Thursday, July 09, 2009

Spring Break 1980

Imagine ...

It's spring break 1980. You're a freshman in college. You've worked your butt off earning good grades your first semester, paying for your own tuition, room and board and you're on a well-deserved vacation to a hot, sunny state where you'll be legal drinking age for the first time ever.

You've spent a hot day tanning on a beach in Ft. Lauderdale, slathering on baby oil and getting gritty from blowing sand. Never having ventured much from land-locked borders of Minnesota, you've seen the Atlantic ocean and swam in salty waters for the first time. You've seen your first ever pelican and, of all things, the Goodyear blimp.

As the day wanes and the sun's heat cools, you head back to your hotel with your favorite girl pals, and an hour later you've showered, primped for what you hope will be one fun, cool, memorable night. You're driving down the ocean boulevard, the warm wind blowing through your hair, looking for fun. Your energy and zest for life are boundless. Hell, you may even stay up past midnight tonight.

You and your girlfriends head into the most crowded club you can find. Music is blaring into the hot muggy night air and you squeeze by the masses to the bar. Pina Coladas, screwdrivers, and kamikazes are flowing fast and furiously. Some cute guy you've never met, also on spring break from who knows where, asks you to dance. He has a sultry southern drawl and a gorgeous tan. You head out, feeling sexy and happy, his warm hands on your hips, his eyes focused only on you ...

A new songs starts. A strange beginning with strings swirling. Soon percussion kicks in, and the beat is absolutely contagious. You can't not move your hips, your feet, your shoulders. Michael Jackson's Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough is blaring over the speakers. And you want to dance, really, really want to dance, for the first time in your life.

I was 18 when Michael Jackson's first big album, Off The Wall, was released in 1979. He was only 22. You couldn't turn on a radio without hearing his voice. With songs like Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough and Rock With You, it was the first album ever to generate 4 US top 10 hits. It sold 20 million copies and paved the way for Michael to secure with his next album the highest royalty rate the music industry had ever seen of 37%.

Imagine a 37% royalty rate. That next album was Thriller.

Billy Jean. Beat It, Wanna Be Starting Something. Thriller was the best selling album of all time, topping out at 109 million copies. And Michael earned 37% of all of that. You do the math.

I don't want to get into all the weird stuff he went through as a child with his domineering father or all the plastic surgery or parenting issues. Because ...

This is the Michael Jackson I grew up with.



This is the Michael Jackson who, love him or hate him, was an undeniable force in the music industry and, as a whole, pop culture.


And this is the Michael Jackson I choose to remember.


I hope his soul has finally found peace.

What's your favorite Michael Jackson song?

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Helen

15 comments:

Emmanuelle said...

Nice post. I wasn't a faithfull fan but like you I really loved him in my youth. I had one of those big full lenght picture on my bedroom wall. The whole Triller album was great so it's hard to pick one song... (maybe Billy Jean)

Melissa said...

I loved Michael Jackson's music. No matter what anyone says about his life, he was an amazing talent, that changed the face of videos and music.
It is really hard to pick just ONE song, but I have to say Man In The Mirror is amazingly touching. I grew up in the 80's, and he was the MAN, lol.
I actually saw him in concert in '88....it was the most awesome concert I've ever been to, and I've been to alot. The set was incredible....it was like watching one of his videos. I remember when he sang Bille Jean the floor even lit up. I don't think there are too many people out there who didn't know his music.

Jane said...

I'm a huge Michael Jackson fan, but I like his old stuff. My favorites are "Rock With You" and "PYT."

Michele Hauf said...

That's the MJ I remember too, Helen. I loved the THriller album, (even though the video freaked me out). My favorite song was Smooth Criminal and the video that went with it.

Caught a bit of the funeral the other ay. To see his daughter on stage in tears only reminded me that we lost a man who was a father, a brother, a son. He will be missed by many.

Cindy Gerard said...

Very nice post Helen. Lovely, lovely memories of you and your friends and beautifully painted. I wanted to be there with you smelling of Coppertone and sun and maybe a little tequila :o)
As for MJ's songs, I always loved Ben. It was so poignant and sweet.

Helen Brenna said...

I have a hard time too, Emmanuelle, picking one song. One thing is for sure, they all take me back in time and still make me want to dance!

Melissa, you saw him in concert. Lucky you! And, yes, Man in the Mirror was probably the first glimpse as to how tortured he must've felt.

Jane, I forgot about PYT. Another fun one.

The Thriller video, Michele, was freaky. He sure did influence the whole MTV phenomenon, didn't her?

Coppertone! Yes, Cindy! And Ben. And oldie, but a goodie. He had such an angelic voice.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Here's a video of Michael Jackson in his prime in a duet with Paul McCartney (always prime). "Say Say Say" you will enjoy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gWvBXS2t4A

Footnote: I had #3 baby in 1979, so my viewpoint is a big different. I liked the Jackson Five--was a Motown fan but even more I loved the Stax sound--like Otis Redding.

Absolutely loved "Say Say Say" and "The Girl Is Mine"--MJ and Sir Paul. Their friendship blew up when Michael bought the Beatles song catalog, which is quite a story.

My favorite part of Michael Jackson's legacy is "We Are the World."

Kathleen Eagle said...

Meant to say my viewpoint is a *bit* different. Big? Oh, yes. I was that, too.

I just watched that video again. So sweet. Early to mid 80's? It's one of those mini-movies with the two playing roles, and they both look great. (The sound goes without saying.) Also a young Linda M.

Do yourself this favor:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gWvBXS2t4A

Debra Dixon said...

I was never a Michael fan. I could recognize his talent. If he was performing on a show I'd stop and watch because he knew how to fascinate.

But don't own an album. Never downloaded a song from Michael's albums.

Sometimes I think I'm the only one on the planet. Especially since I completely agree that he was a unique talent and defined pop in a way that may never be equaled.

Helen Brenna said...

That's a cute video, Kathy. MJ's adorable in it - exactly the way I'd like to remember him.

Helen Brenna said...

Deb, I don't think you're alone at all. There are a lot of people who appreciated his talent, but didn't get into him enough to own his music.

I have a couple tapes and one album, but haven't listened to them in ages. His death will probably skyrockets sales of his music!

Cindy Gerard said...

Deb - you are not alone. I'm the same way. Appreciated his talent but never bought or downloaded a thing.

Michele Hauf said...

I just remembered...I have the Michael Jackson doll. The barbie doll size. He's wearing the red leather outfit from teh Thriller video.

Should I have admitted that? ;-)

Helen Brenna said...

Man, Michele, that'll be a collector item! You should put it on ebay and see what kind of bids you get.

What in the world possessed you ... nevermind!

GunDiva said...

Michelle, I'll admit I have TWO of the MJ dolls - Thriller and Billie Jean. Wonder how much they'd be worth?