Tag Archives: Michael Jackson

Ghosts – Michael Jackson’s Forgotten Masterpiece…

Yeah, time certainly does fly. It’s hard to believe it’s been an entire decade since Michael Jackson died – June 25th, 2009.

Controversy aside, Jackson is one of the most influential people of the twentieth century. You certainly don’t have to like his music, but you do have to respect the reach of his sound, his choreography, and his style. He is – in the true sense of the word – iconic.

Everyone can hum the tune to Billie Jean or Beat It along with many others, and because music is released less traditionally these days, Thriller will forever be the best-selling album of all time. This was helped in no small way by the title track – the music video for which is still, pound for pound, arguably the greatest one ever produced.

But here, on the tenth anniversary of his death, I would like to highlight a Michael Jackson master stroke that I don’t think ever got the attention it deserved.

Ghosts was released in 1996 as a special limited edition box which I bought as soon as it was in the shops. It was a long time after his heyday, but Michael Jackson was always a draw, so I thought this was going to be a big deal… except, it really wasn’t.

included in this deluxe collector’s edition was the remix album, Blood on the Dancefloor on CD, and the CD single On the Line. It also came with a glossy theatre-style programme for the main attraction, which was very nice…

…and the main attraction here was Ghosts itself, an extremely elaborate music video that clocks in at just under forty minutes. It was effectively a new take on what Jackson had achieved a decade and a half earlier with Thriller, and in many ways he was trying to recapture that old glory. There’s a little more of a focus on story this time around, and there are a few songs that help to fill the running time.

Of course, being 1996 this was packaged on VHS, and has not since been officially released on any other format. For what it’s worth, I still have my copy tucked away in the garage in case one day it’s worth a fortune.

Ghosts is actually pretty hard to come by in this modern, digital age, but it is floating around online. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Advertisements

Console Memories: Sega Mega Drive…

81ekbocoxal984513762.jpg

After the many hours of enjoyment I had squeezed from the Master System as a console virgin, I upgraded to Sega’s follow-up machine, the Mega Drive, in 1991. The Mega Drive was more powerful than its predecessor, and looked a whole lot better under the living room television as well.

It was the 16-bit era, at the height of the console wars being fought between Sega and Nintendo, and I was ready for something that would blow me away. I had started getting into monthly video game magazines at this time as well, and everything I read told me the Mega Drive was going to revolutionise the world. Granted, I was buying official Sega magazines, but you know…

Phantasy_Star_IIBy this time I was earning my own money delivering papers before and after school, so being able to buy games without having to rely on my parents was a major bonus. I bought Phantasy Star II in 1992 for the hefty sum of £54.99 – expensive even by today’s money – but with inflation that amazingly comes in at just under £112. I can safely say that is the most expensive game I have ever purchased.

mega-drive-sonic-the-hedgehog-11186849813.jpg

Sonic the Hedgehog was a massive hit for the system, and was the thrust of the machine’s early advertising campaign as it attempted to compete with Nintendo. I played that game to death, and all these years later the soundtrack is still bouncing around in my head.

landstalker+-+the+treasures+of+king+nole+(europe)-image729740632..jpg

My only memory of my dad playing a video game with me is Landstalker – an isometric role-playing game. I have a photo of us together, huddled in front of the TV, along with a vague recollection of moving boxes in the game, but I can’t remember any more than that. Perhaps there is a deep-seated psychological or paternal bonding reason for my fondness for the system that goes beyond just the enjoyment I found with the games themselves.

89304-shining-in-the-darkness-genesis-front-cover28073906.jpg

But without question, my favourite game from this era was Shining in the Darkness – a role-playing dungeon-crawler that stole a lot of my teenage time. It was crudely drawn, poorly animated, and it didn’t have a great story, but I loved it just the same. It was probably the title that got me interested in that video game genre, because I played a lot of similar games in subsequent years.

Other favourites of that era include the Michael Jackson endorsed platformer, Moonwalker; strategy game, Mega-Lo-Mania; and Sword of Vermilion, another role-playing game, that – like Phantasy Star II – also came with a massive one hundred page-plus hint book.

This wasn’t my final Sega console, but it was the one I enjoyed the most, and probably the one I had the longest.

Tuesday TV Testimonials #24…

Top of the Pops (1964 – 2006)

totp_logo

The logo I remember from my childhood.

Top of the Pops was a British show that counted down the top forty chart hits every week. It’s a relic of a time that will never return because it can never return. The world is a different place. For the vast majority of its lengthy run, nobody was streaming or downloading music, because there simply was no means to do it. As such, watching each half hour edition of Top of the Pops every week (it was a Thursday when I was a kid) was the best avenue for many people to hear what was hot and what was not.

Chart awareness and the absorption of music in general, was a much more linear thing in the eighties, and a lot of my best musical moments as a pre-teen and teenager were as a result of watching Top of the Pops. World exclusives were regularly positioned on this show and the television audiences were huge.

I remember eagerly awaiting the UK premiere of Michael Jackson’s single Black or White in 1991 because it was genuinely the only place I could watch it. And there were many more like that. Spoilers and leaks didn’t really exist in any great capacity then, so the bubble was rarely if ever burst. Nowadays it would be almost impossible to build anticipation that way, and there is something to be said for that kind of bygone naivety that we used to enjoy.

Sunday Song Suggestions #23…

Thriller – Michael Jackson – 1982

I’ve been a big fan of Michael Jackson for as long as I’ve been a fan of music in general. The first studio album I ever bought was the cassette of Bad, and I was also fortunate enough to see him in concert at Wembley Stadium – admittedly when he was past his prime, but come on… it’s Michael frickin’ Jackson.

Michael Jackson’s music always had excellent production and his sound was always stellar, even if the song wasn’t. The music video for Thriller is every bit the masterpiece that it was when it was released over thirty years ago, and there’s nothing I can say about it here that hasn’t been said before, so all I will say is if you haven’t seen it – firstly, I don’t want to know you; and secondly, why on earth have you not seen it?!

Thriller holds a special place in my heart, even though it’s nowhere near my list of top Jacko tracks. Hell, it’s not even one of the best songs on the album, and that’s only got nine songs on it!

When I was fourteen I lived in Australia and we filmed a home movie on VHS to send back to my grandparents in Scotland. Trust me, it was what people did in those days. Anyway, at the end of the tape my dad filmed me lip-synching to Thriller, as I shuffled from side to side, wearing white trousers, and a white denim shirt. Yes, for six whole minutes. I even threw in the single worst example of a moonwalk ever committed to camera. (Un)fortunately, this footage does still exist.

It was an annoyingly poor effort, because I know I can do better. Maybe I should recreate…

Hmmm, I wonder.

 

Genius at Work…

April 21st.

On this day in 1984, this album –

Thriller

– was knocked off the top of the US charts, after spending thirty-seven weeks at Number One. As of 2017 it is estimated to have sold anywhere between 60 and 100 million copies. Nothing else is even close. It was – in the true meaning of the word – a phenomenon. Nowadays, with the way music is distributed and purchased, this is a record (pun intended) that will never be broken. Say what you like about Michael Jackson – and a lot of people do – but the guy broke down walls.

So if you’re one of the half dozen people in the western world who hasn’t heard it, go find it and do so. Right now.