I had kept my emotions in check for the majority of the day, the whole working day in fact. Even when I had seen the newspaper headlines on the stand in the Tesco Metro, Northbrook Street. However, as I left the office at 17:04, this afternoon I received a heartfelt message from my fifteen year old teenage sister, Julie. She had sent the text 13:38, “Andrew B(baa), did u heard about MJ? Sorry Andrew baiya :)”. I could not hold it in any more, I had been as strong I could and a tear fell down my cheek. It was just those simple ten words that have me in a flood of tears as I write up this blog post on platform two, Newbury train station at 21:50. I have made the spontaneous decision to go into Central London, to be with other MJ fans and to be with some of the dearest friends I have. While I begin my journey into London, I thought it would be an ideal moment to write down my feelings.
It was a normal Thursday evening, I got off the computer just after 10pm and put on the TV, as I do every week night to watch the news. Instead of being healthy and eating my yoghurt (a new regime for evenings) I was eating dark chocolate (which I should not have been doing). George Alagiah was presenting instead of Huw. That was perhaps the only thing out of the ordinary for a usual Thursday evening, there was no sign that my evening was about to be thrown onto it’s head. There was breaking news that Michael had been rushed to a hospital. I called Preeti to let her know and she too put on the rolling news channels. The signs were not good. I put on Sky News and watched this and switched between this and CNN. CNN were being far more cautious than Sky News. They were reporting that TMZ web site were reporting that Michael Jackson had died. I refused to believe it. I did not want to believe the dream had died.
There was a glimmer of hope for a moment, when Sky report that MJ was in a coma but surrounded by his family at UCLA Medical Centre, Los Angeles. I cared little for the O2 residency at that moment, I just wanted my idol to be safe. The moment of hope was shattered a little later. Preeti called back, it had been confirmed that MJ had passed. I was still hoping it was all wrong, but the ticker soon changed to breaking news, “SINGER MICHAEL JACKSON HAS DIED OF CARDIAC ARREST”. I did not know what to do. I rang Kish at 22:51, he was distraught and lost for words. We spent a few minutes on the phone, but it was the conversation of people whom had just lost something and the phone call had distracted them from finding it. I watched as much rolling television news as I could stomach. I retired to my bedroom and put on FiveLive. Good to hear a more positive atmosphere, with fans (young and old calling in) with news fed in occasionally, rather than the over sensationalised television (even the Beeb sometimes gets lost). Richard Bacon was very good, keeping the tone warm and heartfelt but also at the same time delivering the facts in between loving memories from the fans (some mild, some diehard). It was, I have to say a perfect way to present a radio show at this difficult time.
Emotionally you can appreciate I was all over the place and I just wanted to go to sleep listening to my Zen but it was only then I discovered that I did not have Human Nature on my mp3 player. I had to jump onto the computer to transfer it over. Although it was tempting to go online and start reading the blogs, the news articles, and the tweets, I resisted the urge. I had no need for the information overload and the speculation. I wanted to be alone with my memories and the music (the most important legacy). I transferred the song over, got back into bed and found the strength to switch off the radio, even though I wanted a to keep listening in the hope that the news would change. The penny drop moment was when Richard came back to confirm officially that the BBC had verified the story. I called Terry, he was on his way back from another MJ fan. They had been getting their t-shirts ready for the O2 gigs. He was not really able to speak and I felt bad for putting him on the spot but I wanted to connect with my network of MJ fans. I felt a little isolated so far away in Newbury. It was 11:50pm.
Do we truly appreciate music in this disposable digital age? Probably not but it is amazing how the meaning behind a song can change after certain events in your life. I have always liked Human Nature but only fell in love with it once again as recently as 2003. Jason Nevins sampled Jackson’s track on “I’m in Heaven”, which featured vocals by Holly James. While this was climbing the charts, a local radio station played Human Nature and I remembered how great the was back in the mid-1980s and still sounded fresh, some twenty years later. I switched off the radio, put on the song and the memories came flooding back. Also a little realisation that I would not be hearing the voice sing any thing or anything live. I broke into tears and for a few moments was lost in myself, in the surreality of the event.
I could not sleep, even though I tried. I tried to block it all out, pretend it was not actually happening but I could not. I put the radio back on and listen to the rest of the Richard Bacon show. Nav was interviewed, the impersonator I had seen perform at MJ events in recent years. The show ended with One Day In Your Life, perfect way to end such an emotionally charged radio show. I listened to Up All Night with Dotun Adebayo MBE and he sounded as shocked as the rest of the country. Although he quickly gained some composure to bring us facts then some commentary and analysis. However, I slowly drift off to sleep.
I woke up to a headache on Friday morning, I think it was due to the dark chocolate I had been eating the night before way past 9pm. It took a while for me to then piece together the events of the previous evening, the phone calls, the rolling news networks, the radio discussion and perhaps most importantly the music. Had it all been a really bad nightmare from hell? I wanted to believe it so much but I was wrong, BBC Breakfast was covering the story and I did not feel like breakfast but had some food in any case, knowing that I needed energy to face a difficult day in the office. It was dull overcast and grey outside, perhaps even God knew today was not a day for sunshine. This was perhaps the first time since I have moved to Newbury and definitely the first time in several years I just did not like the thought of going to work. Suppose it was much easier than the difficulty I would have faced in my previous office, there would have been the jokes which I could have taken but I think I would have come to blows with a few people disputing MJ’s legacy.
