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March 25, 2008 1:00 PM   Subscribe

Y'all think whatever you want about Michael Jackson now, knaamean? But on this day back in 1983, Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever was being taped before a live audience. Since he was no longer contractually tied to Motown, MJ planned to attend but not perform at the function; he was finally able to negotiate a solo spot singing a non-Motown song. Thriller had been released more than a year prior; Billie Jean had been the Number One single on Billboard's Top 100 for two weeks. It was time for a Pop Culture "Do you remember where you were when...?" moment. And then came the moonwalk.
posted by t2urner (82 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'll think the same thing about Michael Jackson as I did in 1983: overrated singer whose best years are already behind him. Everything after Off the Wall was pretty much dreck, including Thriller. Come on you guys.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:11 PM on March 25, 2008


Related to this, check out the White Glove Tracking Visualization, by shortfuse [via Projects].
posted by avoision at 1:12 PM on March 25, 2008


Michael who?
posted by HuronBob at 1:13 PM on March 25, 2008


Need a little more effort from you next time, Mr. T2urner. One youtube link and a wikipedia link. Not FAIL, exactly, but: D-

See me after class.
posted by psmealey at 1:13 PM on March 25, 2008


And a nation fell in love with emasculation.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:14 PM on March 25, 2008


.
posted by Pendragon at 1:15 PM on March 25, 2008


would this count as a double?
posted by shmegegge at 1:17 PM on March 25, 2008


Sheeyit, I can do the fuckin' moonwalk. Used to amuse my daughter with it when she was a kid.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:19 PM on March 25, 2008


I assume we've had the moonwalking bird on here? Can't have too much of that.
posted by Wolfdog at 1:22 PM on March 25, 2008 [5 favorites]


Sheeyit, I can do the fuckin' moonwalk.

Vids or you can't!
posted by cashman at 1:22 PM on March 25, 2008


Pffft. Ignore the haters t2urner.

Grainy betamax tapes of this performace made it all the way to the American compound where I lived in Saudi Arabia at the time. And it was a Big Deal there too.

Interesting to see it again. Could have done without the feeling really fucking old part, though ;)
posted by Cyrano at 1:23 PM on March 25, 2008


This was only a pop culture moment for people who had never witnessed the wonder of James Brown. Now that man could move.
posted by boubelium at 1:25 PM on March 25, 2008


I can smell the Figueroa breeze mixed with purple-hair seeping through my dorm window as my girlfriend and I watched this on our 13-inch Trinitron.
No debt. All hope.
I too am old.
posted by Dizzy at 1:29 PM on March 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


Meh, then. Meh, now. Dancin' ain't my thing. Hate his voice.
posted by chuckdarwin at 1:29 PM on March 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


@psmealey--Wassup, teach? Yeah, I could have linked back to the White Glove Tracking Visualization bit, the tons of stuff online tracing the evolution of the moonwalk, MJ's impact on Popular Culture (capital "P" an' all), but...y'know what? Y'all snarky-ass folks be smart enough to get to that yo damn selves. I just realized with a bit of a smile that today was Moonwalk Day, remembered the moment fondly, don't really care all that much 'bout whether MJ was or is overrated, underrated, a freak (y'all take that as you will) or not. All's I was tryin' to say was what I said. This is the day, this be what happened, that be all. Ain' nuthin' much mo' to say 'bout it than that, at least fo' me. An' ain't everythang gots to be a [insert Samuel L. Jackson voice here] big ass brain moment, or post.

Now get yo' pompous ass off my porch.
posted by t2urner at 1:30 PM on March 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


Ain't got no vids... but anyone can do it, cashman, even you! Just watch MJ and copy him. It's stupidly easy. That's how I learned, watching videos. I said to myself, "I can do that!" And sure enough. Takes like 5 minutes to figure it out.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:31 PM on March 25, 2008


I would just like to point out that Mr Jackson is lip-syncing in that clip.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:31 PM on March 25, 2008


Moonwalk secret: Try moving the other foot instead.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:32 PM on March 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'll think the same thing about Michael Jackson as I did in 1983: overrated singer whose best years are already behind him. Everything after Off the Wall was pretty much dreck, including Thriller. Come on you guys.

Fuckin' people from San Francisco. Always have to act like they're ahead of the curve.
posted by phaedon at 1:37 PM on March 25, 2008


So no truth to the rumor that he turned to the camera and said, "Good luck, Mr. Gorsky!"
posted by dhartung at 1:39 PM on March 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


Walrus gets its groove on via Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal.
posted by ericb at 1:45 PM on March 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


I assume we've had the moonwalking bird on here? Can't have too much of that.

