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DISCOGRAPHY : Off the Wall ALBUM (1979)

Off the Wall is the fifth studio album by the American pop musician Michael Jackson, released August 10, 1979 on Epic Records, after Jackson’s critically well received film performance in The Wiz. While working on that project, Jackson and Quincy Jones had become friends, and Jones agreed to work with Jackson on his next studio album. Recording sessions took place between December 1978 and June 1979 at Allen Zentz Recording, Westlake Recording Studios, and Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles, California. Jackson collaborated with a number of other writers and performers such as Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder and Rod Temperton. Jackson wrote several of the songs himself, including the lead single, “Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough“.

The record was a departure from Jackson’s previous work for Motown. Several critics observed that Off the Wall was crafted from funk, disco-pop, soul, soft rock, jazz and pop ballads. Jackson received positive reviews for his vocal performance on the record. The record gained positive reviews and won the singer his first Grammy Awards since the early 1970s. With Off the Wall, Jackson became the first solo artist to have four singles from the same album peak inside the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. The album was a commercial success, to date it is certified for 7× Multi-Platinum in the US and has sold 20 million copies worldwide.

On October 16, 2001, a special edition reissue of Off the Wall was released by Sony Records. Recent reviews by Allmusic and Blender have continued to praise Off the Wall for its appeal in the 21st century. In 2003, the album was ranked number 68 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The National Association of Recording Merchandisers listed it at number 80 of the Definitive 200 Albums of All Time. In 2008, Off the Wall was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Starting in 1972, Michael Jackson released a total of four solo studio albums with Motown, among them Got to Be There and Ben. These were released as part of The Jackson 5 franchise, and produced successful singles such as “Got to Be There“, “Ben” and a remake of Bobby Day‘s “Rockin’ Robin“. The Jackson 5’s sales, however, began declining in 1973, and the band members chafed under Motown’s strict refusal to allow them creative control or input.  Although the group scored several top 40 hits, including the top five disco single “Dancing Machine” and the top 20 hit “I Am Love“, The Jackson 5 (minus Jermaine Jackson) left Motown in 1975. The Jackson 5 signed a new contract with CBS Records in June 1975, first joining the Philadelphia International Records division and then Epic Records. As a result of legal proceedings, the group was renamed The Jacksons. After the name change, the band continued to tour internationally, releasing six more albums between 1976 and 1984. From 1976 to 1984, Michael Jackson was the lead songwriter of the group, writing or co-writing such hits as “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)“, “This Place Hotel” and “Can You Feel It“.

In 1978, Jackson starred as Scarecrow in the film musical The Wiz. The musical scores were arranged by Quincy Jones, who formed a partnership with Jackson during the film’s production and agreed to produce the singer’s solo album Off the Wall.  Jackson was dedicated to the role, and watched videotapes of gazelles, cheetahs and panthers in order to learn graceful movements for his part. Jones recalled working with Jackson as one of his favorite experiences from The Wiz, and spoke of Jackson’s dedication to his role, comparing his acting style to Sammy Davis, Jr. Critics panned The Wiz upon its October 1978 release. Jackson’s performance as the Scarecrow was one of the only positively reviewed elements of the film, with critics noting that Jackson possessed “genuine acting talent” and “provided the only genuinely memorable moments.” Of the results of the film, Jackson stated: “I don’t think it could have been any better, I really don’t”. In 1980, Jackson stated that his time working on The Wiz was “my greatest experience so far…I’ll never forget that”.

In 1979, Jackson broke his nose during a complex dance routine. His subsequent rhinoplasty surgery was not a complete success, and Jackson complained of breathing difficulties that would affect his career. He was referred to Dr. Steven Hoefflin, who performed Jackson’s second rhinoplasty and other subsequent operations.

