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Audio files: The pathos of Jacko, plus muumuus and balloons

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I’ve been listening to vintage Michael Jackson lately. The ancient stuff.

And I continue to be struck by the transformation MJ went through over the years.

This has been documented ad nauseam, but it still makes for compelling speculation, mostly because the metamorphosis was so stunning. How exactly does one go from wholesome teen idol to David Cronenberg creature? What forces must conspire to create such a mess?

Apparently MJ’s dad had much to do with this. Fame surely contributed as well. Armies of Yes-Men on the payroll surely didn’t help.

Weird shit! I watch clips like this and react with sadness, confusion and fascination. Sadness at how such a talent could descend into the morass of crap that seems to accompany stardom. Confusion that someone with such wealth and resources would let it happen.

Oddly fascinated by all of the above.

The above single charted in 1973.

Five years later, we had the Wiz:

Then came the 1980s, Bubbles, Neverland Ranch, etc.

All of this built up to one thing:

An unmitigated clown-circus Hell Show.

Jacko fell into the pit of fame, and as Alfred notes in the Dark Knight Rises, a movie, sometimes the pit sends something back.

It’s an old story, fame mutating a star. Lighter incarnations of the trope have scarred the likes of Marlon Brando. Comedian Patton Oswalt dishes the scoop here:

A friend of mine visited Brando at his house. While he and his brother sat in the living room, with Brando’s gaggle of children (mostly by different cleaning women) running around their feet, Brando was AWOL.

But then, suddenly, Brando appears, in this huge, yellow muu muu, and starts waddling across the floor, with the children running around his feet. And as he passed my friends, he mutters, “Somebody should get some balloons.”

Somewhat relevant, here are some music links from the Internet:

  • Mike Patton: “With music like Fantômas, you kind of have to write it down, because it changes so quickly. Things are happening so fast that you have to always be thinking, What’s coming next? So I think it’s really important for that band—and all of us have learned to do this—we all write out our own notes. So, for instance, Trevor (Dunn), the bass player, who’s very musically learned, writes it out in traditional notation. I’ll do it in pictograms. (Dave) Lombardo (of Slayer) does it in sort of drum notation. Buzz (Osborne, of the Melvins), I don’t know what he… his notes are the most impossible to decipher.”
  • Pal Ricky on Taylor Swift: “Ms. Swift is one of my favorite celebrities. She is a young, attractive, wealthy and famous person. She has opportunities that the vast majority of people can only dream of. And she takes advantage of them. She does what young people should do, which is date lots of different people. She travels. She seeks out new experiences. She attends fabulous events. She wears fabulous clothes. She does these things on a scale that is worthy of her position as a young, attractive, wealthy and famous person. Young people are supposed to take full advantage of their youth. It’s a time to date around, to make spectacular mistakes, to be overly emotional. Ms. Swift does this.”
  • Tom Jacobs: “Jealous of the ‘runner’s high’ serious athletes feel after an intense, vigorous workout? Well, newly published research reveals three alternative ways you can release those mood-enhancing endorphins: Singing, dancing, and drumming. That’s the conclusion of a study by University of Oxford psychologist Robin Dunbar. He and his colleagues report people who have just been playing music have a higher tolerance for pain—an indication their bodies are producing endorphins, which are sometimes referred to as natural opiates.”
  • Wikipedia: “A cat organ or cat piano (Katzenklavier in German) is a conjectural musical instrument which consists of a line of cats fixed in place with their tails stretched out underneath a keyboard so that cats cry out in pain when a key is pressed. The cats would be arranged according to the natural tone of their voices. There is no official record of a Cat Organ actually being built, but is rather described in literature as a bizarre concept.”


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