Posts Tagged ‘Michael Jackson’


February 14, 2012

Whitney Houston and Lana De Rey? It seems a long stretch but hear me out.

Whitney Houston died and again we need to ask the very same question asked when Michael Jackson died, and Elvis died and others died. Where were the minders? How did it get to this? We know that Whitney was a trainwreck ready to crash. There were probably hundreds of junkies who died on the same day. Alone. Famous people aren’t alone. I’m not naive. I know that their fame and money allows them to surround themselves with people who WILL turn a blind eye and WILL assist destructive tendencies, but they’ve still got more chance of being rescued than those other lonely casualties.

Whitney Houston was handed life on a platter. That’s the real tragedy. She was beautiful and she had the gift of a great voice. She already had a potential career as a high profile model on offer when she opted to  follow her mother and cousin into music. Then she was handed “the world”, not an ordinary beginning to a career. Clive Davis searched out songs and producers and months were spent on assembling that debut album. It was an important record in many ways. It introduced us to Whitney Houston. It broke the mould of one producer overseeing an entire album. The industry was never the same. And Whitney and her album changed pop music.  It was so fitting that Jennifer Hudson paid tribute to Whitney at the Grammys. Since American Idol started we’ve seen female singer after female singer emulating Whitney Houston’s “over-singing” vocal style.

Whitney was handed life on a platter. How could it go so wrong? . Is it true that she used to have someone blow cocaine up her backside?

So where does Lana Del Rey fit into all this?  I’m wondering what the hell HER minders are up to. Are they deliberately letting  her commit career-o-cide or are they just incompetent? How could she be put out there so “un-prepared”.  Maybe she really is a starry-eyed wanna-be who’s stumbled into the spotlights, but she actually didn’t get there on her own. She has management, she’s signed to a major record company. There ARE people around her who SHOULD know better.

Has there been another artist who’s been made such a public target for derision? A lot of it wasn’t necessary. Or was it? Is this the way the music industry operates now? Sacrifice rather than support?  The first artists caught lip-syncing on stage were lambasted and ridiculed, but now that’s the way it’s done. Is that what we’re seeing with Lana, the first step in the next era of public illusion? After Lana, after she’s been made to break the ice, is this the way we’ll see artists in the future launched?

The pity is that the ’Born To Die’ album is quite interesting. Lana seems to have idea of the kind of mystique she wants to create. We should have been allowed to focus on that, to share her vision and allow her to evolve it. Already she’s talking about not making another album.  

How did it come to this? How could it go so wrong? Or is this the way it was meant to be, as inevitable at Whitley’s demise. Born to die.



January 8, 2012

Maybe we owe Michael Jackson an apology. Hands up who believed that he MUST have molested those young boys, even though he was found not guilty in that famous trial!

We live in a litigious world. The smell of money brings out all sorts of legal claims. The music business reports a new one almost every day. Michael Jackson’s honey pot unearthed them all, the almost obligatory song theft claims, even “wives” wanting their share – but since his death NO child has come forward to say they were inappropriately dealt with by Jackson. If ever there’s been a “window of opportunity” it’s been during the last year and a half. Even his grubby family keep putting their hands out in one way or another, but there’s been a significant silence in this area. You’d think that if there was a claim out there – legitimate or malicious – we would have heard of it by now.

OUR problem was that we live in a corrupt filthy-minded world. We see threats and evil everywhere. We COULDN’T believe that an adult could possibly be playing with children without being a predator.

I’m NOT saying that Michael Jackson was probably as pure as he might have had us believe. Otherwise he wouldn’t have gone to so much trouble – and expense – to silence his first accuser, Jordie Chandler. He never allowed that charge to be tested in court. That was his big mistake. But it’s rather telling that during the media assault he embarked on afterwards to defend his honour Jackson quite openly and innocently declared that that he was sharing his bed with children and saw nothing wrong with it. He really did believe that and WE couldn’t believe it.

Michael Jackson loved the Peter Pan concept – the Boy who never grew up – but truth is he was a tarnished youth from the beginning. That he couldn’t change. He couldn’t change that he’d seen and heard things no “child” should see and hear. Before they became famous the Jacksons played in strip joints where women exposed themselves to him. His brothers and father thought nothing of having sex around Michael. We know that Michael Jackson a distorted outlook on sex. Fellow child star Brooke Shield tells us the first thing Michael wanted to talk about when he got her alone was sex. Nothing happened.

