Jackson 5 – I Want You Back …1970’s AM Radio Gold Week

The Jackson Five had some great pop songs in the seventies. Most of the early songs were full of energy and infectious. They called their music bubblegum soul. This was the first Jackson 5 single released by Motown Records (they released a single on a local label in Gary, Indiana, in 1968). It launched their career and went to #1 in the US, as did the next three releases: “ABC,” “The Love You Save” and “I’ll Be There.”

The song peaked at #1 in the Billboard 100, #2 in Canada, #2 in the UK, and  #12 in New Zealand 1969-1970.

Motown had set up offices in Los Angeles, which is where the Jackson 5 relocated and where this song was written and recorded. The top songwriting/production team at Motown, Holland-Dozier-Holland, had left the label to get better terms, so there was a huge void that many Motown writers were trying to fill.

Their first three songs were written and produced by a Motown collective known as “The Corporation”: Freddie Perren, Deke Richards, Fonce Mizell, and Berry Gordy Jr. Gordy was head of the label and assigned them that name, which kept the focus on the team instead of the individuals within it – if one member deigned to leave, he could replace him.

The Jackson 5 found a winning formula early. Michael Jackson sang the lead and his brothers added vocals in the song. It also opened the door for family groups with young lead singers, notably the Osmonds and the DeFranco Family.

It has gained popularity because of being included on the 2014 soundtrack Guardians Of The Galaxy, which was a #1 hit in America for two weeks.

From Songfacts

The Jackson 5 were a family group from Gary, Indiana, that were auditioned to exhaustion by their father, Joe, before signing with Motown Records in 1968. Joe made sure the youngest brother, Michael, was out front – his voice, dance moves and stage presence were the star of the show. When “I Want You Back” was released in October 1969, Michael was just 11 years old, but by that point he had so much training he could handle the promotional appearances and rigorous schedule. The entire group was media trained by Motown, and for a while they were ordered to tell a story about how Diana Ross discovered the group. For the most part, they came off as a regular family, with Michael citing basketball and catching lizards as hobbies. They described their sound as “bubblegum soul,” a term that explains their appeal to both black and white audiences.

This song tells a tried-and-true story about a guy who took his girl for granted and now desperately wants her back now that she’s left him. Making it work from the perspective of an 11-year-old boy took some doing, but the upbeat track takes the weight off, so it sounds more like a schoolyard crush. There are also lots of answer lines in the lyric (“Let you go, baby…”) that give the other members of the group a chance to chime in.

“I Want You Back” started as a song Freddie Perren, Fonce Mizell, and Deke Richards wrote for Gladys Knight & The Pips called “I Want To Be Free.” Perren and Mizell were childhood friends from New Jersey who moved to Los Angeles and teamed up with Deke Richards, a producer at Motown. When Berry Gordy heard the song, he decided it could be a good fit for the Jackson 5 if it got a rewrite. Michael Jackson reminded Gordy of Frankie Lymon, another teenage star, Gordy suggested they write it as if it were for Lymon. They reworked the song, changing the storyline so it’s about a young kid trying to get his girl back, and they fashioned a lively track to underline it.

When the song took off, Perren, Mizell, Richards and Gordy became the songwriting/production team that powered the Jackson 5. Stung by the loss of his marquee team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, Gordy branded this new team “The Corporation,” which is how the songwriting credit was listed. This kept the writers’ names off the record, ensuring they would remain anonymous. They became the first West Coast songwriting team to make a big impact at Motown.

The musicians who played on most of the ’60s Motown hits were members of their Detroit house band, the Funk Brothers. The Jackson 5 recorded in Los Angeles with a new group of session players. On “I Want You Back,” they included Louis Shelton and David Walker on guitars, Wilton Felder on bass, and Gene Pello on drums.

This song opens with an ear-catching piano glissando that was played by two of the song’s writers, Freddie Perren and Fonce Mizell.

