Monday, June 29, 2009

Guest Column: Nathan C has "A Few Words About the Gloved One"

Editor's Note: As I mentioned, Nathan was the first to alert me to Jackson's death. Nathan Cone has, since I met him, unapologetically and (I believe) unironically adored the work of Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5. And, in fact, for no particular reason I can recall, I associate The Jackson 5's "ABC" with Nathan. I assume we grooved to it together sometime in the mid-90's.

He's been so gracious as to share a few words eulogizing The King of Pop, and a few personal memories.

by Nathan Cone

Incidentally, that was always my favorite nickname for Michael Jackson, “The Gloved One.”

The League knows that I have a special place in my heart and in my record collection for great R&B. Michael Jackson, and his brothers in the Jackson 5, provided a slice of heaven to this listener every time I dropped the needle on one of their records. From “I Want You Back” to “Smooth Criminal,” few could match the grooves of MJ.

A lot of folks in the media went on and on about his music, and of course his problems, but I’ve noticed very few commented on his dancing skills (NPR was an exception). I’ve been re-watching a lot of video clips this weekend, and he was an astonishing talent. He was graceful, like Fred Astaire. He was so much more than the Moonwalk and the crotch grab, and I think a lot of people forget that.

Thriller. Amidst the impressive statistic that it’s the best-selling album of all time, I think even more incredible is the fact that seven of the nine songs on the album were hit singles! Wow.

I was as shocked as anyone to hear of Michael Jackson’s passing last Thursday, but not really conflicted about it. I had already gone through the mourning process years ago, right around the time of the Lisa Marie Presley marriage and on-stage kiss, I believe. MJ addressed his weirdness with a self-knowing humor in the video and song “Leave Me Alone,” but by the 1990s, he was just pissed off, and backed away from the public eye. So despite a few musical salvos from the Gloved One, we’ve really been without the Michael we know for 15+ years. He had long since moved from being on top of the world to being a punch line, and that’s no place to be.

I always wished Michael Jackson would call up Quincy Jones. Clearly their collaborations had a kind of magic to them, like Miles Davis & Gil Evans. I can only imagine what would have happened had they decided to work together again.

Finally, although the League, Mrs. League, Bug, and the rest of the Trinity crew can attest that my imitation of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” dance routine was inspired but weak, I was a badass at the “Moonwalker” video game.

Three memories:
1. When “Thriller” premiered on MTV, I remember sitting in front of the TV with my brother Marcus, eating Oreos and watching the video. (And even at 10 years of age, I thought that disclaimer about the occult on the front end was odd.)

2. My friend David Hardisty had one of the “Beat It” red knock-off jackets. I tried it on, knew I looked like a complete dork wearing it, and promptly removed it.

3. While home in Spring during college, David Wilcox and I went to Sound Warehouse one night, and I bought “Off The Wall” on cassette. I think David felt that in the early 1990s, it was a very kitschy, post-grunge thing to do, to drive up and down F.M. 1960 blasting “Rock With You.” But I think secretly he loved the music as much as me.

So long, Gloved One.

Bonus Memory: One of my earliest Jackson memories involves the totally over-the-top video for the Jacksons’ “Can You Feel It.” Dick Clark introduced it on American Bandstand one afternoon, remarking about the incredible visuals. Years later, it’s kind of cheesy, and amazing that the sound effects overpower the music throughout most of the song, but this is a cool video. Dig the way the Jacksons portray themselves as demi-gods. Ha ha!

1 comment:

The League said...

I have a distinct memory of:
Shortly after moving to Spring in high school, perusing my tape collection with Steve Dent. He came across "Bad".

"I really like that album," I said, completely sincerely. And I realized that, despite whatever awkwardness I was supposed to feel as a NIN-listening, Jesus and Mary Chain Anglophile rocker, I was being completely honest. I wasn't just telling Steve Dent, I was informing myself why it was still securely in my collection.

But, yeah, it was in discussing "Off the Wall" with Nathan that I not only really, for the first time, thought about Jackson outside of "Thriller", and "Bad". Nathan's walk down Jackson's history solidified Jackson's career as a continuum from Joe Jackson's singing money maker to, at least, "Dangerous".

And, yes, I believe there was dancing involved.