We also know that off stage Michael Jackson was unbelievably shy, another outcome of his upbringing. That shyness wasn’t an act. So, there’s every chance that Michael Jackson DID look at pornography with his little friends, that he DID get himself and them drunk, and maybe he exposed himself to them – but THAT’s as far as it probably went. The shyness would have got in the way. In that respect he WAS the child that never grew up. There has always been a question mark over his sexual relationship with his wives Debbie Rowe and Lisa Marie Presley. We know that his three children were begat without intercourse.

While he was alive that was all a very sensitive aspect of Michael Jackson’s existence, and the moment there was any suggestion of impropriety he threw everything he had – and he had plenty – to bury it. Michael’s not around any more. I don’t think the Michael Jackson Industry that his death has produced would or could be bothered to be as defensive as Jackson himself. We’ve heard nothing. Maybe our suspicious were misplaced. Maybe we had dirtier minds than he had. Things DID happen, but probably not THAT.

Dylan and Michael Jackson: PLUNDERING THE LEFTOVERS

August 1, 2010

What do Michael Jackson and Bob Dylan have in common?  Both have recorded much more than we ever heard. Michael Jackson recorded 20-30 songs for every album, and even though he didn’t have an official record contract for the last three years of his life, and was distracted for the four years before that, there is evidence of songwriting and recording by Michael Jackson during these “missing” seven years.

Recording Bob Dylan was once described by one of his producers as like “trying to capture lightning”. Bob famously comes up with a number of versions of every song and the one we happen to hear in the end is often just the one we happen to allowed to hear. His record company vaults are full of unreleased tracks, which used to be a headache for Dylan but isn’t now.

That backlog made it virtually impossible for Dylan for contemplate moving to another record company.  He did briefly in the 70s, recording one studio album (‘Planet Waves’) and a live album, possibly as a show of strength but he quickly hurried back soon after. The problem was that Columbia could have kept raiding the cupboard for years. While contracted to the company Dylan can control  the output.  Dylan’s official “bootleg” series is the obvious compromise finally arrived at. Slowly the shelves are being cleared, at the same time satisfying our thirst for the old Dylan and giving Bob himself the freedom to amuse himself with the present. Which he has.

In October, Sony Legacy will  be releasing The Bootleg Series Vol. 9, and a box set of the first eight Bob Dylan albums in mono. Bob’s Leeds Music and Witmark demos dating back to 1962 are expected to be included.

In November Sony – no coincidence, there aren’t many majors left – is also releasing a “new” Michael Jackson album, the first in a  10-album, seven-year deal the Jackson estate agreed with Sony BMG in March 2010. When he died the previous June MJ was without a contract, hanging by a Beatles thread to the Sony Corporation and in serious financial trouble. Within hours of his death he’d become a money-spinning industry.

The ‘new’ as-yet Jackson untitled album reaches back to that leftover material from the 80s, reconnecting us and Jackson with his heyday. There will also be material he recorded in 2006 around the time of the ‘Thrilller 25th Anniversary’ project with Black Eyed Peas’ Well, you would wouldn’t you, considering the Black Eyed Peas’ commercial appeal?  Just this week ‘I Got A Feeling’ became the first song to reach the 6 million mark in digital downloads.  

Beyond that there are the hard drives Jackson left behind, filled with unheard music. His manager Frank DiLeo claimed that the singer’s vaults contains more than 100 completed and unreleased songs, including collaborations with contemporary artists Akon and Ne-Yo.  There’s an  album’s worth  of new Michael Jackson songs which “belong” to Rodney ‘Darkchild’ Jerkins.  Jerkins is a family friend.  For Jackson’s ‘Invincible’ CD, his last official album Jerkins produced six songs, including the hit “You Rock My World.” He and Jackson subsequently worked on more than 200 tracks and “musical ideas” over three years. Perhaps Jerkins could play spoiler and hold them back from the “new deal”, but Jerkins is a career producer – he’s currently working with Britney Spears – and there’s no way he’d shit in his own nest and damage his future for the sake of a handful of contentious millions.

However,  there are still a few loose threads which might just unravel the best laid plans of the corporate machine. It took many years to clear up Jimi Hendrix’s leftovers and bring them all together under safe “control” under one roof. Despite the instant Jackson industry and Sony’s eager re-embracing of their lapsed hero not everything is in their keeping. 

In 2006 there was an announcement that Jackson had signed a contract with a Bahrain-based label called Two Seas Records. Later Two Seas said that the deal was never finalized. Are there some recordings that date from that period which might be contractually compromised?

