Mar 22 2011

‘Children are more than adults’: Michael’s March 1980 interview in Melody Maker

Category: Children,MJ Quotes,PhotosSeven @ 4:43 am

March 1980 ~ Michael is on the cover of Melody Maker with an exclusive interview.

March 1980 ~ Michael is on the cover of Melody Maker with an exclusive interview.

In March 1980,  Michael was on the cover of Melody Maker with an exclusive interview.  One quote that really stood out for me in this interview was about something Michael loved more than anything – children:

One of my favorite pastimes is being with children – talking to them , playing with them, wattlin’ in the grass. They’re one of the main reasons why I do what I do. Children are more than adults. They know everything that people are trying to find out – they know so many secrets – but it’s hard for them to get it out. I can recognize that and learn from it. They (the children) say some things that’ll astound you. They go through brilliant, genius stages, but when they become a certain age, they lose it. So many people think certain things are childlike, but grown-ups are really nothing but children who have lost all that real magic by not noticing and digging and finding out. I believe in that deeply.

-Michael Jackson

Though it was difficult to find, I managed to locate a a transcript of the article and interview. In those days, Michael would have Janet act as a go-between between himself and the interviewer. There is a also magnificent John Pigeon interview with Michael from January 1980 where he also puts his sister Janet to work in this manner.

Below is the remainder of this March 1980 Melody Maker article and interview with Steve Demorest (Steve’s questions are in italics. Michael’s answers are in bold):

• • •

1ST MARCH 1980

Michael Jackson: “black Sinatra for the ’90s“, or just looking for an escape to heaven? Steve Demorest gets to talk to him – via his 13-year old sister, Janet

The voice wafting in from the West Coast was as feather soft as a child’s. It was Michael Jackson, calling with the ground rules for our interview. CBS International had already cautioned me against asking questions comparing the Jacksons to similar family entertainment empires with lots of white teeth and television specials. say, of the Mormon persuasion. . . say, from Utah.

Sure I’d caved in, and I won’t ask him what he thinks of Baudelaire or Afghanistan either. Anything else? Yeah. I was told to expect a personal call from Michael, and here he was -live in Bell Telephone mono – with a pip of a condition. He wanted me to ask my questions to his sister. Then she’d repeat the questions to him. He said it had to do with “something I believe in“.

Oh. You mean I drop off the questions and pick up the tape later, but I’m not there during the actual interview? No, he said, I could be there and he’d answer me.

Hmm, I thought on, this round-robin twist is a new one me. What can he possibly be afraid of? Sure, I said at last, whatever makes you feel comfortable. Weird.

Scheduling an interview with Michael Jackson is a tricky business, especially just after he’s been misquoted by a major American trade publication. Only a good deal of polite patience all round the globe had pulled this one off. They say The Jacksons have sold more records than anyone except The Beatles, but it was always Michael who had the most charisma. In 1970, when he was precocious ll-year-old mini-Super Fly, strutting and spinning and singing with a sophistication beyond his years, Michael had a natural cool that girls ten years his senior couldn’t find in their own boyfriends. In 1979, the family’s ‘Destiny‘ album went double platinum, and they claim to turn away 10,000 people every night they pack one of America’s huge stadiums. Michael, however, is over three million in sales with ‘Off The Wall‘ all by himself.

Now 21, Michael has become downright handsome. You catch him on camera coming out of an eerie smoke flanked by green lasers, with his black spangled body-suit sparkling like modern chain-mail, and suddenly the little urchin of old is a full-grown prince. The stage presence is fabulous and you understand why they’re beginning to call him the “black Sinatra for the ’90s“.

Our gray Cadillac dreadnought has climbed out of Hollywood, floated over the hills, and glided down into the flats of San Fernando Valley. Not far from the bustle of Encino we pull up to open iron gate, ring the intercom for the inhabitants to clear the Doberman out of the yard, and then swing into the driveway of a sprawling one-storey house. There’s a Rolls and a couple of Mercedes scattered about, but the tan camper parked under the basketball hoops lends a family touch. This is very comfortable upper-middle class spread alright, but certainly not the overwrought palace they could afford if they wanted.

Thirteen-year-old Janet – herself a child-star on the TV sitcom Good Times- answers the door like a dutiful youngest child, small golden beads clacking at the ends of her thin Bo Derek braids. There are no parents about, no manager and no bodyguard. In fact, myself and Shirley Brooks from CBS (who politely retires to the den to watch The Rockford Files for the next two hours) are the nearest excuses for grown-ups in sight.

And heeeeeeere’s Michael! Quietly padding into the carpeted hall to shake hands, the charismatic Michael Jackson appears to be simply a nice, sweet, rather low-key youth. He’s wearing an orange knit pullover shirt, dark slacks and large, gleaming black shoes that give the impression of a puppy or a colt not yet fully grown into his feet.

