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The MICHAEL thread


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'Off The Wall' is the Friday tune, man. I think I've been playing it every Friday for the last 4 or 5 years at least. I'm gonna spin it tomorrow night during my first ever DJ set, too! B)

Got like 7 MJ/Jacksons related burners up in my 1 hour setlist :D

The first song is a rip of the minute-long Jackson 5 medley from their cartoon series opening credits :angry:

Ending the set with 'I Am Love' :D

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I've rocked so many parties with 'Off The Wall' it's untrue, but 'Rock With You' is my new Friday start the day singsong.

Good luck tomorrow!

To inspire you, here is the tune I've ended every end of the night slot with, like, ever...

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I stumbled upon some real gold in this thread on Gearslutz from engineers who worked with MJ.

Excuse the liberal copy'n'pastage:

I worked with Michael on many occasions...first in 1979 shortly following the release of "Off The Wall", which was recorded at my old studio, Image Recording, when it was owned by its former owner, Allen Zentz.

I then spent some time in 1980 (or 81?) with Michael recording demo's for Thriller. This was great, because it was just the two of us and whoever Michael had coming in. "John, we have Jonathan Moffit coming at 12:00, then Greg Phillinganes at 1:00...oh, and we're recording strings at 4:00!". Wow, what a great experience working so closely with him. I had him on the mic for some days recording vocals, and it was an amazing experience...he would be dancing up a storm while singing and doing all of those "grunts, oohs, ahhs" vocal sounds that would pepper his tracks. He asked me to take up the carpet so he could dance, and in between takes, he would sing other popular songs of the day just freestyle and acapella and we would talk about the music we liked.

Over the next year or two, I hosted the Jacksons many times, recording various tracks, claps (we had a jacuzzi room which they loved to use for the massive white-noise claps that people liked back then). I got to know all the brothers.

Bruce Swedien came back to Image Recording to record a song (or two?) for the Jackson's "Victory" record in about 1983. Another great experience, as Bruce did (as I recall) a string quartet and (perhaps) Michael's vocal at the same time. Bruce IS the best of all time, by the way. BEST.

I believe there were a couple of sundry Jacksons sessions over the next couple of years, but by that time, Michael was hugely popular and I didn't see him as much. The next time was really in 1995, when Robmix and I worked on the HIStory album. Rob worked on this for quite a long time (2 years?), while I worked on it for a few months. We were all holed up in Larrabee North, where Bruce had a room (or were you guys at Record One, Rob?)...Eddie Delena was recording quite a lot Michael's vocals at Larrabee in one room, and I was put in another room to engineer for whomever needed it...my most memorable session being some days with Dallas Austin and on one day, recording The Notorious B.I.G. for his rap on "This Time Around". There I was, standing in a room with Dallas, Biggie and Michael. I'll never forget it.

The final days of that album were made interesting, by Bruce giving me the task to sequence the album and edit it down to a size that we could fit onto a CD. This was no small undertaking, as about 7 minutes needed to be trimmed somewhere. I laid this all out in Sound Tools and came to know every bar of every song very intimately. I found places where songs could be tightened up and came up with many suggestions. On the night of mastering, I was put in a room at Bernie Grundman's with my Sound Tools rig, and in this room, I would have to "negotiate" with Michael about what to take out. I'll never forget this night...Michael came in, and Bruce told MJ that we would have to remove either 1) one whole song or 2) edit the others to fit onto a CD. We chose the latter...I started with song one and played Michael my edits, "Oh no, we can't take THAT out...it's my favorite part of the album!". OK. Let's try another, "Oh no, we MUST keep those four bars". OK...let's go to the vamp, which carries on for two minutes...how about removing these eight bars, "Oh no, that's my favorite part of the vamp!". Well, you get the picture. Meanwhile, Jimmy Jam was in with us, telling Michael that all these edits were killer and actually make things better. And over the course of about 5 hours, we got it down. By this time, it was probably 3:00am, and I was wiped out. Bruce walked in..."Okay, John, I want you to make all these edits on the 1/2" masters right now!". My first thought was, "You've GOT to be kidding!" I had used some crossfades in Tools and such, plus I was worn out from "bartering" with Michael. But, into Bernie's room we went, and with Bruce over my shoulder, I cut the 1/2" tapes. As I recall, this took a couple of hours, and we were done. By the way, video footage of my "bartering session" with Michael exists, although I was never able to get a copy. Perhaps someday!