And then there’s sister La Toya who IS a proven spoiler – she said Michael was a child molester when she needed the headline – and maybe she WOULD take a financial opportunity if there is one to be taken. In the immediate  aftermath of Michael Jackson’s death, within hours,  it was La Toya of all people who rushed to her brother’s rented home  to “rescue” the hard drives of unreleased songs. Are the all songs contained thereon now amongst the material safely in the family’s keeping?  Jackson’s manager, Frank DiLeo, said he was “pretty sure” they are.

There are even songs ‘intended’ for Michael Jackson. Ne-Yo was sending Jackson three or four drafts a week prior to Jackson’s unexpected death. What’s the fate of the submissions that were never touched by MJ?

There IS a positional minefield inside all of this, waiting for unscrupulous exploitation. History can easily repeat itself. Way back in 1971, when the Jackson 5 shot to fame and success, a record company the brothers had momentarily recorded for released a Jacksons-style single by Ripples And Waves, even adding a “with Michael” to the label credit. We were supposed to think it was the Jacksons and THAT Michael. It wasn’t. It wasn’t the Jacksons  and there was no-one called Michael in the group. That single, “Let Me Carry Your School Books”,  wasn’t a success but if you look at some Jackson 5 histories they’ll tell you Michael and his brothers DID once record as Ripple And Waves.

 What I’m listening to: Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse (Dark Night Of The Soul),  Snow Patrol (A Hundred Million Suns),  The Kills (Midnight Boom)


July 6, 2010

Is Prince still a visionary and a maverick, or has he lost the plot?

This week he releases his 27th album- 20Ten – in Europe free as a giveaway in newspapers and magazines in England, Ireland, Belgium and Germany. It’s not the first time he’s used this method of marketing. He also once threw  a spanner into American best-seller computations when he “bundled” his latest album with concert ticket purchases. If we’ve learned anything about the Artist-Who-Used-To-Be-Known-As-Love-Symbol, he’s not adverse to challenging the established system.

This week he’s also stated that he will never sell his songs on the inter net, insisting web-based outlets will soon disappear because they are no longer “hip”.

He says, “The internet’s completely over. I don’t see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else. They won’t pay me an advance for it and then they get angry when they can’t get it.
The internet’s like MTV. At one time MTV was hip and suddenly it becam e outdated. Anyway, all these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can’t be good for you.”

Of course Prince’s engagement with the brave new world of music distribution has not been a happy one. In 2007 he sued video sharing website as well as claiming they “are clearly able (to) filter porn and paedophile material but appear to choose not to filter out the unauthorised music and film conten t which is core to their business success.” He waged a campaign to force the closure of fan sites dedicated to him and his music – pissing off the very people who worshipped him most – and then lo and behold Prince launched his own interactive site where we could listen to and buy unreleased Prince music. Apparently there are vaults of the stuff.

All you needed to do was pay a yearly subscription of $77. But the site was a disappointment to fans – and probably Prince himself. There were technical problems. Prince didn’t seem as personally interested as fans might have thought. The fans weren’t as interested as Prince might have expected.  Earlier this year, after a2 months of frustration, the site went dark. Experiment over.

What’s important of course is the music, and Prince’s music just isn’t important any more. There’s nothing new. New songs but no new ideas. Once he was the artist who had Michael Jackson worried. Prince turned MJ “bad”, made him reach for his crotch. Ironically Prince has turned “good” in the meantime. The singer who once had a bed on stage now refuses to perform his most sexually explicit songs, his greatest songs.  That’s fine. We like conviction, whatever it is. But he hasn’t replaced that conviction with another.

Even Prince the performer isn’t what he used to be. Thanks to all that dancing on height-enhancing boots Prince has reportedly needed double-hip-replacement surgery since 2005 but won’t undergo the operation unless it is a bloodless surgery. Those same nearly discovered Jehovah’s Witnesses beliefs are in the way. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not accept blood transfusions.

So not everything that’s not happening in Prince’s career is the fault of “the system”. Some of the fault lies at Prince’s own feet. But is he right about music and the internet?