Wolfdog, you are so right on. You can never have too much of birds moonwalking. The bird is a manakin, in case anybody's curious, and the woman in the vid is evolutionary biologist Kim Bostwick.
posted by rtha at 1:48 PM on March 25, 2008


I just read this article updating where the entire Jackson family is right now.

Randy, especially, has been actively screwed over by Michael. I was momentarily shocked. I have no idea why. I walked away from it feel really sorry for Randy Jackson and even more disgusted by Michael Jackson.
posted by batmonkey at 1:51 PM on March 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


mrgrimm writes "I'll think the same thing about Michael Jackson as I did in 1983"

I was 13 in 1983 and was much more into Iron Maiden at the time, but man I knew the guy had talent and had hit on something huge. The "Thriller" video was on heavy rotation on MTV at the time, and I admit to watching it over and over.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:57 PM on March 25, 2008


Better moonwalk
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:58 PM on March 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


Shamon!
posted by Pollomacho at 2:00 PM on March 25, 2008


I don't believe for a second that he's not lip-synching in that video.
posted by Evstar at 2:02 PM on March 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Fuck all the haters. Michael Jackson!
posted by chunking express at 2:03 PM on March 25, 2008


Ain't got no vids... but anyone can do it, cashman, even you!

Oh sure I can, and I know you're joking around but you'd be surprised at how many people cannot moonwalk. Or roll their r's for that matter.

Still, vids or you can't! I'll sit here believing that you're one of those people who thinks they can moonwalk but they move their arms all wrong or don't put their feet down right, or have no pop to it.

And if you pass that test, the harlem shake is next, and you fail. Heh. That's what we need a post about next. The harlem shake.
posted by cashman at 2:06 PM on March 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I thought this was going to be about when his hair caught on fire.
posted by dirigibleman at 2:06 PM on March 25, 2008


Oh, a music thread! Has anyone come in to say that your favorite band sucks yet?
posted by deadmessenger at 2:06 PM on March 25, 2008


And also, i'm not saying the New York Post is a rag or nothing, but...
posted by chunking express at 2:07 PM on March 25, 2008


Right there with ya, chunking express.

Just click to pg. 5 (aka the last page) of the NYP(oop) article and then do what I (shamefully?) did - look everyone up individually.

Jumping away from the soapy prose in the article is probably a good idea. For your dignity if not your sanity.
posted by batmonkey at 2:11 PM on March 25, 2008


Also the inspiration for the old joke: "Never trust a man who wears one glove and sings Beat It".
posted by Eekacat at 2:11 PM on March 25, 2008


1974: Bob Fosse does every Michael Jackson move but the moonwalk. (Not knocking Michael Jackson. He never tried to conceal the fact that his dance style was largely influenced by Fosse.)
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:12 PM on March 25, 2008 [12 favorites]


mine are clearly both already gone
posted by batmonkey at 2:12 PM on March 25, 2008


That performance, man! YES YES YES.
posted by wemayfreeze at 2:21 PM on March 25, 2008


Yeah, I could have linked back to the White Glove Tracking Visualization bit, the tons of stuff online tracing the evolution of the moonwalk, MJ's impact on Popular Culture (capital "P" an' all), but...y'know what? Y'all snarky-ass folks be smart enough to get to that yo damn selves.

we can find the interesting non-youtube and non-wikipedia links ourselves? awesome. I knew metafilter was good for something.
posted by shmegegge at 2:21 PM on March 25, 2008


1974: Bob Fosse does every Michael Jackson move but the moonwalk. (Not knocking Michael Jackson. He never tried to conceal the fact that his dance style was largely influenced by Fosse.)

Paula Abdul, one of his teachers and choreographers, openly states that Fosse was a big influence on her work.
posted by Pollomacho at 2:23 PM on March 25, 2008


Pepsi Burn
posted by Burhanistan at 2:25 PM on March 25, 2008


He's coming back in spite of himself. Thriller is everywhere. And you have to admit that you can't take your eyes off him in this video.
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot at 2:28 PM on March 25, 2008


1974: Bob Fosse does every Michael Jackson move but the moonwalk. (Not knocking Michael Jackson. He never tried to conceal the fact that his dance style was largely influenced by Fosse.)

