Sunday, March 12, 2017

Michael Jackson: Rewind- The Life & Legacy of Pop Music's King, by Daryl Easlea

Regardless of how you may feel about the man, Michael Jackson left a tremendous musical legacy, and he lived a strange, fascinating life. Daryl Easlea's gorgeous coffee-table book MICHAEL JACKSON: REWIND- THE LIFE & LEGACY OF POP MUSIC'S KING offers up a beautifully illustrated overview of that life, but the book is chained to a ridiculously limiting gimmick that makes it a flawed, frustrating read.


 First off, I have to say that this is an amazing physical production: The book measures a hefty 9.8 x 1 x 11.2 inches, and comes with a beautifully designed dustjacket that features a front cover portrait of Michael Jackson as an adult, and a back cover portrait of him as a child, both of which are entirely comprised of embossed song titles. (The illustrations are also featured on the front and back boards of the book.) The interior paper is thick, and the book features over two hundred photos.

 Author Daryl Easlea does a nice job presenting what amounts to a highly-abridged overview of Michael Jackson's life (Those photos take up a LOT of space...), so I can understand him glossing over certain things (Such as the massive outcry from the world when Jackson dangled his youngest child, Blanket, off of a hotel balcony....), but it is harder to understand how and why he settled on the book's format.

 Easlea starts the book with Michael Jackson's death and funeral, and moves backward from there (Hence the REWIND...), which makes for a VERY frustrating read. Chapters end on a cliffhangery note, leaving you wondering what happened next. Then you realize "Oh yeah, he already dealt with that in the LAST chapter....", or else you wade through the whole book, following cryptic comment after cryptic comment, only to find that the payoff, which is something that happened early in Michael's life, is hardly worth wondering about at all. For instance, the early chapters are filled with comments about Jermaine Jackson being missing from The Jacksons, leaving me to spend over a hundred pages wondering what happened to him. The answer...? One of those "I spent all that time wondering about THIS...???" moments: When The Jacksons left Motown, Jermaine stayed with the label because he was married to owner Berry Gordy's daughter, Hazel. Or how about when one chapter ends with Michael and Paul McCartney filming the music video for "Say Say Say"...Easlea finishes out the chapter by listing all of the success they found together, but ends with "The relationship would not always be so rosy." Ready for a chapter about the two falling out over Jackson's purchase of The Beatles catalog...? Nope, YOU READ ABOUT THAT IN THE LAST CHAPTER! Barely....

 There's also some stuff in here that just defies any kind of common sense. Easlea writes about Michael Jackson's appearance at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards, and describes his cringe-worthy kiss with then-wife Lisa-Marie Presley with this jaw-dropper: "The two kissed passionately before leaving the stage." That kiss was a lot of things- passionate was not one of them. Awkward. Uncomfortable. Embarrassing. Painful to watch. Not "passionate". He also mentions in passing "aside from their intense sexual relationship, they were at each other's throats." WHOA, hold the phone....who told you that Jackson and Presley had an intense sexual relationship...? I want a source for that one, please. That is not something that you just gloss over. Easlea also speaks about Jackson "dating" Madonna and Brooke Shields, but never delves into these "relationships"...were they purely for publicity? Has any woman ever truthfully claimed to have had sex with Jackson? I, for one, cannot imagine this strange, childlike man having an "intense" sexual relationship with any woman.

 There's a lot to enjoy in this book. The photos are great, you get some amazing background on all of his classic songs, and the package is gorgeous. I just wish that Easlea got more in-depth on some aspects of this strange man's even stranger life.