What I’m listening to: 3OH!3 (Streets Of Gold), Dirty Projectors (Bitte Orca) R.E.M. (Green)

Pop superstar PRINCE is adamant he will never sell his songs on the inter net, insisting web-based outlets will soon disappear because they are no longer “hip”.
The Purple Rain hitmaker has long battled to keep his music offline – i n 2007 he sued video sharing website as well as clai ming they “are clearly able (to) filter porn and paedophile material but appear to choose not to filter out the unauthorised music and film conten t which is core to their business success.” Prince has also moved to ban fansites using images and anything linked to his likeness, while a home video of a child dancing to one of his song s on YouTube was pulled down in 2007 after the star’s Universal Music Pub lishing claimed the recording infringed copyright.
The artist is still refusing to allow websites to sell his music and he ‘s adamant fans will soon move on from the internet.
He says, “The internet’s completely over. I don’t see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else. They won’t pay me an advance for it and then they get angry when they can’t get it.
“The internet’s like MTV. At one time MTV was hip and suddenly it becam e outdated. Anyway, all these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can’t be good for you.”


June 21, 2010

June 2005

This was the start of the end. Michael Jackson was acquitted of ten counts of child molestation, but his professional career was all but over anyway and in the hands of a shady group of advisors, including a former producer of gay porn. Finally, Jackson knew he had to escape.

When MJ packed himself and his children off to Bahrain, into the welcoming opportunistic arms of Sheikh Abdullah, he was running away. Another place, but ultimately even more problems, not all  financial. Worried about where and with whom her children had ended up Debbie Rowe was asking for custody.

October 2006

Michael Jackson, children and entourage moved to Ireland. The custody issue had been resolved, but little else. MJ was on the run.

November 2007

Sony Records  had refused to renew Michael’s contract in 2002 but the looming 25th anniversary of ‘Thriller’ – the greatest album of all time – encouraged the warring parties to attempt a temporary reconciliation. Mid-2007 concert promoters AEG had approached Michael Jackson about the opening of the new O2 Stadium in Londo. He took the meeting, showed interest, but said he wasn’t ready to return to performing.

He wasn’t ready to take advantage of the ‘Thriller’ anniversary either. He kept Sony waiting. They missed the actual anniversary by three months. MJ managed just one new track. Five new remixes were added to the original ‘Thriller’. Disappointing. Not at all what had been hoped for.

November 2008

The financial issues continued but the confidence must have been returning.  Jackson met with AEG again and this time showed a genuine interest. He recognized what it was, both a lifeline financially and a way to redeem his career.

February 2009

With the details of his comeback at the O2 Stadium ironed out Michael Jackson started calling people who had played a part in his successful years, but been discarded on the way, including former manager Frank Delio. Industry insiders were surprised and wondered just who had suggested bringing Delio back into the picture. MJ and the children had moved back to Los Angeles in the meantime. He was getting his life back in order.

March 2009

In London at a press conference MJ announced 10 concerts at the O2 his first since 1997, followed by shows in Paris, New York City and Mumbai. Michael hinted that he would then retire. “This Is It”, he said.

Within hours of the announcement 1.6 million people signed up for tickets. AEG and MJ did their sums. Jackson called back and told AEG he would do 50 shows — as long as AEG did two things for him. First, he wanted to be provided with an English country estate with rolling hills, greenery and horses for the kids. Second, always with his eye on HIStory, he wanted a ceremony held at the end of the tour to commemorate the run of shows in the Guinness Book of World Records.

At the end of March, just three months before the first concert was scheduled to kick off, a crew of dozens of musicians and dancers and technicians began showing up for daily rehearsals – putting in long days, seven days a week. In the beginning, Michael Jackson himself would show up only a few times a week.

April 2009

There were a few who doubted whether it was Jackson himself who had made the London announcement – something about his uncharacteristic exuberance, his physical demeanour. Had it been an impersonator? Now there were doubts about his physical ability to deliver 50 concerts as fans and the paparazzi staked him out at his new home and noted MJ’s regular visits to his longtime dermatologist, Dr Arnold Klein, Debbie Rowe former boss. Klein said that he was treating Jackson for vitiligo, a skin condition that causes pigmentation loss, and working to help rebuild his damaged nose. MJ also went on secretive shopping expeditions in LA with the kids.

May 2009

Michael Jackson spent three nights straight at a medical facility amid rumours that he was being treated for skin cancer. Dr. Conrad Murray called it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when he signed on as Michael Jackson’s personal physician for a six-figure monthly salary and agreed to accompany MJ for the entertainer’s much-hyped London comeback concerts which were now pushed back a week to give him more time to prepare.

June 2009

Kai Chase who, who has cooked for other celebrities had been  interviewed for the job by the Jackson children, hired by Michael Jackson in March, let go in May,  then returned on June 2. Dr. Conrad Murray would bring Jackson the special fruit juice drinks Chase prepared for him. For lunch, Jackson would eat with the children. Murray sometimes joined them for dinner. The doctor conferred with Chase about the 50-year-old pop singer’s food and made sure that he ate. The only oddity was the oxygen tanks MJ would bring from upstairs in the morning, one in each hand.

