I remember reading somewhere on the MJ Fan Club News website that a British documentary was being produced about Michael Jackson fan’s to be screened in early 2005. So, it came as a little surprise that early 2005, actually referred to just four days into the new year. While flipping channels, as I do constantly, I noted the flash new rolling titles of Channel 4 which had only just been released. I saw some unfamiliar faces but heard familiar music being played for this trail. It was Human Nature. Intrigued I turned up the music to find out more about this show. I realised quickly the subject matter of the show and noted the time and date it would be broadcast. To my disappointment it was called, “Wacko About Jacko” which is just highly impertinent to the music star.
It was after my first day at work, as I drove home I realised that I would be watching the show that evening. The time had flown past by the fact that so many incidents and issues at work had overcome me. Consequently I had not spent the working day lamenting on the show. As would be the case of a big football match or even episode of Eastenders. Let me not get this out of context, I was still highly anticipating the show, but the fact that the return to work after the festive period had been so hectic, meant I had little time to do so. Getting into my car, I searched around to see if I had any MJ material available. Unfortunately I did not, so kept to the CD I had been listening to in the morning and also switching over to the radio. Local radio now becomes especially important, as I work only 7 miles away. Heading home I wondered how the show would go about portraying some of the most loyal fans in the world.
By the time came for the show to start, I was knee deep into my blog entry for my Birmingham adventure, so quickly dropped everything to switch on the television. Nav had appeared online, but quickly disappeared the moment I mentioned the show was on. Rushing downstairs to his living room to tune in. While shopping in Birmingham I had mentioned the documentary in passing, he too had seen the trail and was looking forward to watching.
After watching the hour long show, here is my personal response. If one word can be used to describe the show, sensationalised. Although I have no doubt that all the people featured are true fans, I would question the combination of fans. From one extreme we had entertainers or rather impersonators whom make a living playing the role of Michael Jackson at various events and gatherings. While on the other side, we have a band of dedicated followers, willing to spend every last money of their hard earned cash in pursuit of the magic. I also do not question the devotion of these so called, ‘super fans’, they are quite unique and special. Though it does start to beg the question. To what length would you go to to be like your idol? The hair extension operation being filmed was although not painful to watch, was dramatic. Why would anyone go to all this length and expense to look like a pop star? I think Michael Jackson is one of the greatest entertainers and can with great justification call himself, the King of Pop. I just question the motives of the programme makers. What was their agenda? If they want to prove that Michael Jackson fans are as crazy as the pop star himself, I feel it did not go about it the right way. Although I disapprove highly of any argument taking this such a negative and rumour based stance. The Bashir documentary, “Living with Michael Jackson” from a few years ago, which did not go down well, both sides of the water. Of the fans featured three were from the UK. Apart from the entertainer, the other two fans were rather more down to earth and dare I say, ‘normal’. No, that is an unfair criticism, maybe my argument should be more justified. The other, is Navi. Apparently the World’s Number One Michael Jackson, impersonator. (Or so says his website). I disagree with other people cashing in on the magic of Michael, but there is little I can do about it. Some entertainers are easily to mimic, but they are not up to the standard (standard, that is a word not even in Michael’s vocabulary) and sheer breathtaking genius of the true master. That brings us on to the ‘real fans’. Danny Oliver had created the now infamous anti-Bashir jacket. During the show he unveiled a new anti-Sneddon jacket. Tom Sneddon is the District Attorney who has brought these charges. If you really want to read his glowing profile. You realise the power of one man, on another individual who has grown up with an entirely fresh and pure outlook on life based much on the influence of Michael, his music and his message. Then watching him with his family, you notice that they have had a major part in his upbringing, yet the influence of the entertainer is clearly apparent. Danny came across as a happy go luck individual with a great respect, almost religious like adulation for Michael which has to admired. To those of you are not fans, you will never understand that unique gift that MJ has. I am not referring to his talent and genius, which is to this day unparalleled. The capacity to touch so many different people with his music. Music that becomes so unique and special in its own right and yet means so much to us as fans collectively also. For example, Billie Jean will always relate to a personal experience in your life, be it a school disco, or girl you liked at the time. Then, moving to the more general picture, you have that amazing video, the dance movies and intrigue of who was the song really about? No other artist in the history of recording music has had this affect on such a cross demographic of people. I doubt anyone else ever will. Sure, there are songs that you hear during a particular phase in your life, which you feel were written personally about you. Then you turn to your MJ back catalogue and listen and it takes everything to another level. The vocals move you, you want to dance to the beat. No matter what mood you are in, you can throw that CD in and within a second your mood is changed to reflect the song.
