Belfast Telegraph

Michael Jackson's life in reviews

As the troubled superstar announces plans for comeback concerts in London this summer, Katy Guest charts an extraordinary career through the critics' reports of his UK tours

November 1972

'The Times' reports on the Jackson 5's concert in Britain

"Shrill teenage squeals echoed round the cavernous hall as skinny, yellow-suited Michael Jackson launched into the show's first ballad. 'Let me fill your heart with joy and laughter,' he sang in that inimitably sexy and provocative voice... Fourteen-year-old Michael has an astonishing command of gesture, and his twinkling feet scarcely seemed to touch the stage... The Empire Pool is a menace, although groups are queuing up to prove they are big enough to fill it. But £2.50 for a front arena is pushing the price too far.

American groups are notorious for asking for too much money, but this is the kind of avarice which gives the music business a bad name."

The Jacksons claimed that Michael was two years younger than he was, to cash in on his childlike appeal. Shows at the Liverpool Empire broke the attendance records set by the Beatles.

July 1984

Miles Kington, writing in 'The Times'

"Just who is Michael Jackson anyway? Just about the greatest genius in the history of the world, that's who... Yes, Michael Jackson is so rich that he could afford to have his own nuclear deterrent. He could retire five years ago and never have to work again. Yes, for a kid who can dance and sing a bit, he hasn't done badly. But he is still ambitious... Next year he could be vice-president of the US and after that – who knows? A singing, dancing black man has never been President yet, but then they said a Hollywood bit actor would never make it either."

By the time he was 24, Jackson had already made Thriller, the first album to have seven Billboard Hot 100 top 10 singles. He had also broken his nose while dancing and had his first rhinoplasty surgery.

March 1985

'The Times' on Michael's appearance at Madame Tussauds

"Michael Jackson mania brought part of London to a standstill yesterday when thousands of fans turned up to see him live at Madame Tussauds waxworks. The recording star, 26, was attending an unveiling of his effigy in wax and twice ran the gauntlet of screaming fans. Crash barriers were sent flying as mounted police tried to contain the crowd."

At the peak of his fame, Jackson had just unveiled the "moonwalk", been called by Time magazine "a one-man rescue team for the music business", received eight Grammys at the 1984 awards – and burned his hair during a Pepsi commercial, resulting in huge public sympathy but a lingering paranoia about his looks. Starting in the early 1980s, his skin began to grow paler.

July 1988

The Independent on the Bad tour

"Nobody is laughing at Michael Jackson any more... There is a sense in which the way [he] has been pilloried gives him an extra purchase on the fascination of his followers, and when his fragile, sculpted face first appeared on the giant screens panting like a show pony in a paddock, it was greeted with howls of mirth as well as squeals of delight... The word 'wimp' died on a thousand lips... Jackson seemed to shoulder the whole weight of rumour and expectation surrounding him, and turn its destructive potential to his own advantage."

By 1988 he had told the press that he slept in an oxygen tank, bought the Elephant Man's skeleton and owned a pet chimpanzee, Bubbles. He'd had four new noses and a dimple put in his chin.

August 1992

'The Mail on Sunday' on the Dangerous tour

"At Wembley on Thursday night, Jackson delivered the real goods. He presented the fanciest of packages... He performs for the audience as if it were a bedroom mirror. For this, we must love every strange inch of his body. By the time Jacko's circus heads off into the distance 365,000 people will have yelled, gasped and gawped their way through the circus spectaculars. The tickets from Wembley Stadium have grossed £8,200,000. This alone gives credence to the view that Jackson's macabre travelling circus is – in the words of the ringmasters of old – the Greatest Show on Earth."

The album Bad and his autobiography, Moonwalk, confirmed Jackson as a musical genius and an officially odd fish. In the book he talked about his abusive childhood and the changes in his face, some of which he put down to hairstyle and stage lighting.

February 1996

The New York 'Daily News' on the Brit Awards

"A young British pop star said he disrupted a London performance by Michael Jackson because what he called the American superstar's 'Jesus act' made him feel ill. Jarvis Cocker, lead singer of the pop band Pulp, was arrested after invading the stage during Jackson's performance of 'Earth Song' at the Brit Awards. Cocker, 32, strongly denied he had punched and kicked three children taking part in Jackson's stage show. 'I sat there watching and feeling a bit ill because he was doing his Jesus act,' Jarvis said Friday. 'It seemed to me a lot of other people found it quite distasteful as well.'"

In 1993, Jackson was accused of molesting Jordan Chandler, 13. A civil lawsuit gave Chandler $22m (£15m) but criminal proceedings were halted. Addicted to painkillers, his reputation suffered. In 1994 he married Lisa Marie Presley. They divorced in 1996.

July 1997

'The Times' on the HIStory tour in Sheffield

"He has been married twice, divorced once, ensnared in a child abuse scandal and become a father since he last toured in Britain. But the intervening years dissolved like snow in the sun as soon as [he] burst on to the stage of the 50,000-capacity Don Valley Stadium, Sheffield... But for all the slickness of its presentation and attention to detail, there was a lack of emotional engagement at the heart of the show. Jackson is a consummate performer... but he has become a distant and isolated figure, a predicament which this show, for all its theatrical skill, did little to address."

In 1995, "Earth Song" had become Jackson's most successful UK single, selling a million copies. But his marriage to his nurse, Deborah Rowe, and the birth of their children, Prince and Paris, were treated with suspicion.

November 2006

The 'Daily Star' on the World Music Awards

"Pop weirdo Michael Jackson's music career was in meltdown last night after he lost his famous voice. Wacko Jacko, 48, looked finished following his pathetic comeback performance at the World Music Awards. Music insiders... said traumatic child abuse allegations, disfiguring plastic surgery and financial struggles have finally caught up with him. Experts fear the pressure of trying to resurrect his flagging career after living as a virtual recluse has left the hitmaker's voice as ravaged as his face... Sources close to Jacko fear he has never fully recovered from... being accused of abusing teenage cancer victim Gavin Arvizo – even though he was later cleared."

After Jackson fell out with Sony, sales of Invincible were disappointing. Dangling his son Blanket off a balcony in 2002 did not endear him to fans. But Jackson was by now considered a freak.

March 2009

Last week's papers seemed relatively measured about Jackson's announcement of a residency this summer at London's O2. "This is it?" read one headline. One paper called it "Jacko's final thriller". But another said he was "Off the wall and down the drain".

Tickets are expected to cost between £50 and £75, but some seats could exceed £500 – prices that would doubtless incense the 1972 reviewer who called £2.50 "the kind of avarice which gives the music business a bad name".

Who knows which nose Jackson will be on by the summer? But there is little doubt his shows will sell out. As one man outside the O2, who has the King of Pop tattooed across his stomach and chest, said last week: "I know it might sound strange to you, but I like to have him near me wherever I go."

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