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“There Was A Time (Live at the Forum)” – Jackson 5

Excerpt from Live at the Forum – Disc 1 (1970)

Today’s Forum story:

James Brown. Jackie Wilson. Sly & the Family Stone. The Temptations. The Jackson 5 were deeply influenced by the grand R&B traditions of brilliant moves and close harmonies. Perhaps no one hit MJ as hard in his heart as James Brown, Soul Brother No. 1. You can see young MJ channeling JB in their Motown audition tape, where he’s singing The Man’s “I Got The Feelin’” and spinning like – well, like the future Michael Jackson.

 The JB influence hung heavy in the 1970 Forum show, mostly in the stage patter, some of which sounded appropriated from a couple of Brown live shows. The thread ran right through to “There Was A Time,” a JB jam spun out of his 1967 stage shows, which became best known in the recording from the Apollo Theater that year. The Jackson 5’s cover was a fascinating, surprising choice, since by then the original single version of the track was already more than two years old and hardly a pop tune accessible to the screaming audience at the J5 shows.

 But it gave the guys a chance to dance some more, and little Mike was more than up to the task; the performance also pointed to the similarity between it and the “shake it” break in “ABC.”

 We’d like to say, wow, they performed a tune live they hadn’t yet recorded. A poke in the vault shows that Motown producers cut for the Jackson 5 a studio track of “There Was A Time” – but, sorry fans, it was never finished, there are no vocals and isn’t really releasable.

Next time: The ‘Live at the Forum’ recap

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“Lookin’ Through The Windows (Live at the Forum)” – Jackson 5

Excerpt from Live at the Forum – Disc 2 (1972)

Today’s Forum story:

 “Ben” was the Jackson story of summer 1972 – for a solo Michael. Jermaine also had his solo debut, with “That’s The Way Love Goes,” taken from his self-titled LP, which was promoted ahead of the group and Michael on Soul Train in October. (Look for the clip – check the huge sign hanging over the bandstand.) The “other” single was this one, released June 23, 1972, and, while seemingly forgotten now, it was a top 5 Soul chart and top 20 Pop chart hit. The J5 performed “Windows” on TV in July, then again about two weeks after the Forum show they appeared on the Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour.

 Clifton Davis, who had previously delivered “Never Can Say Goodbye,” wrote “Windows.” The original recording had an unusual arrangement – complete with a percussive riff subconsciously lifted from Isaac Hayes’ “Shaft” that the J5 rhythm section had no trouble recreating onstage. The brothers also brilliantly handled the sophisticated vocal arrangement laid out on the original by John Bahler. John and his brother Tom, who later wrote MJ’s “She’s Out Of My Life,” often helped out with vocal arrangements in the group’s latter Motown days.

 Suzee Ikeda, A&R assistant to producer Hal Davis, remembered how Michael, Jermaine, Marlon, Tito and Jackie enjoyed recording the studio vocals, even cutting the lead and backgrounds in the same afternoon. “They were so happy and inspired, they finished it in one of the fastest vocal sessions I can recall,” she said.

Friday: MJ does JB

863 plays

"Ben (Live at the Forum)" - Michael Jackson (J5)

Excerpt from Live at the Forum - Disc 2 (1972)

Today’s Forum story:

  By the late August 1972 show at the L.A. Forum, Michael Jackson had three solo hits, all taken from his debut LP: “Got To Be There,” “Rockin’ Robin” and “I Wanna Be Where You Are,” which MJ announced at the show as “released as a single right now,” although by then it was on its way down the charts. The hot new Jackson family record at the time was “Ben,” the theme song to a movie about a rat and the title track to Michael’s second solo album.

 “Ben” in every way it should not have worked. But Michael made it work; his sincerity and soul permeated the record - a testament to his instincts and art.

 Then there is this live version from the Forum. The first half has no background vocals – and this being a J5 show from early in the decade, no strings, horns or video screens, either. Just MJ backed by the sparest arrangement and, except for the occasional scream (“Sing It, Michael!”), a hushed crowd. Bared, Michael is tentative at first, then more confident, and by the time his brothers join him in harmony, you just may forget about the studio version.

Wednesday: ‘Look’ for the other J5 single from summer ’72

1015 plays

“Stand!” and “Stand! (Reprise)” – Jackson 5 (some of them, anyway)

From the 1970 Forum show

WEEKEND ADDENDUM: While you soak up the story below, here is a way to hear - and see! - the Jackson 5 perform "Stand!" a few months before the Forum show. Like “Thank You Falettinme…” and "Sing A Simple Song," it’s another J5 cover of a great Sly & the Family Stonesong. (Enjoy the links with your BBQ.)

Today’s Forum story…. is all about the J5’s regular opening number that somehow does not open the new Live At The Forum album.

  Astute fans, like J5Collector, noticed right away that “Stand!,” the group’s regular opening number, was missing from the track list when the Forum album release was first announced. Its exclusion was a by-product of the 1970 show’s technical difficulties – Jermaine’s vocal mic was off, his bass amp was inaudible, and the show had to be stopped for several minutes while the sound crew scrambled to fix everything.

