Saturday, June 27, 2009

Michael Jackson, 80s, New Zealand and Teen Years

When you said "Michael" in the 80s you were talking about the only Michael that I knew then, that Michael Jackson. I do not have any friends in Wainuiomata College (high school) by that name, or I can't remember to have one.

(Even though, there was another Michael Jackson that I used his text book in my computer science course as well).

My foster mum was a die-hard fan of the Beatles and she loathed Michael Jackson except for the two duets with Paul McCartney, "Say Say Say' and "The girl is mine."

Well, Paul was part of the Beatles. She taught me a bit on English literature by playing Beatles songs and lyrics. She could be racist. Michael was a black guy then (she always complained about the blacks using too English name like Denzel Washington)....until recently (when he converted himself into a white sister-in-islam....:)

80s - those years of growing up as a young man in New Zealand. 80s willl not be completed without 'Thriller' which was sold 50 million and those out-of-this-world moonwalking steps. "Beat It' was thrilling and exciting indeed.

His genius wasn't simply in superimposing the high-octane choruses of "Beat It" and "Thriller" with rippling otherworldly falsettos, guttural growls of pantomimed machismo, and his trademark piercing, glittering "he hee"; he was a master at painting a vocal landscape centered on innocence and embellished with idealism, vulnerability, sweet bursts of bravado and utopian visions of racelessness.

Another favourite single, "Billie Jean" - It's all about the amazing, snaky, best-bass-line-in-all-of-pop-music "Billie Jean," pumping out from my radio and foster family's TV.

For a while there in the summer and autumn of 1983 on Wainuiomata Street and ravines, the air was full of "Billie Jean." Michael wasn't calling himself the King of Pop yet, but that's when it happened, because 'Billie Jean's undertone of sexual predation and danger, made us feel delighted to be alive and sharing the same dangerous streets...whatever it meant then.

That was a memorable time in a great place that gave me some best years of my life, and that great pop album had an important place in my 'history'.

It is undeniably that Michael Jackson was the most important popular entertainer since Elvis; he shared some of the same pathologies, and they also shared the ability to reach across cultural boundaries and get you right where you are. Sudirman and legendary P.Ramlee were in the same status in Malaysia's context.

However, consequently, his subsequent albums did not have the same impact on me as 'Thriller'. Could be I was much older with new perspectives and had other priorities in life. 80s were over (but never forgotten) and I left New Zealand for good...

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