This morning, waking up to find that Michael Jackson has died, feeling a small impact, like the sort of punch a small animal might administer, in my gut, I thought of Maria, who was my next door neighbour when I was growing up in Barnet.
I was never a Jacko fan, although I think I'm right in saying that the first ever album I bought on vinyl (I'd requested a turntable for a birthday and was stocking up in advance) was his 'Bad' LP. But Maria, who was a few years older than me and a cherished companion in my pre-teen years, was - in a way that only Michael Jackson fans can be - absolutely obsessed with him. Rightly too, as well, because he was at that point, with the possible exception of Glenn Hoddle, by far the most interesting and important person on the planet. Or so it felt at the time.
For me, Michael Jackson truly was Peter Pan like, but not in the sense that he would have us believe. For me, he simply stopped ageing in something like 1989 because the Jacko that existed after that point seemed to be a different person altogether. So the Michael Jackson of my imagination has never ceased to be the strange, exotic, alluring creature who made 'Thriller' and 'Bad' (and, best of all, 'Off The Wall', which I didn't discover 'til I was in twenties). The Michael Jackson that followed, the Earth Story Jacko, the baby-dangling Jacko, was someone else entirely, and I felt no interest in him, and feel only a passing, regretful sadness at his death, and the way he lived his last years.
The world has, however, subsumed to Jacko-grief. It's hard to know what to make of it really. I think I feel sad, and uncomfortable, and relieved, all at the same time. It was a strange, unsatisfying life, one feels. I'm very sorry for those who are upset though, and particularly for Maria. Nevertheless, I was pleased to note that however gripped the world is, Guardian readers still have their priorities right - just.
UPDATE: There's a really rather beautiful, terrifically sad article about Michael Jackson by Danny Baker in today's Times: it's well worth a look. Extract below.
"I remember watching the video to the song Bad some time later, the one Martin Scorsese shot as a gangland fight in a subway station. In the film Jackson was at his peak, a cutting-edge pop star playing the coolest member of a streetwise gang setting the pace and breaking the rules. Everybody wanted to be Jackson at that point — especially Jackson. Instead here was a confused and frightened boy who though totally comfortable, assured even, headlining Madison Square Garden, had not the slightest idea how to walk to the corner shop and buy a loaf of bread. In the real world he was a sham, and the worst thing about that was not only did he know it, but he wasn’t allowed to forget it by those once close to him"