It happened again this afternoon, working on some edits. I heard a section of a guitar solo by Slash and I I was thrown back in time, back into the studio. It was weird and amazing.
Michael was complicated in many ways. He wasn’t just a singer, he wasn’t just a dancer. He didn’t just love pop music, he didn’t just love classical. He didn’t just love statues, he didn’t just love books. He loved it all and wanted more. He pushed the limits constantly in terms of music, dance, creativity, philanthropy and fashion. He was complicated, and loved extremes. “More guitar!” he pleaded with Bruce during mixes. “More strings… I love the strings!!”
I have mentioned this before, but Michael had this habit – for lack of a better word – where his emotion would get the best of him and he would throw his head back and shriek or howl if he loved something. And it wasn’t an act – it was him fully letting go of what he was feeling. Since I am a stoic Swede, this took me a while to understand. If you are not ready for a Michael Jackson shriek next to you, it will wake you up.
Over time I started to love seeing him light up over a mix, or a new ride, or a even a piece of classical music. I remember clearly building him a giant sound system at the ranch – which filled an area about the size of a football field – and bringing him out to hear it. I chose DeBussy as my demo music, as I knew how much he loved that composer. As the music swelled he clenched his fists, closed his eyes and raised his face to the sky – and let out the loudest “HOOOOOO!!” you can imagine.
So this afternoon I was listening to some of the music with Slash’s guitar. Slash and Michael had the coolest friendship. Michael wasn’t going to be pigeonholed as a pop singer, or an R&B artist, or a great dancer. He blew the doors of genre. He brought in Steve Stevens and Slash and Eddie Van Halen. And the New York Philharmonic. And Biggie Smalls. And Babyface. And Paulinho. It was hard to keep up with him musically.
But today it was Slash. I heard a song I had not listened to in quite a while, and Slash owned it. He owned it, battered it, deep fried it and served it. And even though it isn’t on the track, in my mind I could hear Michael howl. And I got goosebumps. It stopped me in my tracks. My daughter Amanda has been working with me on some of the show edits and production, and I made her stop and let me listen to it again. Just for fun. Just for that momentary throwback into the studio. I didn’t want to leave.
It’s funny when I am somewhere unexpected and I get thrown back into the studio with Michael. It might be in a grocery store when I hear Smooth Criminal while picking out a bag of spinach. Or ice skating in New York (this actually happened a few weeks ago) when they decided to play You Are Not Alone. Just for a few seconds the world stops and and I’m back in a session from more than two decades ago, listening to Michael record a vocal.
I don’t have a time machine. I can’t take you there, though I wish I could, because I think you would really like it. I think you would get goosebumps.
After listening to Slash a couple more times I regained my focus and continued with some of the last-minute edits. But it’s weird. You know that dumb saying, “It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all?” OK, maybe it’s not dumb, but hear me out. In my daily life I very rarely play Michael music. Don’t get me wrong – I love many of his songs, and dislike a few also. But I don’t just hear the song. I feel the memories, like they happened yesterday. I hear his laugh. I hear his curious questions. I hear his ideas. I hear the vocal layers. I hear the snare and the kick. And, sometimes, I get the goosebumps. Like today.
I’m not a dancer, I’m not a singer, and you really don’t want to hear me shriek. But maybe Michael’s style of taking a big bite out of everything you do is something I can learn from. Don’t just hire a guitar player – get Slash! Don’t just dance – Moonwalk! Don’t just sing a song – own it with every fiber of your being!
Yes, I loved being in the studio with Michael, and yes, I miss it. I can’t go back, but I can appreciate, study, learn and teach what it was like, what we did right, how we did it, and why. But teaching will only go so far – at some point you have to feel. You have to close your eyes and raise your head and feel. The goosebumps will come.
Source: In the Studio With Michael Jackson | All Things Michael