Disclaimer: This article isn’t meant to mock or question the legacy of one of the best-known entertainers in the world, but rather tries to trace his influence on some the lesser known artists.
As the world mourns the loss of The King of Pop, Michael Jackson, its worthy to take a look at music history and a number of artists who paid a tribute to the King while he was still alive (albeit, those who did it in their own twisted / tongue-in-cheek way).
It probably won’t be a stretch to call Canadian saxophonist and collagist John Oswald “the king of plunderphonics”, as he worked with a material by countless artists including Metallica, Carly Simon and Doors . Plunderphonics is a curious genre of music that involves the use of samples lifted from popular sources such as TV, music and radio and turning them into new pieces.
Arguably, a lot of samples employed by Plunderphonic artists ended up being used with a permission, which inevitably led to lawsuits. Such was the case with Oswald’s 1988 “Plunderphonics” EP (expanded into a full-length, eventually), which included snippets from songs by Elvis Presley, Count Basie and the King of Pop himself (whose track “Bad” was cut-up and rearranged/retitled as “Dab”) , among others.
In the resulting controversy, Oswald recieved a letter from Canadian Recording Industry Association which threatened to start a legal action against him, unless all the undistributed copies of the album will be destroyed. Eventually, some of the material from Plunderphonics EP/full-length resurfaced on 2001 compilation of Oswald’s work called “Plunderphonics 69/96”. It was released via Oswald’s own label called Fony.
(Another similar incident occurred to the band Negativland, whose use of a synth line eerily similar to that of U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” along with swearing by radio DJ Casey Casem ignited plenty of controversy, as well. The resulting lawsuits resulted nothing but troubles for SST who were Negativland’s label at the time).
More modern example of obsession/fascination with King of Pop’s persona comes from Strangulated Beatoffs in the form of the single called “Jackin Off With Jacko”. Beatoffs are a duo of Fritz Noble and Stan Seitrich, formely a part of Drunks With Guns, who were reportedly one of the wildest rock bands/beasts in existence.
Throughout years, Beatoffs released countless singles and albums on labels such as Forced Exposure, Skin Graft and Glitterhouse, but this particular single came out on Apop Records (“Columbia’s importer of obscuro music, aberrant publications, tracts, self-deluded manifestos, and all else on the fringe of pop/unpop culture”) in 2005.
According to Funprox website, A-side of the single includes “a cool cover of ‘Beat It’, with a monotonous lo-fi distorted sound based on the famous guitar riff originally done by Eddie Van Halen.” and “the strangily sounding, somewhat indifferent vocals enhance the gritty sound.”
Funprox also pointed out that Beaotoffs were hardly the first in attempting to pay an homage to the king – with other examples being “Eat It” by Weird Al Yankovic and “Kaw-Liga” by Residents (not to mention a Fall Out Boy cover of “Beat It”, which was a bit more dour than both of aforementioned tracks or Alien Ant Farm take on “Smooth Criminal”).
Finally, B-side includes the title track, which, according to Funprox, is “harder to digest”. Although called “Instant Club Hit” by the label, it “is an over-the top annoying creation with irritating jazzy loops which go on and on, combined with a strange voice calling even stranger sentences.” and won’t make “the theme song of the next Jackson fan club meeting”, according to Funprox.
Yet another curious item related to the King Of Pop (or rather an event that he participated in) is Culturcide’s take on “We Are The World” retitled “They Aren’t The World”. The track was included on a 2002 compilation “Illegal Art Exhibit” given away with Stay Free magazine. Other performers featured on compilation included Beastie Boys, John Oswald, Elastica, Steinski & Mass Media, Public Enemy, Verve, People Like Us, Biz Markie and many others.