 Imagine! Their big moment, ready for lift-off, the crowd ready to explode – and instead the Jackson 5 had to stand by. Their family was waiting in the audience; Motown execs were fuming; the crowd, after waiting through two opening acts, had begun to creep toward the stage. During the break the emcee, KJLH disc jockey Rick Holmes, encouraged calm while offering J5 trivia: Jackie had graduated high school the day before. The J5 then tried “Stand!” again, to no avail.

 Loyal fans, today you can hear a brief representation of the first, fumbling “Stand!,” followed by the full reprise. Listen carefully to the fadeout: a helpful audience member pleads, “Sing ‘I Want You Back’!”

 Which the band did. But there were still some issues with Jermaine’s amp; notice the difference in the bass sound between this and the 1972 show. MJ pointed out the remaining problem at the end of “I Want You Back” – pretty bold for an 11-year-old, or an artist of any age, on his first major tour. It’s fascinating that he didn’t comment off-mic; he said “What’s wrong with his amp?” loud enough for the entire Forum to hear. And he didn’t follow up with another question. He stated “You don’t know” with withering authority, befitting a full-grown man with years of onstage experience. Young Michael’s months of watching the greats at Motown had provided him with a key truth: if you’re going to do it, do it well.

Happy July 4th! 

Monday: More MJ solo.

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“That’s How I’m So Happy (Live at the Forum)”… another Jermaine Jackson two-fer

Excerpts from Live at the Forum – Disc 2 (1972)

Today’s Forum Story:

 Jermaine, who turned 15 when the Jackson 5 shot to the top, has a beautiful, mellow voice, with traces of Marvin Gaye, one of his biggest influences. The female fans (yes, you) showered him love and thundering screams on tour; about two weeks ago we previewed the two Forum versions of “I Found That Girl,” his showcase from the flip side of “The Love You Save,” that reminded us just who was the original sex symbol in the J5. Listen again to Jermaine’s lines in the live “I Want You Back,” posted yesterday – a beautiful vocal handoff that leaves the girls (you, too) shattered.

 In the 1972 show MJ had a significant solo spotlight while Jermaine seemingly had but one song, “That’s How Love Goes” – yet, in addition to the tunes where he shared the lead with Michael, he led the guys in a nine-minute trilogy: “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (from the Third Album), “I Found That Girl” and “I’m So Happy,” the rare flip side of “Sugar Daddy.” On each of them, as we love to point out, the family harmonies are a treasure, the band’s rock-solid backing a revelation.

 In this two-fer clip, enjoy 17-year-old JJ’s nimble vocal feats on Johnny Bristol’s “That’s How Love Goes” – man, that sure ain’t easy – and on “Happy,” where we can also delight in those special J5 whispers.

This weekend: The story behind the missing “Stand!”

929 plays

“I Want You Back (Live at the Forum)” – Jackson 5

Excerpt from Live at the Forum – Disc 1 (1970)

Today’s Forum story:

 It was the Jackson 5’s first hit. Still one of the greatest intros of all time – that’s Jazz Crusader Joe Sample playing piano on the studio version – and a vocal performance to match… from an 11-year-old.

 Michael was still 11 and somehow even more energetic when the Jackson 5 began their first major tour behind the single’s No. 1 success – a success matched by “ABC” and, by the time of the 1970 Forum show, “The Love You Save.” As heard in this clip he was seemingly undaunted by the show’s technical problems and the hysteria that swelled before the band hit its first note.

 “I Want You Back” was by itself in this set; it had to be part of a medley within a year. Its famous intro, as heard on the full disc 1, is actually a little ragged live – the band had to regroup after a botched opening number (check back in a couple of days for a post on the topic) – but within a few bars they were off to the races. And, ladies, there’s always Jermaine.

Tomorrow: More Jermaine

539 plays

“Rockin’ Robin (Live at the Forum)” – Michael Jackson (Jackson 5)

Excerpt from Live at the Forum – Disc 2 (1972)

Today’s Forum Story:

 It’s all about Toriano “Tito” Jackson. The J5 guitarist from the beginning, he was an accomplished stage veteran by 18, his age at the 1972 show, slipping in favorite blues licks wherever he could. We heard him and his awesome effects box on “Walk On”; here he - with Jermaine on a great rubbery bass - takes a cool wah-wah solo on “Rockin’ Robin,” the fifties cover tune that was a recent solo hit for MJ. (The original version was by Bobby Day and later covered by dozens of artists.) Michael’s nearly breathless, rockin’ it for all he’s worth.

 BTW… that’s Tito introducing MJ’s solo set on Disc 2 of the Forum album. Unfortunately, Disc 2’s track 12 on the package lists “Introduction by Jackie.” We are very sorry, Tito. We hope this makes up for it.

 The J5 performed a slower live version of “Rockin’ Robin,” with Tito’s succinct solo and some bad-ass steps, on the U.K.’s music show Top of the Pops in November ’72, about three months after the Forum gig.