Was it really that bad? No but it was hard to concentrate on work, sales figures, splicing and dicing the sources, did it all truly really matter? No of course not. My idol, my inspiration, my friend had gone and I felt a strange sense of loneliness which is very difficult to describe. It was as if a member of my family had passed away. That is no exaggeration, and I still feel the same way. Even though I only briefly saw him in November 2006, it is a memory that will stay with me for the rest of my life and I will cherish every song, every recorded performance. More than this, I have made so many great friends through Michael and have so memories I have shared with them. Those I will come back to another time, right now the emotions are just too raw.
After work you would think that I would be more than happy to escape back to the flat, put on Thriller 25 (if I had a CD stereo, suppose I could use my PC). I actually went to the pub for a few drinks with colleagues. It was Friday night after all, plus it was Nikki’s birthday this weekend. Preeti then called to explain she was at the station, so I left the bar to go and meet up with her. I had received an e-mail during the day that The Standard (formerly the Evening Standard) had produced a special MJ Tribute magazine and although I had e-mailed Preeti to get the paper if she could, she had missed my e-mail, having already left the office by the time I sent it across. However, she had purchased three newspapers for me. Although I had originally considered going straight back to the flat, we headed back The Pig & Paper. We stayed for a drink before heading back to the flat, I had wanted to catch the MJ Special on BBC News but we missed it and arrived just in time for Eastenders. The soap included a last minute additional scene which mentioned the passing of the Pop Legend. I know they were under the pressure of time but I would have liked a greater input from more of the cast, particularly the younger black kids (Theo?). They did also have Thriller playing in the Queen Vic, although it is unknown whether that just pure coincidently or pre-planned. Afterwards, I put on the various music channels which were all showing MJ videos. Remember The Time came on. I thought of my sister’s text message and I burst into tears.
What was I going to do all night? Watch MJ videos, cry and think of what could have been? No, I was going to do something, I was not going to have the same regrets I had for many things relating to Michael Jackson. I called Kish and I asked where he was. The O2 Arena but heading to Trafalgar Square, my other MJ fan Terry was there. I was going to go to London, to join the fans and show my respect. It was 9:04pm, it was going to be a long night.Bad music video, when one of the group skates backwards (obviusly in late 1980s in old fashioned rollerskates). There was a large shrine on the railings to the right of the Gallery entrance. A young black girl, was just completely distraught, her hand covering her face, to mask the tears and the pain. Next to her, several photographs and lit candles. Preeti took several photographs as I went to look at the messages on both the wall and on the railing. The shrine had gathered quite an audience. I was glad to be here but it still did not feel real.
It was getting late but there were few signs of the crowd dying down. The police had arrived by now and were surveying the area, with a riot van pulling up onto the Square outside the Gallery. One of the reasons for trekking down from West Berkshire was to get a sense of perspective. This was real, this had happened I had to deal with it, but even so I still had not come to terms with the death. Sure, I agree that this moment will be forever marked in history and it is bigger than me, the fans in London, the fans around the world. It is a moment that defines an entire generation. My parents had Elvis and the generation after had Lennon, I now have Michael Jackson. I was able to keep my emotions in place, perhaps because it was a celebration and a realise that this one human being (he was only a human being I need to state that clearly) did so much, was a tortured soul but still gave his all for the fans.
It was this point in the evening, 23:21 I called Aniyah (I had tried her old number previously and got through to voicemail and left a message, which she would never pick up). It was great to hear from her, she has been one of my closest MJ fans (not geographically because she lives in Plymouth and we have yet to meet up) but I got to know her through the forums and the Wings ballad – Keeping The Dream Alive. I had, in fact, inspired or rather spurred Aniyah (at the time Anne Marie) to start writing her first blog. (Been removed long ago but will need to find a link to her latest blog, which I believe is on MySpace). It was great to be able to make contact with a fan whom I had known for several years. We were both emotional and she wished she could be in Central London like me and I told her I was thinking of her and would report back every little detail on this blog. We stayed around for a little while longer, the crowd underneath Nelson sang along to Beat It and They Don’t Care About Us. It was rather fitting I thought but I still could not put a finger on the atmosphere, did it feel right? I suppose because this is my first time dealing with the grief of such a major influence on my life, it is difficult to comprehend because you never thought the day would come?
Around midnight we decided to head back home, it was late and I would be able to get to Reading and then catch a taxi back to Newbury. Preeti kept snapping photographs on the journey back (although of course, her stop was Hayes and Harlington). You can view the rest of her FlickR set over on, FlickR of course. I eventually got back to my flat at 2.30am and completely shattered feel asleep. Tomorrow was going to be a difficult day but I had redeemed a little loneliness in my heart and shared in the sorrow and joy with the other fans in London.
Michael Joseph Jackson was the soundtrack to my life and I will do everything in my power, to ensure he continues to be that powerful influence, not just in this life but in the next. If there was any need for evidence of the King Of Pop’s everlasting presence look at the photograph below. A girl, perhaps as young as eight, trying to mimic her hero. Similar to the text message from my sister, Julie which is how I opened this blog post. She never really knew of the King Of Pop as us children of the 70s and 80s did. Older brother constantly playing the music videos and CDs gave her a little idea of the magic, but living something second hand is just not the same. The legacy is the music and the beat goes on forever.