Full quotes from Paul Anka's book
Michael Jackson was a classic example of a songwriter who began with very basic ideas. He was not a great musician, not particularly talented at playing an instrument— piano, guitar, whatever— but he had this great way of singing out the parts so that the arranger could hear the latent potential.
Everyone has a dark side, but in those days no one guessed that there could be a dark side to Michael Jackson. However, I saw it early on and it wasn’t pretty. I had a cool run of stuff in the early seventies, but at some point I decided to get back to writing with other people. I love collaboration and the diversity it brings to a song.
When I first met Michael Jackson I knew he was immensely talented— this was before Thriller and his huge hits— and I began to think about collaborating with him. I’d known the Jackson family for a while. They used to bring their kids to Caesars to see my shows when they were young. They were a theatrically driven family. You could see that. I knew of Michael’s talents, saw him growing up— everyone knew it was going to happen. Later on I met Michael again through a guy named David Gest, a real go-getter who eventually married Liza Minnelli.
I first sat down with Michael Jackson and talked about collaborating in 1980. We started working together at my house in Carmel. It was a fun place to be— he was using my guest house, playing with my girls in the Jacuzzi. He clearly had a real fondness for kids— he was very childlike himself and related to them on their own level. When Michael and I talked, we were rapping. Even then he had this fascination with plastic surgery, a major obsession, obviously.
Anyway, Michael and I start messing around with the songs we were working on. I was very impressed with the way he went about the writing process. He knew how to make his way around a song, not only because he had an incredible vocal quality, but he also had a capacity to make complicated singing licks from an initial one-finger tune played for him on the piano. He didn’t seem at all like a disturbed character when he was working. He was just very tenacious, very focused on what he needed to do. But you could tell he was also wildly ambitious and capable of anything; I sensed an absolutely ruthless streak.
The concept of the album I was working on for Sony, Walk a Fine Line, was collaborations, with other artists: Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, David Foster, and Chicago, plus the two tracks I was doing with Michael. But the thing is, while we were doing Walk a Fine Line, Michael was also doing tracks for his album, Thriller. Well, Thriller comes out and is an absolute smash, and of course I can’t get Michael in the studio to finish what we are doing. But I had tapes sitting in the studio in L.A., at Sunset Sound I think it was— all the tapes from when we were working together. It was right around then I started to see Michael’s true colors. It happens.
I’m trying to finish my album, and suddenly I couldn’t get him on the phone. Then he sent one of his people over to the studio and they actually stole the tapes we’d been working on.
When I heard about this, I went, “What? Michael went in and just took them? Holy shit!”
Then Michael disappears, and only after weeks of threatening, did I get the tapes back— finally. But I knew then that this kid was headed for trouble.
I just thought it was a terrible thing to do. How do people become ruthless? What mania takes over them is always a mystery. What happened? This boy was a child when I met first him. Who knew what went on in that family? I saw him a few years after the disappearing tape affair, at a law office, ironically.
I worked many years with my two loyal and smart lawyers— and close friends— Stu Silfen and Lee Phillips on this issue. They were involved all the way through in the negotiations regarding the posthumous release of Jackson’s song, “This Is It.” The song was originally titled, “I Never Heard,” when it was written in 1981 for the album I was recording. In the end we prevailed— I got 50 percent of the credit and “They did the right thing,” I said at the time. “There were only honorable people involved. I don’t think that anybody tried to do the wrong thing. It was an honest mistake.”
Some time after the stolen tape incident, Michael called and asked to meet me. I could tell he was disturbed and sorry, but I mean, what could you say? This was a major talent who got derailed too early in his life. It was never a good situation, and see where he winds up. You could almost sense it coming.
For example, between the Jacksons and the Osmonds, there was always a certain rivalry despite the fact that they were two family groups supposedly competing with each other in a friendly way. But Michael could be scathing about the Osmonds. He thought they were a kitsch exploitation group compared to the Jackson Five.
While we were working together he’d call the Osmonds and talk them up in a nice, chatty manner, and as soon as he’d hung up he’d rip them apart behind their backs. The Osmonds were not in good shape at that time.
Anyway, on this one occasion, Michael Jackson in his fashion floated to Vegas and was staying at a villa next door to us at the Mirage. I saw the parade of kids going in and out— scary. He was at the end of the stay but they were trying to get him out of there anyway. They swore never to let him return.
At first, Steve Wynn and Michael earlier had been all buddy-buddy. Steve even called one of his suites, the Michael Jackson Suite— but he didn’t know then what was about to erupt. And when it did erupt, Michael was ensconced at the villa next door to me. The maids and other hotel staff would come to me and say, “We can’t even go in that room; if we have room service we gotta leave it outside.” When they finally get Michael out, after weeks of trying, they go in and there’s rotting food everywhere. They finally had to renovate that villa for tens of thousands of dollars. Once they got him out, they never did let him back in that hotel.