Michael reminds me I’ve agreed to operate with his sister acting as our interpreter and the three of us adjourn into the unpretentious, bright yellow and lime living room. I’ve already decided to open with the blandest possible questions so he’ll have time to check on my humanity, but Michael doesn’t know that. He’s cracking his knuckles while I set up the tape machine, until Janet – sitting between us – chastises him mildly. He smiles and relaxes, Throughout our talk she’ll reach over to pluck at his hair or brush his arm reassuringly.

So let’s start with Quincy Jones. Everybody loves his production of ‘Off The Wall‘. Quincy remembers meeting Michael at Sammy Davis’ house when the boy was ten, and Michael’s first recollection of Quincy dates from backstage at a Muhammad Ali benefit, but their ‘real‘ meeting came when they worked together on The Wiz in 1978, Er, I’d like to know how Michael decided that Quincy would be the best producer for his album. “How did you decide to have Quincy?” Janet echoes. Michael smiles. Good start.

“One day I called Quincy up to ask if he could suggest some great people who might want to do my album. It was the first time that I fully wrote and produced my songs, and I was looking for somebody who would give me that freedom, plus somebody who’s unlimited musically. Quincy calls me ‘Smelly’ and he said, ‘Well, Smelly, Why don’t you let me do it?’ I said,  That’s a great idea!'” Michael laughs as though he still can’t believe he’d been so ingenious.

“It sounded so phoney -like I was trying to hint to that – but I wasn’t, I didn’t even think of that. But Quincy does jazz, he does movie scores, rock’n’roll, funk, pop – he’s all colors, and that’s the kind of people I like to work with; I went over to his house just about every other day, and we just put it together.” Did Quincy have a lot of good ideas for Michael? “Did Quincy have good ideas for you?” Janet whispers. “There’s a great coincidence that happened on that album. You know the Paul McCartney song I did, ‘Girlfriend‘? The first time I met Paul McCartney was on the Queen Mary and then I met him again at a party he threw at Harold Lloyd’s estate here in LA. Him and Linda came up to me and said, ‘We wrote you a song’, and they started singing ‘Girlfriend, da-da-dee-dee-dee’. And I said, ‘Oh, I really like it, when can we get together?’ So he gave me his Scotland number and the number in London, but we never got together on the whole thing. The next I noticed it he had the song on his ‘London Town’ album. Then one day I went to Quincy’s house and he said, ‘You know what’s a great song for you? This McCartney song called ‘Girlfriend‘: I just flipped out.”

Is Michael really working day and night, like he wrote in his song? Janet passes the question along. “Working day and night is a very autobiographical in a lot of ways though I did stretch the point to playing the part like I was married to this person but she’s got me moving. But it’s not work like slavery. I love it, or I couldn’t have survived it this long”

Long” is right. Michael began entertaining locally in Gary, Indiana when he was six years old , and after 15 years he’s probably the most durable child star since Shirley Temple. Groomed in the spotlight this guy grew up on magic. Performers don’t come any more natural than Michael Jackson. Is most of his stage work pretty spontaneous? “I’ll tell you the honest-to-God truth,” he says, forgetting to wait for Janet, “I never knew what I was doing in the early days – I just did it. My dancing just comes about spontaneously. Some things I’ve done for years until people have marked them as my style, but it’s all spontaneous reactions.”

“A lot of people can’t deal with the fact that you’re another person onstage. They’ll come up to me and say, ‘Do that spin that you do on TV.’ It’s so hard. I don’t really go out to clubs and discos at all. Sometimes you think you’re going to sneak into a movie and nobody’s going to see you, but as soon as you hit the door the pen and paper and pictures are there.” There’s one place that he does go, though. The only place he enjoys is Studio 54 in New York.

“It’s so theatrical and dramatic,” he says. “People come there as characters and it’s like going to a play. I think that’s the psychological reason for the whole disco craze: you get to be that dream you want to be and you just go crazy with the lights and the music, and you’re in another world. It’s very escapist. “I don’t get involved. I just get up high in the balcony and look down on all the craziness and get ideas. It’s important to know what an audience wants.”

A parrot in another room is squawking, “Michael! Michael!” Janet is a spectator now, sitting quietly. I wonder if most of Michael’s friends are entertainers, and he agrees. “Most of the time you understand easier. Tatum (O’Neal) will call me up and say, ‘Hey, you wanna go somewhere?’ Or when Stevie (Wonder) wants to go out he’ll call me up. “One of my favourite pastimes is being with children – talking to them, playing with them, wattlin’ in the grass. They’re one of the main reasons why I do what I do. Children are more than adults. They know everything that people are trying to find out – they know so many secrets – but it’s hard for them to get it out. I can recognise that and learn from it. Grown-ups are really nothing but children who have lost all that real magic by not noticing and digging and finding out. I believe in that deeply. That’s why I’ve never taken drugs or had alcohol. I’ve tasted champagne, but I don’t drink it.”

