Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Friday, June 25, 2010
Sunday, June 20, 2010
It’s still an argument today: who made the first music video? The Beatles made movies back in the 1960’s. Still, they aren’t considered music videos. Any video made in the 1960’s and 1970’s are what music junkies call promo videos, short for promotional video. That’s what music videos do: promote an album or song. However these videos are different because few of them had a real concept connected to it. In 1983, MTV started playing nothing but music videos. No one knows for sure who created the first music video but in 1983, Michael Jackson perfected the music video format with “Thriller.”
Michael Jackson and four of his brothers had been household names as the Jackson 5. The group had hit singles and appeared on TV frequently. Michael was the youngest and the clear star of the group. Michael became so big that in 1972 at the age of fourteen, he made his first solo album. Motown Records released Michael’s first four albums. On all the albums, Michael rarely got the chance to write his own music. By 1976, the Jackson 5 (now known as the Jacksons) switched to Epic Records, the label that let Michael create his own music. In 1978 while filming a movie adaptation of The Wiz, Michael met up with the movie’s musical producer Quincy Jones. Michael knew that Jones could help him make a good solo album. A year later, that album Off the Wall became an instant hit. While the album was a hit, Michael knew that his next album had to be better. In 1982, he released Thriller. A year later Michael had the biggest selling album of all time (and still does worldwide, selling 110 million copies) and had hits with the “white guy” rocker “Beat It” and the stalking fan letter confessional “Billie Jean” Jackson wrote both songs by himself. His next single, the album’s self-titled track, written by Rod Temperton, would be another hit. The highly anticipated 14 minute video premiered on MTV on December 2, 1983.
“Thriller” was directed by John Landis. Landis had directed the 1980 movie An American Werewolf in London. Jackson was impressed by the special effects in the movie. Both Jackson and Landis wrote the story for the music video as an old horror movie. The video starts off with a 1950’s-looking couple (Jackson and actress Ola Ray) going back home after a date. When the car breaks down, they start walking. Jackson asks Ray if she’d go steady with him. After she says yes, Jackson says that he’s not like other people. Ray doesn’t understand but when the moon is seen, Jackson turns into a werewolf and chases Ray. This whole scene is all done so well that you almost can’t laugh at how campy it is. Next, we see Jackson and Ray in a movie theater watching a horror movie themselves. When Ray wants to leave, the music starts. As Jackson and Ray walk together, Jackson breaks out into some “walking” dance moves. The listener can’t help but notice that the famous chorus is cut off but still watches the video. The video also got praised for using Vincent Price to read the spine-tingling narration. This was seen as something different and fresh but the truth is that Jackson wasn’t the only musician to use Price in a music project. Rock singer Alice Cooper had Vincent Price on his song “Devil’s Food” for the concept album Welcome to My Nighmare. The main highlight in the video is when Jackson dances with the zombies and sings the chorus right there. Jackson looks great throughout the entire video, wearing a red jacket which is now known as his “Thriller” jacket.
“Thriller” has frequently been cited as the greatest music video ever made. Critics point out that 1983 was when Michael Jackson was at his best. Jackson kept going on. In 1987 Jackson released Bad. It wasn’t like Thriller but managed to have six singles on the charts. Jackson got more creative with his music videos. Martin Scorecese directed the video for the album’s self-titled track, which was also formatted as a short-movie form like “Thriller.” When Jackson released Dangerous in 1991, he recruited John Landis to direct the video for the hit single, “Black Or White”. The video featured many of Jackson’s child-aged friends, one of them being child actor Macaully Culkin. In 1993, one of Jackson’s kid friends got him in trouble when he filed a lawsuit claiming that Jackson had sexually molested him. The case was settled out of court after Jackson paid the boy’s family well over a million dollars.
Jackson continued to make music and also got married twice (first to Lisa Marie Presely, daughter of Elvis Presely, and Debbie Rowe who became the mother of his first two children). Jackson’s last studio album was 2001’s Invincible, which was considered weak. A telvision documentary called Living With Michael Jackson aired in 2003. The director was British journalist Martin Bashir, who went deep into Jackson’s private life. Bashir went so deep that in 2005, Jackson was charged again with counts of child molestation. The jury found Jackson not guilty but it forever ruined his image. In March 2009 Jackson annouced that he would be performing 50 shows at London’s O2 Arena. The concerts were to be Jackson’s comeback. Sadly on June 25, 2009 Michael Jackson died suddenly after suffering from cardiac arrest.