After that album's completion, we were all invited to The Neverland Ranch with spouses and kids for a day of fun, with Michael as our host. What a memorable day that I will recount in another post...my arms hurt now!

I was fortunate enough to work with MJ early in my career. He was an incredible artist. Talented beyond your wildest dreams. Extremely generous, and a hard worker. I actually went from a staff assistant at the Hit Factory in NYC to freelance engineer under Swedien and MJ. They were due to start in Los Angeles when the Northridge earthquake hit so they moved to New York. One room was all Bruce, the second room was the writing room. I started assisting Bruce's writing partner Rene Moore. I would track stuff with Rene, and Bruce would come in and tell me what I did wrong, sit in for a few hours and set us straight. After a couple months MJ arrived and the entire tour rig was moved in along with Brad Buxer, Andrew Scheps, and Eddie Delena. I continued to assist them until the whole crew moved to L.A., they decided to take me with them. I would assist Bruce during the day, and help out every where else at night - assisting, engineering, programming, and on one song playing guitar. We had two rooms at Record One, and two rooms at Larrabee where I met John. At one point in NYC we had just about every room at the Hit Factory. The crew was great, and I learned so much from all of them. I learned to engineer from Bruce Swedien, John, and Eddie, and got to sit in with producers like MJ, Jam And Lewis, Babyface, David Foster, Teddy Riley, and Dallas Austin.

I was actually asked to leave the project early on because there were too many people around and MJ didn't know me. Luckily, I was rehired about 10 days later. At the wrap party MJ apologized profusely, and expressed his gratitude. Truly the most sincere man you will ever meet.

Some random memories:

One morning MJ came in with a new song he had written overnight. We called in a guitar player, and Michael sang every note of every chord to him. "here's the first chord first note, second note, third note. Here's the second chord first note, second note, third note", etc., etc. We then witnessed him giving the most heartfelt and profound vocal performance, live in the control room through an SM57.

He would sing us an entire string arrangement, every part. Steve Porcaro once told me he witnessed MJ doing that with the string section in the room. Had it all in his head, harmony and everything. Not just little eight bar loop ideas. he would actually sing the entire arrangement into a micro-cassette recorder complete with stops and fills.

At one point Michael was angry at one of the producers on the project because he was treating everyone terribly. Rather than create a scene or fire the guy, Michael called him to his office/lounge and one of the security guys threw a pie in his face. No further action was needed . . . . .

During the recording of "Smile" on HIStory, Bruce thought it would be great if Michael would sing live with the orchestra. But of course, we didn't tell the players that. We set him up in a vocal booth off to the side. They rehearsed a bit without vocals in, then during the first take Michael sang, just about knocked them out of their chairs.

His beatboxing was without parallel, and his time was ridiculous.

His sense of harmony was incredible. Never a bad note, no tuning, even his breathing was perfectly in time.

Once, while we were taking a break, I think we were actually watching the OJ chase on TV, there was a news program talking about him being in Europe with some little boy. I was sitting next to the guy while the news is making this crap up. He just looked at me and said this is what I have to deal with.

I spent close to 3 years working with him, and not once did I question his morals, or ever believe any of the allegations. I wasn't even a fan then. I saw him interact with his brothers kids, other people's children, and at one point my own girlfriend's kids. I got to spend a day at Neverland with them. A completely incredible human being, always looking for a way to make all children's lives better. Every weekend at Neverland was donated to a different children's group - children with AIDS, children cancer, etc., and most of the time he wasn't there.

