And so, with a minimum of fuss and very little fanfare, one of the most famous voices in pop history shimmies onto the stage.
Show You the Way to Go, by The Jacksons (their 1st and only #1)
1 week, from 19th – 26th June 1977
We’re back in a disco groove, but a very gentle disco groove. It’s the sort of record a DJ throws on at half nine, just as the night is getting going. I don’t know everything, But there’s something I do know… The lyrics are very generic ‘let’s get together and dance’, on first listen, as we enjoy a little horn solo and some MJ adlibs (no ee-hees or sha-mons, yet, but plenty of come ons and whooping). As it fades, he does something remarkable, looping his voice to make it sound like the needle is skipping. Or maybe it’s studio trickery…
Is there a deeper meaning here? We can come together, And think like one… Live together underneath the sun… It sounds like they’re looking beyond the dancefloor, to a world of harmony between brothers and sisters, united in dance. All the while, the groove keeps your feet tapping. At first, I thought this sounded a bit lightweight; but it’s improving with every listen.
This is far from The Jacksons’ first visit to the charts. It was their 7th Top 10 hit in the UK, but their 1st since 1972, since leaving Motown and dropping the ‘5’. It signalled the start of a run of disco classics: ‘Blame It on the Boogie’, ‘Can You Feel It’ and more. Meanwhile, in terms of their young lead singer’s solo career, ‘Off the Wall’ was just two years away. His voice here is a sort of happy medium: he’s not the high-pitched little boy from ‘Want You Back’ or ‘Rockin’ Robin’ – he was eighteen when this hit – but there aren’t any of the trademark clicks and ticks that mark his huge ‘80s and ‘90s hits.
If you were just getting into the groove with this one, there’s an extended album cut that runs to well over five minutes. I might just keep spinning this disc, it’s definitely catchy, although it’s not instant. It takes a while for the wave to wash over you… And that’s it for The Jacksons as a band. They’re not the first, or the last, act whose only #1 is far from being their most famous hit – think Fleetwood Mac, Dusty, Chuck Berry, and the band coming up next…