In June of 1976 Michael and his brothers were staring in
the weekly CBS "Variety Show - The Jacksons" [first announced
in January of 1973]. "It was a dumb move to agree to
do that show and I hated every minute of it", Michael
said later. The show was based on the successful Jackson 5 Las Vegas
cabarett shows (which Michael, opposite to this new show,
enjoyed doing). Michael: "I think a TV series is the worst thing an artist
who has a recording career can do... I'd never do it again...
I'm not a comedian. I'm not a show host, I'm a musician." "Somehow, the show was
a big hit. CBS really wanted to keep us, but I knew
that show was a mistake."
After the contract with Motown ended, Motown said that
the group's name was the company's registered trademark,
and that the Jackson 5 couldn't use it when they left.
That was a hardball, of course, so the group called
themselves "The Jacksons" from that time on.
The first album they cut for Epic was simply called
"The Jacksons" - containing the number one record "Enjoy
Yourself" and "Show You The Way To Go". The second album
for Epic was "Going Places" - different from their first
- there were more songs with messages and not as many
In September of 1977 Motown had bought the rights to
film the Broadway show known as "The Wiz", an updated,
black-oriented version of the great movie "The Wizard
Of Oz". Michael: "Motown bought 'The Wiz' for one
reason, and as far as I was concerned, it was the best
reason possible: Diana Ross." Diana was going to play Dorothy and encouraged Michael
to audition. He auditioned for the part of the Scarecrow
because he thought this character best fit his style.
Michael: "When I got the call back from the director,
Sidney Lumet, I felt proud but also a little scared."
It took 5 hours to do Michael's make-up and transform
him into the Scarecrow and this 6 days a week. Michael
loved to do this movie: "I'The
Wiz' gave me new inspiration and strength."
"The script was clever and showed me [as the Scarecrow]
pulling bits of information and quotations out of my
straw while not really knowing how to use them. My straw
contained all the answers, but I didn't know the questions...We were doing the crows' scene that day. The other
guys wouldn't even have their heads visible in this
scene because they'd be in crow costumes. They seemed
to know their parts backward and forward. I'd studied
mine too, but I hadn't said them aloud more than once
or twice. The directions called for me to pull a piece
of paper from my straw and read it. It was a quote.
The author's name, Socrates, was printed at the end.
I had read Socrates, but I had never pronounced his
name, so I said, 'Sohcrates', because that's the way
I had always assumed it was pronounced. There was a
moment's silence before I heard someone wisper, 'Soc-ruh-teeze'.
I looked over at this man I vaguely recognized. He was
not one of the actors, but he seemed to belong there.
I remember thinking he looked very self-confident and
had a friendly face. I smiled, a little embarrassed
at having mispronounced the name, and thanked him for
his help. His face was naggingly familiar, and I was
suddenly sure that I had met him before. He confirmed
my suspicious by extending his hand - 'Quincy Jones.
I'm doing the score.' "
Michael actually first met Quincy Jones in Los Angeles
when he was about 12 years old. "I was little at
the time, but I vaguely remember Sammy Davis introducing
me to Q." Their friendship really began to blossom on the set
of "The Wiz", and it developed into a father-and-son
relationship. After "The Wiz" Michael called Quincy
Jones and said, "Look, I'm going to do an album -
do you think you could recommend some producers?" "I wasn't hinting. My question was a naïve but honest
one. We talked about music for a while, and, after coming
up with some names and some half-hearted hemming and
hawing, he said, 'Why don't you let me do it?' " "I really hadn't thought of it... So I stammered
something like, 'Oh sure, great idea. I never thought
about that.' Quincy still kids me about it."With
this phone call, the work of the most successful and
best team in the 80's began - Quincy Jones and Michael
December of 1978 The Jacksons were back with a bang!
