Is the Time and I Love to Love (But My Baby Loves to Dance) – this October 1984 single rips off several MJ themes (most notably Billie Jean, Beat It and Don't Stop Til You Get Enough) but even so was a miserable flop. With its whiny teenage vocals, cheap and dated keybord and drum machine sounds and a pathetic Michael impersonator to boot what's not to love?


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