Remember the Time

Michael Jackson, in rehearsal for the his O2 dates; Staples Center, Los Angeles, June 23 2009. Photo credit: Kevin Mazur/AEG/ 

Paul Lester and I were asked on Friday by The Guardian to try to gather reactions from musicians to the death of Michael Jackson, to be included in the paper on Saturday. Partly as a result of all the biggest stars and those most closely involved with Jackson issuing statements, maybe somewhat due to others with something to say being too busy speaking to Time, and (I suspect mainly) down to the news breaking during Glastonbury, with most of the UK's music business decamped to a field in Somerset and cursing their bad Blackberry reception, we didn't get very many responses in time for the deadline, so the quotes we got weren't included in the paper. But we were very grateful to those who did agree to speak to us, and it seems a shame if what they said never sees the light of day. So here are Ali Campbell, Alice Cooper, David Guetta, Mpho, Quincy Jones III (QDIII), Ronan Keating, Gary Kemp and Beverley Knight talking about their favourite MJ tracks, and ODIII speaking about his memories of the man he first met in 1977.

Ali Campbell of UB40 on My Girl
His version of this song features one of the most astounding vocals I’ve ever heard – for a 13-year-old to have more soul than Otis Redding... It’s an astonishing piece of work. I owe my love of singing to him. I know every lyric and song the Jackson 5 recorded off by heart. He was the greatest R&B singer of his age. I had my tickets to the 02 and I was fascinated to see what he would have done there – the whole world was back on its feet, looking forward to those shows. Still, hopefully he’s now escaped the pain of the last decade. I’m completely devastated.

Alice Cooper on Beat It
This is my favourite because it shows how Michael could do any genre of music well – plus, it really rocks.

David Guetta on PYT
I actually learnt how to mix for the first time using two copies of this track from Thriller. He was a true inspiration. I'm so saddened. What a loss. Like so many people, I was inspired by his music from a very early age.

Quincy Jones III (QDIII) on Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough
That whole album [Off the Wall] is great, but Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough, to me, is the perfect pop song. It had all the elements - it had the best drums. To me it's the best example of him and my father's work. It's so organic: it's recorded well, it's recorded like a jazz record but it's a disco record, you know? And it just had every element you could imagine. That song to me is perfect.
Mpho on Billie Jean and Ben
Billie Jean has incredible drive and energy but it has depth, too. And I love Ben because I sang it at school when I was a kid – although Michael did it better!

Ronan Keating on Man in the Mirror
It’s my favourite track by this pop music icon. His death marks the end of an era and, as far as I'm concerned, it can only be compared to the passing of Elvis.

Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet on The Jackson 5’s ABC
ABC was and is the greatest pop song of all time. A seismic shift has occurred in our cultural landscape. Much of what I wrote in the ‘80s would not have happened without his influence.

Beverley Knight on Rock with You
My favourite Michael Jackson song would be Rock with You, off my favourite album, incidentally, Off the Wall. It's brilliantly simple, but brilliantly musical at the same time. The harmonies are outstanding - we rarely heard those harmonies in pop music, outside of The Carpenters - and his voice just sounds beautiful on it. And the drum roll at the beginning is just one of the most iconic introductions to a song, ever. They did all kinds of things to get the exact tone and timbre that Quincy was looking for. I love that drum roll so much. That's a brilliant song.

Photo credit: Kevin Mazur/AEG/

QDIII on the Michael Jackson he knew

The first time I remember meeting him was when my dad was recording The Wiz; that was the beginning of their relationship. I just remember him being always close with the family. He would come over to the house - he would drive, by himself, in his Rolls Royce, and come and visit all the time. I grew up in Sweden, and when I would visit my father he would always bring me to the studio, so I was there for the recording of Off the Wall and Thriller, and I remember those sessions really well. I mean, I was only 12 or 13 years old around that time, but I just remember Michael bein' really shy, and him and my father workin' really closely. My father called him "Smelly" - that was his standard name for him. 'What's up, Smelly?'  

You've gotta remember this was back when they didn't have a whole bunch o' digital equipment or samplers or whatever else - it was all real music, and it was all him singing exactly the way you heard it on the records. Just watching that process was amazing: and seeing how diligent they were about being perfectionists, about recording the tracks just right, and that kind of thing. One thing that him and my father together were the best in the world at was bringin' influences from Brazil, Africa, disco, pop, rock, wherever, and putting it all on one album seamlessly and organically to where an engineer can respect the mix, a musician can respect the musical aspect of it, a songwriter can respect the songwriting and an artist can respect the performance. So it was all just right - like how you want pop music to be, but it sometimes isn't.  

I also remember my Dad and Rod Temperton sitting in a bathroom in Switzerland one time while we were on vacation, and writing Thriller - but at the time I think the name was Starlight, or something like that. I remember them sittin' around this little portastudio, a tiny keyboard they had from Yamaha - probably would be, like, ten dollars today - and they wrote all those songs in the bathroom, at night. Usually, Rod would write his songs, and then Michael wrote... most of the songs, actually, and then Michael would record 'em on a portastudio too, like this little four-track recorder. He would submit demos, then they would go into the studio and produce 'em to a whole 'nother level.   

