Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Thursday, July 09, 2009

I was in Michigan visiting my mom and not reading the paper or anything online, when Michael Jackson died. My brother put some MJ and Jacksons on a CD and we listened in memoriam. Was blown away more than ever by the rhythm tracks. The productions by Quincy Jones especially: Deep Brazilian/disco percussion, disco strings, Earth Wind & Fire horns -- and unstoppably catchy songs. My friend Jay was visiting his folks too, and he chimed in with two observations. First, he’d read that Quincy Jones, when asked what distinguished Michael from the competition, what was the secret of his success, answered, “the ass factor.” Meaning, when recording, he showed up at 8 in the morning and sat his ass down all day and worked. Unlike most musicians -- very much unlike most musicians. Reminded me of Fred Astaire, who showed up first for rehearsals and left last. Second, Jay noted how Jackson tasked himself with writing Number One hits -- and then did it. Phenomenal songwriter. I listened to those rhythm tracks and thought -- he was the Elvis of the ‘80s -- simply the best, a cut above. Only crazy fans and a handful of aficionados believe this about Presley any more, but it’s true -- he outsang everybody within distance. Jackson’s records have more going on in them than anybody else’s of his time, comparable to any great music of any style or era. Terrific singer too, of course.


* * *

Wonderful trip. Wrote 4 songs for my son and his cousins and friends while I was there; fabulous jam session with Jay and his cousin Tanner in a bizarre room full of dozens of hunting trophies; hung out with my 3rd cousin Mark for the first time since we were kids and got to know him a little bit, and he’s a great guy; his kids are great too; my son running around with his cousins, and Jay’s kids, and a raft of friends from the lane, all about the same age, running and running and running; a moving and lovely 50th anniversary party for Jay’s parents; Jay’s brother and his family there too and always great to see them; met more of Jay’s relatives, lovely people; found lost treasures from my childhood in a box in the crawlspace below Mom’s house; got my mom canoe-ing for the first time in years; saw my 89-year-old aunt and uncle for the first time in a couple of years (they’ve been married 67 years!); hung out with other distant cousins and lifelong neighbors of many generations, and my sister and brother and brother-in-law, and other aunts and uncles and cousins; communed with the auras of dead beloved ancestors in the ancestral home; went swimming and swimming and swimming; and on the way back caught up with some old friends in Chicago.

Happy Summer.

* * *

-- Photo by Jeff Shaw.

Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?