wax Poetics

Charlie Chaplin

Fire Burn Them Below

Released 1984
record label Power House Records
Written by Robbie Busch

Charlie Chaplin - Fire Burn Them Below
Charlie Chaplin - Fire Burn Them Below

In 1984, the radio alarm clock clicks on. “Eat It” faces off against “Beat It.” There is no clear winner. The girl that sits in front of me in homeroom would disagree. The mere mention of Michael’s name sends her into hysterics. I taunted her for months before Thriller was released; it made her bottom lip quiver and her eyes bug out, but she never cried. She did smack me upside the head a few times, which finally knocked some sense into me. That winter, I couldn’t escape MJ mania. Like everyone else in my world, I raced home to catch the world premier of the video for “Thriller” and was confused by how much I liked it. It was kind of like Return of the Jedi; I knew deep down that it wasn’t good, but the kid in me just couldn’t let go.

In 1994, I’m browsing a popular Los Angeles comic book store. The place is uncommonly quiet. A large man in a dark suit stands by the door. In the middle of the shop there is a freaky dude in a surgical mask. I laugh to myself about the weirdos of L.A.—“Who does that guy think he is? Michael Jackson!” As I wander closer, the large man quickly and quietly moves between the masked man and myself. I notice that Michael is buying a stack of comics for himself and his young companion. When the front doors open, there is a limo waiting outside to whisk him away.

In 2004, the needle of my Big Bird portable drops on a track called “Killer” by Charlie Chaplin. It will fit in perfectly between Derrick Laro and Trinity’s dancehall cover of “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” and Carlos Morgan’s kiddie-funk disco-reggae version of “Shake Your Body.” Chaplin’s reggae-rap version of “Thriller” is rinky-dink in all the right ways. It pulses with a slinky synth bass line and churchy organ. Halfway through, he lets his woman know that his name is DDD. “Delicious, Dangerous, and Dynamite!”

MJ was ten years older than me. I feel like he was always around—good, bad, and ugly. I believe that the joy of his music will outshine his life. RIP.