Lou Ferrigno, the star of the 1970’s TV hit The Incredible Hulk had started working as Michael Jackson’s physical trainer in preparation for Jackson’s return to live performing. A few times a week he and Ferrigno would go to a backroom that was equipped with a treadmill. Jackson didn’t want to build muscle, so they worked out gently, stretching with a rubber band and an exercise ball. Jackson wore black tuxedo pants, a black T-shirt, black shoes and black socks while he worked out, so he wouldn’t have to change when he went to rehearsals afterward.

9 June 2009

In addition to overseeing the elaborate effects-heavy stage show for his comeback shows at the O2 Arena in London on this day Michael Jackson on this day completed a 5-week mysterious video production known as the “Dome Project” at Culver Studios, which 70 years earlier was the set for the classic film “Gone With the Wind.”  Four sets were constructed for Jackson’s production, including a cemetery recalling his 1983 “Thriller” video. Besides the cemetery, one set was draped in black with an oversized portrait of Jackson in his “Thriller” werewolf costume. Another set was designed to simulate a lush jungle, and a fourth was built to replicate a construction site, with a screen in the back to allow projection of different backgrounds. Taping took place in marathon sessions ending early in the morning. Little detail is known about the project because everyone involved was sworn to secrecy.

17 June 2009

Another old face re-entered the Jackson inner circle after a period in the outer. Manager Frank Delio had phoned Michael Jackson’s long-time on-off legal representative John Branca. “Michael wants you to come back,” Delio told him. “He wants you to give some thought to what you can do for him, what kind of deals.” MJ was assuming control of his affairs and determined to reap every advantage from his comeback. On this day MJ and Branca met for the first time in years, hugged like old friends, and got down to business on the agenda Branca had set out in preparation.

21 June 2009

Cherilyn Lee, a registered nurse specialising in nutrition, received a phone call from Michael Jackson. MJ complained that one side of his body felt hot and the other cold, leading her to believe that “somebody had given him something that hit the central nervous system. He was in trouble and he was crying out,” she told the Associated Press. Jackson was pleading for a powerful sedative for his persistent insomnia in recent months.

22 June 2009

 According to a LAPD affidavit Dr. Conrad Murray on this day attempted to wean Michael Jackson from Propofol by giving him a lower, 25 milligram dosage, along with anti-anxiety drug Ativan (lorazepam) and the sedative Versed (midazolam), which successfully got Jackson to go to sleep.

23 June 2009

As Jackson prepared for a rehearsal he told aides how much faith he had in his personal physician, claiming, “I trust this guy with my life… He makes me feel good about myself, and young again”. Patrick Woodroffe, a lighting director who was at the rehearsals, said that Jackson was indeed ‘himself’ again that night. “He came on stage at 9 o’clock in the evening and we all looked at each other and there was something that said that he really had it,” he said. “It was like he had been holding back and suddenly he was performing as one had remembered him in the past.”

24 June 2009

Michael Jackson turned up three hours late for today’s rehearsals, and this time  appeared listless and lethargic, according to one observer.  The rehearsal, which went on for several hours, included dancers, musicians and aerial performers. It was captured by multiple cameras, and the audio digitally recorded in a manner that could be used to produce a surround-sound DVD and audio products. ‘This Is It’. There ain’t no more.

25 June 2009

Something was wrong. Murray Conrad didn’t come downstairs to get the juices and granola he routinely brought Jackson for breakfast each morning. He was busy trying to revive his client. After finally going into a drug induced sleep Michael Jackson had stopped breathing. That was 10:52 a.m.. At approximately 12:22 p.m. security guard Alberto Alvarez called 911. Nearly 82 minutes passed between the time Murray found Jackson not breathing and the time an ambulance was called. After being transferred to UCLA Medical Center at 2:46 p.m. Michael Jackson was pronounced dead.

The kids had followed Jackson to the hospital and the job of telling them that their father was dead fell to Michael’s manager, Frank DiLeo, who had nearly fainted when a nurse broke the news to him.

Then the circus began. Within hours sister LaToya rushed to Michael’s mansion frantically searching for the bags of cash she knew he kept there, and in a matter of days, their mother raced to court to fight for control of Michael’s estate and custody of his three children.  Within a week, against the family’s wishes, John Branca was named co-executor of the will, not the job he’d signed up for, and with a new set of deals to sign his client up to, including a new deal with Sony Records. Sales of Michael Jackson albums exploded.


