SOMETIMES music is better if you don’t think too much, writes Greig Johnston.
I listen to Chuck Berry, who invented rock and roll. But he also installed video cameras in the female toilets of one of his restaurants, and when police raided his home they found tapes of women undressing and using said bathrooms.
My Phil Spector box set, Back to Mono, sat on the book case for years and, even after he got sent down for murder, the sound of The Ronettes’ Be My Baby still gives me goosebumps.
Funk legend James Brown’s daughter wrote a memoir detailing her father’s penchant for beating her mother.
But I’ll still play Night Train and Cold Sweat and Get Up Offa That Thing.
Miles Davis routinely assaulted his wife. But So What, Kind of Blue changed my life.
Ryan Adams? Do you still love him? What about R. Kelly? Last month he was charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving four alleged victims, three of whom were minors.
But what do I do with Michael Jackson, who – if you believe the new HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, and the men profiled in it – is guilty of the most heinous crime there is.
The film tables allegations of child sexual abuse against Jackson, the man known as ‘the king of pop’ and, until his death almost 10 years ago, one of the biggest stars on the planet.
It is not the first time such allegations have been levelled at Jackson, who was acquitted of child sex charges in 2005 after an 18-month trial.
The film has whipped up a frenzy of anti-Jackson sentiment, with radio stations removing his music from playlists and even The Simpsons creators announcing they will pull an episode in which Jackson voiced a character from streaming platforms, future box sets, and network repeats.
Efforts are being made to strike Jackson from the record.
Growing up I had only a passing interest, a sort of morbid fascination, in the workings of Michael Jackson.
The lightening of his skin, the disintegration of his face, that time he dangled his baby son over a hotel balcony in Berlin – it was clear for a long time that Jackson was not a well man.
Yet, for whatever reason, I could not believe he would molest children.
Even when he admitted to sleeping – sleeping – with children in a 2003 Martin Bashir documentary, I made excuses.
“It’s because he was denied a childhood himself,” I thought. “He just likes to spend time with kids.”
So what to make of Jackson now? The allegations made in the film are the subject of a lawsuit from his estate against HBO, citing a clause in a 1992 contract signed between the singer and the network, saying it could not air disparaging material about him.
These are just allegations, but the film is compelling.
How much bad behaviour, what type of bad behaviour, precludes you from enjoying a person’s music?
In Jackson, we may have found our answer. The soupy bass of Billie Jean, the frenzied guitar solo on Beat It, the sheer cheese of Man in the Mirror, have forever been overdubbed with a bone-chilling dissonance.
It’s something we’ll never be able to unhear.