1987: the “Bad album” and Michael Jackson alone at the top

While MEDIA’s acclaim the 30 years of the BAD album today’s I remember very well that it wasn’t like that in 1987.  Michael Jackson had to earn media respect been beyond reproach for his fantastic work (As always). 

Since January 1984, the world awaited the successor of “Thriller”.  But month after month became year after year and that damn album was pushed back to a date “TBN” (to be nominated) and Michael loquacity matched the Neanderthal man, so, Media was “forced” scribbling soap opera stuff.

aThen the usual litany: the oxygen tank, the llama, the boa, Liz Taylor, the mask, the aesthetic surgery, the Elephant Man bones he wanted to buy at the London Museum. Tabloids criticized him for refusing to license the Beatles to the Beastie Boys and slammed him for exploiting another Beatles song licensed to Nike; well… all this sort of thing…

 mikey832Worldwide “professional” editorialists of that time printed the same rumors: “This guy is clearly a nutcase! He has animals at home and a boa under his buffalo skin bed and a chimpanzee flipping over the fridge in the kitchen. Is mad, is he not?”

What else’s…ah yes! “The weirdo prefers to be in the company of Liz Taylor‘s rather than socialize with others of his own age. And to complete the picture, he decided not to release any album before having an irreproachable product to offer to his public… Pfft… A sort of toddler (black…) who does what he pleases…” And then what else? “He has no girlfriend. And WOW! He believes in God!”

Trivial scandal! All MEDIA stigmatized these as “abominations”… But what was so awful and abominable? 

When –  after “Thriller”-  a journalist asked Quincy Jones how long it would have taken to release a new album he answered: “Twenty years if it necessary.  It will be the end of a trilogy and for me, the trilogy is a fundamental thing. The third step must always be very different from the previous two. Therefore, it will create a surprise by changing style …we had already planned it”.

Nobody, in any case, would have wanted to be in Michael Jackson “moccasins“, with such weight, such historical responsibility to assume (no matter what could have happened, nobody would have ever repro to his producer Quincy Jones). So in 1985 – when the “Victory” drama tour ended – Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones got into the studio to start preparing the world the successor of Thriller.

AT THIS POINT, IT’S A MUST TO CALL FOR HELP THE CHRONOLOGY OF FACTS

The music industry was pretty hectic those days and the release of Bad suffered many delays NOT due to MJ and his production –  as modern “legends” tells us – but to external problems that kept coming up against the release.

For those who look back on the 80s as a great music decade, I can’t stress how wrong they are. For every great song, there were a thousand audio craps which made up the mainstream. It doesn’t look like anyone’s bothered to upload many of them to the internet. At that time, pop music was still a good business but the audience tastes were rapidly changing due to the emergence of new music genres in the international stage creating a healthy competition in terms of international ranking.

New bands like Guns n’ Roses, R.E.M, Bon Jovi, U 2 and many others were defining the end of the 80s launching a new music scene which exploded in the 90s. And it’s hard to believe now, but MTV was awesome back then. Its rock shows and “alternative” shows were simply gorgeous. A band like Nirvana appeared on Top of the Pops and attracted a legion of teen fans.

Pop artists such Madonna, Whitney Huston, Prince, George Michael, Janet Jackson were experimenting new sounds to keep up with the times. And Michael Jackson with them.

So, while Michael in 1985 composed and recorded with Lionel Richie “We Are The World” at the Westlake Studio, West Hollywood,  Prince released  “Around The World In a Day”

and in 1986 a new album (Under the Cherry Red Moon) and the homonym movie which both resulted in a flop.

Michael, under the guidance of Quincy Jones, kept recording at the Westlake Studios. And CBS began to inquire, push and pressure for a new album.

MJ was a busy guy and was spending his time between recording studio and movie set. In fact, in 1986 the 3D science fiction film “Captain EO”  directed by Francis Ford Coppola (who came up with the name “Captain EO” from EOS, the Greek goddess of dawn) reached the public.

Two new MJ songs appeared in the film. The first was an early mix of “Another Part of Me” and “We are Here to Change the World ( which was not officially released until 2004 as part of  “Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Collection“).

  • In September 1986 Quincy Jones contacted the Run-DMC that was on tour in Paris because Michael wanted to work with them. They had “Walk This Way” number one in the US since fifteen weeks. Their comment was: ” We hesitated”. Actually, they didn’t hesitate at all. They ran to Westlake Studios and met with Michael and Quincy but “they could not get in tune with their rap” something, according to Quincy Jones, was missing from their lyrics. He told them to try to rap with more sophistication on it but again could get anything together and then they left.
  • In November 1986 Martin Scorsese shoots with Michael Jackson the short film for “Bad” It was filmed in Brooklyn’s Hoyt Schermerhorn station.