The album "Destiny" was their biggest success as an
album and also the first record for which The Jacksons
had total creative control. With the exception of
"Blame It On The Boogie", all songs were written by
the group. The album was a major success! The Jacksons also launched their own production company,
In 1979 Michael turned 21 years old and began to take
full control of his career. Michael: "My father's
personal management contract with me ran out around
this time, and although it was a hard decision, the
contract was not renewed." "Did it change the relationship between me and my
father? I don't know if it did in his heart, but it
certainly didn't in mine... All I wanted is control
over my own life." "I wanted my first solo album [for Epic] to be the
best it could be." For "Off The Wall", Michael teamed
up with a new producer - it is the legendary Quincy
Jones. "I was so glad that my outside source was
a good friend who also happened to be THE perfect choice
for a producer."
The "Off The Wall" album was originally going to be
called "Girlfriend". Paul and Linda McCartney wrote
a song of that title with Michael in mind before they
ever met him. Michael: "Paul McCartney always tells
people this story about me calling him and saying we
should write some hit songs together. But that's not
exactly how we first met... Paul McCartney and I first met at that [Harold
Lloyd estate] party. He said, 'you know, I've written
a song for you.' I was very surprised and thanked him.
And he started singing 'Girlfriend' to me at this party."
They promised to get together soon, but different projects
and life just got in the way for both of them and they
didn't talk again for a couple of years. Paul ended
up putting the song on his own album "London Town". Michael: "The strangest thing happened when we were
making 'Off The Wall'; Quincy walked up to me one day
and said, 'Michael, I've got a song that's perfect for
you.' He played 'Girlfriend' for me, not realizing,
of course, that Paul had written it for me originally.
When I told him, he was astonished and pleased. We recorded
it soon after and put it on the album. It was an incredible
engineer, Bruce Swedien put the final touches on the
songs and mixes. Up to today, Bruce still works with
Michael and they're very good friends. "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" means a lot to Michael
because it was the first song he wrote as a whole.
Stop 'Til You Get Enough' was my first chance, and
it went straight to number one. It was the song that
won me my first Grammy [as a solo artist]."
Two of the biggest hits were "Off The Wall" and "Rock
With You". Songs that would send everyone home in a
good mood. And then there was "She's Out Of My Life". Michael: "Sometimes it's hard for me to look my dates
in the eye even if I know them well. My dating and relationships
with girls have not had the happy ending I've been looking
for. Something always seems to get in the way. The things
I share with millions of people aren't the sort of things
you share with one."
"But I got too wrapped up in 'She's Out Of My Life'.
In this case, the story's true - I cried at the end
of a take, because the words suddenly had such a strong
effect on me. I had been letting so much build up inside
me. I was 21 years old, and I was so rich in some experiences
while being poor in moments of true joy. Sometimes I
imagine that my life experience is like an image in
one of those trick mirrors in the circus, fat in one
part and thin to the point of disappearing in another.
I was worried that would show up on 'She's Out Of My
Life', but if it touched people's heartstrings, knowing
that would make me feel less lonely." "I didn't really have any girlfriends when I was
in school. There were girls I thought were cute, but
I found it so difficult to approach them. I was too
embarrassed - I don't know why - it was just crazy.
My first real date was with Tatum O'Neal. We met
at a club on Sunset Strip called 'On The Rox'. We exchanged
phone numbers and called each other often. I talked
to her for hours; from the road, from the studio, from
home. On our first date we went to a party at Hugh Hefner's
Playboy Mansion and had a great time. She had held my
hand for the first time that night at 'On The Rox'.
When we met, I was sitting at this table and all of
a sudden I felt this soft hand reach over and grab mine.
It was Tatum. This probably wouldn't mean a lot to other
people, but it was serious stuff to me. SHE touched
me. That's how I felt about it. In
the past, girls had always touched me on tour; grabbing
at me and screaming, behind a wall of security guards.
But this was different, this was one-on-one, and that's
always the best."