Michael Jackson left the bulk of his estate and his children to his mother Katherine. Father Joe was not mentioned. Joe is looking for every avenue to stay connected. The kids live in the Jackson compound with Katherine and assorted cousins. She’s 80. She’s already had a fall in recent weeks. She can’t live forever. What then?

Michael Jackson: A YEAR LATER

May 11, 2010

Is it really a year?

Tomorrow in 2009 Michael Jackson and ten dancers chosen from more than 700 applicants would start their second four-day week at a rehearsal space near Los Angeles’ Burbank airport, preparing for Jackson’s concert comeback, titled ‘This Is It’. Also tomorrow a year ago, Jackson’ personal physician Dr. Conrad Murray  was in Nevada making the under-the counter of anaesthetic propofol which he would fatally administer to his client 44 days later.

Jackson had committed to a staggering 50-night residency at London’s O2 arena  beginning in July. No-one really believed he would see it through in its entirety. It was anybody’s guess how many, if any of these concerts would actually take place. It would be his first concert run in more than 12 years.  He had been painted into a 50-concert corner by his dire financial situation. Hardly a day went by without a new lawsuit brought against the self-proclaimed King of Pop. It was clear that he didn’t really want to  commit himself to all those shows, but the floodgates had been opened, and he had been swamped. He would much rather have been spending his time in the recording studio – not that he had a recording contract and therefore no record company support. Michael and Sony had long ago fallen out of move with each other.

If Michael Jackson wanted to fake his death as a means of escape, you could have forgiven him.

As well as his financial problems, we know that Michael Jackson had health problems. He’d never really been the same since his hair was set alight during a Pepsi Cola ad. He’d become addicted to painkillers. His family tried several interventions – whether concern or self-interest was their motive is beside the point – but Michael was in denial. He was probably also a bit of a hypochondriac.  When you’re rich and can get doctors to break rules that’s an easy – but obviously dangerous option.

Jackson wanted relief from his pain and his sleeplessness, and on June 25 his doctor administered his unethically obtained “cure”. Michael Jackson died, and overnight everything changed. The disgraced superstar was a hero again. In that 11 months since he died more than 9 million Michael Jackson albums have been sold. Sony records signed a new contract with the administrators of Jackson’s  estate.

However, the situation I’ve hinted at in earlier posts has now happened. We know that Michael spent time in the studio while in Sony limbo, recordings Sony had no claim to then, and no claim to now.  A complete album has “surfaced” – or at least been confirmed as existing –  the existence of which was not known when the new Sony deal was struck. The album was recorded by Michael in with Eddie Cascio at his home in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey.. Cascio, 28, is the second oldest son of longtime Jackson friends Dominick and Connie Cascio, Michael’s surrogate family.

Interestingly two days after Michael Jackson died – while the Jackson family was otherwise occupied demanding a second autopsy – Eddie Cascio filed a copyright claim along with Michael Jackson and another songwriter for something called “MJ Songbook.” The filing is just for lyrics. An earlier filing. from March 2008, is labeled “JPEC Collection.” The song titles in each collection are not specified, but it’s possible that Cascio updated his 2008 filing after Jackson died to reflect the superstar’s contribution to  material Cascio had already written–and wisely registered.

Sony might be stuck with the leftovers while “new” Michael Jackson recordings are up for grabs for others.

What I’m listening to: Jackson Browne and David Linley (En Vivo Con Tino), The Posies (Frosting On the Beater), Antony and the Johnsons (I Am A Bird Now)


March 18, 2010

What a difference death makes.

Before he died nine months ago, the only reason Sony Records still had anything to do with Michael Jackson was their shared ownership of the Beatles’ catalogue, Sony hoping to prize it out of his hands as Jackson’s finances woes overwhelmed him. Now, with much fanfare and great expectation Sony Music has signed a seven year, $200 million guaranteed contract with “Michael Jackson”.

The last album Jackson gave Sony was 2001’s “Invincible’. He had been waiting for the licence on his existing catalogue to revert to him, wanting to promote the old material without Sony getting any of the action. He discovered that he wouldn’t be getting his hands on his catalogue as soon as he expected, and that the lawyer who had acted for him at the time had also been working for Sony. Just before releasing ‘Invincible’ Michael Jackson told Sony he was leaving, and the company cancelled all planned video shoots and promotions.