“When people do toasts, I just pick up the glass. Because I enjoy nature too much -like her.” He points to Janet, who smiles. “Plus I’m crazy for birds and animals and puppies. And I love exotic things. I’ve had llamas, peacocks, a rhea – which is the second largest bird in the world – a macaw, pheasants, racoons, chickens… everything. Now I’m gonna get a fawn. And a flamingo. I don’t think I want a cougar, but I want a chimpanzee – they’re so sweet. Ooooooh, I have such a good time with the animals” His voice wavers and his hand squeezes his brow tighter. Omigod… I think this lamb is so overcome he’s really on the verge of weeping. What can I say now?

Nothing can harm me when I’m onstage – nothing. That’s really me. That’s what I’m here to do.

-Michael Jackson

Silence settles in the room. Janet reaches over and gently pats her older brother’s arm. Michael, don’t you think it’s possible to appreciate escapism a little too much? “No, I don’t. There’s a reason why God made the sunset red or purple or green. It’s beautiful to look at – it’s a minute of joy. Escapism and wonder is influence. It makes you feel good, and that allows you to do things. Like when I’m 40,000 feet in the air in a Jumbo Jet at night and it’s dawn. Everybody on the plane is asleep, and here I am in the cockpit with the pilots because they let me come up there with them. It’s just incredible seeing a sunrise and being up there with it. Pilots tell me, ‘I wish there were no such thing as having to go down and re-load with fuel. I wish I could stay up here forever. Forever’. And I totally understand what they mean. When I’m into 40,000 people, it’s so easy. Nothing clan harm me when I’m onstage – nothing. That’s really me. That’s what I’m here to do.”

That’s it alright. Raised on wonder and nurtured in the dreams of millions of fans, this guy is escaping all the way to heaven and he doesn’t want to come down.

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9 Responses to “‘Children are more than adults’: Michael’s March 1980 interview in Melody Maker”

  1. Vanessa Donovan says:

    Oh- he was such a sweet, gentle man,people did not understand him, what he lost as a child,it must have been heartbreaking and so hard for him. I love you Michael and I will forever, your devoted fan. xx

  2. Max says:

    It’s good to remember that there was a time when the press allowed Michael to be real. We have lost so much by ignoring his essential, true nature in favor of caricature and sensationalism.
    He was so willing to be open and authentic, even after he started to be misquoted on a regular basis. In charting his interviews, it is easy to see that it was he who remained constant to his ideals and beliefs and that it was the interviewers who became increasingly bizarre with their questions and their interpretations of his reality. It is for his unfailing genuineness that his fans have always loved and trusted him and are loving him still.

  3. Louis Gonzales says:

    This article is fantastic, and I want to say thank you for all the effort that you undertook to present it to us!

    Also, May God bless Elizabeth Taylor’s soul! Thank you Ms. Taylor for being a true friend to Michael!

  4. Sunny says:

    Ah, memories- thanks for reminding us of a time when people weren’t out to get him.

  5. Joyce says:

    Such a beautiful interview. Thanks for finding it and sharing it with all of us. @Max, your comment is absolutely perfect. It is the interviewers and medialoids who became more and more bizarre, not Michael! He always remained genuine, honest and real. His true friends, his family, and his fans will always love him for that.
    I know Michael is now laughing and dancing once again with one of his truest, dearest friends, Dame Elizabeth Taylor. My deepest sympathy goes out to her family for their incredible loss.

  6. Lisa MJJ1111 says:

    There is a line in the movie “Titanic” when Kate W.’s character tells her boyfriend, who was control freak and an abuser..after he found out about her affair with Leonardo D. “I’d rather be HIS WHORE, then be your wife..” or somthing like that. I love that line! One of my favorite lines of all time from a movie…Because it reminds me of my love for Michael.
    I have always been attracted to men who are geniuses, spiritual, and different. And Michael was 100 percent in each! Michael’s awe of God and his creations, of this planet, animals, and children..is beyound, most people’s capability to understand. Michael was so unique in everyway, yet, so normal,,it is that duality of all that is worldly yet, so human that baffles people or amazes people..There was nothing strange about him-not to me. If Iam to be labeled by society that Iam strange or crazy or bizarre..than so be it! Because I’d rather give my love to a man, who not only shared and used his GOD-given genius to the world, but he took it so much further, that only a HEART made of LIGHT, could accomplish what he did is whole life..making our world a better place for me and you..then be my guest! I love Michael with all my heart and soul, and I am so happy that of his greatest loves has finally joined him in paradise..Ms. Elizabeth..RIP, I will miss you too, you were not only so beautiful, your heart was even more so…I will see you both..soon..LOVE is 4Ever, it never dies.

  7. Julis says:

    Michael was so emotional about life and love and all things. He appreciated this world and has been speaking of his love for it and encouraging us to be kind to it all his life. I love to hear him speak about children and their potential, I feel the same way. As grown-ups we are condition to hate and lie and covet, and we loose all our innocence.
    I Love him and all the lesson he taught will stay with me forever.
    Thank you Seven. God Bless you

  8. Danae says:

    I realy enjoyed that. Thank you so much <3

  9. Simone says:

    What a great interview. Thank you so much for sharing!

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