The Backstory: The unreleased Michael Jackson single that went right to court

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    Back in 1982, the collision of the two biggest pop culture forces of the year led to absolute havoc. That was the year of Michael Jackson’s groundbreaking album, Thriller (which was released on November 30). It was also the year of the smash Steven Spielberg movie E.T., and that’s where it all got interesting…and sticky.

    In the Summer of 1982, Spielberg approached Michael Jackson to record an audiobook and soundtrack companion for E.T., which would be released on MCA Records. But Jackson’s label, Epic Records, wary of having a Jackson project out that would compete with Thriller, allowed him to work on the project under two conditions: One, that the E.T. soundtrack would not be released until after Christmas 1982, and two, that the one Jackson song from the soundtrack, the Alan Bergman/Marilyn Bergman/Rod Temperton composition “Someone In the Dark,” would not be released as a single.

    Back in 1982, the collision of the two biggest pop culture forces of the year led to absolute havoc. That was the year of Michael Jackson’s groundbreaking album, Thriller (which was released on November 30). It was also the year of the smash Steven Spielberg movie E.T., and that’s where it all got interesting…and sticky.

    In the Summer of 1982, Spielberg approached Michael Jackson to record an audiobook and soundtrack companion for E.T., which would be released on MCA Records. But Jackson’s label, Epic Records, wary of having a Jackson project out that would compete with Thriller, allowed him to work on the project under two conditions: One, that the E.T. soundtrack would not be released until after Christmas 1982, and two, that the one Jackson song from the soundtrack, the Alan Bergman/Marilyn Bergman/Rod Temperton composition “Someone In the Dark,” would not be released as a single.

    Well…MCA didn’t quite live up to its end of the bargain. The E.T. album was released on November 15, and promo copies of “Someone In The Dark” were sent to radio stations around the U.S. as if it were  single. As you can guess, Epic Records went nuts, and immediately filed a $2 million lawsuit against MCA, ultimately resulting in the E.T. album being temporarily pulled from the shelves, and, more notably, “Someone In The Dark” never being released as a single.

    The end result is that, despite the involvement of the biggest musical artist in the world, the E.T. album became only a modest seller. And those “Someone In The Dark” promo 45s that went to radio stations? They became perhaps the most valuable Michael Jackson releases ever, now worth well over $1,000 each.

    Click below to check out the song that caused all the problems. And that’s The Backstory.

    By Chris Rizik

     
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