offthewall11On the day he died I scrounged around for the music. The vinyl of Thriller and Bad are sealed within a staircase of boxes. No CDs or MP3s. Finally, the Off the Wall cassette (!) bought in Tokyo in the early ’90s. In the slot, ker-chunk. The tape stutters to the end of the spool and reverses into the bubble-soul dance-pop of the title track, with its slightly unhinged giggle intro.

My generation grew up with the unholy trinity of Michael, Madonna and the Prince of Purpleness. But the latter two, like the rest of us, had Michael providing part of their childhood and teen soundtracks. No wonder Madonna cried; Michael the harbinger.

His remarkable 1987 performance at Olympic Park: single-handedly collapsing a cavernous open air stadium into intimate theatre — guess we were all grooving on the Kool Aid. By 1993 – the year of his Oprah confession, and first accusation as child molester – the Wacko Jacko backlash was in full swing. Recalling then the splendour of his original inspiration I was prompted to write:

(or, the 3Rs don’t include R&B)

The language of the alphabet
ends at z, where the body begins.

Tonight, the dancer steps out
and raises his voice.

Spinning in the spotlight,
the black flame of language.


PS: to those who never got Michael Jackson – you had to like dancing.

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