I digress, but talking about Michael Jackson does that to you. He inspires you, in a way that no other person can. Back to the documentary. The other fan featured was Anika. She is a big mover in the UK support scene, organising demonstrations, shows and other events for UK fans and has been active in this pursuit for many years. The programme makers followed her attempts to organised a celebration show for her idol in London and also trip over the the west coast of the States to see Michael appear at the pre-trial hearing. The whole show was big eye opener for me as fan. I had known of a big fan following in the United States, as aware of some UK fans being fanatics but this was something else. Their devotion to catch just a second glimpse shows the unnerved determination of these band of followers. A fine example is in the show. A few days before they pre-trial hearing, Anika, Oliver and their friend Nima, driving the rented people carrier head across from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. This is purely on the whisper than Michael may be appearing at World Music Awards. Only to discover from a security guard that Michael’s seat had been given away to another less well known celebrity earlier that morning. So a five hour drive across the state border, all for nothing. Yet, although obviously disappointed, none of the gang of three seemed to have lost any faith and headed back LA, undeterred to book into to a motel to rest for a few hours before the trial. You are not given the label, ‘super fan’ unjustly and I have nothing but respect for sheer devotion in the face of such negative publicity and criticism from the mass media. I have never been able to support any of the artists I listen to, beyond occasionally buying their albums. Never been to a concert for an individual band or group. (Capital FM’s Party In The Park does not count!) Yet, here in front of my very eyes I see average fans, with everyday jobs saving every last penny in pursuit of a dream. Yes we all have dreams, but this dream is different. You are pursuing a piece of the magic. I hear just an ounce of the magic on the albums, on the music videos (or should that be short films), on the live performances at the concerts. Yet but capturing the magic is a difficult task. These fans have made it their mission to feel the full glory of this magic by going to the source. You can never fault anyone for following their heart and pursuing their dream, whatever it maybe. Maybe because the rest of the world no longer sees Michael Jackson as the great superstar he once was. They watch with some dismay that other people are still holding a torch for Michael. These people quickly forget the many years of wonderful memories that this one man has given us, and even in the face of great adversary, he continues to prove himself unbreakable, no that is not the right adjective. To prove himself truly resilient. The line that hit this home for me, was an early statement Michael mate back in November 2003, when these allegations first surfaced.
I could go into the giving a poor paraphrased narration on the dramatic events outside the hearing in Santa Barbara. Those of you, that caught the show, will know what I am referring to and I would rather not waste time retelling a story you already know. Instead I would like to concentrate on events, the moment the show finished that evening. Inspired, if somewhat, in awe of what I had seen on the show I decided to act. This was rather a spontaneous decision, which is a major step for someone like me. I tend to plan, arrange, organise and analyze every action with microscopic precision. A long shot in any case, I thought I may be able to get an e-mail address or at least some contact details for Anika, or the UK based Jackson fan movement. It is amazing what you can find with Google a little thought and bags of patience. So, I had an e-mail address, and a Hotmail address for that matter. An e-mail, that was my first port of call. I was going to introduce myself, in the most elegant fashion. Considering the lack of respond that previous e-mails sent in a similar vain and my frustration of not having anywhere else to turn in such circumstances, I decided that an e-mail may not suitable in the current circumstances. Recalling, that less than a month ago, an e-mail to a fan of Natasha Thomas had proved meaningless. So summing up some courage, I added Anika to my MSN contact list, half expecting her to be offline. To my surprise, she was online and then I searched for the right words to say. It was precisely forty-six minutes and ten seconds since the documentary had finished. Here I was talking to one of the super fans featured, unable to find the perfect words to make that introduction and explain my reason for adding them to MSN Messenger. Noting the time, I was apprehensive of the fact that I had to the reality check of work the following day, away from my dreams of the Moonwalk.