Tomorrow: ‘Back’ to 1970

725 plays

“Never Can Say Goodbye (Live at the Forum)” – Jackson 5

Excerpt from Live at the Forum – Disc 2 (1972)

ALBUM AVAILABLE TODAY! BONUS POSTCARDS IN EVERY (PHYSICAL) COPY

Today’s Forum story: 

 Nearly sixty minutes into 1972’s 70-minute Forum show, after spotlighting Michael’s and Jermaine’s solo releases, the J5 had another highlight: a devastating performance of their No. 1 ballad hit from the previous year. MJ was amazingly controlled after pouring himself into the previous hour; same with his brothers, whose (we’ll say it again) family harmonies are sublime.

 Check out the full disc: you’ll hear that this performance actually kicked off an 11-minute medley, as “Never Can Say Goodbye” segued directly into a nasty “Walk On,” which then went into the frenetic finale, “The Love You Save.”

 The original single, written by Clifton Davis, nearly wasn’t released – Motown executives considered the song too mature for the J5. Producer Hal Davis, whose Los Angeles office was close to one occupied by Motown president Berry Gordy, solved the issue by playing his reference copy a little too loud. Once the boss heard the record, he overruled his staff.

 Isaac Hayes, whose intensely slow arrangement of “Walk On By” was borrowed by the J5, immediately covered “Never Can Say Goodbye.” Gloria Gaynor made an up-tempo disco hit out of it in 1974.

Tomorrow: Michael and Tito rock the birdbath

607 plays

“Don’t Know Why I Love You (Live at the Forum)” – Jackson 5

Excerpt from Live at the Forum – Disc 1 (1970)

 Today’s Forum story:

 As mentioned, the Jackson 5 recorded several cover versions for their first two albums and performed quite a few of them on their first national tour. “Don’t Know Why I Love You” was a hidden gem by the J5 on their ABC album that became an unexpected tour-de-force for Michael at the Forum show; dig how the backgrounds come in, too. It was one of three cover versions of Stevie Wonder songs they’d cut by then; the other two were “My Cherie Amour” (on the first album) and “Never Had A Dream Come True” (on ABC).

 Stevie’s original “Don’t Know Why I Love You” first appeared on his album For Once In My Life – as “I Don’t Know Why” – then was picked as a single in January 1969, when the title was switched. The single’s B-side was a new song: “My Cherie Amour.” Don’t Know Why” hit the top 40, but was overshadowed by the runaway success of the flip side.

 A 5ive footnote for fans: “My Cherie Amour” was originally in the Jackson 5 live set, as – surprisingly – the second song performed at the Philly show, right after “Stand!” By the Forum show it was dropped in favor of the “other side,” and “I Want You Back” was moved up from fourth.

Tomorrow: “Don’t wanna let you go…”


725 plays

MJairport

"Ain’t No Sunshine (Live at the Forum)” – Michael Jackson (Jackson 5)

Excerpt from Live at the Forum – Disc 2 (1972)

Today’s Forum story… is not strictly about the Forum, or a song recorded at the Forum. But it is about a performance so complete it had to be included in the Forum album:

 The original “Ain’t No Sunshine” marked the debut of singer-songwriter Bill Withers, from Slab Fork, W. Virginia. Withers’ single was a big hit in the late spring and summer of 1971, at the moment Michael was prepping his own solo debut. MJ’s version of it was selected as one of the five cover songs for the Got To Be There LP; it, in fact, led off the album when issued in January ‘72. Bill was 20 years older than 13-year-old MJ at the time. But as we heard with Michael’s performance of “Who’s Lovin’ You” – and just about anything else he took on – age hardly mattered.

 Michael’s “Ain’t No Sunshine,” with an edgy arrangement and an original spoken-word intro, was not a single in the U.S. but a popular album cut. It was issued as a single in the U.K. in July 1972 and went top ten pop there – beating out Withers’ “Lean On Me” – and its chart success added to the excitement of the J5’s four shows in England in November.

 As noted in the CD booklet, “Sunshine” was not performed at the Forum in L.A. It was added to?/tried out in?/restored to? the set in San Diego the next night, two days before MJ’s 14th birthday, when the group played the International Sports Arena, a fact discovered during the research stages of the album, when we were looking for every possible piece of J5 live tape. The L.A. show had the edge in terms of history, drama and energy, but it didn’t have “Ain’t No Sunshine”: one of those jaw-dropping performances, with young MJ stretching his soul over a risky, long arrangement, a moment that reached beyond satisfying the screaming fans who’d come to hear the hits. You can’t go back the studio version the same way ever again.

 It had to be in this album. During production there was a conversation about adding San Diego’s “Sunshine” as a bonus track – after the end of the Forum show – but that diluted the excitement of hearing it in the set. So, like many, many live albums, we added an “outside” performance to the overall set; unlike most live albums we did no other edits (except to close up occasional between-song pauses that are a drag listening to at home), no overdubs, no auto-tuning, no added applause.

THIS WAS IT.

Tomorrow: Another emotional cover version, from the 1970 show

P.S. Anyone catch full tracks from the album being previewed on NYC’s No. 1 radio station today? Thank you, Pat St. John.