As 1983 turned into 1984, Michael Jackson was the most prominent artist in the U.S. and, soon, the world. He became known as the King of Pop – a title he kept until his early death in June 2009, two weeks before a scheduled concert in London. Anything that had to do with Michael was now front-page news. But now that Michael was on top, everyone wanted a piece of him, including his family. Jermaine returned to the fold earlier in 1983 for the Motown 25 special. By the end of the year, all six brothers decided to record an album and go out on tour together.
The Victory Tour was launched in July 1984 and became the highest-grossing tour at that time. Though financially successful for the family and promoter Don King, the group played a lot of half-full arenas due to prohibitively expensive ticket costs. Pepsi broke the bank, getting them for promotions and commercials, almost burning Michael to death in the process. It also caused Michael so much stress that he announced his permanent split from the group by the tour’s end, and he would never perform as part of the Jacksons again.
[side note: The father-son owners of the New England Patriots lost a ton of money on the tour and had to sell the team to a dude who sold shaving products.]
For all of us who didn’t already own a copy of Thriller, there was a good chance your grandma tried (successfully, if they had them) to score you one during the past Christmas. But there was a good chance you bought up anything MJ-related in the coming year.
[Note: Each song is listed with its peak position and number of weeks spent in the Top 40]
Michael Jackson – Thriller [#4, 9 wks]
This video debuted on MTV, and as discussed in the previous post, it was a significant event. It became the record-setting seventh Top 10 single from Thriller, only to be broken by the Boss with the Born In the USA album within two years. Sister Janet would match it with her Rhythm Nation 1814 release.
Rockwell – Somebody’s Watching Me [#2, 14 wks]
Not an MJ song, but easily mistaken as one. Berry Gordy’s son, Kennedy, was one of Michael’s childhood friends. When he became Rockwell, Mike paid him a favor and sang the chorus on this synth funk-pop jam, which sat at #2 for three weeks. Both singles spent three weeks in the Top 10 together in early Spring ’84, furthering MJ-Mania. Funny that they are now both perennial Halloween tunes.
Michael Jackson – Farewell My Summer Love [#38, 3 wks]
Speaking of Berry, I’m sure he was proud of Michael’s success and pissed that he couldn’t reap the rewards. This is why Motown released a collection of unreleased recordings from October 1973 to capitalize on his fame. A lot of the songs, including this 45, used Micheal’s vocals with new overdubbed performances. I kinda like it, as it displays an innocent MJ in final vocal form and absent of grunts and squeals. Surprised it didn’t climb any further than #38.
Jermaine Jackson – Dynamite [#15, 10 wks]
While the Jacksons were recording their next album, Jermaine tried to get his solo career back on track. And he knew that swimming in Michael’s wake was the best way to do it. He left Motown for Arista and released this single, a superb, high-energy dance track that brought him back into the R&B Top 10 and the Pop Top 20. Unfortunately, the video would showcase Jermaine as a Micheal-knockoff.
The Jacksons w/ Mick Jagger – State Of Shock [#3, 11 wks]
Musically, this is the point where everything starts sliding down the mountain. The first new Jackson track feels like it was written and recorded in five minutes. It’s as if they knew that anything they fed the public, they’d eat it up. And they brought along Mick to cross them over to the “rock” side. Jagger has always been one to seek out the trends and reap the benefits, from country rock to disco to New Wave and now, Michael’s fame. Plus, he was looking to jumpstart his own solo career. This would be the Jacksons’ first Pop Top 10 in five years and their last.
The Jacksons – Torture [#17, 8 wks]
Not as bad as the title suggests and way better than their lead single. The video is unintentionally hilarious and “adds” Michael into the group through some editing trickery.
Rebbie Jackson – Centipede [#24, 8 wks]
Older sister Rebbie released her debut in 1984 at age 34. Written and produced by Michael (he also added backing vocals along with the Weather Girls), it was an ode to one of his favorite video games. I guess the timing was the best it could have been as the title track charted. Even though it stalled at #24, the single went Gold.
Weird Al Yankovic – Eat It [#12, 7 wks]
Folks may have heard of or seen Weird Al Yankovic in the early 80s, but his parody of Michael’s #1 smash broke him into the mainstream as a pop music lampooner. We loved the original and MJ so much that we also made this 45 go Gold.
Jermaine Jackson – Do What You Do [ #13, 12 wks]
JJ has his second Top 20 hit from his album, Dynamite, the first and only time he was able to do that on the pop charts. It was a lovely tender ballad, but the B-side, a duet with Jermaine & Michael called Tell Me I’m Not Dreamin’, really mattered. This was definitely a lost opportunity for a smash hit, but Arista & Epic Records couldn’t get it together. It never charted on the Hot 100 but topped the Dance charts for three weeks.
Footnote: Iman was the Godfather-ripoff video for Do What You Do, and she would later show up in Michael’s Remember The Time short. Both times she had the hots for a Jackson. Hope they took the cannolis.
USA for Africa – We Are The World [#1 (4 wks), 12 wks]
Now that Michael was finally free from his brothers’ and father’s control, he could focus on more charitable efforts such as this project. Harry Belafonte asked MJ & Lionel Richie to come up with a tune to heal the world. They wrote this instead, but for a moment in the Spring of 1985, it was the biggest deal in the music industry, eventually raising more than 63 million (number differ) for aid to Africa. It will end #1 in over twenty different countries. Also, Randy, Jackie, Tito, Marlon, and LaToya sang back-up.
Michael spent the rest of 1985 bidding on the Beatles catalog, which he would purchase for nearly 48 million in August. While he spent the rest of the mid-80s trying to discredit one tabloid story after the next, inheriting the nickname, Wacko Jacko (man, can things flip quickly or what?), his younger sister was planning her strategy for control.