Find my review of Trapped: Michael Jackson and the Crossover Dream by Dave Marsh HERE
Before getting down to the business of reviewing Trapped: Michael Jackson and the Crossover Dream please allow me to give you a quick briefing on the availability of the book. Printed in 1985, American music critic, Dave Marsh’s lean two hundred and fifty plus pages on Michael, is not widely available in 2012. I purchased my copy second-hand from an independent seller on Amazon and at the time of writing there were just ten more copies available via this source, and just one American seller on Ebay offering the title for a reasonable price. My point being, if this review triggers your interest order the book pronto because, unfortunately, it’s circulation is limited.
The structure of Trapped: Michael Jackson and the Crossover Dream is the defining characteristic which differentiates this publication from any other Jackson title. Marsh varies between alternate chapters of objective factual information and subjective interpretive readings with the latter presented in the form of open letters directly addressed to Michael. For readers who are looking for a straightforward chronology of facts, this arrangement may seem digressive, but for those who consider themselves well versed with the timeline of Michael’s life (up to 1985, of course) this should prove to be a potently thought-provoking read. For devoted Michael fans, this is not an ideal read; Dave Marsh’s readings of the worth of Thriller and Michael’s relationship with and loyalty to his black fans are particular topics which may make you wince with discomfort or seethe with anger. However, there are many other facets to this text which anyone with more than passing interest in Michael will appreciate.
At times, there are eerily prophetic qualities to Trapped… such as Marsh’s musings on Elvis Presley’s death and the prime cause of it being his isolation from the real world, rather than any of his injurious lifestyle choices and isolation being an equally corrosive impediment on Michael’s public relations as his stardom soared to unknown heights. What Marsh makes of the scarcity of Michael interviews and public interaction post 1985, one can only wonder. At other times, his predictions are humorously off target; the forecast that press and general interest in Michael after Thriller mania had quelled, would wane and that “newer pop stars” and “scandals” would replace gossip about Michael in the realm of throwaway popular culture. For the reader, hindsight is, as ever, a wonderful thing and in the light of the tabloid fever that only grew with each phase of Michael’s career we can chortle at this blunder, but the majority of Trapped… is anything but dismissible. The mapping out of the social history of Gary, Indiana makes plain the life the Jackson’s were able to escape through the pursuit of their musical dreams, the vivid description of the manmade (or is that Michael-made?) paradise of the family’s Encino home comes saturated with colourful details, and Marsh’s interpretation of the difficulties placed on Michael by his Jehovah Witness membership all make for vital, enlightening reading and as scathing as Marsh’s review of the Victory tour as a whole may be, you are not going to find a clearer explanation of the complex and multifarious business and promotional issues that plagued the tour anywhere else.
For fans, this book may well be a challenging, if not confrontational, read, but rewarding it is too. Plus surely we can all appreciate the efforts of a music critic (one who plainly declares his appreciation for Michael’s music, F.Y.I.) who tried to decipher who Michael Jackson was whilst within the eye of the storm.
Written for The Michael Jackson World Network