In October, we celebrate Halloween. With Michael Jackson dead, is “Thriller” still in good taste? All I can say is that I’m sure Michael would want his fans and supporters to keep listening to his music and watching his videos. Michael Jackson didn’t create the music video. He perfected the way we make them today and that all began with “Thriller”.
Friday, June 4, 2010
Deep Bands: Jimmy McCulloch
Jimmy McCulloch was a guitarist ahead of his time. While his name may not sound familiar to some, the key moment in his career was playing for Paul McCartney and Wings. However, he died too soon. This is his story.
Jimmy McCulloch was born June 4, 1953 in Glasgow, Scotland. At an early age, Jimmy became interested in playing the guitar. The first band Jimmy was in was called the Jaygars when he was 11 years old. The Jaygars evolved into the band One in a Million. The group managed to release a single or two and then split. When Jimmy was only 16, he joined Speedy Keen and Andy Newman in Thunderclap Newman in 1969. The trio recorded their first album with the Who’s Pete Townshend. Jimmy wrote one song on the album called “Hollywood Dream” and later a single called “I See it All”. The album Hollywood Dream was released in 1970. The album featured the hit single, “Something in the Air”. The band had a tour planned and Jimmy’s brother Jack had joined along with bassist Jim Avery. However, Thunderclap Newman broke up and remained a one-hit wonder. After leaving Thunderclap Newman, Jimmy toured with John Mayall for a three week tour in Germany. He even formed his own band but that didn’t last very long. In 1972, Jimmy joined Stone the Crows. Stone the Crows had just faced a tragedy as their guitarist Les Harvey died after being electrocuted on stage. Jimmy had big shoes to fill. In 1972, the band released their fourth album Ontinuous Performances (Jimmy played only two songs on the album). While Jimmy was in Stone the Crows, he and drummer Colin Allen wrote two songs called “Medicine Jar” and “Wino Junko”. The songs were never used until much later. The band played a couple of shows and as singer Maggie Bell recalls, they loved Jimmy. Still, the band didn’t feel the same after Harvey’s sudden death. As a result, Stone the Crows broke up in 1973. For a short time, Jimmy was a member of Blue. The band had a minor hit with “Little Jody” but Jimmy’s stay wasn’t long.
In 1974, Jimmy McCulloch was asked to join Paul McCartney and Wings. Wings had just released Band on the Run, which became a huge hit when released in 1973. The band consisted of Paul, his wife Linda, and Denny Laine. Also joining Wings was drummer Geoff Britton. The band went down to Nashville in 1974 and recorded the hit single “Junior’s Farm”. Britton didn’t last for long and after a few recording sessions with him, he left the band. He was replaced by drummer Joe English. In 1975, the band released Venus and Mars. McCartney wanted Wings to be more than a backing band and allowed the other members sing their own songs. On Venus and Mars, Jimmy sang “Medicine Jar” which he wrote with Colin Allen a few years back. “Medicine Jar” later became a part of the live set. In 1975, the band embarked on their Wings Over the World tour. In between, Wings At the Speed of Sound was released. The album featured another song from Jimmy called “Wino Junko”. When Wings came over to the USA, the shows started to sell out and the crowds went crazy. Critics were praising McCartney and Wings for putting on a great show. However, there was craziness on the road. One story had to with Jimmy not wanting to come back for the encore. One story puts it that Paul and Jimmy got into a fight so intense that Paul decked Jimmy. Still, the success of Wings made Paul the most popular ex-Beatle. In 1977, the band decided to record on a yacht called the Fair Carol in the Virgin Islands for the next album London Town. The sessions were stopped by Linda’s pregnancy. London Town was later released in 1978 and before its release, Jimmy left the band.
When Jimmy finished his tour with Wings, his brother Jack, and Dave Clarke formed White Line. The band released one single “Call My Name”, which Clarke sang. Jimmy sang the b-side song “Too Many Miles”. An album with all of the band’s recordings was released in 1994. In 1977, Jimmy joined a reunited version of the Small Faces. The band went on a one month tour and released an album called 78 in the Shade. In 1979, Jimmy joined the Dukes. The band released a self titled album. One song, “Heartbreaker”, had Jimmy on lead vocals. The band later toured with Wishbone Ash. Sadly on September 27, 1979, Jimmy McCulloch was found dead in his flat in Maida Vale, West London. The Dukes found a replacement but soon broke up.