Source: In The Studio With Michael Jackson
For most of 1991 we were working on the Dangerous album at Record One in Sherman Oaks, CA., among a few other studios in town. I go into great detail about my time and three production teams involved in Dangerous in my seminars, as you may already know. It remains one of my favorite projects, and it is so much fun to look back and see how Michael was “growing up” and trying new things on this record.
We had amazing production teams, top-shelf musicians, great food, killer songs; even the special guest list was jaw-dropping (Nancy Reagan, Princess Stephanie, my daughter Amanda, and so on). The music had also moved into a new era for Michael, but I’ll save those stories for next month, so for now let’s talk about the studio “Black-out.”
It was not uncommon for LA residents to have something we would refer to as “brown-outs”, meaning the power might dip for a little while, or sometimes shut off completely. I don’t pretend to know why this would happen, but it had something to do with too many air conditioners, blow dryers, Marshall amplifiers, deep fryers, car washes, etc., all being used at once across the city. The city officials would plead with people to ease back on the their electricity usage, but this was LA – you HAD to look good and feel comfortable at all times. So… the power would sometimes just shut off.
On this particular day we were cranking away on songs like “Keep The Faith” and “For All Time” when the lights start to flicker and dim. Brown out time.
Now let me explain something: The thing with many recording studios is they don’t have windows. Windows let sound from the street disrupt recordings, and they encourage fans to cup their hands around their heads and try to peer in at what we are doing. So… no windows. This means when the power goes off, it is pitch black inside.
So, the power goes out, and we all fumble around for flashlights. There is a bit of yelling and laughter, but everyone is calm. We always had flashlights handy, because studios are notoriously dark to begin with, so we doled out flashlights to Michael and his security team. (That’s Marcus and one of Michael’s drivers checking out the fridge, in case you don’t know).
Michael took a spot against one of the living room walls and found the whole thing amusing. I seem to remember him laughing pretty hard about it at first, then we just settled in and enjoyed each other’s company and had blinding flashlight wars in the dark. It was a nice, unexpected break. I happen to bring my camera that day and grabbed a few shots (with flash, which is why the “black out” isn’t so obvious).
it is said that a picture can tell a thousand words, but for me they capture a moment in time… and they do tell a few stories. Check out the giant coat on Michael. He was always cold. Always. I clearly remember that when the power went out the studio very quickly got stuffy and warm, but I’m sure that was a treat for him, as he was able to thaw out. There are maybe zero days a year when you need a coat like that in LA, but Michael was always bundled up.
Then there’s the book. You have heard before that he loved books about art, history, nature, etc. Yep, all true. He would always have stacks of books in his lounge… he was always watching, asking and learning.
What is harder to see is something that is harder to explain. I have worked with artists who can be… difficult. I have seen fistfights in the studio, watched producers storm out, and temper tantrums that would make a grown man cringe. But never with Michael. He was a pro’s pro, and a class act. Does reading a book with a flashlight mean anything in itself? Of course not, but it represents how he could handle the unexpected. He didn’t panic or make impossible demands… he laughed and made himself (and us) comfortable.
In just over three weeks I want to introduce you to someone who made a lasting impact on me through his talent, his dedication, his trust and his friendship: Michael Jackson. I’m going to be bringing some of my friends including his personal chefs the Slam Dunk Sisters to cook for you, and I have booked the world famous Westlake Studios to host “The Homecoming.” I have a very special guest (trust me, this person has some stories for you!) lined up to join us all four days (June 23 – June 26). There are still a few tickets available so please don’t wait until the last minute – you will want to be there for this one-of-a-kind event.
On June 27 I have arranged to have the one and only Brad Buxer join me for a very rare evening of music, laughter, stories and a celebration of Michael’s music. Brad Buxer has spent countless hours with Michael in the studio, on tour and at Neverland working with him on songwriting, arranging and producing. He truly is one of the kindest and most creative men I have ever had the privilege to call a friend. Bradx2 will be an evening you will not want to miss.
June can be a bittersweet time for a lot of MJ fans, but I choose to celebrate his music, his humor, his un-matched talent and his friendship by hanging out with his friends, swapping stories and mixes, and meeting and getting to know his fans. From stage to studio to ranch to black-outs, there was no one like Michael, and I would love to introduce him to you. I hope you can join us next month.
Note: Guys, we just had five seats open up for June 23rd at Westlake. This has been sold out for weeks, and I have had many requests. If you are interested, please don’t delay – I think they will move fast. Plenty of seats still available for June 26th. I will have an announcement early next week (trust me, it is exciting news!) about all four seminars. Also, don’t forget Bradx2 on June 27th with my good friend Mr. Brad Buxer!
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