Motown 25: Was it the point where Michael Jackson went supernova?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by bleachershane, Nov 14, 2017.

  1. bleachershane

    bleachershane Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Glasgow, Scotland
    I'm sure I noticed a thread like this before but the search doesn't turn it up... Perhaps I was imagining it.

    So YouTube took me down one of it's quirky paths of links when I ended up at the Jacksons and Michael's performances on Motown 25. I remember watching this on a VHS tape with my sisters, we'd rewind it and watch it over and over. It was a big thing and watching it later, yes despite Michael's lip sync for "Billie Jean" (could he have done a live vocal with that much focus and energy on the outstanding choreography?) it was an outstanding moment.

    So my question is, the Jacksons were huge, Michael became even bigger, "Thriller" was released with a lead single of "The Girl Is Mine" in October (I find that an odd choice after all these years)... "Billie Jean" was released as single January 1983 and Motown 25 was filmed March 1983...

    Would you say that performance made "Thriller" and Michael even bigger... or did he hit that stage of supernova when "Billie Jean" was released as a single?

    Share your memories and thoughts on this one if you're interested!
  2. Chance

    Chance Forum Resident

    Morris County, NJ
    Yes, THAT was the moment. It was his "Beatles on Sullivan" event.

    I remember, about six months before the thing aired, Rolling Stone had a write up on the performance. The guy was profuse in saying it was the most exciting performance he'd seen since Elvis in the fifties. I made sure I was in front of the TV with the VCR ready when it was televised. For a good eight or nine months after that, EVERY SINGLE TIME I was browsing in a records store, someone would be talking about that performance. Without fail. It was unreal.
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  3. Rfreeman

    Rfreeman Forum Resident

    Lawrenceville, NJ
    I'd say it was Billy Jean
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  4. jfire

    jfire Beatles and Jazz Know-if-All

    I agree with the "Ed Sullivan" comparison.

    I knew the Jackson 5, of course. They had lunchboxes and a cartoon! But they were more for the big brothers and, mostly, big sisters of my friends. This was the moment that Michael clicked with my generation as a solo icon.

    That moment is branded in my memory. I was knocked out when MJ did his moonwalk. I'd never seen anything like it. Everyone at my school talked about it the next day.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2017
  5. Luvtemps

    Luvtemps Forum Resident

    Yes,I would agree that was the moment that he showed the World who he was.
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  6. Michael Rose

    Michael Rose Forum Resident

    It was the perfect storm of the Moonwalk on Motown 25 and Billy Jean being played on MTV (excellent video for its time) every other hour for 24 hours a day.
  7. bleachershane

    bleachershane Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Glasgow, Scotland
    See, it's interesting to hear it from people that remember it at the time. By the time I remember watching that video, perhaps I was 4 or 5 and we're talking two to three years after the fact. Even then the shockwaves of the performance were palpable, it's strange.
    It's also interesting to think that nowadays things, songs, artists 'just' happen (I'm talking most big chart acts). Things hit number one and drop off. People peak and then disappear. Was there a groundswell with "Billie Jean" playing on rotation, which peaked with this performance (I remember specifically the Moonwalk moment stopping people in their tracks, and yes I know Michael was in no way the originator of that)?
    Elliottmarx likes this.
  8. jfire

    jfire Beatles and Jazz Know-if-All

    In my memory, the Motown special preceded the Billie Jean video, but that's not the case. I think we didn't get MTV in our area until after the Motown Special aired, though. That show was my first glimpse of Michael performing the song.
    bleachershane likes this.
  9. jfire

    jfire Beatles and Jazz Know-if-All

    With so many different media channels today, online and cable, there are few mass media moments like the Motown Special or the Beatles on Sullivan. It's more difficult for a performer or band to have a mass impact, where everyone is seeing a performance at the same time. We're all watching different stuff now.
  10. bleachershane

    bleachershane Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Glasgow, Scotland
    Another interesting point, the rotation on MTV was all well and good, but in the UK I can't think of anyone we knew that had access to satellite TV at that point, we had four terrestrial television channels and a handful of weekly music shows. Was it the case that Motown 25 was the first time many had seen Michael performing the song? It broadcast on NBC in May 1983, I wonder when it was syndicated worldwide...
  11. bleachershane

    bleachershane Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Glasgow, Scotland
    "The original broadcast of the two-hour show was watched by 47 million people, according to Nielsen, with 35 percent of the country with a TV set turned on watching Motown 25. The show did especially well in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, San Francisco and Philadelphia."

