30 Years Ago: Michael Jackson and Mick Jagger Unhappily Team Up for ‘State of Shock’
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‘Love Never Felt So Good,’ a posthumous hit with Justin Timberlake, recently sent Michael Jackson back to the Top 10 singles chart. But it wasn’t his first crossover duet, or even his most successful.
Three decades ago in June of 1984, Michael recorded the Jacksons’ No. 3 smash ‘State of Shock’ with Mick Jagger, of Rolling Stones fame. He’d originally intended, in fact, to duet on the song with Queen‘s Freddie Mercury, but scheduling issues kept that from happening at the time.
Both collaborators, of course, had been huge stars. But this era belonged to Michael Jackson, who was riding the crest of the solo mega-hit ‘Thriller‘ when he returned to work on an album with his family band, the Jacksons. As such, the sessions with Jagger lasted mere moments. “How was working with Michael?” Jagger mused in 1985, “Quick. He had the two of us practice scales for two hours, and then we recorded the vocals in two takes.”
The results, however, flew off record store shelves. ‘State of Shock,’ which also went to No. 14 in the UK, would be the last American Top 10 for the Jacksons — ending a run that stretched back the turn of the ’70s and a debut featuring four consecutive chart-toppers as the Jackson 5. The group also scored three No. 2 hits in the early ’70s, before morphing into the Jacksons after a switch to CBS. Jermaine Jackson elected to stay with their original Motown label, and was replaced by Randy, the youngest Jackson sibling.
‘State of Shock’ remains Jagger’s biggest hit away from the Rolling Stones, as well. Still, for all of its success, neither superstar apparently came away with a very good impression of the other. Jackson reportedly later complained that Jagger sang off key, asking “how did he ever get to be a star?” according to Christopher Andersen’s ‘Mick: The Wild Life and Mad Genius of Jagger.’ The Stones frontman, meanwhile, snipped that Jackson was “very lightweight — like froth on a beer,” and opted to sing the song at the subsequent Live Aid with Tina Turner instead.
Timberlake, however, had no such qualms — despite having recorded his part years after his hero’s death. He said, ultimately, Jackson gave him the courage to go solo after launching his career with N’Sync.
As for Jackson’s initial sessions with the late Mercury, they are slated to be part of another looming posthumous release, this one from Queen. Jackson and Mercury began work on at least three songs during those sessions — including ‘State of Shock,’ ‘There Must be More to Life Than This’ and ‘Victory,’ which became the title of the platinum-selling 1984 album by the Jacksons that contained this Jagger collaboration.