MICHAEL JACKSON DREAMS AND PROJECTS – JANUARY 1983
“SMASH HITS” Magazine, January 6, 1983
. . .or are they all round at Michael Jackson’s placemaking platinum-selling records and movies? An everyday story of rich and famous folk, starring Steven Spielberg and Adam Ant and Paul McCartney and Mark Ellen.
MICHAEL JACKSON doesn’t often do interviews. This is partly because he’s much happier expressing himself his music than words; and partly because a lot of the people who actually get to meet or talk with him are left with the distinct impression that he’s just a little strange. And he is. And seeing that— at the tender age of 23 — he is already chalked up some of the most colossal sales figures in recording history, he’s got every right to be.
For much of the time, this faraway voice on the ‘phone has the high-pitched, incredulous tone of a six-year-old at a perpetual firework party. The mention of particular films, books, and songs that he likes are greeted with sudden gasps of wonder and delight as if this was the first time he’s ever encountered them. Judging by the meager portion of the ‘real world’ he’s ever really exposed to these days, it’s easy to believe that the youngest Jackson brother is actually a visitor from some distant planet.
He’s calling from his home in The Valley of California, just outside Los Angeles, where he lives with his parents, Katherine and Joe, and his two sisters. This resides in a luxurious belt of costly villas surrounded by orange and lemon groves, a little sudden, he says after a recent rainstorm.
After a full 13 years of adulation from press, fans and record company magnates—the Jackson Five first hit the jackpot in ’69 when he was just 10 — Michael’s become something of a recluse. He seems perfectly content to shut himself away in a curious fairytale world of science fiction and cartoon fantasy — or “magic” as he calls it — from which he draws the inspiration for his songwriting. ” I like things,” as he puts it, “that when a person hears or sees them, they are just totally blown away.”
The ‘mod cons’ around the house certainly bear this out. In one room there are rows of Space Invader machines; in another Walt Disney are busy installing a complete working of The Pirates Of The Caribbean, fully automated Disneyland figures who launch into lifelike combat at the mere flick of a switch.-When you step in this room,” he says. spellbound, “there” ‘ll be this whole war going on, cannons shooting off and smoke puffing at one another…”
Down the hall, there’s a movie theatre, a fully-blown 32-seater cinema for which he constantly orders up entertainment. The most regular visitor to the family screen is E T. which he likes so much that he actually collaborated with its director, Steven Spielberg, on the “E.T. Storybook” LP. “I love E T. ‘cos it reminds me of me,” he says mysteriously. “Someone from another world coming down and you becoming friends with them and this person is, like 800 years old and he’s filling you with all kinds of wisdom and he can teach you how to fly. That whole fantasy thing which I think is great. I mean, who don’t wanna fly?”
He and Spielberg are about to embark on a couple more joint ventures, a financial pairing that’ll no doubt put even Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder in the shade. One’s a “futuristic fantasy type film” with Michael in an acting role; the other’s an animation for which he’ll be supplying the storyline and has been “thinking like crazy!” “I even gave Steven a present, a book on Walt Disney, as he’s the only person who’s inspired me in my music as much as Disney. He told me he loves it and gave me a big hug and everything.”
Together with Quincy Jones, who was also the musical director for the “E.T. Story-book” project, he’s just released a new LP, “Thriller”, and the second single from it, “Billie Jean”.
The album is the eventual sequel to what Epic Records rightly describe as his “landmark LP”, “Off The Wall”, which was released in 1979 and went on to sell a staggering total of seven million copies worldwide. A hard act to follow. “Yeah, well, I always like to improve,” he says. “I don’t like to take a step backward, but it’s a whole ‘nother economy now. People aren’t buying as many records, though that’s no excuse.” What qualities does he look for when selecting material then?
“For the music to be outstanding and, more than anything else, the melody. What’s best for today’s sound and today’s market.” Asked who he admires, he lists early McCartney solo material, ’60s Motown, Simon and Garfunkel, Elton John and “Adam Ant’s drums“. Adam, in fact, is one of a small but intimate circle of Michael Jackson’s friends, despite the fact that they’ve never actually met in the flesh. “We’re phone-friends,” he explains. “We talk about how to record that drum sound on ‘Ant Music’ and stuff. He talks about my dancing and I talk about his dressing”.
“Could you say ‘hi’ to him for me?” Other friends include the English actor Mark Lester, who played the starring role in the musical Oliver, Elton John, and Paul McCartney — “say ‘hi’ to him and Linda too”. He’s acquainted, also, with various film celebrities, among them 73-year-old Hollywood star Katharine Hepburn (who once saw a Jackson concert and promptly invited him to dinner) and Barbra Streisand, who he’ll be recording a duet with fairly soon. His life, however, does unto a little isolated, I suggest. A little remote.
Has he ever thought of moving away from the family home? “I’d die of loneliness if I moved out,” he says, “and, plus, I wouldn’t be able to control the fans and stuff. I’d be surrounded. But here there’s guards and security, the whole set-up“. He ventures outside ”very rarely“, and even then he’s permanently flanked by bodyguards and whisked straight off to the private jet. He talks about the hordes of admirers constantly watching his every move with extraordinary naivety.
“Is fun sometimes ‘cos you get to run and dodge and hide. But once they have you trapped it’s not fun“. As an example, he relates a chilling tale about a fan he once met who opened up her purse to reveal a lock of his hair she’d painfully removed two years before. A note of resignation creeps into his voice. You can’t say he leads a normal life. “No. I can’t say that…” Do you ever wish you could? –No-. he says quietly. “I’m happy the way I am.”