Laying Down Nasty Grooves..With the Jackson 5?

Jackson 5 – Walk On from Goin’ Back to Indiana

This is probably the only song I can think of out of Michael Jackson’s catalog where the music clearly is the star.  Ok, it’s mostly an instrumental track from their 1971 TV special, but he does sing so I’m sticking to my statement.  I’m not familiar with much of the 5’s discography beyond their number 1’s with Motown, but the first time you hear this, I don’t think they would be the first band that comes to mind (this ain’t ABC).  Maybe Parliament at their rockiest or maybe the Stooges trying to get their funk on.

The guitar riff is actually lifted from Isaac Haye’s 1969 funk epic Walk On By, though the Jacksons’ version is even more fuzzed out than the original.  The snare hits provide a snappy compliment to that guitar, all the while surrounded by meaty bass drum kicks and an ominous organ/keyboard.  The song’s funk-rock vibe is made even clearer when the song quickly transitions to the upbeat and poppy The Love You Save (a great song in its own right).

I think the greatest testament to the groove that the Jackson 5 created here is that Public Enemy sampled a loop from the song for their 1991 politically charged By The Time I Get to Arizona from Apocalypse 91…The Enemy Strikes Black.  Interestingly, the loop includes the screaming teenage fans heard on the live recording.  While crowd noise on live records can sometimes be a distraction, for some reason I can’t imagine Walk On without those screaming kids and it serves PE’s song well too.

Jackson would go back to guitar-driven backing in his solo career, with Beat It being the most obvious example, but nothing ever as heavy as this.

Here’s the live clip though not with the best audio.  Enjoy the dance moves:

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