As we head into tomorrow's release of Michael Jackson's Invincible album, here's a factoid we didn't know before. Jackson was still working on the album on Sept. 21, the day of the all-star national telethon.
This news comes from Carole Bayer Sager, the veteran pop lyricist whose song, "You Are My Life," was recorded on that day.
"I was shocked when I heard he was using it," Bayer Sager told me on Friday. "I thought by then the album was shrink wrapped and ready to go."
In fact, it was not.
"You Are My Life" is an interesting last minute addition to Invincible for a number of reasons. For one thing, the writing credits are unusual. The song marks the first composition I can think of by John McClain, Jackson's de facto manager who also operates as an executive at Dreamworks SKG Records. McClain has been a friend of Michael, Janet, and the whole Jackson clan for many years. Last month Michael's manager Trudy Green told me that McClain was her partner in decision making.
Bayer Sager, who wrote the song with Kenny 'Babyface' Edmonds, said: "Kenny told me John came up with something on his guitar that might work as a song. He said that John said there weren't enough ballads on the album. If we wrote something great, it might get on."
The popular lyricist said she was surprised since McClain hadn't written any songs before.
"Kenny [Edmonds]," Bayer Sager continued, "wrote three songs for Michael. One of them was very Off the Wall-ish. But Michael adored this song. He listened to it on Thursday, then recorded the vocals on Friday. They went over to Capitol Recording and put them on. Michael stayed 'til 2 a.m. Then Kenny stayed 'til 4 a.m. piecing the vocals together for a good performance."
Bayer Sager — whose countless hits include "Theme from Arthur," "Nobody Does It Better," "That's What Friends Are For" and "Don't Cry Out Loud" — also played a big part in the making of Invincible over all.
"I introduced Rodney Jerkins to Michael. It was Rodney's dream to work with him," she said. "Rodney and I wrote three songs together for the album, but they didn't make it. David Foster and I wrote a song. It was so long ago, it was intended for the millennium. I've been in and out of this project for two years!"
Bayer Sager has not heard the finished product but says with all sincerity of Invincible, "I just hope for Michael the album is a success."
Meanwhile, in a move that should bear some clues, Sony Music didn't bother to take an ad out yesterday for Invincible in the New York Times Arts and Leisure section. I guess they decided to let music critic Jon Pareles's negative review tell the whole story. Ironically, another Sony album — Leonard Cohen's Ten New Songs — benefited from a highly positive feature story that ran right below the Jackson pan.
I wrote favorably in this space months ago about an independent movie called Maze. Written and directed by Northern Exposure star Rob Morrow, it also stars Morrow as a sculptor named Lyle Mays who has Tourette's Syndrome.
Laura Linney, the Oscar-nominated star of You Can Count on Me, makes a memorable appearance fully naked, with nothing to hide, as an artist's model.
Originally, Maze could not find a distributor and so it bounced to the Starz cable network where it had several plays and then evaporated.
But the big news is that Maze is now coming to a theatre near you and me on Nov. 9. The producers have gotten a small distributor, Andora Pictures and so the movie — which will not be eligible for the Oscars due to its TV run — will finally get some big screen attention.
Maze deserves the attention. Seemingly based on the real life story of Toronto-based sculptor Shane Fistel, the movie entwines Fistel's saga — previously told in a documentary and PBS special called Twitch and Shout — with a concocted love story. Fistel was a patient, by the way of, of Dr. Oliver Sacks and had a small role in Penny Marshall's movie, Awakenings.
Morrow does a fine job pf acting and directing. If you happen to catch the PBS special you'll see that he gets Fistel just right, which isn't easy.
As for Linney, she told me some time ago that appearing in the buff was not something she sweated. "I figured I'd better do it while I could and not be ashamed. It's something I can look back on years from now."
You can count on her.
Lyle Maze, by the way, is the real life name of a jazz musician who plays with Pat Metheny, but I think that's just a coincidence. It's a great name, though, for a movie character.
Yesterday I ran into a convention of DeLorean enthusiasts on Shelter Island near the Hamptons.
DeLorean? Yes, the once futuristic car invented by John DeLorean. Went belly-up. You remember. The car doors hinged up, like wings. Michael J. Fox cruised through time in one in the Back to the Future movies.
Yesterday's rally had eight owners with their silver cars shining in the sun. A Long Island dealer, Debby Grady, of West Sayville, said she had 40 more stashed away in her garage.
Last year, and this June, there was and will be a big, big Delorean meeting. And this year, like last, DeLorean himself will address his followers.
"But," said Grady, "we have to fly him in. And he only goes first class."
Nothing's too good for a deposed leader. I don't know why, but the whole thing reminded me of Galaxy Quest.