Berry Gordy went out of his way to make this a hit, using all his resources at Motown to do so. With the ’60s coming to a close and Motown moving west, Gordy wanted to mint new stars at the label, and he knew he had a winner in the Jackson 5. One of his ploys was to claim the group was discovered by Diana Ross, and have her showcase the group for industry bigwigs. Ross was also in transition, having recently left The Supremes and launched her solo career. This bit about Ross finding the group proved a solid talking point and was propagated for decades. Nobody seemed to care that it was a ruse – there was a lot more to talk about concerning the Jackson 5 and their precocious lead singer.

Two popular songs sampled this in 2001: Jay Z used it on “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” and it was also used on Lil’ Romeo’s “My Baby.” In 1992, it was sampled on the Kris Kross hit “Jump.”

The sci-fi soul singer-songwriter Janelle Monáe covered this as a bonus track on the deluxe edition of her The Electric Lady album. She explained to A.V.Club that she chose this particular tune as it resonated with her. “There are so many amazing Michael Jackson songs from different stages of his career,” she said, “and that happened to be one of my favorite stages. It makes people happy, and I love the tone, and musically, it has a lot of places to go for our orchestra. It has a lot of odd instrumentation.”

“The version I did does not sound like the Jackson 5 original recording,” Monáe continued. “I wanted to interpret it my way and record it differently, while continuing to pay homage to him, but I saw it in a different light. I’m really excited to let you guys hear it because you’ll get a chance to hear that song from my perspective. I had a dream about it and how I wanted it to be recorded.”

This song appears in the films Now and Then (1995), Drumline (2002), Daddy Day Care (2003) and Friends with Benefits (2011).

I Want You Back

When I had you to myself, I didn’t want you around
Those pretty faces always make you stand out in a crowd
But someone picked you from the bunch, one glance is all it took
Now it’s much too late for me to take a second look

Oh baby, give me one more chance
(To show you that I love you)
Won’t you please let me back in your heart
Oh darlin’, I was blind to let you go
(Let you go, baby)
But now since I’ve seen you it is on
(I want you back)
Oh I do now
(I want you back)
Ooh ooh baby
(I want you back)
Yeah yeah yeah yeah
(I want you back)
Na na na na

Trying to live without your love is one long sleepless night
Let me show you, girl, that I know wrong from right
Every street you walk on, I leave tear stains on the ground
Following the girl I didn’t even want around

Let me tell ya now
Oh baby, all I need is one more chance
(To show you that I love you)
Won’t you please let me back in your heart
Oh darlin’, I was blind to let you go
(Let you go, baby)
But now since I’ve seen you it is on

All I want
All I need
All I want!
All I need!

Oh, just one more chance
To show you that I love you
Baby baby baby baby baby baby!
(I want you back)
Forget what happened then
(I want you back)
And let me live again!

Oh baby, I was blind to let you go
But now since I’ve seen you it is on
(I want you back)
Spare me of this cost
(I want you back)
Give me back what I lost!

Oh baby, I need one more chance, hah
I’d show you that I love you
Baby, oh! Baby, oh! Baby, oh!
I want you back!
I want you back!

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

36 thoughts on “Jackson 5 – I Want You Back …1970’s AM Radio Gold Week”

    1. Yea I agree to that. Their father was quite abusive and it started it.
      I must admit I’m in the minority but I’m more of a fan of his music in the 70s than 80s. I just wasn’t a big Thriller fan…I respect it because it was a monster…but I never did like 80s dance music.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I did not like the line dance of Thriller AT ALL…that started it and it still goes on to this day.

        Like

      2. Lol… I was never a dance guy… I know this is not popular but i don’t even like Jagger dancing around… just sing the damn songs!

