The stories behind the tracks that will finally see the light of day for the album's 25th-anniversary rerelease
In late 1986, Michael Jackson was pacing in Westlake Audio's Studio D, singing to himself: "I feel so bad, I feel really bad, God music makes me feel good."
"At the time, we had no idea the name of the album was going to be called Bad," jokes assistant engineer, Russ Ragsdale.
It wasn't the only revelation for the crew at Westlake. It turned out in the interval between Thriller and the official start of the Bad sessions, Jackson had written some 60-70 new songs. Eleven ended up on the official album, leaving numerous great tracks on the cutting room floor in various stages.
Over the past couple of years, under the direction of Jackson's estate, a team has been carefully archiving and digitizing these demos. "Some tracks we found were very early recordings," says Jackson estate co-executor John Branca. "Some were actually so complete that any other artist but Michael Jackson might consider them finished tracks. Still others were in between." Of these, six demos were chosen for Disc 2 of the forthcoming Bad 25 box set (out September 18).
Recently I was given an exclusive listen to these never-before-heard demos. I was struck by how finished and enjoyable they are. These are not mere song fragments. While the production on a couple of them sounds a bit dated, all have great hooks and choruses. What makes them really special, though, is their authenticity. None have been given a modern makeover. What they offer is a more intimate picture of Jackson the recording artist, circa 1985-87. We hear his ideas, his warmth, his pain, his humor, and his energy. The best of the bunch, for me, is the gorgeous mid-tempo ballad, "I'm So Blue," though a case could easily be made for the edgy rhythm tracks, "Price of Fame" and "Al Capone." Each of these six demos (and two others that had been previously released) contains its own unique imprint—and most importantly, all are 100 percent real, unembellished Michael Jackson.