Tatum: "One time when Michael as over, he played
the drums, my brother played guitar, and someone else
played another instrument, and we had a jam session.
I had the tape of it, but I lost it somewhere." [Tatum O'Neal in an interview, 1995]
Michael: "Ours developed into a real close relationship.
I fell in love with her [and she with me] and we were
very close for a long time. Eventually the relationship
transcended into a good friendship. We still talk now
and then, and I guess you'd have to say she was my first
love - after Diana Ross." Tatum O'Neal says later in an interview that she thinks
that "She's Out Of My Life" describes their friendship
at that time.
Michael: "When I heard Diana Ross was getting married, I
was happy for her because I knew it would make her
very joyous. Still, it was hard for me, because I
had to walk around pretending to be overwhelmed that
Diana was getting married to this man I'd never met.
I wanted her to be happy, but I have to admit that
I was a bit hurt and a little jealous because I've
always loved Diana and always will." "Another love was Brooke Shields. We were romantically
serious for a while..."
Finally, in August of 1979, the album "Off The Wall"
was released and it became a tremendous success. Michael
Jackson is the first singer ever to spawn 4 Top Ten
singles in the US from one album ( "Off The Wall"), two
of which became number one hits. In Britain, for the
first time in music history, a record 5 hit singles
were released, "Girlfriend" being one of them. The album exceeded all expectations and was hugely successful
on both the Pop and Black album charts. With the release
of this album, the world got to see a new Michael Jackson. With "Off The Wall" Michael becomes the Prince of Pop!
At the Grammy Awards for 1979, Michael got nominated
for "Best R&B Vocal Performance" and also won in his
category. Michael: "Although 'Off The Wall' had been
one of the most popular records of the year, it received
only one nomination: 'Best R&B Vocal Performance'. I
remember where I was when I got the news. I felt ignored
by my peers and it hurt. People told me later that it
surprised the industry too... I said to myself, 'Wait
until next time - they won't be able to ignore the next
album.' I watched the ceremony on television and it
was nice to win in my category, but I still was upset
by what I perceived as the rejection of my peers. I
just kept thinking 'Next time, next time.' "
"I can be brutally objective about my work as I create
it, and if something doesn't work, I can feel it, but
when I turn in a finished album - or song - you can
be sure that I've given it every ounce of energy and
God-given talent that I have. 'Off The Wall' was well
received by my fans and I think that's why the Grammy
nominations hurt. That experience lit a fire in my soul.
All I could think of was the next album and what I would
do with it. I wanted it to be truly great." And yes, the next time at the Grammy Awards, something
will happen that the world has never seen before...
Right after "Off The Wall" was finished, Michael plunged
into making the "Triumph" album with his brothers. It
was released in September of 1980, entered both the
Black and Pop album charts peaking at number one and
ten respectively and remained on both charts for 29
Hotel' had revenge in it and I am fascinated by the
concept of revenge. It's something I can't understand.
The idea of making someone 'pay' for something they've
done to you or that you imagine they've done to you
is totally alien to me...
If this song ['Heartbreak Hotel'], and later 'Billie
Jean', seemed to cast women in an unfavorable light,
it was not meant to be taken as a personal statement.
Needless to say, I love the interaction between the
sexes; it is a natural part of life and I love women.
I just think that when sex is used as a form of blackmail
or power, it's a repugnant use of one of God's gifts."
The upcoming "Triumph" tour was going to be a big undertaking.
They had special effects arranged for them by the great
magician Doug Henning.
The release of "Off The Wall" in August of 1979, the
same month Michael turned 21 and took control of his
own affairs, was definitely one of the major landmarks
of Michael's life. It meant a great deal to him because
the album's eventual success proved beyond a shadow
of a doubt that a former "child star" could mature into
a recording artist with contemporary appeal.
Back to the Michael Jackson Biography Index.
Or choose go direct to the
Jackson 5 Era
Blood On the Dancefloor Era