Michael Jackson HIStory Statues
The cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘HIStory’ CD used a photo of one of the nine Jackson statues that were built by Sony Music for the album’s promotion in June 1995.
In 1995, Michael Jackson and his record label, Sony Music, were preparing for the release of a new album – what would become Jackson’s HIStory: Past, Present & Future, Book 1. The project would become one of the most expensive music product promotions ever. Part of the plan for promoting this album came from Jackson himself. Reportedly, when record executives asked him what he thought might be done, Jackson told the Sony executives “build a statue of me.” Not only did Sony build one statue of Jackson – they built nine of them, each about 32 feet tall, constructed with steel and fibreglass. These Jackson statues – with Michael cast in military garb, bandolier across his chest, fists clenched at his side, gazing off into the distance – were placed strategically in European cities in June 1995. They became center pieces in an elaborate $30 million campaign to promote Jackson and his new album.
One of Michael Jackson’s 9 ‘HIStory’ promo statues being floated on the Thames River in London, June 1995.
On June 15th, 1995, one of the giant Jacksons was floated on a barge through London, England down the Thames River. London’s Tower Bridge was raised to let the giant Jackson pass through. The statue was then moored near the Tower of London for a week before “touring the country.” About a week later, on June 29th, another of the Jackson statues was put into its promotional position in Berlin, Germany, lowered there by a giant construction crane at Alexanderplatz. Photos of the Jackson statue were also used variously on the covers of concert tickets, CDs, and DVDs serving as an image theme throughout the HIStory campaign.
HIStory was Michael Jackson’s ninth studio album. It was a double disc set, a combination of past hits and new material. Recording started in September 1994 and continued through early spring 1995. Some of the songs Jackson wrote attacked the press and tabloids for their criticism of him. Michael had a huge global following and he became personally invested in the success of his HIStory album and its related activities. He was heavily involved in the production of the album and its promotion. He also made an extravagant “teaser” video to promote the album that would run on MTV, in movie theaters and elsewhere. In the video, Jackson is shown in full military, striding amid hundreds of Eastern Bloc-type soldiers past delirious fans. He shot the video in Hungary and hired Hungarian soldiers to march in it. The video was $4 million to make. “When they were shooting this thing in Hungary,” said Dan Beck, a senior marketing executive who worked on the video, “the production company would call me in the middle of the night and say, ‘Michael wants more troops’.” Beck, relaying this tale to the New York Times years later, added of Jackson: “He dreamed the big dream. It was P. T. Barnum.”
One of the Jackson statues being positioned by crane in Berlin, June 26, 1995.
Prior to the release of the album, Jackson – then married to Lisa Marie Presley – appeared on U.S. television. On June 14th, he and Lisa Marie appeared together on the American TV show, Prime Time Live, for the full hour in an interview with Diane Sawyer. On the show Jackson and Lisa Marie revealed some details of their marriage and Jackson discussed his music and career. The program was seen by some 60 million viewers and was one of the most watched programs that year. The following day in London (Friday, June 16, 1995), Sony floated the huge Michael Jackson statue down the River Thames to publicize the next day’s release of the HIStory album. This statue, and eight others, were each 32-feet tall, weighed about 4,625- pounds, built with a steel truss frame and fibreglass surface. According to one report, it took a team of at least 30 people to build the statues over a three-month period, and additional expense and manpower to put them into position. There were also 6-foot cardboard versions of the statue as part of the promotion.
Six-foot Michael Jackson cardboard replicas of the statue were also used.
HIStory, meanwhile, was released for worldwide sale on June 18th, 1995. The two-disc album was a compilation of old and new material. The first disc featured 15 Jackson hits from 1979-1991 period. The second featured 15 new tracks, some collaborations, including those with rappers Shaquille O’Neill and Notorious B.I.G, singers Boyz II Men, and guitarist Slash. A few of Jackson’s songs struck some reviewers as angry and defensive, as Jackson used some of his song lyrics to fight back against the bad press. The album/CD also came with a 52-page color booklet with photos, lyrics, and artwork, featuring Jackson as a popular and beloved figure with endorsements from Stephen Spielberg and Elizabeth Taylor. The booklet also listed Jackson’s various music awards and showed him in photographs with U.S. Presidents.
HIStory broke sales records in its first week on the charts. In the U.K. it sold 100,000 copies in just two days and in Australia the advance order of 130,000 copies was the largest initial shipment in Sony Australia’s history. Similar sales figures were witnessed all over Europe. In the U.S. and 18 other countries, the album went to No. 1. In the U.S. and 18 other countries, the album went to No. 1. Sales would eventually surpass 15 million copies. Sony reported in August 1995, that sales at its two music subsidiaries in Japan and the U.S. rose 2.2 percent largely because of Jackson’s HIStory album. Sony added in its report that the album had sold six million copies worldwide. Sales would eventually surpass 15 million copies. In addition, five singles from the album were also released. “You Are Not Alone,” for example, broke a world record becoming the first-ever single to debut at No.1 on the Billboard music charts. In the year following the album’s release, a HIStory World Tour began on September 7, 1996. Jackson performed 82 concerts in 58 cities covering 35 countries on five continents. More than 4.5 million fans saw the show, and the tour became one of Jackson’s most successful in terms of total audience. The tour ended on October 15, 1997; it grossed a total of $163.5 million.
Another view of one of the Michael Jackson statues built to promote his ‘HIStory’ album, displayed at Eindhoven, the Netherlands.
Although built with substantial materials as noted above, these statues, as far as is known, were not intended for permanent installation anywhere. However, it appears that some of the statues have been placed in parks and other locations more or less permanently. In the photo at left, for example, this Michael Jackson statue from the 1995 promotion is found in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, according to Wikipedia, and may be a permanent installation there. It is quite possible that the remaining Jackson statues have also been placed in other locations following their use in the promotion. Others may have been destroyed, acquired by collectors, or perhaps are stored in a Sony Music warehouse somewhere.