Sunday, September 19, 2010

Song of the Week: 2-4-6-8

by Corey Sheppard

"2-4-6-8" is a huge favorite among Jackson 5 fans. It’s truly an irresistible, catchy pop number that came at the perfect time for the Jackson 5. While never released as a single (except in the Philippines), it became one of the most beloved and well-known Jackson 5 album tracks of all time. It even charted in Jet's Soul Brothers Top 20 the week of September 10, 1970.

The lyrics in the song tell a story a boy who tries desperately to get a girl’s attention. He wakes up early to see her before school; he waits for the girl at her home room; he even offers to share his pie with her (despite Jack Horner’s refusal). For years and years, I had no clue of what the lyrics were in this song. Michael and Jermaine sing it at such a fast rate that I would just mumble the words because I had absolutely no clue what was being said. It wasn’t until I joined the one and only J5 Collector Forum that I learned the complete lyrics (thanks J5C!).

Now I know the title and subject line seems very juvenile, but it’s too extremely catchy for it to have been passed on. If the song right before this record on the album is entitled “ABC” you gotta have a song called "2-4-6-8" placed directly right after it. I’m sure Motown completely planned it for these songs to have complimented each other. If would have been cool if "2-4-6-8" had been the b-side to ‘ABC’. How do you think the Beatles would have felt if their very mature, serious ballad “Let It Be” had been knocked out by the Jackson 5’s double-sided hit “ABC/2-4-6-8?” In fact, the saying “2-4-6-8, who do you appreciate” was quoted seven years later in the movie The Wiz, starring none other than Michael Jackson.

One thing I did not recognized about "2-4-6-8" until now is how fairly simple and bare the groove and chord progression is. Unlike most of the early Jackson 5 numbers, this song has no strings provided by Motown. No auxiliary percussion was provided in the background by Motown session players. No tambourines or shakers, just drums and handclaps only. But I like it, even without the normal production practices, you get a bit of variety with this song. By the way, take another listen to the drums at the end… Phenomenal.

There are two other things that stand out to me with “2-4-6-8.” First off, for some reason this track has more “air” in it than most Jackson 5 tracks. I know that the record is from 1970 but compared to even “Never Had a Dream Come True” or “(Come ’Round Here) I’m the One You Need” it has much more “air.” Maybe the record wasn’t mixed or mastered to the top of the producers’ abilities. Also, a unique form of instrumentation was used in this track. The bass guitar sounds as though it was plugged into a fuzz box to give it that “fuzz” sound throughout the recording. I really like that it gives the song an rock/pop edge that is totally opposite of the subject matter.

I truly loved the way Michael sings the first verse of the song. I’m not sure who he was trying to sound like but the way he pronounces the words when he sings the verse is very interesting and slightly hilarious! Perhaps he was trying to sound like William Hart (from the group Delfonics), someone he mostly only intimated on when the boys covered Delfonics numbers. I’m not sure, maybe he was just trying to make sure he could sing the complete lyrics correct in its very fast pattern.

"2-4-6-8" always stands out to me more than other songs because it’s a tune I distinctly remember listening too as a child. When I turned five years old in 1994, my mom brought me two Jackson 5 CDs from Sun TV, the first CD being The Jackson 5ive Greatest Hits and the second turned out to be ABC. I was definitely more excited to hear the latter because it meant that I could listen to and learn new Jackson 5 songs! I also remember listening to "2-4-6-8" over and over again. I even got the neighborhood kids to jump rope to the beat of the song!

"2-4-6-8," I imagine, must have been a favorite of Michael himself because it was one of the only records (that was not released as a single) that was included in the opening segment of 1988’s Moonwalker. The bridge portion of the song that they used in Moonwalker was actually the first time I had heard a portion of this song.

My mom will sometimes walk around the house singing the lines “2-4-6-8, who do you appreciate” constantly all day, keeping it in my head all day -- which is totally fine with me!

Next Week’s Song Hint: Love put us two love birds/but we don’t know how to stay

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Corey Sheppard, 20, has been a Jackson 5 fan since 1993. His favorite hobbies are listening to music, playing racquetball at the YMCA, and hanging out with friends. Corey’s life passion is centered on music. His latest project is an all-new production company shared with Robert White Jr. entitled "Ask About It Productions."


  1. one of my favourite J5 songs!

    thanks Corey

  2. oh.. and so is the next song! lol

  3. LOVE LOVE LOVE the next song. But speaking of hard-to-decipher lyrics, isn't it "Look what love threw together" (not "love put us two love birds"?) I guess "2-4-6-8" isn't the only tricky one!

  4. He wanna be your fella just tryin' to tell ya!!!!!!!

    Jermaine always helpin' Michael out. These 'school yard' songs really made us kids connect on an even deeper level, if that was possible. Thanks for the post, always fun & informative.
    -Sir Lev