Despite the profuse literature describing MJ delaying the release of the album to get a product that could surpass the sales of “Thriller”, news of that time give different pieces of information reporting the delay of the release due to Musical Industry intrigues for power and marketing and not for the “abominable” Michael Jackson research of perfection- para-mania.

In an article on “Rock This Town” (September 1986), Philippe Manoeuvre describes in a semi-serious form an anecdote that actually took place in 1986 and early 1987.
December 1986 CBS called “Strike” on Michael Jackson: the album was finished and ready but CBS did not want it! What happened? It happened that Bruce Springsteen – against all odd – authorized the publication of a box with five discs and other amenities of his live concerts recording. If CBS was going to release during the same month Bruce and Michael it would have placed a big dilemma.

Here you can read few old Billboard screenshot related to music recording industry games in November / December 1986

And here below Walter Yetnikoff 1988 interview to Rolling Stone magazine.

walterN.B. Did Thriller missed the Christmas sale as well?…

Taking these facts into account, a change of perspective on many episodes is due. Including Michael Jackson’s pissy mood at the 1988 Grammy,

Because – apart from the Grammy award-winning technicalities rules – it’s quite impossible to win a Grammy in 1988 with an album released at the end of the previous summer, with just a few months of sales and a 4 singles published. And MJ was really aware of it. And maybe because of that episode, the Dangerous album was released on November 26, 1991, bringing “home” three American Music Awards in 1993 without counting Billboard, Soul Train Music Awards, and others worldwide.

In addition, the delay in releasing Bad had Michael tied up financially: long leagues away from imagining that CBS would push back “Bad”, Michael had planned to flood the market with a branded clothing and doll lines, ballpoint pens, “love necklaces” and perfumes which he financed for about 20 million of dollars, plus a 10 million dollars “standby” deal with Pepsi that consequently had to cancel its advertising campaign.

Well: when you have just invested 47 million dollars in ATV, these kinds of delay could seriously upset anyone. So it was obvious that when the album finally hits the shelves Michael rode the international scene cravings for murder…

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  • On February 1987 Springsteen live box beats all records of the unsold. As in the United States, the record stores can send the unsold units to the record companies, CBS got back “home” about 700,000 boxes.
  • In March 1987 a terrified Yetnikoff discovered that Michael and Quincy Jones returned to the West Lake West Hollywood studio. It seems they wanted to redo everything again. And considering that four months before the release of Thriller, Michael returned to the studio to add to the album two odds and ends such “Billy Jean” and “Beat It” everyone shut their mouth.

Meanwhile, Prince manager announced the release of a quintuple album in a box.

  • Finally, in May 1987 Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones give to CBS the master of Bad.

But … to top it off, someone realized that rapper L.L. Cool J. was also releasing an album untitled Bad. Clearly, L L. Cool was asked to stop his bullshit. His album came out with a “bad” print on the cover but on the catalog, was named in extremis “Bigger and Deffer“. (Once a thief, always a thief…)

Now, have you ever waited for a release like that? The answer is: NO. To find mediatic traces of a similar frenzy it is necessary to go back to the filming of the third episode, of the Stars War saga.  And the deliriant expectation that separated Bad from Thriller became more and more.

The album was already known. It was already one of the most known in the history of music. The titles were already whispered; Speed Damon, Street Walker, Smooth Criminal, Dirty Diana, Bad…And two months before its release!

  • Then finally on July 22, 1987, the single teaser “I just cannot stop loving you” was released. It was a paradisiacal slow. The track starts with a monologue whispering and continues likewise. Charming, subtle, but in no way vulnerable.

“People do not understand me / That’s because they do not know me at all / I just want to touch! Hold you / I need you. I love you so much … “ The irruption of the chorus aspires the listeners in the sonic master and great rolls of timbales. In two listening, no more, the melody is inscribed in our subconscious.

But the album started with “Bad” and immediately we are killed on the spot. Huge, devastating, meticulous mime, urban, the single is a rhythmic bomb, with a sound that wakes up the dead. No Run DMC, as the story suggested, but a splendid organ solo by jazzman Jimmy Smith.

The wording “I’m Bad” carries the track like an avalanche. This famous sound, which will transfigure the songs throughout the album, is really worthy of another dimension. One must approach perfection in the matter, it is not an accumulation or a breathtaking sum of ingredients, but rather, a science, the art of blend.

Dirty Diana start with an intro worthy of a horror movie, the false live atmosphere, the public shouting, that this  Diana bitch is going to get what she deserves. This is the track that will cause forever the following question: this Diana whose does every musician, this first-class bitch is it or is it not Ross who counts in the sentimental, sexual life of the recluse MJ? The song, anyway, beats hard, is the Beat it of Bad within a guitar chorus without pity, in which one recognizes Steve Stevens hands, lead guitarist of Billy Idol’s .

“Smooth Criminal” with a fantastic intro (the intros are  Michael Jackson’s own genius), and other swings in the gums confirm MJ is BAD!

