Friday, 3 July 2009

Good Grief!

I've tried really really hard to give a swerve to the whole Michael Jackson media circus... but the temptation has been just too great. His death was a surprise to me, and of course, ANYONE dying at the age of 50 is tragic (even more so when you are not much more than 7 years away from that age yourself!). But I have to say his music (you know... that thing he's actually famous for!), despite being there all my life, has had little effect on me. I'm not saying he wasn't talented, I'm sure he was great at what he did and all that... if that's the sort of thing you like, but it just didn't speak to me. I don't mind a bit of the Jackson 5, but to be honest, could easily live without that too. For someone who I guess would have to be classed somewhere in or near 'soul' music, I oddly found his music very soul-less.

But of course, despite his career having little effect on my life, the moment I heard he had passed away, I was wailing like the proverbial banshee... I couldn't eat for days, I wore a black armband and bought up an entire days supply of Tescos fresh cut flowers (guaranteed for 7 days you know) which I symbolically laid outside important MJ landmarks... which I'll be honest, is not that easy when you live in Southend... but we do at least have two HMV's, a shop who have tirelessly flogged his tunes for decades, gawd bless 'em.

I joke of course, but it never ceases to amaze me that people DO seem to carry on like that these days, but where did this exaggerated public grief all come from? We certainly never used to do it... The death of Diana in 97 was of course another tragic event. I felt genuinely sorry for her family, and particularly for her two young sons... but then, I would if the same thing happened to ANY poor 36 year old mother, and unfortunately you read stories like this in the papers all too often. Even at the time I remember seeing TV footage of people sobbing uncontrollably in the streets, laying flowers and lighting candles, and wondered "are you REALLY this upset about the passing of a stranger?". I don't mean this to sound cold-hearted, but I sometimes wonder if it's an odd attention thing, 'look at me, just look how upset I am'. I mean, some of those people collapsing with grief in the Mall were surely just OD'ing on all the media hype wernt they? I can't imagine they did (or would) react like this at the death of their own mother! I wonder if any of those people feel embarrassed now about their OTT reactions? Or perhaps I'm just a cynical old boot, and it really did affect them that much?

There is also the odd phenomenon of people who, despite having ignored an artist for 40 odd years, will rush out an pick up their entire back-cat the moment they die! Why is that? I saw it again today, a middle-aged woman in HMV clutching an armful of Jackson CDs, whilst flicking through the numerous 'tribute' magazines they had for sale. Do they actually play them or is it (much like the public grief) all about 'show'?? Do they leave them conveniently scattered around the house so when people come round they'll assume you are a big fan? or does seeing a 30 second clip of the Thriller video on the telly for the 100th time that day makes you think "Y'know, I never liked him when he was alive, but now he's dead he's fab isn't he"??!

The press are the worst though. All of a sudden he's St Michael of Jackson... wonderful family man etc etc. Hold on, isn't this the guy you've been vilifying for the last 15 odd years??! I was listening to the radio when the story broke, and the guy presenting immediately did a 180 degree turn. Banging on about how the child abuse stories were "only ever alleged" "never a scrap of evidence" "never convicted of anything"... and how about these tacky 'celeb' mags? I had to shake my head with disbelief at the front cover of OK magazine this week. They have the audacity to put "Official Tribute - In Loving Memory" on the front cover, and then combine those words with the exclusive shot they've bought of a DEAD Michael Jackson... yeah, you read that right. Nice touch OK, very respectful... Shame on you.

But its the cynical attempt to make a fast buck that always impresses (always labelled as a 'tribute' of course)... and it was something I spotted today that actually made me decide to do this post. Whilst walking past my local "Snappy Snaps" (a shop dedicated to, as the name suggests, producing your photographs in double quick time!), I see they have quickly branched out into a new area. They now specialize in photo printing AND Michael Jackson memorial items, and are proudly advertising their "EXCLUSIVE" I Love Michael T-shirts and mugs (only £9.99 each). They were the worst, most tacky thing ever. And in their haste to make money, hadn't even bothered to get a decent picture of the poor man to put on it. Instead, they have picked some odd sideways shot, which seems to depict Jackson breaking wind! A touching tribute I'm sure you'll agree.

Anyway, I'm off to Tescos, I need more flowers to lay outside Snappy Snaps...



office pest said...

Well said Piley.

