40 Years Ago: The Jackson 5 Release Their Final Album for Motown
The problem with having your first four singles all rise to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, amidst mass pop music hysteria, is that there’s nowhere to go but down. That was the story of the Jackson 5 in the early ’70s. Only a few years removed from “ABC” and “I’ll Be There,” the boys were struggling to score hits, which had seemed to come like magic.
That’s not to say the Jackson boys were has-beens by 1975. They remained a popular touring act, especially as manager/father Joe Jackson helped create a Vegas-style cabaret show that featured roles for many of his children, not just the ones in the Jackson 5. Plus, by altering the group’s sound to mirror the funk and disco of the mid-’70s, Motown had at least kept the group on trend.
What you hear on Moving Violation, the group’s 11th studio album, released on May 15, 1975, is Motown’s last attempt to keep the Jackson 5 alive as a disco outfit – hence the glossy cover of the Supremes’ “Forever Came Today,” which stalled at No. 60 on the charts. Sales for the album were a disappointment as well, 1.6 million copies worldwide made for easily the worst performing Jackson 5 album.
It’s not without some irony that the Jackson 5’s last recording for Motown was titled Moving Violation. Following the release of their 1975 LP, the brothers from Indiana would indeed be moving. Joe secured a new deal for his sons with Epic Records, featuring a contract that would allow for more creative input from the singing group, along with a larger cut of royalties.
The violation came about when the Jackson 5 were surprised to learn that Motown head honcho Berry Gordy owned the rights to the group’s name. Sure, they could switch to Epic but the “Jackson 5” name was staying with Gordy.
That wasn’t the only part of the quintet that would remain at Motown. When his brothers split, Jermaine Jackson decided to remain with Motown. Although Jermaine claimed at the time that he felt he was being treated fairly by the label, his decision likely had more to do with his 1973 marriage to Berry Gordy’s daughter. While Jermaine chose his new family over his old one and put all his efforts behind a solo career at Motown, the other four brothers added a new member, little brother Randy Jackson (not to be confused with the one-time American Idol judge). Michael, Tito, Jackie, Marlon and Randy would now be known as, simply, the Jacksons.