Having made the breakthrough, I was hoping to find out more about the moment she first was touched by the allure of MJ. To my astonishment, she first saw him in a hotel in 1996. A year later she went to the HIStory concert, I’m presuming in London. Then, the moment that made me most envious was the fact she had gone to Madison Square Garden for the 30th Anniversary Celebration concert. If that was not enough she had also chosen the night when Michael sang with with Britney Spears on “The Way You Make Me Feel”. Footage, most of us here in the UK may not have seen due to legal implications of the female artist appearing in concert on HBO. I cannot really describe how I felt when I was told this. For a split second I was filled with jealously. Then, in an instant, I realised why I had taken this great step of making contact over instant messaging. For as long as I can remember, the old adage, it’s not what you know but who you know has been ringing in my ears. When you know someone, who has met someone famous, you want to get to know them better for several reasons. Deep down, you hope and pray that some of the fairytale will rub off on you. Perhaps.
Sharing all my personal MJ moments, with another fan is interesting, because it gets you thinking to re-discover exactly when, where and even why you suddenly become a fan of one of the most famous people on the planet. I thought about it for sometime, and then realised that I liked MJ before I actually started to listen to the music and become mesmerized by his on stage performances. It was the mid 1980s and we celebrating my birthday party at our old house in Lane End. The party was in full swing and the camera man had come into the kitchen to film all the children dancing. A classic Bhangra track was playing on our dated Grundig stereo. My cousins came into the room, and there was a bit of fuss, as the music stopped and a new audio cassette (remember those?) placed in the stereo. The dancefloor was cleared. Correction the space between the dinning table and fridge was slightly cleared. My cousin Steven casually walked on to ‘his stage’ and quickly switched into what can only be described as a dancing machine. Moving to the heavy beat of the music, he took the song in his stride, with the rest of my extended family looking on with curious smiles and bemusement. Intrigued my other cousins, Ajay and Simon joined in this break dance. Passing the ‘electricity’ between them. Even my cousin William, who even in his mid-teens was a reserved chap, joined in, to the shock of onlookers. The whole segment is just over six minutes, nothing on a three hour family video but at the time, I was a toddler, completely oblivious to the power of the performance by my cousins. I would not discover Michael for a few years to come, but ironically perhaps even poignantly, I “Wanna Be Startin’ Something”.
In my several discussion with Anika so far, she mentioned a more recent and unknown song (beyond MJ circle of major fans) from the Invincible album. As fate would have it, I had only truly discovered the song, exactly a year ago, when I posted the lyrics on my blog. If you let that coincidence lie, this next one is slightly more uncanny. Many of the recent albums I have burnt, have been rushed and therefore I have not been able to actually spare the few minutes to label them. Although this label would be of some help, it would not allow me to easy identify every track on the compact disc. So the case logic CD case I have in my car is fill off identical unlabelled TDK media. Picking up a disc completely at random, I listened through the first few tracks and then switched onto track four. Shocked, I was listening to the very song I had been discussing with the super fan the previous evening. My mind began to wonder, away from the road as the song came to life and filled my car. Not many vocals can take you away from the present, to a place far far away, with the comforting warm thoughts that make you glow. Few artist can achieve this. My response to the beautiful events of the past few days can be summarised in one word. Speechless.