The Jackson 5: A royal occasion
From left: Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, Michael, October 1972
- “The Jackson 5 are among firstime invitees to 43d Royal Variety Performance at London Palladium on Oct. 30,” read the 1972 trade press report. “Liberace is also set…for the mammoth vaude show to play before the Queen Mother and other royalty.” Motown’s youngest hitmakers were set for their first European tour, kicking off with the most prestigious date in the British showbiz calendar. “That was very exciting for us,” wrote Michael Jackson in his autobiography. “I had seen photographs of other groups, like the Beatles, meeting the Queen after command performances, but I never dreamed we’d get the chance to play for her.” In fact, the brothers performed for the mother of the Queen – or, to use her formal title, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.
- The Jacksons’ short Royal Variety set included Michael’s solo hit, “Rockin’ Robin,” and, according to Jermaine Jackson in his book Michael, their fan song, “We Thank You For The Joy You Have Given Us.” Also on the bill was Elton John, who backstage wished the group well. Elton was a major Motown fan, and John Reid, his partner at the time, had previously been Tamla Motown label manager at EMI Records U.K. Jermaine later admitted that the group felt somewhat overshadowed by others’ outfits that night at the Palladium: not only Elton’s “outrageous shaded spectacles and colourful zany costumes,” but also by what Liberace wore. “Ours felt miniscule and dull by comparison,” declared Jermaine.
- The photo above was taken in London during the Jackson 5’s free time (although not free of photographers, as is clear), on the capital’s trendy King’s Road. Jackie Jackson is out of shot, although he is present in other published photos, including one of the group’s visit to Buckingham Palace. Randy Jackson also accompanied his brothers on that trip, “to give him the experience and allow him to see what was going on,” remembered Michael. “The farther we traveled, the more exotic the world looked.” Also along for the experience was father Joe Jackson, and the group’s Motown chaperone, Suzanne de Passe.
- If the excursion to London was exotic, it was spiced with pandemonium, too. Young Jackson 5 fans laid siege to the Churchill Hotel in London’s West End during their stay there. At one point, it was reported, the group gave an impromptu concert on the hotel roof to calm the screaming, shoving youngsters below. Coincidentally, the Churchill was where the Osmonds – another American boy band with immense British popularity – were also billeted, at the same time. The combination led to some security concerns. And thousands of fans of both groups swarmed around London’s Heathrow Airport when their flights arrived from the U.S. Fortunately, they didn’t land at the same time.
- After the Royal Variety Performance, the Jackson 5 jetted to Amsterdam, Munich, Frankfurt and Paris for concerts there in early November; these were the Motown supergroup’s first shows on the European continent. Then they returned to Britain to play venues in Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and London. Tamla Motown had just released “Lookin’ Through The Windows,” which went on to become a Top 10 U.K. success in December, as did Michael’s just-released solo single, “Ben,” during the same month.