He was simply living the childhood he never had. In many ways he never grew up.

I was assisting Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis while they recorded the background vocals for "Scream" with MJ and Janet. The two of them singing together was amazing. Super tight, no bad notes. One part after another. When they took a break they sang the showtunes they used to sing as kids. Again, perfect harmony. Mj refused to sing the "stop f*ckin' with me part" because he would NOT curse.

I was the tape op for the recording of the background vocals on "Stranger in Moscow". Scared the hell out me. Michael was dropping in and out on syllables, rearranging the notes and timing as he put it down. No Pro Tools at the time, just 2" tape, and my punches.

I erased a live keyboard overdub that he played one night. He came in the next morning, replaced it, and never uttered another word about it.

I was there when Lisa Marie was around. They acted like two kids in love. Held hands all the time, and she hung out at the studio for quite a while. I never questioned their love for each other.

We recorded a Christmas song during the summer of '94 that needed a children's choir. Michael insisted that the entire studio be decorated with xmas lights, tree, fake snow and a sled for their recording. And he bought presents for everyone.

The last weekend of recording on HIStory he came to me and Eddie Delena, and said "I'm sorry, but I don't think any of us are going to sleep this weekend. There's a lot to get done, and we have to go to Bernie on Monday morning". He stayed at the studio the entire time, singing, and mixing. I got to spend a couple quiet moments with him during that time. We talked about John Lennon one night as he was gearing up to sing the last vocal of the record - the huge ad libs at the end of "earth song". I told him the story of John singing "twist and shout" while being sick, and though most people think he was screaming for effect, it was actually his voice giving out. He loved it, and then went in to sing his heart out. . . .

Later that night, while mixing, everyone left the room so MJ could turn it up. This was a common occurrence during the mixes, and I was left in the room with ear plugs, and hands over my ears, in case he needed something. This particular night, all the lights were out and we noticed some blue flashes intermittently lighting up the room during playback. After a few moments we could see that one of the speakers (custom quad augspuergers) was shooting blue flames. Mj liked this and proceeded to push all the faders up . . . .

MJ liked hot water while he was singing. I mean really hot !!!!! It got to the point that I would melt plastic spoons to test it.

Bruce and I were talking about walking to the studio everyday in NYC, and what routes we took. Michael looked at us and said we were so lucky to be able to do that. He couldn't walk down the street without being harassed. It was a sad moment for all of us.

The studio crew got free tickets to the Janet show so we all went right from work one night. About halfway through the show we see this dude with a long beard, dressed in robes dancing in the aisle behind. I mean really dancing . . . it was Mj in disguise. Kind of like the costume Chevy Chase wears in Fletch while roller skating.

He got one of the first playstations from sony in his lounge . . . we snuck in late at night to play the games that hadn't been released yet.

A couple people on the session hadn't seen Jurassic Park while it was out, so MJ arranged a private screening for us at Sony.

He was a huge fan of Nine Inch Nails Downward Spiral . . . .

I was lucky enough over the course of 3 years to have access to the multitrack masters for tour prep, videos, and archive purposes. To be able to pull these tracks apart was a huge lesson in production, and songwriting. A chance to look into the minds of geniuses.

Of all the records I've worked on, MJJ was the only company to give platinum award records.

One day we just all sat in the studio listening to his catalog with him for inspiration. He loved the process, he loved the work.

By the way, to elaborate a bit on the Notorious B.I.G. session, it was kinda like this. Michael used to call people to ask them to participate on albums. It was interesting knowing that nearly anyone on the planet would come to the phone if it were Michael calling. Anyway, I heard rumors that B.I.G. was going to come, and I was excited about that! I knew that I would be the one to record that, as I had recorded nearly all of that tune, "This Time Around".