        Like

  1. I generally agree with what you say…they had some good pure pop singles in that era ; to me (as we’ve talked about before) Michael’s talents seemed to decline in reverse to his aging and fame. I thought Off the wall was better than Thriller, and Thriller at least had some good moments which appeared to be lacking on the later records. He had some moves down even when that small, in the video, though didn’t he?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yea..great moves….he was extremely talented but yea…I liked him less the older he got. I do love these early pop singles like The Love You Save and ABC…

      Like

  2. I think the Jackson 5 had some great songs and were really talented. At the same time, I have mixed feelings, given Joe Jackson robbed Michael and his brothers of their childhood and abused them. It clearly had a negative impact on Michael’s life. I also think “Thriller” is a great pop album, though it’s fair to say I was more into it than back in the ’80s than nowadays.

    Like

    1. They were really talented…Joe Jackson was a monster them and it’s a shame. He messed with that entire family.
      With Jackson…I respect his 80s stuff but I never was a fan of the album I don’t know why…. everyone around me was. I did like a few cuts like Billie Jean but nothing really grabbed me like it did a lot of people.

      I DID like Off The Wall though…I thought for me it was better.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. He was a great performer…I can’t take that away from him. I was never a dancer…to say the least lol so the 80s dance music passed me by.
        I think also it was overkill on hearing that album…it as so popular you couldn’t run away from it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I agree, “Thriller” was overexposed. It’s kind of interesting how Michael Jackson made me pay closer attention to dance moves – and then realizing that an artist like James Brown had done similar moves decades earlier. And, of course, Elvis. There’s no question Michael must have gotten some inspiration from them!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved the ballad jackson 5 and solo tracks more than the bubblegum stuff, but the J5 were great right through to the brilliant synth funk of Skywriter, criminally forgotten these days. Freddie perren, like holland dozier holland, flew off motown, and was behind a minor little song nobody remembers called I Will Survive, i think. Berry gordy struggling to retain songwriters seems to be a theme….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes he struggled….he always kept his session musicians names guarded because he didn’t want them to get noticed…because they would have wanted more pay.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You and I agree totally. I tell people I liked his music when he was young…I liked Off The Wall ok but I was never a big fan of Thriller.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As I may have mentioned before, after my folks divorced and my mom and us kids moved to another house in another neighborhood, our little AM radio was on at all times. The Jacksons were #1 with me and everybody else in the neighborhood with their string of hits. I loved the group at this time. Once MJ broke off on his own and became a bleached, plastic-surgeried freak predator, he was ghosted by me. Have you ever seen the South Park episode about him? HILARIOUS!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. More people agree with me than I thought. My love for his music declined as time went on. I’ll take this bubblegum over anything he did in the 80s.
      YES I’ve seen that…it is awesome. At one time I never missed South Park.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. South Park is a show my co-worker kept telling me to watch. It was a shock to the system the first time, and it’s something you have to adjust to before you can fully appreciate how brilliant it is. It’s the same with The Trailer Park Boys.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh I LOVE The Trailer Park Boys! Bubbles is my hero lol. I always think of one scene where Ricky and Julian are stealing meat in the grocery store while Bubbles is hitting a bong in the car.
        I’ve known people just like that in a lot of ways.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh wow, Max, I can’t believe we’ve been blogging all this time and TPB hasn’t come up. It’s one of those shows that you never forget once you see it. My ex-bf had all of the seasons on his computer, so unfortunately when he left the show left with him. I see they have it on Netflix now though, and if I ever get more data I will be watching them again. LOL on that trio, they’ve been through so much together. Oh I think I have known and currently know quite a few people like them 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I have them all on my computer. What I do is use a Playstation 3 that Bailey no longer plays…I can browse all of my shows on the computer I have in my music room. No DVD changes or scratches…I just browse and click.

        I thought at one time only people like that were in the south….nope! They are everywhere!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I envy you your collection and that sounds like a very handy way to browse them. Oh my gosh, Max, they are within a quarter mile of here and radiate outwards across the globe lol

        Liked by 1 person

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