I was surprisingly shocked when I learned last night that Michael Jackson had died. He was just a couple of years older than I, and like most people I had really enjoyed him in my teen years as the kid brother yet lead singer for the Jackson 5, before the “wierdness.” When Thriller was released in 1983, I was one of a million people in the first week of its release who bought the album—on vinyl. I didn’t own a CD player in 1983, but in my fourth year at ‘varsity doing my Masters, had been given my parents’ old record player and speakers. Good thing I lived by myself in an old bedsit, because I played the heck out of that album.
Looking back at the Thriller album cover brought me back to the present. Just a few months ago we bought a new turntable, and have been playing a lot of my old vinyl, much to the delight of our 2-year-old, and absolute fascination of our next door neighbour’s 12-year-old, who has “never seen a record player before!” Nor the large black circular discs played on that record player.
Last night’s news also reminded me of the museum’s own thrilling 2010 exhibition, The Record. In the exhibition will be a now very poignant work by Christian Marclay, who provides a contemporary anchor for the exhibition. Within a group of his works, Recycled Records (1980-1986) is a collaged vinyl record, beautifully and seamlessly linked to reveal the relaxed lines of a smiling, happier, Michael Jackson. And that fractured record can still be played.
Kristen Greenaway is the director of development and external relations at the Nasher Museum.
IMAGE: Christian Marclay, “Recycled Records,” 1984. Collaged vinyl records, 12 inches diameter.
© Christian Marclay. Courtesy of the artist and the Paula Cooper Gallery