Thursday, July 2, 2009

GMVW # 78: "Out of the Closet"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 78:  Out of the Closet
Song:  Beat It by Michael Jackson
(Songwriter: Michael Jackson)
July 2, 2009

We all have musical skeletons in our closets:  Songs that at one time had us purchasing the record and playing over and over, but with which we would not want to claim affiliation to now (brother Pat is a rare exception to this rule, as he has no problem recognizing songs that have inspired him over the years, no matter the genre).  I’m like most, preferring to leave those songs in deep, dark corners.  However, when I started these Gems, I decided I would hold nothing back: If a song was great, and it gnawed at me (sometimes for weeks on end), I would find something to say and present it.  Hopefully, the songs I’ve rolled out thus far are what would be expected from me in terms of depth and quality.  For those who have mostly nodded in agreement from Gem to Gem, this week’s entry may be an exception.

When Michael Jackson passed away last Thursday, I already had a Gem lined up, and since his death had nothing to do with the theme (concept albums), I did not even acknowledge him.  Steve Gilligan responded to the Gem with a comment about Michael Jackson’s untimely passing, and Jack’s brother, cousin Emmett, brought it up in a separate email posting.  I was aware of how big the story would soon become, but for me the news was nothing like the deaths of John Lennon, Jerry Garcia, George Harrison, or John Entwistle.  I deliberately decided to let it be, feeling I was far from an authority on the subject anyhow.

Yet, as the week rolled on, Charlotte began asking questions, particularly about Jackson’s music.  I sat with her at the computer and linked us to a few of his videos.  ‘Thriller’ was of most interest to her (although it never did anything for me), as were some of the ‘Jackson 5’ songs.  And then I showed her the ‘Beat It’ video. I had not watched it in many years, and to my surprise, I was very impressed.  In fact, as I watched and later reflected, I came to the conclusion that this may be the best video of them all.  Not the best song, mind you, but the best made-for-MTV type video.  And when you make a video that good, it can lift the song to Gem status. 

There were many reminders that flashed through my mind as I watched this video.  I was reminded of how the video cracked the MTV color barrier (very few videos before it were of black artists) by rocking hard.  I was reminded of this being the one song I’ve always admired of both Michael Jackson and his musical collaborator in ‘Beat It’, Eddie Van Halen (ok, although both musicians’ music falls off the cliff for me after ‘Beat It’, there are a few branches on the way down to ease the fall, including ‘Billy Jean’ and ‘The Cradle Will Rock’).  I was reminded that Van Halen played guitar on ‘Beat It’ for nothing, originally thinking the request from Jackson and Quincy Jones was a prank.  I was reminded of the real-life gangs that were brought together in the video to dance instead of fight.  I was reminded of Jackson’s confidence.  I was reminded of the song’s message. 

Michael Jackson was a victim of celebrity in America, maybe even the poster child (along with Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley).   One commentator mentioned this week that over the past 20 years he always looked like he was in pain. So true.  For a guy who never had a childhood, he had an unusual sort of innocence about him, despite all the bizarre things he’s been accused of.   The complexities and contradictions of his famed life finally caught up with him….may his soul rest in peace.

So, at the risk of tearing down all those Gems of Friday’s past in one fell swoop, I present this week’s Gem, ‘Beat It’.  Either this goes on a pedestal with the rest of them, or they all come-a tumblin’ down!  You make the call. 

Below the Gem is a comedic stab at pegging the closet music interest of everyone who receives these weekly postings.  Most are random, but a few are close to the vest perhaps?

- Pete

Michael Jackson - Beat It (Gem Video)

Closet Nancy: Whip It by Devo

Closet Bob: Tip Toe Thru the Tulips by Tiny Tim

Closet Fred: Don't Cry For Me Argentina by Madonna

Closet Madeline: Cars by Gary Numan

Closet Paul: Hungry Like the Wolf by Duran Duran

Closet Jen: White Punks on Dope by The Tubes

Closet Jack: (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (to Party) by The Beastie Boys

Closet Kippy: Kashmir by Led Zeppelin

Closet Mac: Dude (Looks Like a Lady) by Aerosmith

Closet Dad: Crazy Train by Ozzy Osbourne

Closet Tom: Marian the Librarian from The Music Man

Closet Becca: Oh What a Night by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons

Closet Pat (Steeves): Theme song to Mr Rogers Neighborhood

Closet Pat (Shea): 99 Red Balloons by Nena

Closet Tina: Yankee Doodle Dandy from James Cagney

Closet Trese: Rock and Roll Aint Noise Pollution by AC/DC

Closet Jeff: What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong

Closet Dale: Babe by Styx

Closet Mom: Slow Ride by Foghat

Closet Ruth: Godzilla by Blue Oyster Cult

Closet John: Somewhere Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz

Closet Joe: Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes

Closet Steve (Gilligan): Bang Your Head (Metal Health) by Quiet Riot

Closet Steve (Vance): The Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha

Closet Amy: Gypsy’s Tramps and Thieves by Cher

Closet Dave: Our Lips are Sealed by The Go Go's

About the Video: Made for MTV-type video
Video Rating: 1

Best Feedback: Tom

You're truly a Soothsayer Pete - indeed I love that whole brilliant Preston performance that makes that musical one of the top ten!  And that is one of those secret songs from my past that whirl about in my brain occasionally ... along with little Ricky Cunningham's missing-front-teeth-whistle-sounding Wells Fargo song.

Was Jackson truly the King of Pop?  Perhaps in money-making, for sure (didn't he outspend McCartney for some of the priceless Beatles collections?).  His need to marry the daughter of the King of Rock reveals his likely intent to be ultimately crowned such.  But was Elvis really the King himself?  What of Little Richard (who the Beatles attributed much influence) or Chubby Checker?  And there's even another guy whose name escapes me, who just preceded Elvis and died early on, who had an identical style of delivery as the King of Rock.

Hey, here's one I heard on the way home two days ago - that's still in my perpetually-singing head since, especially because of its geat guitar strumming:

Talk to you soon - Happy 4th!

And Fred:

Evita!  Now the secret's out.  Kippy's is dead-on
And Jen:

I love Michael Jackson.
Funny stuff, at the end.
See you Sunday?


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