Actually the moonwalk is about at 5:12 in. Or at least the origins of a moonwalk. Fosse is nice, but MJ, like most greats, was influenced by his style and then took it to a new level. But I didn't know about Fosse at all, so thanks for the link.
posted by cashman at 2:28 PM on March 25, 2008


And by nice, I mean like how Ice-T would say nice, not a dismissive nice.
posted by cashman at 2:29 PM on March 25, 2008


Wait, Michael Jackson used to be black???????
posted by unSane at 2:29 PM on March 25, 2008


Atom Eyes, I did not know that. You saved a weak post.
posted by jouke at 2:31 PM on March 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I could never moonwalk properly and I never learned how to do an olllie. Fuck!
posted by redteam at 2:36 PM on March 25, 2008


I remember seeing this the night before, and then all day long in school, the extremely white middle school kids of Cedar Rapids, Iowa were trying to Moonwalk.
posted by thanotopsis at 2:37 PM on March 25, 2008


Bob Fosse? Um, no: Bill Bailey.
posted by t2urner at 2:43 PM on March 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


Another startled reaction to the Bob Fosse.


Well, well, well....

(Thanks Atom Eyes).
posted by Jody Tresidder at 2:47 PM on March 25, 2008


Bob Fosse? Um, no: Bill Bailey.

And with that, the poster redeems his own post. (Not that it needed redeeming, anyway.)

Awesome clip, t2urner.
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:50 PM on March 25, 2008


Pretty cool for a guy wearing flood pants.

This year's the 25th anniversary of Motown's 25th anniversary special.

Bill Bailey's "first moon walk" [1:30] was 14 years before Neil Armstrong's. "I Can Dream About You" from Streets of Fire features a four-man moonwalk [1:02].
posted by kirkaracha at 2:52 PM on March 25, 2008


Watching this just now, I was sitting there the whole time going "c'mon man.. do the fuckin' WALK!". When it finally happened, I freaked out my co-worker with "fuck yeah! do it, jacko! YEAH!"

Makes me think while he was up there (lip-synching, probably), he was thinking "man, you people are gonna FLIP in a minute here. i hope you're watching my feet, they're gonna trip you the hell out". Then he gives 'em a little tease and they flip, so he does it again a minute later and they flip out again. Now, 25 years later, it's become "well I'm not too drunk to MOONWALK, officer".

Where's the moonwalk for the new millenium, huh? (and don't you dare say anything about "soldjaboy" or however they spell it).
posted by revmitcz at 2:52 PM on March 25, 2008


Ooooh.. and it looks like the Billy Jean in question (now 60 years old) was arrested recently trying to break into Neverland Ranch, claiming part ownership. Neat.
posted by revmitcz at 2:57 PM on March 25, 2008


Funk Brothers bassist James Jamerson, who played on around 95% of Motown recordings between 1962 and 1968, had to buy a ticket to this concert. That was typical of the screwing the Funk Brothers got; Jamerson didn't get credited on an album until Marvin Gaye's What's Going On in 1971, and they were all dumped--by a note taped to the studio door--when Barry Gordy moved Motown Records to Los Angeles in 1972.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:24 PM on March 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


The guy in the video is an impostor. No way is that Michael Jackson.
posted by Sailormom at 3:25 PM on March 25, 2008


Impact on popular culture, example 5472: Finnish hockey goalie Matti Höylä dancing/moonwalking to "Thriller".
posted by iviken at 3:50 PM on March 25, 2008


That Billy Jean video is totally bizarre, really. The moonwalk part lasts for all of 2 seconds, and the squeals from the audience during it seem sort of fake. Hard to believe it was 25 years ago.
posted by Dave Faris at 3:51 PM on March 25, 2008


Where's the moonwalk for the new millenium, huh? (and don't you dare say anything about "soldjaboy" or however they spell it).

Well, that's the thing. James Brown and Bob Fosse may have had the moves first, but Jackson was the right face, the right voice, and the right moves partnered with some damn good video production talent, breaking into a hip new media market that was selling the double-threat package 20 hours a day. At the time, Jackson was being showcased in videos that were breaking records for the most amount of money spent on 5minutes of product, and his trademark dance moves shown on an hourly basis after school and in prime time.

That market for double-threat performers (and the dance and fashion crazes they inspired) just doesn't exist anymore. The music networks that started off showcasing musical performance art are now just lifestyle and paparazzi programming. The market model for youtube favors the improvised and low budget. Radio has both stagnated and fragmented. And Broadway, for the most part, is packaged demographic nostalgia.

I'll call it now. The "moonwalk" for the 21st century is going to be the "moonwalk" of the 20th century, via the smash Broadway revival of Michael Jackson's work that will sell out to my generational cohort and promptly be made into a movie.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:57 PM on March 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Here's that amazing Bob Fosse clip with the dialog in English.
posted by unSane at 4:14 PM on March 25, 2008


fun post - thanks. lots of good links in here too.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:41 PM on March 25, 2008


Damn, the hate is strong in here.