Of course, we know he's not dead really, he's 'done an Elvis' and gone to live on the Moon, with JFK, Bobby K, Marilyn Monroe, Buddy Holly, Jim Morrison, Walt Disney, Howard Hughes and Glenn Miller.

That's why he's been doing that 'moonwalk' all these years. It's a clear signal for anyone who has eyes to see. Knowing this has kept me away from the abyss of grief these past few days.

All Systems Go!

Anonymous said...

I've never been a fan, i think his music is really over rated and as you said P souless. Ok i accept he made a lot of people happy so cool but i aint one of them. I think there must be a lot of sad lonely people in the world who like to latch on to this kind of "tragedy" because it makes them feel involved with the rest of humanity for 5 minutes. I remember when Diana died and this guy on tv said i've cried more today than i did at my Dad's funeral. If i could have got hold of him he'd have cried even more i tell you , get a grip you twat!. There are so many sheep and saddos out there, i just keep out of it, poor Farrah Fawcett died and no one said a word cos of the "mighty Jacko" popping his cloggs. I loved Farrah as a kid. I totally agree with this peice Piley , you've summed it all up beautifully man.


Anonymous said...

I think that the whole thing with Michael and the like is it's a way that we look to ourselves and our own life. I was a child of the 80s being 41 now and I was right in this generation. I remember the big debut of the Thriller video and yes I did watch it. I was never a fan of Jackson's as I was more into learning my Ritchie Blackmore licks and listening to Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, UFO and the like.

Anyway, I grew up in this era whether I totally embraced it's music or not. I was hip to MTV within a month of it's debut and it became part of my daily life until I was 17 or 18 and the music really changed and I moved on. Michael sold some 750 million copies of Thriller and it indeed isn't a bad album. "Billie Jean" is a wedding staple and it does have a pretty good groove to it. "Beat It" of course drew in us rocker types with it's Van Halen solo and in all reality is a decent tune.

I am guessing they are not as harsh overseas as they are on his legacy here. The initial reaction from people I would describe as Republican leaning was along the lines of, "Fucking pedophile, he won't be hurting any kids anymore" and the like. It kind of surprises me and bothers me at the same time that people can lash out almost like a cat backed into a corner with an initial reaction something like that.

We all know that pedophilia is not acceptable or right under any circumstance and we all know that, or we are pretty damn sure that there was something going on there with Mr. Jackson. But in all reality a troubled star died at 50 and that was my first reaction.

As we are getting older now we are finding that a lot more things from our past are dying off or falling by the wayside. When I think of Michael I think back to the innocence and carefree days of my youth when you didn't have to worry about car payments and mortgages and prostate exams and kids, etc. His untimely passing reminds us all that our time is coming and we wonder how much more of it we have until we are gone with much less fanfare. I think that explains some of the emotions, which can be greatly exaggerated, that we are witnessing.

Maybe it's not so much Michael or Diana that we are weeping for or have wept for but the realization that we too are dying and some if not most of our hopes and dreams will never come to fruition and we just wanted to be a part of their moment in the sun.

Damn you Piley! Every time I come here I write way too much!

Axe said...

I remember when he was a black man. I liked him then. I thought Off The Wall was a great album and I still do. I have never liked any of hi sother stuff but having grown up with J5 as a kid etc. I used ot dig them pretty much. Remember the cartoon series anyone? Speaking for somebody who will be 50 this time next year I have to say that Wil makes some intersting points. However, he says lighting up a spliff and reaching for another glass of red wine, all things in moderation eh? Life is a very fragile thing. I tresure it. But I ain't afraid of dying if my time has come. I just hope I can enjoy myself a little bit more before that eventuality becomes reality. Doubt that anybody will be rushing out to buy my back catalogue though!

E F RICE said...

Not a fan but I think everyone would admit to liking at least one Jackson or Jackson 5 track (Blame it on the Boogie being my one P !).
I do have some sympathy for the whole manipulation of the Jackson family in the past, not just Michael. There was a Ch4 documentary earlier this year about the Jackson family coming to Appledore, North Devon, to stay. All arranged discretely by a close English friend of the family. Turns out this friend stitched them up, sold the story to all papers mags etc and made their life a misery. Most of the Jackson family stayed in the USA because of him. He looked a right shifty c*** as well.

So in conclusion a bit of sympathy on the day from me, but now forgotten Until this post of course).

Mondo said...

The whole new move for a public outpouring of grief is ridiculous and seems to become expected and compounded by the media now...

