Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson, Say Say Say, The Girl is Mine

The year was 1981.  Michael Jackson was staying over Paul and Linda McCartney’s house.  The pair of ultra stars were recording songs with Quincy Jones and George Martin for their respective albums.  For Thriller, MJ and Macca were laying down “The Girl is Mine,” a horrendous piece of saccharine pop.  For McCartney’s equally successful album ; ) Pipes of Peace, the pair laid down “Say Say Say,” a more superior pop song, but equally stupid in its generic lyrics and execution.  For Jackson, the pairing with a Beatle was both an artistic and commercial turning point for his career.  For Paul McCartney, it was the most costly business mistake he ever made.  When Michael was in the studio for “Say Say Say,” it was the first time he didn’t have Quincy supporting him, and he found he could hold his own with the very musical McCartney.  It was an experience that massively boosted his musical maturation and confidence.  Paul was a gracious host this whole time, even giving the young pop star an inside glimpse into how he was making billions, by purchasing music publishing catalogs.  MJ took the advice to heart.  In 1985, the long disputed “Northern Songs” catalog, which contained the entire Lennon/McCartney catalog was up for sale, and Michael Jackson outbid Paul for the controlling interest, dropping 40 million underneath Paul’s nose.  In years since the incident, Jackson has been painted as the villain that stole Paul’s songs.  The real story is more complicated.  Paul was actually offered the songs privately, but he wanted to share it with Yoko Ono out of fairness, but she wanted to hold out for a better deal.  If anything, Yoko is the biggest culprit in the Beatles not owning their own songs.  Anyway, the friendship between Michael and Paul fell apart not because Jackson bought “Hey Jude” and “I am the Walrus,”  but because Michael wouldn’t raise the royalty rate John and Paul agreed to all the way back in 1961.  Paul has felt that the Beatles had been cheated and underpaid for decades, and the fact that Michael wouldn’t give him a boost was unforgivable.  So, even though Michael and Jackson would never perform or record together again, at least they left a legacy of a massive abortion of  commercial pop for us musical archeologists to examine for the next 1000 years.  Thanks boys.

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