Seriously, this was a wonder to people who hand't seen James Brown? So in order to be a great dancer you have to be BETTER than JAMES BROWN? Holy shit. That's a hell of a fucking standard. You know JB was a big MJ fan, right? You'll find no bigger James Brown fan than I, but that's kind of a silly way to dismiss Michael.

Seriously, there were pop-lockers doing the moonwalk and other similar moves before MJ -- he learned it from them. That doesn't make it any less exciting or amazing. Michael Jackson was (and probably still is) a brilliant dancer, in a completely different way than most breakers or pop lockers or James Brown. JB was tight, furious energy. Locking is about syncopation and crazy moves. Michael is long and astonishingly graceful. He can also sing his ass off. JB was a good singer and a great shouter, but Michael is a great singer.

I was too young to watch this on TV, but an amazing performance by a truly amazing performer.
posted by YoungAmerican at 5:08 PM on March 25, 2008


batmonkey: A) keep in mind that that's a gossip rag, not a real newspaper. Joe Jackson was already on the radio in several places saying that the whole thing is bunk.

B) The Jacksons are fifty years old. They have no right to live on handouts from their brother, who's in plenty of financial trouble himself. They could easily get a job with their connections that would pay them a good wage. I'm sure they all have issues, but they're not Michael's fault.
posted by YoungAmerican at 5:13 PM on March 25, 2008


Michael Jackson versus James Brown versus Prince
posted by Greenie at 5:44 PM on March 25, 2008 [6 favorites]


The chair is not my son.
posted by neuron at 5:51 PM on March 25, 2008


Flaming Carrot reference FTW!

Oh, and suck it, hipster haters tripping over each other to be the first to weigh in on how much Jackson sucks. MJ was great back when he was black. Sheesh, next you'll be telling me you don't like smart quotes.
posted by Scoo at 6:18 PM on March 25, 2008


Sure you can moonwalk in normal shoes, but for maximum effect you need these (M. Jackson, et al) patented moonwalk shoes to help you lean.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 6:19 PM on March 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


So what's the difference between Michael Jackson and Neil Armstrong?

Neil Armstrong was the first man to WALK on the MOON. Michael Jackson likes to fuck little boys.
posted by jefbla at 7:39 PM on March 25, 2008


As a pre-teen, I thought I was going to marry MJ. And not just idly - I had connections! Not only did I live 5 minutes from Neverland, I knew the head keeper of his zoo (who can forget Bubbles!), and my father farmed land owned by Marty Paich, producer and arranger for a number of big music stars (and also happens to be father of David paich from Toto). I thought for sure, at one of Marty's big parties, Michael would come down off the mountain, meet me and fall in love (or, alternatively, I would get a job in his zoo, and he would love not only my rapport with his animals, but also me).

I don't remember seeing this clip back in '83, but as soon as it played, I knew every move, down to the moment he popped the toe-stand. Thanks for the trip down memory lane and reminding me of my first love, the King of Pop.
posted by ikahime at 8:23 PM on March 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


you know, i like a few of his songs, but he's not a very great performer.

(when his best of came out a few years back, i had to ponder for a while if it was okay to like music made by a pedophile. even if he isn't a pedophile, he's going to be labeled as one, and i wonder what he'll be remembered as [in the same way that oj will now only secondarily be remembered as a football star])
posted by misanthropicsarah at 8:30 PM on March 25, 2008


INT. LIVING ROOM (2018) — NIGHT

A FATHER and his 16-year-old SON sit quietly in front of
the holo-television. ROBOT DICK CLARK counts down the hits
of the 1980s on a show called "Those Amazing Oldies".
Michael Jackson's moonwalk dance is being spotlighted.
SON Whoa, who the heck was that guy? FATHER That's Michael Jackson. He used
to be really something. SON God, your jokes are terrible, Dad.
This guy is amazing. Seriously,
who is it?

posted by Mikey-San at 8:32 PM on March 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Jesus fuck, metafilter. Michael Jackson in his prime was freaking awesome. That's all there is to it.
posted by callmejay at 8:43 PM on March 25, 2008


I was listening to Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys during 1983 and was disposed to hating MJ, but damn that was hot. I fail to see the cynicism when Michael was at his peak back then. He truly was an electrifying performer.
posted by cazoo at 9:08 PM on March 25, 2008



I would just like to point out that Mr Jackson is lip-syncing in that clip.

