Book review: The Jacksons Legacy: From the Family Archives

The Jacksons Legacy: From the Family Archives
The Jacksons Legacy: From the Family Archives

The Jacksons with Fred Bronson

An eye-catching but mind-boggling two-page spread of almost 130 picture sleeves shows the truly international appeal of the brothers Jackson.

This impressive collection adorned 45rpm vinyl records, released around the world, mainly during the 1970s. Yet of all their global successes, the strangest set of singles, probably now among the rarest too – and most definitely lo-fi in sound quality – has to be the series of five songs literally stuck to American breakfast boxes in 1972!

As the book reveals, the gimmick was part of a lucrative sponsorship deal with a major food manufacturer. The Jackson 5 promoted a range of sugary cereals in fast-paced TV adverts as well as offering their youngest fans the chance to own, for free, what was probably their first record by the group, courtesy of a cardboard-backed one-sided flexi-disc that had to be cut out from the rear of the box.

The scope of this splendid 320-page book, items gleaned as it says in the subtitle ‘From the family archives,’ as well as the private collections of Jackie, Marlon and Tito Jackson, means that there is room for all manner of artefacts vying for the reader’s attention.

Try the programme for the 1972 Royal Variety Performance, at which they performed at the London Palladium in front of the Queen Mother, or the souvenir book given to family, friends and fans at Michael Jackson’s memorial service held at the Staples Center, Los Angeles, on July 7, 2009.

Or read the official letter sent to Marlon Jackson in September 1996 with the news that he and his talented siblings were to be inducted in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Or witness an informal 1975 photograph showing the famous brothers relaxing with Bob Marley and his family during their short stay in Jamaica where the reggae superstar had earlier opened their concert.

Published to coincide with The Jacksons’ 50th anniversary, the book covers every stage of the family’s fulfilling journey which began with impromptu performances during their childhood days living in a small, two-bedroom home at 2300 Jackson Street in Gary, Indiana.

There is extensive coverage of the breakthrough years when they were signed to Motown and their radical move to Epic – minus Jermaine, who stayed behind after marrying label boss Berry Gordy’s daughter, but adding Randy – where they re-emerged instead as The Jacksons because Motown owned the Jackson 5 name!

Refreshingly, the coverage of Michael’s solo career, notably the success of Thriller, important as it is to the overall story, does not mean that the more modest achievements of the other Jacksons – on individual projects – are ignored.

The brothers, along with the many key players in their lives and careers, give valuable insights into their ‘story,’ appearing as bite-sized conversations throughout the book, the result of 12 days of extensive interviews with journalist Fred Bronson.

Just don’t expect any tabloid style exposés because this hardback collection, dubbed The 50th Anniversary Book, is a celebration of success without dwelling on any excess.

If you are really determined to find something that digs the dirt then you will have to be content with the revelation that the lads were too busy recording and touring to provide their own voices for the hugely popular cartoon TV series Jackson 5ive!

(Thames & Hudson, hardback, £25)