And as you say the media u-turn is incredible (same happened Jade Goody )..

Cocktails said...

A few years ago someone bought me the DVD of Jacko's hits and I feel like I mourn every time I actually sit down and watch the damn thing. His stuff from Off the Wall and Thriller is truly fantastic and the clips reflect this - all that youthful talent, enthusiasm and vigour (AND he was just gorgeous in the 70s). Then it all went downhill - you can visibly see the man struggling, losing his identity, giving into the record company and releasing crap.

Michael Jackson died a long time ago. I think that Wil is right - we're just mourning ourselves now.

Piley said...

Hi OP, good to have you back. Looking forward to hearing your tales of Turkish delight? Hmm, that 'moonwalk' and living on the moon stuff sounds pretty convincing... ;-)

Carl - ta. Is it yest another sign of dumbing down I wonder?? I mean, I've seen tv footage of Churchill's funeral for example... standing in respectful silence were tens of thousands of people. The only movement you see is hats being removed as the hearse drove by. This was only 40 years ago!! Now people collapse and wail uncontrollably in the street... wheres that still upper lip eh??!

Wil - that sounded really profound... where did you copy it from?? JOKE!!! Honestly, I think you make a great, great point... I've not looked at it like that, but you are right. When 'old' celebs die it's natural... many of them were 'old' even when you were a kid. But we saw Michael grow up, he was (roughly) our age, and now he's gone. It's a little dig in the ribs to remind us we too are gonna die, and if we are lucky, we'll get old first... Great comments, thank you.

Col - nice work. Not thinking of leaving us just yet tho are you Sir?! Can you sign my Magic Ship CD just in case??! ;-)

I do indeed remember the cartoon series. I have vivid memories of it on a Sunday morning. Never liked it tho, as a fan of Bugs, Roadrunner etc I found the pace way too slow, and the artwork a bit basic (geez, I was a snob even then!)

EF - blame it on the boogie... hmmm, not a bad call! Never saw that prog, but knew it had not ended well. It must of been mixed blessings for the rest of the family. 2 members of the Jackson's have appeared in Celebrity Big Brother, and both times, every time I saw it, all anyone ever asked them was about Michael. How rude.

PM - where will it all end? Mourners committing Hare-Kari along the funeral route, unable to go on any more?? Weird.

Thanks everyone - really interesting comments.


Piley said...

Cocktails (I didn't forget you, weirdly you must have been typing your comments the same time as me!) - You (and Axe) are right, if there was a peak it was probably at the beginning of his solo work, Off The Wall. He was young and enthusiastic. And although it still wasn't my thing back then, I remember the incredible buzz it created at school. This was his only truly 'organic' album too, and the hype was a natural one built on word of mouth. After this the hype machine was in full swing.

Anonymous said...

My sister used to blast Off The fucking Wall through my bed room wall every day, organic my arse !!!. I had no alternative but to respond with Black Sabbath !!. Thank god she moved out before Thriller came out !!!!.


Kolley Kibber said...

The media are determined to keep this one rolling, aren't they? I haven't met a single person who's been affected beyond the point of 'profoundly disturbed former child-star, who made a couple of great albums a long time ago, dies at a relatively but (actually unsurprisingly) young age, and leaves something of a personal and financial mess in his wake.'

But then I've never actually met anyone who would describe themselves as 'a Michael Jackson fan' (or, not since I was ten, anyway). I felt something like sadness about poor old Farah, who seems to have had a dreadful death despite all her best efforts to retain some dignity. But I can't feel anything at all about the death of a man who parted company with meaningful reality at least thirty years ago.

Of all the recent celebrity deaths, I felt saddest about Stephen Wells, as it happens. So there!

Furtheron said...

Well said mate.

I nearly went into print on this but decided not to as it could well have become a rant...

Some of the outpooring you see you'd think he was someone who'd done something really important in the world... he was only a singer! I mean he didn't save lives, cure the common cold, discover the answer to life the universe and everything ... did he?

Tragic - yes anyone dying at 50 with a young family is to that family tragic.

To me John Martyn was a much biggger loss as I bought, loved and cared for John's music. MJs was just there on the radio - I own none of his stuff myself as it doesn't do anything for me. Beat It - great riff and top solo about the only track I'd really say I like enough to bother owning.