Release, singles and commercial reception

Writer, journalist and biographer John Randall Taraborrelli stated, “Fans and industry peers alike were left with their mouths agape when Off the Wall was issued to the public. Fans proclaimed that they hadn’t heard him sing with such joy and abandon since the early Jackson 5 days”.[25]

On July 28, 1979, Off the Wall’s first single, “Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough“, was released. It peaked atop the Billboard Hot 100 and reached number three in the UK.On November 3, 1979 the second single from the album, “Rock with You” was released, again it peaked atop the Billboard Hot 100. In February, the album’s title track was released as a single and went to number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and became a top 10 hit in four countries.  “She’s out of My Life”, also reaching number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in June. Thus Off the Wall became the first album by a solo artist to generate four US top 10 hits.

Today, Off the Wall is certified 7× Multi-Platinum in the US for shipments of seven million units and sold over 20 million copies worldwide The album’s success lead to the start of a 9-year partnership between Jackson and Jones, their next collaboration would be Thriller, which is the world’s best selling album of all time.

Contemporary appeal

…the album that established him as an artist of astonishing talent and a bright star in his own right. This was a visionary album, a record that found a way to break disco wide open into a new world where the beat was undeniable.

—Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Allmusic, [26]

On October 16, 2001, a special edition reissue of Off the Wall was released by Sony Records. The material found strong praise from critics more than 20 years after the original release. Allmusic gave the record a five star review, praising the record’s disco-tinged funk and mainstream pop blend, along with Jackson’s songwriting and Jones’ crafty production.[26] The publication believed, “[Off the Wall] is an enormously fresh record, one that remains vibrant and giddily exciting years after its release”.[26]

In recent years Blender gave the record a full five star review stating that it was, “A blockbuster party LP that looked beyond funk to the future of dance music, and beyond soul ballads to the future of heart-tuggers—in fact, beyond R&B to color-blind pop. Hence, the forgivable Wings cover”.[2]

In 2003, the album was ranked number 68 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[40] The National Association of Recording Merchandisers listed it at number 80 of the Definitive 200 Albums of All Time.[41] In 2004, Nelson George wrote of Jackson and his music, “the argument for his greatness in the recording studio begins with his arrangements of “Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough”. The layers of percussion and the stacks of backing vocals, both artfully choreographed to create drama and ecstasy on the dance floor, still rock parties in the 21st century”. In 2008, Off the Wall was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.


Country Certification Shipments/sales
Australia 5× Platinum[43] 350,000[43]
Brazil Gold[44] 60,000[44]
Canada Platinum[45] 100,000[45]
France 2× Platinum[46] 400,000[46]
New Zealand 6× Platinum[46] 90,000[47]
UK Platinum[48] 300,000[48]
USA 7× Multi-Platinum[37] 7,000,000[37]
Worldwide 20,000,000[36]

Track listing

# Title Writer(s) Length
1. Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough”   Michael Jackson 6:05
2. Rock with You”   Rod Temperton 3:40
3. “Workin’ Day and Night”   Jackson 5:14
4. “Get on the Floor”   Jackson, Louis Johnson 4:39
5. Off the Wall”   Temperton 4:06
6. Girlfriend”   Paul McCartney 3:05
7. “She’s out of My Life”   Tom Bahler 3:38
8. “I Can’t Help It”   Susaye Greene, Stevie Wonder 4:28
9. “It’s the Falling in Love” (with Patti Austin) David Foster, Carole Bayer Sager 3:48
10. “Burn This Disco Out”   Temperton 3:40
2001 Special Edition
# Title Length
11. “Quincy Jones Interview 1”   0:37
12. “Introduction to Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough demo”   0:13
13. “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” (original demo from 1978) 4:48
14. “Quincy Jones Interview 2”   0:30
15. “Introduction to Workin’ Day and Night demo”   0:10
16. “Workin’ Day and Night” (original demo from 1978) 4:19
17. “Quincy Jones Interview 3”   0:48
18. “Rod Temperton Interview”   4:57
19. “Quincy Jones Interview”   1:32


Horn and string arrangements by Jerry Hey and performed by The Seawind Horns, Ben Wright, Johnny Mandel.



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