In 2008 Sony planned a 25th anniversary release for ‘Thriller’, hoping Michael Jackson would want to come to the party with new material for a “second” chapter to the most famous album of all time. It would have been a big seller for Christmas 2007, but Michael’s reluctance to play along caused the album to miss its deadline by two months. ‘Thriller 25’ came with remixes and one new track.

During the eight years between ‘Invincible’ and Michael Jackson’s death in June 2009 a lot happened in Jackson’s life. “Whacko” Jacko was regularly making headlines, but we heard no new music. Now and again we’d hear he was in the studio. Collaborators would boast about working with him and how brilliant he was, but nothing was released. As far as we can tell he had no recording contract.

Michael Jackson has sold some 31 million albums since his death, most of them Sony releases.

In “Michael’s” new deal with Sony one of the 10 projects proposed will be an album of never-before-released Jackson recordings that will come out in November. We’ll find out then whether the “genius” was still there. Maybe his troubles overwhelmed Michael’s talent. Maybe in his own desperation to top ‘Thriller’ he lost his way. Maybe we’re about to rediscover Michael Jackson’s talent. Whatever’s about to unfold Michael Jackson won’t be there. He won’t have a say in what’s released and how it’s released. After Jimi Hendrix died a lot of people decided how we should hear what was left behind. It took Hendrix’s family many years to gain control and win back Hendrix’s creative integrity. Can we trust Sony and the Jackson family to do the same?

What I’m listening to: Shout Out Louds (Work), Jeff Beck (Emotion And Communication), Concrete Blonde (Bloodletting)


March 7, 2010

The original ‘We Are The World’ was released 25 years ago today. I thought it would be worth comparing the two recordings.

 The 1985 version was released 35 after the all-star recording session. The 2010 version was available on sale after just 13 days, with some of that time given to adding the Black Eyed Peas’ Fergie and Janet Jackson’s voices to those recorded on the day. Janet was added and put alongside her brother Michael’s voice. Michael was there at the request of mother Katherine who begged that he be included. He was the only artist featured on both versions. ‘We Are The World 25’ was as much a memorial to is co-composer Michael Jackson as it was a charity effort for Haiti.

 There was just one glaring omission in the line-up for the original version. Prince. He made himself unavailable, and received so much criticism he was obliged to make an appearance on the subsequent Live Aid concert. This time there were a number of artists who couldn’t fit the all-star sing-along into their schedule. Taylor Swift was one. She was getting ready for her tour of Australia.

 The original ‘We Are the World’ really was a coming together of the biggest music names of the day. You can’t say the same for the new version, just as Band Aid II didn’t mean half as much as the original assembly. It’s not something you can actually replicate.

 The original drivers of the ‘We Are The World’ sessions were Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie and Quincy Jones. Quincy was at the controls again, but he had to make room for the producer of the Grammys the assembled stars happened to be attending, and the producer of American Idol. Ahh politics!

The speed at which we were able to buy the latest version isn’t the only evidence of the technology difference 25 years has made. Scattered amongst the stars making the 2010 version were non-stars dressed head to toe in green. An on line video enabled fans to put their own images amongst the stars where the green figures had stood.

 Now anyone can be famous.

 What I’m listening  to: Airbourne (No Guts, No Glory) , Midlake (The Courage of Others), the Felice Broethers (Yoker Is The Clock)


February 10, 2010

What would the ghost of Michael Jackson have made of Dr.Conrad Murray’s appearance in a Los Angeles court, answering charges of the involuntary manslaughter of his client – and the presence in that courtroom of members of Jackson’s family, baying for justice? Or more attention?

Michael’s brothers attended – Jermaine, Tito, Jackie, Randy – with sister La Toya, and their parents Joe and Katherine.

The family was disappointed with the not guilty plea and the granting of bail. Joe said that he’d wanted to see Conrad Murray in handcuffs. La Toya repeated her claim that her brother had been murdered, and there were others involved.

She didn’t of course mean the Jackson family themselves, but they’re as much to blame as the doctor, as is Michael himself. The Doctor finds himself in his sorry position because he was greedy and greed drove him to that fateful, careless, final act. The Jackson family played their part, and now need an effigy to publically hoist above their heads and burn so that the flames and the smell of a lynch party might expunge their own roles in this tragedy.

Let’s not forget who Michael Jackson was when he died. He was a man drowning in his own fame and excesses, finally, perhaps too late, seeming to come to grips with the severity of his situation, reappointing his old manager, agreeing to that impossible run of concerts in London. He was estranged from that family of his, admittedly partly because he didn’t want them to see the extent of his drug dependency. That was not however why Michael barred father Joe Jackson from seeing his grandchildren when he returned from his exile in Bahrain following the child molestation trial, not why he deliberately left his father out of his will.