    From here:

    That's a HUGE audience, the UK population at that point was 56m, and it's estimated 47m in the US watched that Motown 25 broadcast!
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  12. Grant

    Grant A Brady-Boomer Musical Free-Spirit

    It's hard to say. I grew up in a world/culture where he was a household name way back in the early 70s. In the early 80s, I was stoned shocked to discover how many people out there who either never heard of him, or didn't know much or any of his music. That is as far as I can say on this forum. So, anyway, I think it all depends on how you grew up, or what your culture was. A lot of people only discovered Michael Jackson through "Thriller". I still have a hard time wrapping my head around that. If you weren't born until the the mid-70s or later, I can understand that, but for those who were living in 1969? Boggles the mind.

    So, with all that said, no, I was not mesmerized by his moonwalk on the TV special. The "Thriller" album didn't thrill me. I am one of those people who think "Off The Wall" and even "Destiny" are better albums.
  13. detroit muscle

    detroit muscle Forum Resident

    I always thought The Girl Is Mine was the lead single because at that time Macca was more famous than Michael and would broaden interest in the album.
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  14. HeavensAbove

    HeavensAbove Forum Resident

    I might be mis-remembering this since I was just a kid in 1982, but didn't Thriller have a pretty low-key release? I don't recall the album really taking off into the stratosphere until the Motown 25 appearance.
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  15. PretzelLogic

    PretzelLogic Machine wrapped in butter.

    London, England
    I’ve never seen it, but the overriding attraction for me would be watching Diana Ross shove Mary Wilson out of the spotlight at the climax of the Supremes’ reunion set.
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  16. Grant

    Grant A Brady-Boomer Musical Free-Spirit

    It was indeed the first single, and released before the album.

    But, MACCA was not more famous here in the U.S.. They were equals. I'm gonna raise the ire of Beatles/MACCA fans on this forum with that comment, but, so be it. Let them drag the thread down trying to prove i'm wrong.:shake:
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2017
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  17. Grant

    Grant A Brady-Boomer Musical Free-Spirit

    The album took off with the song "Beat It. It happened only when MTV added it to rotation, and only after CBS threatened to pull all of their artists off the channel.
    bleachershane likes this.
  18. Tingman

    Tingman Forum Resident

    Waukesha, WI USA
    I was teaching at a high school in Milwaukee at the time. The day after Motown 25 aired, it seemed like all the kids were talking about MJ’s performance of Billie Jean. Cable TV had not yet come to Milwaukee; those shared mass cultural experiences seem to be a thing of the past.
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  19. Chemguy

    Chemguy Forum Resident

    No doubt. Couple this with the Moonwalk on the Motown 25, and...Boom!
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  20. tedhead

    tedhead Forum Resident

    Space City
    I'll chime in and agree that it was. I was 11 years old, watching with my parents as they waxed nostalgic on the music they grew up with, and that moment of the "moonwalk" made my head explode. It was all the kids at school would talk about. By that summer everyone wanted to learn how to break-dance.
    bleachershane likes this.
  21. SITKOL'76

    SITKOL'76 Forum Resident

    Colombia, SC
    Wasn't 'Off The Wall' already a mega album before Thriller, Don't Stop and Rock With You were both #1 hits and the record was the first to send 4 songs into the top 10.

    Of course MJ only got bigger with Thriller but I'd say he was also one of the biggest artists in the world in 79/80.
  22. Being a little less than a year older than Michael myself, I of course had been hip to the Jackson 5 from their earliest hits, but seems like I kind of lost track of them after that initial incredible run. I saw the special when it was originally aired, and as great as the whole thing was, Michael's performance was definitely the highlight. So the short answer to the question posed in the OP is yes - though with the success of Off the Wall and the group's recent LPs at the time, the momentum had definitely been building to that point. And though he chose to lip synch here, Michael could definitely pull off the lead vocal live as he shortly proved on the Victory tour.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2017
  23. acetboy

    acetboy Forum Resident

    Bloomington, IL
    He peaked with 'The Love You Save'.......:hide:
  24. bleachershane

    bleachershane Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Glasgow, Scotland
    "Off The Wall" was indeed a big hit (and for a good while it has been my favourite Michael Jackson album), but that album seems like a minor chart hit when you compare it to the sales "Thriller" garnered. When I say 'went supernova', I really did not mean that it was the point where a megastar became all-encompassing.

    I'm still finding it fascinating to think that the reason why "The Girl Is Mine" was released as the lead single was because Paul McCartney was bigger in 1982 (I'm not talking his past glories, McCartney was in the biggest group of our time, I'm talking 1982). Trouble is I was one year old when that single came out and therefore I have no recollection of McCartney's public stature at that time, all I know is that from 1982 to 1992, Michael had a decade of being THE biggest name in music and entertainment.

    If I'm sounding like a superfan, I'm definitely coming across wrong. I like most of his classic output but aside from that, I think I'm more interested in the point where a star goes even further and becomes a superstar...
  25. bleachershane

    bleachershane Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Glasgow, Scotland
    I've read that the entire Supremes reunion was a farce, I may need to watch this clip if it's out there...
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