Sunday, July 25, 2010

Poster Puzzle

A week ago I wrote about the first teen magazine cover to feature a photo of Michael Jackson. The December 1970 issue of 16 magazine also included the Jackson 5's first centerfold poster. It was exactly what I had been hoping for an entire year. So imagine my disappointment when I turned to the center of the magazine and found this:

Ugh, double ugh, and triple ugh! "Frenchy" was a not-very-talented staff artist at the magazine who occasionally created the centerfold posters, since 16 didn't start using glossy paper in the interior magazine until a year or so later.

Even so, I had so few photos of the Jackson 5 by the fall of 1970 that I dutifully pulled this one out and had it on my bedroom wall for a few months until something better (cough! TcB!) came along. I used to lie on my bed, listening to the Third Album, studying this poster and mentally cataloging all its flaws. (Marlon's afro is too big and too round; Jermaine's afro is not big or round enough and he looks more like Merrill Osmond; Tito looks like he's about forty; Jackie's eyebrows are all wrong; and I can't even tell for sure which one is Michael and which one is Marlon in the top inset drawing.)

Because I spent so much time studying the few pictures I did have, I knew exactly which photos Frenchy had used as a reference for the poster:

But the picture in the top left-hand corner puzzled me.

I had never seen a photo of the J5 with clothes or a pose anything like this. They are all wearing identical costumes, which they rarely did since they outgrew the lime green suits they wore on Hollywood Palace back in 1969. But these don't appear to be those suits, since none of them are wearing vests. They all seem to be leaning on something, but what? Could it be that Frenchy felt confident enough with her skills to attempt a drawing from memory?

It wasn't until a few months ago when I came across the rare 1969 photo of the Jackson 5 standing around a ladder that I think I may have solved the mystery.

It's not the same pose, but I think it was probably another pose from this same session. They are wearing the lime green suits but without the vests. The shirts have the same big collars and the same puffed sleeves as in the drawing. And the ladder itself may explain the odd pose. I suspect that the photo that was used as a reference for the drawing showed Jackie in the same place and Jermaine on the other side of the ladder, both leaning against it, and the others in various poses around them, hanging onto the ladder. I hope some day the third photo Frenchy used surfaces so I can see if my hunch is right. And so I can finally figure out which one is Michael and which one is Marlon.


  1. I received my first 16 and teen american magazines featuring the j5 in the 90s (I think) when I purchased them to an italian fan which name I have forgotten since.
    And I was so excited to finally have my FIRST j5 poster, and just like you, was so disappointed when I opened the mag and found that one instead.
    I'm drawing myself and I could honestly see how some of these drawings were bad.
    I think I never had any luck with mint 16 mags, as when there was (or used to be) a center folded poster, either it was missing or I ended up with that one. Very disappointing.

    I had my very first 'real' J5 poster after michael passed away and all these magazines started to pop up on MJ and his career.
    Rather late, uh?

    Funily enough, I never actually wondered from what photo the side drawings were. Although it was plain to me for the bigger center one. (oh and I can tell which one is Mike and which one is Marlon pretty easily, I'm puzzled you don't.)


  2. You can tell which is which in the top drawing? Okay, which one is waving his hand?

    I don't think either one of them looks like Michael *or* Marlon!

  3. oh. the top drawing. hee. I thought you spoke of the main central one (thus my surprise). still... I think michael is the one on the left and the one waving must then be marlon. Just a guess though! :D

  4. I think you're probably right, Nadine. But the kid on the left loooks nothing like Michael. He looks kind of like the actor who played the second Marlon in The Jacksons: American Dream.

  5. OH j5 COLLECTOR, YOU'RE AN EXCELLENT DETECTIVE! Boy when you think about Motown, they really could've given us more. Howabout a poster in each album? How about more picture sleeves? Rarely were they ANY bands as photogenic as this one. I would've loved a poster of Michael's first solo LP. I guess I just could've hung up the LP. OH! Wait! They DID give us that cut-out thing on the Greatest Hits cover -- but who's gonna deface a J5 album cover. Sacrilege! ---i LOVE BEING ABLE TO RELIVE THIS ALL ON YOUR BLOG BTW.

  6. Picture in the top left-hand corner sux! Looks like the artist just got tired of drawing at that point and scribbled the thing. Looks like she also was going for a kind of Africa motif, the colors and patterns. I dunno. Bobby Sherman never had to suffer this treatment.

  7. very clever J5Collector in matching the drawings up with pictures!!