He was estranged from that family because of all the things that had happened over many years, the way they behaved when their own careers faltered while his had become so spectacularly successfully, the way they hung onto his coat-tails and asked for handouts. At least Conrad Murray was doing what Michael wanted from him, as wrong as it turned out to be.

Joe Jackson, Jermaine and La Toya especially should still be hanging their heads. The hero in all this is Katherine Jackson – the long-suffering Katherine whose life with the cheating, violent manipulative Joe Michael watched over the years. Katherine was the one member of that family Michael could turn to, and did, when he needed. And finally he left Katherine his greatest treasure, his children.

Those children..

Isn’t it remarkable when you think about those three children– we still don’t know who “Blacket”’s mother is – how Michael Jackson used his money to have them and hold them to himself. Remember how Michael’s Peter Pan fixation, his love of children and childlike things, became weapons of derision against him, especially once the child molestation charges began to surface? There too he attempted to use his money against the storm.

Michael Jackson wanted to be beautiful and longed for a beautiful world. He turned to plastic surgery for part of that dream. Ultimately it made him ugly and his world turned ugly. We now realize howver that he did make his dream come true after all.

We didn’t see the ghost of Michael Jackson as Conrad Murray’s hearing, but since his death we’ve seen the ghost of Michael Jackson in his three children – handsome, intelligent, idyllist, apparently relatively happy and well-adjusted. He would be proud of them and – at this young age admittedly – they seem determined to keep Michael Jackson’s dream alive. Let’s hope they make it.

What I’m listening to: Gil Scott-Heron (I’m New Here), Augie March (Moo You Bloody Choir), Matthew Sweet (Girlfriend)


January 11, 2010

Elvis Presley is dead. You know that. We would have turned 75 this week if he’d lived. But how could he not have died on that toilet seat at Graceland, his arteries and colon choked from years of poor diet? Who was going to stop Elvis from dying? Not his doctor, who like Michael Jackson’s doctor more recently, just did his client’s bidding. Conrad Murray will be charged with manslaughter. Michael Jackson was guilty. Elvis was guilty. Elvis’ famous live-in buddies were guilty, too busy accepting his pay and gifts to care. Priscilla was out of there. Can’t blame her. Elvis did manager Colonel Tom Parker a favour by dying. While the exploding Elvis was stumbling and forgetting his words on Las Vegas stages the Colonel was gambling, amassing debts he was paying off by carving off bits of his excessively large share of the Presley empire.

Elvis still alive? It’s impossible. He was on the slow road to destruction and nothing and no-one was going to save him. How could he have saved himself?

We know the story of Elvis the entertainer, the Southern boy with the matinee idol looks, the wild sound and the swivelling hips that sent the girls (and parents) crazy; sent into exile into the Army by the Colonel who thought that was the best way of prolonging Elvis’ career. The argument continues whether he came back from the army with his career mortally damaged. Certainly he didn’t perform live again for years. The hits kept coming but would these songs have been hits without the sensation caused by the “original” Elvis?

With the career came an odd life. His stillborn twin brother was named first, and Elvis was the afterthought. He was born to take away the pain. His mother reminded him of that fact for the rest of her life. Elvis was obsessed by his mother. He looked after his parents like a parent and called them “the kids”.  He had lots of women, before and after Priscilla, but his sexlife got all confused with what Mama would think. In today’s world his relationship with his “child bride” Priscilla would be a scandal, bringing her at 15 to live chaperoned at Graceland until ready. Why Priscilla over all his other women? Elvis told his circle at the time he had found a girl he could bring up to be exactly what he wanted. Then came daughter Lisa Marie, born exactly nine months after the wedding day. Don’t take this as gospel, but apparently Elvis’ relationship with Priscilla went downhill from that day forward. He had trouble making love with women who had born children.

We all have our eccentricities. Yours and mine don’t become public, nor do we get the chance necessarily to indulge them and allow them to become extreme. Hopefully we reach a point where we stop before we hurt ourselves or others. Elvis and Michael Jackson didn’t have that luxury.

Elvis and Michael were also great entertainers, by another weird twist of fate, ultimately, After Elvis’ death, related by marriage. They changed the world, our world, but became victims of the world they were allowed to create for themselves.

What I’m listening to: Biffy Clyro (Only Revolutions),  Rowland S Howard (Pop Crime), The Jesus And Mary Chain (Honey’s Dead)