Michael and I were the pranksters of The Jackson 5 says Marlon Jackson ahead of Newmarket show
Buckets of water on doors, itching powder, crickets in your bed; Marlon Jackson got up to some pranks with little brother Michael as kids. He shares his memories ahead of The Jacksons’ Newmarket concert.
“Did you just call me the dirtiest Jackson,” Marlon asks me indignantly. Danciest I clamour as he breaks into raucous laughter.“I’m just kidding. I pulled your leg.”
He was known as the jokester of original boyband The Jacksons, along with brother Michael. The two were always laughing and messing around as children.
“Being the youngest we were the pranksters. We were somewhere one time, I forget which tour we were on; we were on our balcony and a bunch of people were walking in and they had on gowns. Well, Michael and I had this big bucket of water.
“We were up high and we were throwing, but it’s windy by the time it reaches them it’s like rain. Michael said ‘wait, Marlon wait’. He licked his finger, put his finger out and then he goes ‘okay, the wind is blowing to the right so throw to the left,” laughs Marlon.
“It was great. We never set our hotel rooms on fire, never threw televisions out the window like you hear some bands do. We did kid pranks, you know? Putting itching powder on some people, a bunch of crickets in someone’s bed, stuff like that.
“One of the things we used to always do... there’s this guy who used to come up all the time. We put a bucket of water on top of the door, because it was tall and you couldn’t see and when you opened the door a lot of water just fell on you.”
He’s been reluctant to talk about his younger brother, who died in 2009, in previous interviews. You never get over it, he says, you have to learn to live with it.
“There’s a brotherly bond there. It’s not always mushy and uplifty [on the road]. We’re human beings. Nobody agrees all the time on the same thing but we learned to agree to disagree.”
Before Michael’s ascension to pop superstar there was The Jackson 5, also known as The Jacksons in later years when Randy replaced Jermaine.
The five young brothers from Gary, Indiana, became a phenomenon. Crowds would pile on top of each other and girls would clamber frantically over seats to get closer to their idols.
Tito, Jermaine, Jackie, Michael and Marlon - with an average age of 12 when they turned pro - made history by hitting number one with their first four singles, had their own TV show and are in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. Their songs continue to grace party playlists 50 years after they cut their first record deal.
The fact people still enjoy love their music is a blessing says Marlon, who was just 10 in 1967.
“Our fans are unbelievable, we really love ‘em. They appreciate and understand the music. It’s a great feeling when you see people who have been with you from the beginning and brought their kids up on your music and now their kids have kids so they’re playing it for them.”
Good songs stand the test of time, creating memories for the artists as much as the audiences.
“I’ll Be There, Hal Davis produced that song, Willie Hutch wrote it. After school we used to go to the studio and they only could keep us for three hours because we were young kids, that was the law. We’d pick our social worker up and all go to the studio together,” Marlon recalls.
“She used to make sure they don’t go over time; ‘nine o’clock I don’t care what you’re doing, cut off’. If you know anything about recording it doesn’t really work that way when you get something going. ‘I’ve been trying to get this part forever’, Hal Davis [would say]. She said ‘you can get it tomorrow’.”
The Motown legends, who made their Glastonbury debut yesterday, are touring the UK this summer as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations; including a visit to Newmarket Racecourse June 30 for the Jockey Club Live’s Newmarket Nights. Click here for ticket info.
It doesn’t feel like half a century has passed.
“It came so suddenly because you’re not sitting back counting the years, you’re really not; you’re just doing your thing, having a great time and appreciating your fans around the world,” says Marlon, who has hinted his dancing days may be over soon.
He doesn’t see himself performing when he’s in his 70s, especially if he can’t give it 100 percent.
Newmarket visitors can expect most of the hits, from I Want You Back and ABC to Dancing Machine and Heartbreak Hotel.
“We’re going to have fun, we’re going to have a party. We love getting the audience involved, take ‘em on a journey with you.
“I’ve been to a few horse races, it’s okay. [Playing a race course] is kind of a first; the closest I can remember is we did something many year back, the Indianapolis 500 I believe. I’m looking forward to having some fun but I will not be betting - I came to work and get going.”
Which brings us full circle to my initial question. Is he still the danciest Jackson?
“My grandmother used to tell me and Michael ‘cut a rug for me, cut a rug’. It [dancing] didn’t come easy for me when I started out. It took me a while to catch on but once I got it, I got it. I can still get around. I still got a little bit of something left in the tank.”