The Jacksons Era

The Jacksons years, 1975-1978, would see Michael and his brothers leave Motown and start writing and producing their own music. Before the decade was over, they recorded 3 albums for Epic records and embarked on a worldwide tour.

In July 1975, the Jackson family held a press conference in New York to announce they had signed with CBS/Epic Records and would be leaving Motown records at the expiration of their contract in 1976. The Jackson Five had begun to ask to produce, write and record their own material as far back as 1974, but all their requests for creative control had been denied. They also felt that the promotion of their records was poor. Michael Jackson had a private meeting with Berry Gordy in May 1975 to discuss the Jackson Five’s future and after being denied creative freedom once again, the brothers started shopping for a new record deal.

CBS/Epic Records were interested in the brothers and offered them a major deal. The Jacksons received a signing bonus, and a massive royalty rate that was ten times more than what they received at Motown. They would also have some creative freedom including a choice of songs and being able to write two songs per album. Jermaine did not sign with CBS; instead he stayed with Motown. Randy was signed on to replace Jermaine. They were also not permitted to take the name “The Jackson Five” with them, as Motown had trademarked the name when they signed back in 1968.

As the Jackson Five, the brothers were still signed to Motown for eight more months. They would not record for Motown again, so to fill in the time the Jacksons signed on to host a summer variety program with CBS-TV, which would star many other members of the Jackson family. “The Jacksons TV Show” first aired on 16th of June 1976. Each show was 30 minutes long and featured different celebrity guests, singing, dancing and comedy sketches. It was the first time an African American family had starred in a television series. The first season ran for four weeks and the ratings were so good that they were signed on for a second and third season. The last show was broadcast on March 9, 1977.

The Jacksons released their first record for CBS/Epic Records in late 1976, simply called The Jacksons. It was produced by the Philadelphia International team Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, who, along with their other writers, Gene McFadden and Dexter Wansel, wrote eight of the album’s 10 tracks. The Jacksons wrote one song together for the album; “Style Of Life”. Michael’s first published song; “Blues Away” was featured on the album. Michael’s vocals on the album showed a new style and maturity, far different from the brothers’ Motown albums. The album went to number 6 on the US R&B chart.
Three singles were released from The Jacksons. “Enjoy Yourself” went to number 2 on the US R&B chart, and it was the brothers’ first top 10 single after leaving Motown. “Show You the Way to Go” was the Jacksons first ever number 1 in the UK. “Dreamer” was the last single released and it reached number 22 in the UK.
The Jacksons also had great success on the road with a two and a half week tour of Europe in May and June 1977. In the UK, they played to Queen Elizabeth for her Silver Jubilee along with other stars.

In October 1977, The Jacksons released their second album for CBS, called “Goin’ Places”. The Jackson brothers again contributed two songs to the nine track album; “Different Kind of Lady” and “Do What You Wanna”. Although the album was not a major success, it spawned two top 40 hits in the UK; “Goin’ Places” and “Even Though You’re Gone”. “Different Kind of Lady” was also a major club hit, despite not being released as a single.

Michael then went to New York at the end of 1977 to begin filming “The Wiz”, after gaining the role of Scarecrow. Before the movie was released, he went back into the studio with his brothers to record their third album for CBS.

Prior to recording the new album, Michael and the brothers fought for even more creative control. They ended their partnership with Gamble and Huff and took full control of writing, choosing, producing and performing their own material. They formed their own production company, called “Peacock Productions” and each brother formed his own publishing company. It was the birth of Michael’s own publishing company: MiJac Music.

The album Destiny was released in December 1978 to an overwhelming public response. The album contained eight tracks; seven of which the brothers wrote themselves. The only track not written by the Jacksons was “Blame it on the Boogie”, which was coincidentally written by a man called Michael Jackson from the UK. It was the first single from the album and was released with The Jacksons first music video. “Blame it on the Boogie” peaked at number 3 on the US R&B chart and number 8 on the UK chart.

“Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)” was the second single released from Destiny. It was written by Michael and Randy Jackson and was an 8 minute long dance track. It peaked at number 7 on the US chart, number 3 on the US R&B chart and number 4 on the UK chart. The single was a major success and sold over 2 million copies. Destiny’s sales soared and the album went platinum, hitting number 11 on the US chart. The album’s title track, “Destiny”, was released only in the UK, and became a top 40 hit there.

The Jacksons then embarked on the Destiny World Tour in January 1979, starting in Europe and travelling to the UK, Africa and the US. The tour included 80 shows and wrapped in September of 1979. Along the way, The Jacksons made many TV appearances, including in Switzerland and also on the 10th Anniversary Special for American Bandstand.

The Jacksons finally had the creative control and success they had dreamed of. By the end of the era, The Jacksons had recorded three albums, toured the world and starred in their own TV series. Young Michael Jackson was preparing himself for his first solo record for Epic Records, one that would break the first of many records for him.

Next read about the Off The Wall Era, 1978- 1981, when Michael embarks on a solo career as an adult artist. Or read about the previous Jackson 5 era.


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