So, Dallas and I were expecting him any minute, and pretty much on time, Notorious strolls in. He was quite an imposing figure when he walked in, as he was quite popular at the time. I had no idea what to expect from him in terms of attitude, but he seemed nice when he walked in. No problem. But almost immediately, he blurted out, "Yo, Dallas, can I meet Mike?" To which, Dallas replied that he thought so. Biggie went on to talk about how much this opportunity meant to him, as Michael was his hero. Anyway, Dallas tells him that we're going to lay down the rap first, so Biggie heads in the booth, we get some headphone levels and get ready to start recording.

So, we hit the big red button (on a Sony 3348 machine), and away we go. During his first take, Dallas and I looked at each other, because it was spot on. wow. I was impressed, and so was Dallas. We listened back, and Dallas was like, "Wow, I think we got it". As I recall, we took another take for good measure, but I'm fairly certain that we ended up using the first take. So, Notorious comes in, and asks if he can meet Michael now. We sent word to the back room where Michael was working that Biggie was finished and wanted to meet him.

Simply for security, Michael's security would enter and make sure that no one was in the room that shouldn't be, and once that was confirmed (it was just me, Biggie and Dallas), Michael came in. Biggie nearly broke out in tears...I could tell how much this meant to him. Well, Michael could have this effect on anyone, even the most hardcore rappers! Biggie was tripping up on his words, bowing down and telling Michael how much his music had meant to him in his life. Michael was, as always, very humble and kept smiling while Biggie just went on and on how much he loved Michael. I watched Biggie just become this big butterball of a man, and it was really very sweet to witness. After all, we are all just people.

Michael finally asked to hear what we had done, and we popped it up on the big speakers and let her go. Michael LOVED it and was excited to tell Biggie that! "Oh, let's hear it again", I recall Michael saying, and we listened again. Michael just loved it...and thanked Biggie for coming all the way from Philadelphia. Biggie asked rather sheepishly whether he could get a photo, and Michael agreed. A shot was taken, we listened again, and Michael thanked Biggie. Michael said goodbye and stepped out, leaving Biggie standing there looking completely stunned.

It will always remain a great, great memory.

Originally Posted by Bruce Swedien

"Billie Jean" is just such a superb song! Of course, Michael wrote "Billie Jean"..

Quincy says that the lyric that Michael wrote is highly personal. I’m sure that’s true. Michael told us... it was about a girl, that climbed over the wall at Michael’s house, and was lounging out there, by the swimming pool.... she was laying out there, near the pool , lounging... hangin’ out... with shades on, her bathing suit on. One morning she just showed up! Kind of like a stalker, almost. She had accused Michael of being the father of ONE of her twins... Is that possible? I don’t think so....

When it came time for me to mix "Billie Jean", it was business as usual... When I am working with Michael, Quincy, Rod, Jennifer, Sergio and so on..... I am allowed total ceative freedom with the sonics of the music... In other words, I am always left to myself when it is time to mix. My mixes can take hours, days or even weeks.... I firmly believe that a mix is not finished, until it is on a Record for sale at Tower....

So I had been mixing "Billie Jean" for a day or two. I’d do a mix. ..... Say I was up to mix number 2.... (At that time I was mixing onto 1/2” analogue.) I thought it was killer!!!

I called MJ, Quincy and Rod into the control room and played mix 2 for them. They loved it!!! They were all dancing and carrying on like crazy!!! Smiles all around! Then Michael slipped out of the control room, turned around and motioned to me to follow him... Then he whispered to me, “Please Bruce, it’s perfect, but turn the Bass up just a tiny bit, and do one more mix, please....” I said to him...”OK Smelly, no problem”...

(When we were recording “Off The Wall”, Quincy gave Michael the nickname of “Smelly” because when Michael liked a groove, he’d call it “Smelly Jelly.” Also Michael doesn’t curse, and when MJ wants to say a bad word he’ll simply call it “Smelly”... The name has stuck...)