Sadly I think it is a further indication of the collapse of society - queue Mrs Thatcher quote here... Since people have lost a connection with family, friends, local area, country etc. they latch to the celebrity that is forced through the media to be "your best mate".

Sad that in the same week a lady's body was found in a flat in Scotland by the police there is every chance it'd been there for years and no one had noticed... how f***ing sad is that? Now that should be the news we bother about.

Istvanski said...

And the TV footage / coverage goes on and on...
Channel hopping is a dangerous sport these days.
Today: TMF with David Bleedin' Guest going on about how he and Jacko were great friends interspersed with video clips of 'Gotta Be Startin' Sumfink...

It's getting tiresome.

Nazz Nomad said...

I am just sooooo relieved that the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is over, The Iran election was overturned, the economy is all better, and pot's been legalized.

Now the media can concentrate on what's REALLY important.... Michael Jackson.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with you, its laughable to have all these people screaming and collapsing over the news of his death. most of these people have never met him or been closer to him then barrier at a gig, were they really touched by him (that's another story all together). Sad lonely people, or media whores? not much of a choice.

Planet Mon is spot on (goody) she was another one, ripped to shreds and rightly so as she was a moron, one week, then turned into a god by the papers. At least something good has come from her death, I don't have to worry about any new shows starring her. Oh and that it might have raised awareness.

They should be writing about Jay Bennett, not dragging this out. Shit sell i suppose.

John Devlin said...

Its funny (and possibly sad!) that the day after Michael Jackson's death I zipped over to Piley's site to see if he had any views! The blogs becoming essential reading!

Seriously, I find the whole thing fascinating. Not his death as such but the world's reaction to it. Like Carl I've never owned a MJ record - his stuffs just not to my taste but I can appreciate that some people do like it. I found his death sad only after seeing a pic of him and his brothers goofing around on the beach in the early 70s, clearly a family and clearly having fun. I lost my brother about 10 years ago and this just made me remember how painful it is to lose a family member.

What gets my goat is people ignoring the unpleasant and frankly questionable antics of the chap. You can't gloss over stuff this serious - and as someone said if Gary Glitter had the money would he have got off his charges?

People have said he is the greatest entertainer that ever lived. Nonsense. He hasn't released an album for god knows how many years and its widely regarded amongst those who like that kind of thing that to find his last decent album you have to go even further back. These are not the hallmarks of the greatest entertainer the world has known!

Also, I find it funny how the black community are coming out and claiming him as their own and the importance of him and black music. Nonsense. The guy spent most of his adult life denying his black heritage. Is that something a black icon/role model should do? I think not.

Sadly these days people are spoon-fed their music as they are all forms of entertainment. Now, since the death of Diana, they are also spoon-fed their emotions. Evidence of the very real danger of the mass media.

Danny Baker played Mr Bojangles as a tribute to him on his BBC London show the day after his death. A great and moving song at the best of times this just summed MJ up to me. A good song and dance man (with all the foibles and some that "celebrities" have) - but most definitely NOT the greatest entertainer that ever lived.

Piley said...

ISBW - Completely. It's a shame and all that, but all of a sudden he's the most important person ever to have lived. Farah had about 2 or 3 hours in the news, then as soon as the MJ story broke she simply disappeared didn't she? Scandalous, and as you say, she was very dignified in the way she handled the end of her life.

Further - Yes, there have been many other deaths that have touched me ouch more, and many who I consider made a much bigger contribution to music too. Will even someone like Bowie get this sort of coverage? Someone who actually changed the face of music Jackson didn't)? I doubt it, but then with Bowie there's only 'the music' to talk about isn't there... how boring... ugh!

Ist - you are right, and even now it STILL continues!! How about that memorial service that seemed to be on every tv channel going?? bizarre is not the word!

Well said Nazz! ;-)

Anon - the press have a way with this sort of thing don't they. You are right, Jade Goody was a leper for the last 2 or 3 years of her life and NOBODY wanted to associate with her... I mean, not a single chat show appearance, nothing in the tatty celeb mags NOTHING! As soon as the story broke the 'racist' thing was all forgotten and she was Mother Theresa... odd.

JD - the only problem I have with your reply (and Wil's come to that) is that its better than the post it's commenting on!! Some brilliant points there. I loved that quote by some nutter at the memorial thing... something like "Michael wasn't weird, he was a normal person living in a weird world"... Hmmm. Yeah that's right, it was all OUR fault!

Great, great comments everyone. Thanks.