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Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue, Creem Close-Up: Michael Jackson & the Jacksons, September 1984

During the early to mid-1980s, Creem often ran special issues dedicated to a particular subject or band. For example, “Close Up: Special Editions” were available on acts like Van Halen, the Police, and the Rolling Stones. More often these “Special Editions” had a theme like “Women in Rock,” “Heavy Metal,” or “Guitar Heroes of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” I never purchased any of these “Special Editions,” but somehow have the issue of Michael Jackson and his famous siblings in my possession. This issue was priced at $2.95, a dollar more than a regular issue during this timeframe, and I’m guessing, required much more original content than most of the other “Special Editions,” which were, I’m guessing again , primarily compilations of previously published features (in the Special Editions I wrote for it was all original material -Editor).


“The Jacksons: The Real Story,” by Richard Grabel

“At Home with the Jackson Five,” by Tim Tyler

“Michael Jackson, Fashion Trendsetter,” by Anastasia Finn (John Mendelssohn)

“Jermaine; ‘This Will Be the Last Time’,” by Gary Graff

“Tito: The Common Man,” by Gary Graff

“The Jacksons Discography,” by Jim Feldman

“Roll Up for the Mystery Tour,” by John Kordosh

Richard Grabel penned a fine retrospective on the Jacksons, from the dreams of father Joe Jackson through the signing at Motown, leaving Motown, and Michael’s solo success.

The Tim Tyler piece is a reprint of a cover feature from September of 1971. This article includes the Motown fiction that Diana Ross “discovered” the Jackson 5. Most contemporary articles credit veteran musician Bobby Taylor with bringing the Jackson 5 to Motown’s attention. Gladys Knight was also an early “champion” of the group, whatever that means. In any event, Diana Ross had nothing to do with bringing the Jackson 5 to Motown, but for marketing purposes, Berry Gordy wanted the group associated with one of the label’s top stars. In any event, Michael credits Tito in the piece for being the driving force to start a band, but he was also more than happy to tell the Diana Ross discovered us fiction. The Tyler piece is a reflection of a group of young men who get to travel the world and be superstars, while still being high school students. There are also several paragraphs dedicated to franchising specialist Fred Rice, who was amazed at the marketability of the act. Rice, “This is the first time in my 24 years in the business that we’ve had anything like this. I call ‘em the black Beatles.”

John Mende…I mean, Anastasia Finn (wink wink, nudge nudge) penned a piece on Michaels’ impact on the world of fashion, including hairstyles, clothes, and makeup during his career. The author wrote about seeing a very unglamorous version of Jackson at a Los Angeles restaurant and concluded, “The most striking thing was the vast amount of eyeliner and rouge he was wearing.”

Gary Graff interviewed Jermaine Jackson on the eve of the “Victory” tour, a reunion of the Jackson 5/Jacksons done primarily as a monetary gift from Michael to everyone else in the family. Graff wrote about Jermaine’s solo career and his work as an executive for Motown (he brought Stephanie Mills and DeBarge to the label, among others). Jermaine, ever the businessman, used the interview as an opportunity to push his latest album.

Graff also interview Tito (“Hand Me a Tissue”) Jackson. Tito was actually a pretty solid interview. He talked about preferring the creative environment of Epic over Motown, the need to space out albums and not flood the market with Jackson product, and serving as the live band arranger (“I run the band like an Army”). Unfortunately, Tito did see a much bigger future for the Michael and Jermaine-less Jacksons than the public would support.

Jim Feldman wrote capsule reviews on every album released by the family (Jackson 5, Jermaine, Michael, Janet, LaToya. My favorite review, “Jackie has the worst falsetto voice I’ve ever heard on record. Unlistenable.”

The issue ends with a John Kordosh piece on the many delays of the “Victory” tour, which as an event probably required the type of negotiations that would end an international war. It was clear in 1984 that the pop music world was under Michael’s domination and everyone else in the family was just along for the ride.

Quotable Quotes:

Richard Grabel on the Jackson family, “It is a story of showbusiness and the American dream and the intersection of the two, of family ties and contradictory pulls of loyalty, of images and the realities behind them both confirming and contradicting each other. The Jacksons’ story is the stuff that mythologies are made.”

Richard Grabel on Michael Jackson’s strange public image in 1984, “He is the most famous performer in the world and we hardly know him at all.”

Jackie Jackson, “We don’t have any gold records. They’re all platinum!”

Jermaine Jackson in 1984, “When I look back on the Jackson 5 now, it seems like other kids. We’re older and different people.”

Tito Jackson on why the band avoided overtly sexual material, “My mother would kill me. She would be through with us.”

Summary: One thing I’ve not mentioned yet is this magazine is chocked full of photos from the band throughout their career. It’s also extremely admirable the amount of original work that went into this special issue.

Grade: A

Latest price on eBay: $14.99 to “Buy It Now.”

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