Jheri Curl Fridays 01: “Torture”
For our inaugural Jheri Curl Fridays column on Popdose, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the founding fathers of the Jheri Curl itself, The Jacksons.Although Michael Jackson is widely acknowledged as the King of the Music Video (in addition to alla that King of Pop stuff), his videography as a member of The Jacksons is relatively slim. There were a handful of primitive clips made in the late Seventies (including a video for the song “Goin’ Places” that redefines the word “awful”), but in the MTV age, the only Jacksons video that featured Michael was the 1981 long-form video for “Can You Feel It?”
What about “Torture,” you ask?
The dance jam, co-written by eldest Jackson brother Jackie, was the second single from 1984’s much-ballyhooed Victory album. Victory, of course, was the project that was released in the afterglow of Michael’s massive success with Thriller, and it also reunited co-lead singer Jermaine Jackson with his brothers after an eight-year exile. However, neither Michael nor Jermaine actually appears in the video. There’s still a bit of confusion regarding why Michael and Jermaine are missing — most accounts point to one or both brothers pulling a “diva” act — but the fact remains…what you’re left with in this clip is Marlon, Tito, Randy, a hobbled Jackie (who had suffered a leg injury that left him immobile), a lot of bizarre sci-fi special effects, a moonwalking skeleton, and a wax figurine that was supposed to represent one of the missing brothers (I’ll let you figure out which one).
The debacle surrounding the “Torture” video was symbolic of how everything surrounding the Victory album and tour somehow turned into a mess. From the involvement of boxing promoter Don King to the Pepsi deal (I’m sure you guys remember Michael’s hair being set ablaze while filming a commercial for the soft drink company), everything that involved the Jacksons as a group during 1984 seemed to be star-crossed. On top of all that, the album wasn’t a blockbuster. Two million copies is nothing to sneeze at, of course — unless you’re comparing it to the 37.5 million copies that Thriller had sold since its release just a year and a half before. “Torture” was a moderate hit — peaking at #17 — but in light of Michael’s ten appearances in the Billboard Top Ten between the end of ’82 and the summer of ’84, one would have assumed it would be a bigger hit…and maybe it would’ve, had Michael bothered to appear in the damn video!
After doing some research, I discovered that the “Torture” video was shot at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens, NY. Maybe Michael and Jermaine boycotted the video because they didn’t feel comfortable breathing the same air as Jason Hare?