Friday, 26 June 2009

Rest in Peace Michael

All jokes aside here - I'm absolutely gutted.

Music taste has always been subjective - you either like the sound of something or you don't, and everyone's free to choose what to listen to. I've also taken the view that when it comes to numbers, record sales and downloads can never be relied on to prove that a band or musician has talent or not.

That said, sometimes numbers don't lie.

In this era of music, when 2 million sales or downloads can make you the biggest selling artist of the year, Michael Jackson is estimated to have sold over three quarters of a billion records over his career. What do you think that number tells you? What do you think the awards, the first-evers and all the record-breaking tell you? I've always raised a smile when his newer albums have been deemed failures because they've sold less than his prior work, even though their figures still blow every other act out the water and their sound still reverberates in the music of those acts considered more relevant than him today.

This generation has largely missed out on Michael Jackson, and despite the huge number of musicians in popular music today citing him as having been a major influence, despite much of today's sounds portrayed as unique & fresh by an increasingly myopic music industry having in fact been fashioned by him decades ago, despite all that, for the main part when this generation thinks of Michael Jackson, regretfully it's not the music which first springs to mind.

Despite being a fan of blues and rock, I grew up loving his music, wanting to be him, lapping up every record, every MTV appearance & Pepsi advert, screaming at the sensationalist news channels more concerned with his personal life, watching & re-watching increasingly fuzzy video tapes of his live performances. The first record I ever bought was Thriller, and in 1992 I was lucky enough to see him live at Glasgow Green. I've been to hundreds of gigs since then but that one sticks more than most in my memory, the image of him ending Man in the Mirror before flying off on a jet pack into the night - we all knew it wasn't him but what a spectacle that show was.

I listen to the older generation go on about Elvis, who died just after I was born. I hear them, even years after his death, mourn the passing of such a strongly influential light in music, wonder what he'd have achieved had he lived as long as he should have done. I listen to the music he produced and think about how great it still sounds, how breathtaking it must have sounded in the context it was created.

But I wasn't there!

I didn't experience the thrill of seeing his career unfold, so while yeah, I can tap along to his work and hear all the stories about how he changed the world, I'll never understand what it was like to have been there when it all happened.

Michael Jackson was our Elvis. I mean, I know that's not exactly a new revelation, but for me, all I can think about is just how lucky I've been to have borne witness to the career of one man whose music changed us all (even those who don't admit it & scorn his very existence). I think that the next generation might see him in the same way I see Elvis, and that it'll never have the chance to experience first-hand that kind of thrill, that magnitude of talent that transcends every colour, creed and border & completely reshapes the face of music.

The ticket refund I'm now expecting from his London gigs will be the least welcome money I've received for some time! Some truly depressing thoughts really, but I think I'll go and listen to some of his albums and cheer myself up!

Thanks Michael, and rest in peace.