Catching up on forty years. 1983: Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
This is the year that MTV discovered that maybe black people made some half-decent music.
Admittedly just over a year in to it’s meteoric rise, the music video channel had exclusively focused attention on it’s heartland – white rock music, and although not overtly blocking any black music, it just chose not to play it, believing it’s audience didn’t want that. This seems amazing when you see the average MTV playlist nowadays!
And then came along Thriller like a steamroller taking all before it in a wave of marketing and hits. And we all bought it – we had several copies in our house at one stage. My format was tape so that it could be played everywhere. Two songs stormed and conquered MTV. Beat It, with it’s crossover Van Halen guitar solo and gang war dance scenes. And, of course, Billie Jean. This is the ultimate MJ song – infectious breathless lyrics and dance. That walk across the stage each stone lit up as he went along. For that moment, he was top of the world. There was no one to touch him. And then…it all went a bit weird to be honest, but let’s just celebrate that moment in 1983.
In Michael’s shadow that year was Billy Joel, Culture Club and Kajagoogoo. Standing out from the crowd New Order’s brilliant Blue Monday, Heaven 17’s Temptation, The Safety Dance, anything by the Eurythmics, and shouting out from Ireland U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday and New Year’s Day.
But we’ll never be going back for Keith Harris and Orville or Renee or Renato.