Yeah, I like Michael Jackson. You Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’?

Posted: October 10, 2013 by The Social Retard in Music


Readers of this blog (thanks to both of you, by the way) have probably noticed that Georgette and I are obsessed with (some might say “stuck in”) the 1980’s. No shit. People in our general age group tend to agree that they were happier back then, before the trappings and weight of life itself crushed their spirits. For me, and billions across the globe, nothing lifted those spirits more than Michael Jackson.

I was three years old when Thriller came out. Therefore, it is not a stretch to call that album the soundtrack of my childhood. The first medium that my family owned this album was on cassette. My grandfather bought it at a gas station and, I believe, even played it in the station wagon when I wasn’t in there. My gramps was a cool cat. He’d get really pissed off watching professional wrestling on USA on Monday nights. It was a riot. This was a guy that mostly tried to stay even keel but something about the tag team Demolition riled him up. He bought weird stuff all the time and, dare I say, this was the cream of the class. That’s saying something for a man who my grandmother used to say “would save his own shit if he could”. She also used to use this retort a strange destination when you would ask her where something was, like a shoe. It would inevitably end “up Mike’s ass”. We never did find out who “Mike” was. Weirdly, no one in our family was named Michael. I hope she wasn’t talking about Michael Jackson.

Back to MJ. Do I really need to talk about this album? Haven’t we all heard Thriller more times than we ever need to? Ha! That was a trick question. Of course, we haven’t. There is no maximum amount of times you should listen to it. I’d set the minimum at around 100. I think that’s only fair. Everyone, everyone knows the three main singles: “Thriller”, “Billie Jean”, and “Beat It”. “Thriller” still has the best music video of all time. Michael goes from leather pimp to zombie in the blink of an eye and leads the most mimicked dance sequence ever. Why? Because it’s sweet. Even without the video, the song is amazing. Easily, the best track ever written by Rod Temperton. Don’t worry, you’re not supposed to know who he is. Jackson and produced Quincy Jones even succeeded where Iron Maiden failed earlier in the year on “Number of the Beast”. They procured the talents of Vincent Price for the spoken word portion of the song. The other two Temperton tracks (“Baby Be Mine” and “The Lady In My Life”) are definitely the album’s weakest.

“Billie Jean” and “Beat It” are fantastic, even though the image we have of MJ now is in such stark contrast than thirty years ago. No one believes that Michael was kicking any street thug ass, much less quelling a knife fight with dancing and an Eddie Van Halen guitar solo. “The kid is not my son” is hardly a revelatory line as no one believes he has ever had sex with a woman. Not that I believe any of that child molestation garbage either.

this leads me to the other tracks. “The Girl Is Mine” actually kind of enrages me when I think about it now. Paul “Used Douche” McCartney is constantly trying to swipe Michael’s honey. He’s like a porcine Yogi Bear crossed with Winnie the Pooh. Fuck off, you old brit, you had your time to shine. Instead, Michael, who is notoriously shy, has to fend off this bastard from pouring his affections on MJ’s special lady friend. Paul says that she calls him her “forever love, you know”. No, Paul, I don’t know. Nobody talks like that, not even in the 80’s. Leave Michael alone. Still a fine song.

“You Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” kicks out the jams with a bad ass beat and then gives us such memorable lines as “you’re a vegetable” and “you’re a buffet”. There is no trace of food elicited eroticism here, just pure nonsense. It’s cluelessly stellar. “Human Nature” is so good that the R&B trio SWV sampled it and couldn’t even ruin it.

I have owned this on CD twice, never buying the 25th anniversary edition with all the remakes of songs with current artists. Way to shit on the man’s memory, letting Fergie butcher “Beat It”. What record company sleaze. I have also gone back and purchased the vinyl twice. You would think that finding a used copy in good condition would be an easy feat, seeing as it’s the best-selling album of all time. But no, the first one had minor defects on both sides. The second one skips during “P.Y.T.” and that is unforgivable. I need to hear Janet and LaToya not live up to their brother’s lofty standards.

The cover of the album never really made sense to me. I always wondered why zombie Michael didn’t adorn the front. On the other hand, I wish there really was a zombie Michael. He needs to come back and show punks like Kanye West what pretending to be tough really looks like. Everyone associated MJ’s look with the red leather ensemble more than the white pimp suit. Even all the single covers looked silly. They look like publicity photos from Saved By the Bell or head shots of failing actors. Surely, a man who convinced the world that a single sequined glove was a hip fashion statement could show more style than that. I should know. I once owned this:


This thing was a cassette deck which, for no reason I can fathom, came with a crappy replica of the glove. This was not unlike when my mom bought me the improbable combo of Batman wallet and earbuds. The glove was shiny, but only because it was doused with glitter. I have hated glitter my entire life but I wore that glove all the time because I loved Michael Jackson more than I hated being infected with arts and crafts’ most vicious STD.

You know what? If I still had that glove, I’d wear it. I wish I still had my Sega Genesis so that I could play Moonwalker, not that I believe that I can beat the game for the first time, after all these years. If I still had that little stereo, I’d make mixtapes just so I could use the thing. Such is the power of my desire to recapture the feeling I had when I first heard Thriller. I know I didn’t talk about it, but Bad is phenomenal as well. That, I owned on cassette and now vinyl but the only format I can listen to “Leave Me Alone” (save MP3, we don’t discuss those here) is on CD. I know it’s been 25 years but anytime they want to release a 12″ single of “Leave Me Alone”, I’ll be waiting.

  1. As I already said, this may be my favorite post yet. I like the MJ cassette deck, that’s cool, don’t remember that at all. This is definitely one of the albums everyone should own.

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