He was an integral part of the family for a few decades. I saw him a few months ago, at my father's house. And he was the same guy he's always been, in my opinion. He just seemed really enthusiastic about everything - making films and all kinds of stuff. I've never seen him change - he's always been the same, exactly. He's always been this really gentle, shy, talented person, from what I could tell. I've never, never saw him change, at all. When you meet him in person you realise right away that... Like, any operations that might have had a certain look to it at first glance, it goes away in the first 30 seconds you meet him, you know? when you have a conversation with him, five minutes into it you completely forget who you're talking to, because he was a regular person. He was very capable of having a completely normal conversation, where all the rumours you've heard or may have read, as soon as you meet him it just goes right out the window. And I think that everybody would say the same thing. Because as soon as you start talking to him, it goes away, and you're just dealing with Michael. He was just always really down to earth.

We would talk about Biggie and 2Pac, and all kinds of cool stuff. When I was real young I used to send him breakdance tapes, to show him what the new dances were, and I would give him the song that they were dancin' to, and he really appreciated that. And, um, yeah - we'd have conversations about 2Pac and Biggie. I just remember that he really liked Biggie a lot - that was his favourite.  He was just a really cool cat.   

I think he's a lot stronger than people think he was, both physically and mentally. He had stronger opinions than people would probably think; he had a little more fire than people would expect, and I don't say that in a negative way, I just mean it in a way that... you know, he had firm beliefs about life, about politics and all those type o' things, that I think he may have kept to himself, and that led people to believe that he was not strong. But I would say that he was a strong guy. We had a few conversations, about politics and the entertainment industry sometimes, and he would just express strong views in certain ways. And also when he was hangin' out with his animals, dealing with llamas and monkeys - those are strong animals, but he had all those animals in check. Physically, he was dominant with animals - not in a mean way, but in a way that shows you he's a real person.

Racially he went through a lot o' things, growin' up in Gary, Indiana - a very difficult place to survive out of. He may have presented a really tender image, which was him too, but I think, internally, to go through that and to go on all those tours and to be able to handle the pressure of all that attention and critique and all that kind of thing, he was a strong guy.  

In a sense, [the reaction to his death in the media] is surprising because you would think that we would have celebrated him more when he was alive if we were gonna do it now. We tear people down, and then when they pass, we realise what we've lost. And Michael's somebody who... I've never heard him say anything negative in public ever. You know? He's somebody who's always professed love, and his lyrics were always full of love; and they tore him down in a lot of ways, and now when he's passed, they're taking advantage of him to get ratings.

Photo credit: Kevin Mazur/AEG/


Musically, probably the greatest living talent in my lifetime. Will I mourn his death..? I am not sure. Will I mourn Gary Glitter's? To be honest, in any other country, and to a degree, with a lesser amount of fame, Michael Jackson would have served time in jail for crimes against children. I am not sure that I will be able to block those from my mind when I consider what Michael Jackson brought to this world. How easy it is for most people to block this from their mind when considering Michael Jackson. Surely this has to be aligned with the fame and the undoubted musical genius that was Michael Jackson. But is it right to do so, and how will his legacy be viewed in terms of his controversy? Issues remain with legends. Can many people quote the works of Oscar Wilde? Probably not. I certainly cannot. However, most will recite his persecution for his homosexuality. Is that right to do so? It will be interesting to see how the legacy of Michael Jackson develops. King of Pop, or Perverse Genius?

Nothing like controversy, eh Angus?

posted by: Craig Holson: 30 Jun, 2009 17:19:31

The memories of Michael expressed by QDIII are Eloquent and perfectly said. He speaks the utter truth. And unfortunately, what he says in his last sentence of the interview is also true. It makes me sick that every one will try to capitalize on the death of this legendary superstar and iconic genius. I only met him a few times and I certainly did not know him in depth like the others, but the times I did speak/spend with him, I could tell he was a dear and gentle soul, and yet absolutely strong and courageous. As for the allegations about the molestations, I believe that in the end, the truth always comes out. Having anger and spreading hatred does not serve any one. If he is guilty, he is dealing with it now in God's lobby. It is not our place to judge. Most of the people who accuse him of this never knew him or met him and they know not of what they speak. Thanks for sharing this, I am going to re-post this. Fawn akasongirl

posted by: : 30 Jun, 2009 18:07:55

QDIII's memories of Michael Jackson really is moving. I'm glad that you
( Angus Batey) took the time to actually talk to Quincy Jones III, someone who had spent quality time with Michael Jackson, someone who spent time around MJ as a child - a male child - that just vouched for MJ's character.
I had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of times; the first time I was 16 years old, in Oakland, CA and the second time as an adult in Beverly Hills, CA. He was a kind, beautiful soul. He was also a loving father ( I personally saw him interact with his children) and a shrewed Businessman( I saw how he slected luxury items to purchase for his household and his family). He took care of business and that's what I truly remember. He also told me that I was beautiful, and that, along with the fact that he always told his fans(including me) that he loved me, still puts a smile on my face.
Michael Jackson's love touched the four corners of the earth. He united red, yellow, black, white and brown.
My condolences to the Jackson Family.
Thank you, Michael Jackson for being you!
With love,
Carla Thomas

posted by: Cleopatra~Carla: 30 Jun, 2009 18:55:44

MJ a Biggie fan! Now that made me smile. It's good to hear from those who knew him best. Like Janet once sang, "We don't know what we've got til it's gone." How prophetic! His genius will continue to unfold for years to come!

posted by: d-the-vip: 3 Jul, 2009 23:11:06

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