Blues & Soul - March 1998 - Jon-Andre Holley
Every family has it's sterotypes.. The golden child, the black sheep, the party animal, the do-gooder and
the shy, retinring introverted member who prefers to shun the glare fo popularity. The seven dwarfs
included Happy, Sleepy, Naughty, Very Naughty (ah well I'm allowed a bit of poetic license) and Dopey.
Whilst, lest we forget, Eastenders infamous Mitchell twins once had Daniella Westbrook as a little sister!
And so to America's first family of music. The Jackson's 'A Musical Dynasty' in word and in deed,
especially now that the mercuriaal clan's sterling feats are preserved in time through the recent
serialised bio-pic. The said film project was,l the production company proudly announced, derived from
completely authentic sources... the Jackson family themselves.
So, which members of the clan was responsible for supplying the television company with information?
Janet? No. Michael? Definitely no. 3T? Not old enough to remember. Jermaine? Yes. And who else?
Rebbie. That's right, Rebbie, remember her? The eldest of the Jackson sisters, most well known
for the track "Centipede" from the mid-eighties. A post-electro computerised pop-gun of a funky dancer
which caused ruffles back when, not least, because of its, literally wild video, involving Rebbie and
a rather large tiger!
Since then, rebbie has been conspicuous by her absence particularly as the R'n'B sound, which clearly
suits her mid-vocal style and the Jackson image, has kicked-in big time.
That is until now, as out of the ashes of anonymity Rebbie has literally risen Phoenix-like
to claim her place amongst her brothers and sisters as a performer in her own right. that the album
'Yours Faithfully' is on her brother Mikey's MJJ label inprint and a handful of cuts contained
within are the result of collaboration merely adds to the romanticism of it all. Who said families were on the way out?
Certainly not Rebbie, as she was only too pleased to inform me at a meeting somewhere in this vast big metropolis...
"It's such a misconception that that the family is constantly feuding. I mean, all families
argue from time to time but just because we are who we are, people jump on things and get them way
out of proportion."
"You should see our parties. They are wonderful. Especially now with the children from the new generation.
Sometimes we put on shows with Tito's sons (3T to you and I), my children and the rest of the generation.
They'll read us their poetry or sing songs. Maybe dance a routine and we will all cheer and
encourage them. It's wonderful and real family. It reminds me of when I was a small girl and mom
used to wax the floor for me and Jermaine to dance in our socks."
I point out that before she knows it young Prince Michael will be able to join in the fun. Rebbie agrees,
confirming how fond she is of her nephew.
Back to the album. Rebbie is decidedly optimistic about its chances of success, particularly, one suspects, as
that it has the clout of MJJ Music behind it. It also features a production from Elliot Kennedy, the
studio wizz behind the Spice Girls, no less. "Yes, Elliot sprinkled a little of that magic (don't
you mean 'Ginger Spice'?) on my music. He was great to work with. All the time he was talking about these
Spice Girls who were gonna be real huge. I never met them, although I admire what they do...and they
are so popular."
What of the Michael collaboration. How did it arise? "Well, he wrote 'Fly Away', which is a
beautiful song. The song was actually talked about because Michael had already recorded it.
He had such a tight schedule, he was in the hanger of rehersing for his HIStory tour at
the time so he left instructions informing me why he thought I should record the song
as well as instructions on how to do it. He like that, you know... He's very meticulous about
Another Michael collaboration on the project is the aforementioned track 'Centipede'. No re-recorded
the excellent track is included within the collection of state-of-arts grooves. I mention that
it's one of my all-time favourites. "Ah, thank you. Every time I see people they mention
'Centipede'. I go 'Oh my, I've had two albums since and they still remember 'Centipede'."
I though about 'Centipede', it was such a great song that I figured including it amongst the new songs
which I consider to be my best for a long time, would be an appropriate way of telling everybody
'Centipede' is about feeling, talking about the fire in your eyes, like a mystery kinda song. The
video was the funniest thing I've ever done in my life. I started walking alongside the animal, but
they soon stopped that as he kept snapping at me. So they got him to walk towards the trainer with a
slab of chicken. Then they had the tiger walking by itself and it was about five in the morning
and the tiger would slow down in front of the dancers who were standing in a line either side of the tiger.
Then it jumped up and put its paws on one guy and started looking him square in the eye. He was
petrified (really?) and, although, I shouldn't have laughed I couldn't help it, it was just so
funny watching him sweating and praying to the skies...!
Of course, the tiger has been de-clawed and he didn't have any teeth. So no one was in any
real danger of being eaten..."
Time's up and I bid Rebbie farewell, mentioning that I think her single the album's title track,
will be a big hit for her. The over-riding memory of the time we spent together focuses on her joyous
expression at talking about her beloved family. She is definitely the 'homely' one out of the family;
the one who keeps things together. "I'm very fond of all my family...", she affirms.