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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Off the Wall





















The following is the track list to a mix I made for a departing manager at the store, who loves black music enough to make me feel like home.

The Breakestra - Getcho Soul Together
Bobby Womack - Across 110th Street
Curtis Mayfield - Freddie's Dead
James Brown - Papa Don't Take No Mess
Eddie Kendricks - Intimate Friends
The Brothers Johnson - I'll be Good to You
Teddy Pendergrass - Close the Door
Bobby Caldwell - What You Won't Do For Love
Lenny Williams - Cause I Love You
Patrice Rushen - Remind Me
The Mary Jane Girld - All Night Long
Tom Browne - Funkin' for Jamaica
Michael Jackson - Working Day and Night
Rick James - Mary Jane
New Edition - Candy Girl

I mention this for two reasons.
1. I had to dig through Michael Jackson's back catalogue to find something unique to include.
2. We've been playing the 25th Anniversary Edition of 'Thriller' at work all this week.

Thriller was the first record I owned. My first grownup record, that wasn't Sesame Street or Disney Disco. It was a gift from my parents when I was five years old. I think they bought it for me because I was sick with a 24-hour bug or something, and they wanted to cheer me up.

As I was looking at the inner sleeve, soaking in the pictures Jackson had sketched for the interior, when I vomited all over the record. I suspect my earliest memory that I know happened is my soulcrushing horror at the thought that I had ruined my copy of Thriller. The record itself was fine, but to this day you can still see the brown patches of 25-year-old dried vomit on the inner sleeve, crinkling Paul McCartney's caricatured face into crispy, crunchy ripples.

Honestly, what happened to Michael Jackson? With all the press over Britney's continual decline, Jackson's own diminishing relevance is far more upsetting and deserving of coverage.

I mean, the man ruled the universe. Do you remember the glove? Making the music video an artform? The first moonwalk? When's the last time a dance made people lose their shit like that [if anyone mentions Soulja Boy they're getting their lawn set on fire]? That moonwalk lasted all of five seconds, and it's never been done better since. Chris Brown might have that whole routine memorized, but he still can't pull it off.

Nevermind that it was a rare moment when black music so aggressively targeted a white audience. Eddie Van Halen soloing on 'Beat It' was a ridiculous idea, but can you imagine the song without it? And we all knew who he was. My chubby ass had a poster on my wall and a purple 3/4 sleeve shirt with the above image heatpressed onto it. My parents had to deal with me trying to stand on my toes in the frozen food aisle at the supermarket, and you know damn well a few of yours did, too.

Yet today, two child molestation aquittals later, he's a punchline. That's incredibly saddening because so much of his unraveling seems to be his own doing. And I can't change that, but I can certainly remind you that the genius of the music will still make you jump off you ass like your chair's hot.

To that end, the lesser known second track on the album, one I forgot about until we started playing it.



Respect where due.

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