“Blame It On The Boogie” by The Jacksons (1978)

Pure disco/funk awesomeness, elevated by the sheer vocal joy of peak-era Michael Jackson.

“Blame It On The Boogie” came during a commercial lull for The Jacksons. After two albums that were not especially well-received, CBS was on the verge of dropping the brothers from their contract (so the story goes.) The boys’ father, Joe, went to label headquarters with Michael in the hopes that the brothers would finally be allowed to write and produce their own material. A compromise was released, and the Jacksons released Destiny, an album that eventually wound up selling a million copies and leading to an album called Off The Wall and Michael Jackson ultimately becoming the biggest thing since sliced bread. The brothers managed to ride his coattails for a few years before Michael decided “you know what? These dudes are dead weight” and then passive-aggressively dumped his siblings.

The Jacksons wrote and produced Destiny, only they didn’t totally write and produce Destiny. CBS executives Bobby Colomby and Mike Atkinson had to essentially threaten to sue in order to get credit as executive producers on the album. And while “Blame It On The Boogie” is co-written by Michael Jackson, that isn’t Joe & Katherine’s son Michael Jackson. It’s an English performer professionally known as Mick Jackson. His version (which sounds a lot like Leo Sayer’s “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing”) was released around the same time as The Jacksons’ “Blame” version. The brothers played a little cat and mouse game with that when being interviewed by the press around that time. This type of PR obfuscation can’t happen anymore thanks to the internet and social media.

There’s an infamous line during “Blame It”’s bridge in which Michael chants “I just can’t…I just can’t…I just can’t control my feet”. It’s one of several ear worms included in the song. A probably apocryphal story is that while in a recording session, Michael sang these lines and felt actually possessed by a spirit that kept his feet moving. My childhood (and adulthood) buddy Maurice grew up in a Seventh Day Adventist household and told me once that his church called that song demonic due to the “can’t control my feet” line. This was at the height of the “pop music is the devil” craze in religious communities during the ‘80s and early ‘90s. I wonder if that still happens in church circles now.

Oh, there’s also a line about “the Devil’s gotten to me.” So I can see where they’d get that demonic possession theory. Wasn’t Michael a Jehovah’s Witness? You’d think that there would’ve been an internal conversation about this at some point.

Those harmonies on the breakdown…oh man, they’re so good I could eat them.


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