Then I went back into the control room to add Michael’s tiny bit of bass to my mix... Quincy pulled me over into the corner and said “Please Svensk... “(Svensk is Quincy’s nickname for me. It means “Swedish Man” in Swedish... When you have a genuine Quincy Jones nickname like ‘Svensk” - You are truly honored....) Q said to me.... “Add a little garlic salt to the snare and the kick. Just a squirt!!!”) so I went back into the control room and added a little garlic salt to the snare and the kick. Just a squirt!!! Now I was up to mix 20 on "Billie Jean".

Well, this went on for about a week. Soon I was up to mix 91!!! I had a stack of 1/2 inch tapes almost to the ceiling!!! I would do a few mixes, we’d listen... Then do a few more. We had it PERFECT!!! We thought we had a really ‘HOT’ mix on “Billie Jean”. I played Mix 91 for the boys... Everybody smiled... but Quincy had one of his funny looks on his face...

I thought.... Hmmmm.... Oh, Oh....

Quincy said “You know Svensk, just for the fun of it, can we listen to one of your earlier mixes???” My heart jumped because I knew that my earlier mixes were dynamite!!! Then Quincy said, “Let’s hear mix number 2!!!” Oh WOW!!!! Hallelujah!!! I love mix 2!!!!


Well, here’s the deal. When “Thriller” was released to the Whole World by Epic Records, on Tuesday, November 30, 1982, it went to Tower Records with MIX 2 OF "Billie Jean" on it!!! AND, when the single of "Billie Jean" came out it was MIX 2!!!

The REAL Story of "Billie Jean"...

Bruce Swedien


This is well worth a view too:

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He was a huge fan of Nine Inch Nails Downward Spiral . . . .

^_^ This surprises the fuck out of me for some reason.

His beatboxing was without parallel, and his time was ridiculous.

Also would've loved to have heard that.

EDIT: NIN-ism:

(no embed)
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The studio crew got free tickets to the Janet show so we all went right from work one night. About halfway through the show we see this dude with a long beard, dressed in robes dancing in the aisle behind. I mean really dancing . . . it was Mj in disguise. Kind of like the costume Chevy Chase wears in Fletch while roller skating.

Lolsters. Jacko dressing up as a Jew at his own sisters concert? Brilliant. Love the reference to Chevy as well.

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I love this song.

Teddy Riley's production was so so nice and at the time very much bang up to date and if he had done the whole album and crap songs like Heal the World were not on there. It may have been Jacko's best album

I listened to Dangerous all the way through today and have to agree. If he'd have stuck to the New Jack Swing and tightened it up to 40 odd minutes it would have certainly been his most polished and cohesive album. The nose dive on the second half is stunning. A real shame as the rest is really, really good.

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I listened to Dangerous all the way through today and have to agree. If he'd have stuck to the New Jack Swing and tightened it up to 40 odd minutes it would have certainly been his most polished and cohesive album. The nose dive on the second half is stunning. A real shame as the rest is really, really good.

Its a great album and weirdly doesn't really sound that dated.

I am a huge Teddy Riley fan though and in the period of 86-94 the guy hardly made a bad record. He really was the Timbaland of his day.

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I've been listening to a lot of Michael all week, actually. Human Nature got most spins. I'm having a dinner party tomorrow night. Michael is in the background music playlist once or twice. Slow jamz specifically. Looking forward to giving it "Hey!... It's Friday night," some.

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Anyone else pick up the Special Ed of Bad 25? Contains Bad (obv), the demos and outakes disc and a dvd/cd of the whole of one of his Wembley Shows from 1988. Its a pretty sweet package (yes, yes) all in all.

Wonder if the Spike Lee doc will be picked up for screening over here, its due to be screened at Thanksgiving on abc (apt) in the States.

I quite like the track that clearly evolved into Smooth Criminal from the outakes.


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