The “Way You Make Me Feel”, remember the Jackson 5,  the fleshy, melodic rhythm & blues filled with female chats, Michael forgets his barking in the beginning of the sentences, and his voice goes up to vertiginous heights.

“Speed Demon” it’s like a punch from Mike Tyson.

Here I stop because don’t consider myself a music critic. I have just read many reviews during these 30 years and listened countless of time the album.

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Then, when the Bad World Tour started, the MEDIA tune changed….had no choice but change…Why? Because numbers never lie. Michael Jackson’s first World Tour was the biggest grossing tour ever. It was a 2 leg tour in which Michael performed 123 concerts to an estimated 4.4 million fans.

 

[Read what EBONY MAGAZINE  – April 1989 – had to say about the legendary Bad Tour]:

Megastar entertainer drew 4.4 million fans, earned $125 million on Bad tour, now says he will retire from stage to market records, films
It had been announced as the “farewell concert,” and the crowd that jammed the Los Angeles Sports Arena showed its love: “Michael! Michael!” the thousands chanted as the stage smoke cleared, the lights and lasers dimmed, and Michael Jackson, exhausted after two hours of nonstop singing and dancing, made his way to his dressing room.The man now called “the greatest entertainer in the world” had just sung the last note dazzled with the final “moonwalk” of a grueling, 16-month tour that had taken him almost around the world for 123 concerts in 15 countries that drew 4.4 million fans and grossed $ 125 million — more than any other entertainer has ever grossed on a single tour.

After some kind words and embraces for the family and friends he had invited backstage, Michael said his thanks and goodbyes to the crew of his “Bad” tour, then sped off into the night to rest before beginning work on new album and movie projects. The tour, Michael’s first without his brother — Jackie, Tito, Marlon, and Randy of The Jacksons — began in Japan in the fall of 1987 and moved to Australia, the U.S. and Europe, then back to Japan before ending in January in Los Angeles.

The Japanese, who turned out 450,000 strong to see him were as affected by “Michaelmania” as the other four million who jammed stadiums on several continents, sometimes paying “scalpers” as much as $1,000 for a ticket, many of which had been forged.

The concert frenzy boosted sales of Michael’s Bad album to more than 20 million [his Thriller album has sold some 40 million worldwide, and is the biggest-selling album in history], spawning unprecedented five No. 1 singles: “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “Bad,” “Man in the Mirror” and “Dirty Diana,” and helping sales of his autobiography, Moonwalk [some 450,000 copies have been sold in 14 countries], and video, Moonwalker, which has sold over 500,000 copies in the U.S. alone. Wherever he appeared, Michael drew celebrities in droves: Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Ava Gardner, Joan Collins and Harrison Ford in London; Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida [who had not spoken to each other in years until Michael brought them together for a photo] in Rome; Elizabeth Taylor and Bob Dylan in Geneva; Grace Jones and designer Patrick Kelly in Paris; opera star Placido Domingo in Hamburg; Altovise Davis and Roger Moore in Nice, and Gregory Peck, Barbara Streisand, Sylvester Stallone and Sidney Poitier in Los Angeles. At most stops, Michael showed his concern for underprivileged children by inviting them to concerts as his personal guests and by contributing to hospitals, orphanages, and other charities. In New York, he donated $600,000 to the United Negro College Fund, boosting the UNCF/Michael Jackson Scholars program that now funds the education of 78 students at Black colleges.

It is no exaggeration to say that much of the entire world waits to see if, at age 30, after 25 years in the spotlight, Michael will indeed “retire.”

Or as with Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Frank Sinatra and others, will the familiar roar of the crowd bring him back on stage for at least one more encore“.

 

Note: “Leave Me Alone”  was released in February 1989, as the eighth single from the album, though only outside of the United States and Canada. “Leave Me Alone” was recorded during the original album sessions but the song only appeared on the CD editions of Bad as a bonus track, as well as on the 2001 cassette edition.  Internationally, the song peaked at No. 1 and two in Ireland and the United Kingdom respectively and reaching the top 10 in Belgium, New Zealand and Spain.

The short film – which is a masterpiece in my opinion – was the recipient of a Grammy Award in 1990 for Best Music Video.  Despite the success of the single, the song never appeared on any of Jackson’s world concert tours.

So, that’s how this so much awaited, mocked, celebrated and feared album came to life.

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Sources:

  • “Michael Jackson”  Biographie  – P. Manoeuvre (1988)
  • “MICHAEL JACKSON” de Tom Lamotta (1988)
  • “Sequins & Shades “The Michael Jackson reference Guide” De Carol D. Terry  (1987)
  • Les Enfants du rock (1986)
  • Wikipedia

 

 

One Comment on “1987: the “Bad album” and Michael Jackson alone at the top

  1. Pingback: Michael Jackson album “Dangerous” and the video that shocked the world – Michael Jackson – The Other Side Of Midnight

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