The really interesting thing is his 30th Anniversary performance of the song in 2001. Of course he's lip-synching in that clip; he blatantly shields his mouth from view for much of the song. But the amazing thing is that, based on having seen it on TV when it was originally on (it doesn't come across so unambiguously via youtube, but check it around 4:55), I'd swear that when his mouth was seen onscreen, it was actually a digital recreation of his mouth pasted onto his face. As if he made no effort to sync his mouth movements during the show, and they created a mouth in post-production to prevent that from being obvious.

Then again I suppose the mouth that's actually on his face isn't the original one either.
Ha ha, get it, because he had all that plastic surgery!
posted by anazgnos at 9:16 PM on March 25, 2008


but anyone can do it, cashman, even you!

I once challenged everyone to learn how to moonwalk until I met a man with no feet.
Tweren't nothing wrong with his fists, though.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:35 PM on March 25, 2008


anazgnos---
I heard they used Lee Harvey Oswald's mouth.
I'll have what you're having.
posted by Dizzy at 3:51 AM on March 26, 2008


YoungAmerican:
I'll believe Joe Jackson when pigs fly. I agree, as I said above, that NYP tends to the prosaic, the dramatic, and even printing questionable facts. Lifelong gossip rag consumer here. You're not talking to some goss-noob ;]

Even back in the '70s, he had a knack for gumming up negative stories about his family with all of his "gee whillickers, folks, I'm just a normal family guy who treats my talented kids like royalty!" BS.

Yeah, royalty what pays the bills and does what he says no matter how asinine or destructive.

Don't get me wrong, though - I'd be glad to see at least some of those claims disproven and know, instead, that some of those who appeared to have been screwed over are actually doing fine and, if not, that it's all on them.

Based, however, upon further looking around beyond the NYP article, I'm fairly certain that at least 85% of what is reported in that article is at least 90% correct.

And, while I agree that "Michael Jackson in his prime was freaking awesome", he had ditched everything that made him cool within five years of that success and then proceeded to systematically assassinate any good feeling his original fans could hold onto without seriously deluding themselves.

He had his time in the lights. No need to extend it based on nostalgia. I wondered at his talent when it was fresh. Now that it's been in the fridge too long, it doesn't do much for me.
posted by batmonkey at 8:13 AM on March 26, 2008


The really interesting thing is his 30th Anniversary performance of the song in 2001 .

I was there for that. Good lord that man can dance. And it would have been the best show in the history of the planet if it weren't for the 15 minute breaks in between each and every goddamn act.

I mean, I get to tell my future children that I saw not only MJ live, but I saw the Jackson Five perform at the same time as well. Not many people my age will be able to say that. (except those lucky souls at that concert).
posted by Grither at 10:02 AM on March 26, 2008


Saw this when it was originally broadcast, in a room filled with mostly white frat boys, and we were all a little awestruck.

Thriller doesn't hold up nearly as well, though; it's hits are mostly a bunch of bland hooks with Jackson choking out the lyrics on top of them; I swear, he sounds like he's singing while he's doubled over from anxiety, waiting for the Xanax to kick in.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:32 AM on March 26, 2008


While those other clips of pre-MJ dancers who did moonwalk-esque things are neat, I think they're largely missing the point. It's like showing that people have shaked their butts before James Brown. Yeah, sure - and it's true, technically the moonwalk is not very hard to do. But to do it smoothly, gracefully, fluidly, transitioning between other moves? Michael Jackson was an extremely talented dancer. He wasn't a magician or discoverer of some heretofore unknown muscle or something. He was just really good at what he did. That's why the moonwalk became so popular after he did it. He made it look amazing. Other people did it, and it just looked like a neat way to get off stage (after some awesome tapping - but he had that incredible rhythmic energy where he was just taken over like a drummer, whereas MJ had a kind of flow)
posted by mdn at 2:14 PM on March 26, 2008


I think full playback when I think michael jackson.
posted by krautland at 12:13 AM on March 29, 2008


Oh, and suck it, hipster haters tripping over each other to be the first to weigh in on how much Jackson sucks.

"Hipster haters"? Really? No. As far as I can tell, there is no hipster hate for Michael Jackson.

Proof: Go to any hipster dance party where the crowd is sufficiently warmed up. Play Billie Jean, or Don't Stop or some shit and watch what happens.
posted by sparkletone at 1:30 PM on March 29, 2008


Play Billie Jean, or Don't Stop or some shit and watch what happens.

You ain't kidding. Don't dare play Thriller, or you'll have a dance hall filled with Zombie-wannabes.
posted by thanotopsis at 1:31 PM on April 3, 2008


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