Posts Tagged ‘Off The Wall’

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

19 July 2010

When I was in high school, I had a regular column
in the sports section of the school newspaper (The
Sentinel
) called ‘Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down’. It was
easy to write and people liked it, so I recreate it here
for you now, as a quick guide of some of my likes
and dislikes in the world of music…


THUMBS UP: Disco (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Prog


THUMBS UP: The Flying Burrito Brothers

THUMBS DOWN: The Eagles (^)


THUMBS UP: The Beatles (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Oasis


THUMBS UP: PJ Harvey

THUMBS DOWN: Joanna Newsom (^)


THUMBS UP: Iggy Pop (^)

THUMBS DOWN: G.G. Allin


THUMBS UP: Off The Wall

THUMBS DOWN: Thriller (^)


THUMBS UP: Jungle Brothers

THUMBS DOWN: NWA (^)


THUMBS UP: Gregg Allman (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Cher (^)


THUMBS UP: The Fillmore (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Slim’s


THUMBS UP: Bluegrass In The Park

THUMBS DOWN: Ticketmaster (^)


THUMBS UP: The Doors

THUMBS DOWN: Jim Morrison, poet (^)


THUMBS UP: ‘Fire On The Mountain’

THUMBS DOWN: ‘Dark Star’


THUMBS UP: Blue Note (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Free Jazz


THUMBS UP: Cold Fact (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Coldplay


THUMBS UP: Keith Richards (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Toby Keith


THUMBS UP: Canned Heat

THUMBS DOWN: Canned ham (^)


THUMBS UP: Lester Bangs (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Richard Meltzer


THUMBS UP: Willie Nelson in concert

THUMBS DOWN: Shuggie Otis in concert (^)


THUMBS UP: LPs (^)

THUMBS DOWN: CDs


THUMBS UP: Rick Rubin

THUMBS DOWN: Phil Spector (^)


THUMBS UP: Nigel Tufnel (^)

THUMBS DOWN: David Coverdale


THUMBS UP: Joy Division (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Throbbing Gristle


THUMBS UP: Saxophone

THUMBS DOWN: Bagpipes (^)


THUMBS UP: Ice Cube, rapper (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Ice Cube, actor


THUMBS UP: Johnny Rotten

THUMBS DOWN: Sid Vicious (^)


THUMBS UP: Freedom Rock (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Jam bands


THUMBS UP: Willy Wonka (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Christopher Cross


THUMBS UP: Roky Erickson’s comeback

THUMBS DOWN: Sly Stone’s comeback (^)


THUMBS UP: The Rat Pack (^)

THUMBS DOWN: The Brat Pack


THUMBS UP: Jimi Hendrix

THUMBS DOWN: Jimmy Buffett (^)


THUMBS UP: Dave Davies (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Dave Matthews


THUMBS UP: Beastie Boys (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Eminem


THUMBS UP: Al Green

THUMBS DOWN: Weird Al (^)


THUMBS UP: Pearl Jam’s first 3 albums (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Pearl Jam’s last 3 albums


THUMBS UP: AC/DC (^)

THUMBS DOWN: R.E.M.


THUMBS UP: New wave Bono

THUMBS DOWN: Statesman Bono (^)

Masterpiece: Off The Wall

26 June 2009

[Today: Saying goodbye to the King of Pop...]

Michael Jackson | Off The Wall

Michael Jackson died yesterday at age 50, and the news left me strangely unmoved. No shock, grief, or schadenfreude, just a nagging hum of nostalgia for the days when Jackson’s notoriety was primarily to do with music, rather than plastic surgery or out-of-court settlements. He became the Citizen Kane of our times, trapped within the walls of his own exorbitant fame, a star among stars, but personally impoverished by the experience. His 1979 album Off The Wall sold nearly 8,000,000 copies – a huge number of records, but a mere blip compared with what was coming. Thriller of course, went platinum 28 times over and, along with the accompanying MTV videos, catapulted Jackson into the outer stratosphere of stardom. He would never return to earth.

But Off The Wall is Jackson’s real masterpiece, in part because its imperfections haven’t all been air-brushed away. Released at the tail end of the extended dance party that was the 70′s, this is very much a disco album. ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’ and ‘Rock With You’ would fit comfortably within the boundaries of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. ‘Working Day And Night’ ‘Burn This Disco Out’ ‘Get On The Floor’ and the title track were almost as good, and can still reliably fill any dancefloor. Unlike the more mature story lines of some of his later music (including paternity suits, physical confrontation and psychological soul-searching), these songs were all about dancing and having a good time. This music was created before Jackson got completely strung up in the web of fame, and here he sings with a youthful exhilaration that was missing from his later work.

Thriller shifted an unprecedented number of units, but Off The Wall remains the more rewarding listen. Because of the tabloid trainwreck that Jackson’s life turned into after Thriller, much of that album now sounds like unintentional comedy (‘P.Y.T.’, which can’t be heard with a straight face) or tragedy (‘Human Nature’, which chronicles his wish to walk down the street like a normal person), and the music is weighed down by the circus of his life. But Off The Wall is a whole different story. Just look at that cover. That’s the Michael Jackson worth remembering – a young guy with a sparkle in his eye, full of the magic he was making, and ready to rock the world.

RIP MJ…

Listen: Off The Wall

Listen: Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough

Listen: Working Day And Night


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