407. ‘Show You the Way to Go’, by The Jacksons

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…


12 thoughts on “407. ‘Show You the Way to Go’, by The Jacksons

  1. Fabulous record, it was a real comeback for the Jackson 5 (minus Jermaine, still married to Berry Gordy’s daughter, and plus the youngest Jackson male Randy) who’d not had a UK hit for 4 years – the brilliant Skywriter, and early synth funk soaring forgotten gem. I could have tut tutted that I’ll Be There or I Want You Back should have been the ones to top the chart, or the fab Looking Through The Windows, but I was happy to see them back at the top regardless, collectively, as it seemed Michael’s early career had ultimately flopped once his voice broke and it changed from crystal pure to honey sweet – Ain’t No Sunshine outdid Bill Withers and Got To Be There was just as classic, but it all only lasted 12 months and was 5 years before!

    The song was written and produced by the disco/Philly greats Gamble & Huff, almost 10 years into their run of greatness by this point: jaw-dropping key tracks like The O’Jays Backstabbers, Now That We’ve Found Love and Love Train, Archie Bell & The Drells Here I Go Again, Billy Paul’s Me & Mrs Jones, Three Degrees When Will I See You Again, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes’ Don’t Leave Me This Way, If You Dont Know Me By Now, The Love I Lost, Lou Rawls You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine, so they were long overdue a 2nd UK chart-topper. They even did stuff with Dusty Springfield around 1970-ish, knowing a great voice when they hear one! So this gave them a 3rd personal chart chart-topper for me (after Love Train & Backstabbers) and set them up for future big hits as covers – and a 3rd chart-topping song and a couple of near-misses.

  2. The mid to late ’70s is a weird transitional time for the Jacksons and especially Michael. After dominating the early ’70s with their first four singles as the Jackson 5 being #1 hits in America in 1970 and follow up hits that were still high charting as well as Michael getting his first solo #1 with “Ben” in ’72, the hits began to dry up but hadn’t exactly faded from the public view. After the move to Epic Records and the name rebranding, they had some hits that trended toward the disco and R&B sounds of the late ’70s but it was a far cry from their early ’70s imperial phase. In America, “Show You The Way To Go” was only a moderate hit at #28 but in early ’77 made it to #6 with the funkier dance jam “Enjoy Yourself.” It’s not hard to see why since while the song is nice sounding for a smooth disco song it doesn’t stand out in the way you’d expect from both Michael and his brothers. And of course, you can’t really tell that this is the Michael Jackson that would become the King of Pop with the percussive grunts and ad-libs that are his signature trademarks not present yet. He wouldn’t adopt those vocal styles until Thriller but through Off The Wall his style was all smooth and. For the Jacksons, they managed to make one big remembered hit with the disco classic “Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)” a #7 hit in 1979, and even when Michael was becoming the biggest act in the world collaborated with Mick Jagger on 1984’s “State of Shock,” a #3 hit. They even went on a big tour in 1984 with Michael that was essentially his Thriller tour amid controversy over high ticket prices. With Michael, he starred in The Wiz where he met Quincy Jones and the rest is history.

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  4. I didn’t even recognize this song! I love their early songs like ABC…they are awesome…this is pretty slick…it sounds great…it’s with the times.

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