The HIStory / Blood on the Dance Floor Era, 1995-1999, was one of Michael’s busiest eras with two albums, his biggest world tour, some of the most expensive and stunning short films and a heavy media schedule.
At the end of 1994, Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley made their first television appearance together at the MTV Movie Awards, where Michael collected an award for “Will You Be There”. Michael was soon back in the studio during 1994 to create his new album.
On the 23rd of February 1995 Michael gave a special preview of some of the songs off the forthcoming album to the National Association of Recording Merchandisers. The NARM presented him with the Harold Chapin Humanitarian Award at the preview.
The massive promotional campaign for the forthcoming album, HIStory, was launched on MTV and around the world on the 22nd of May 1995, with a stunning teaser film. The 4 minute “HIStory Teaser” was filmed in Budapest in early August 1994, and directed by Rupert Wainwright. Fans were invited to participate in the film, which featured a huge army and stunning special effects. The film created a stir around the world and generated massive interest in Michael’s forthcoming album.
Finally, on the 29th of May, the first single from the HIStory album was released. “Scream” was a duet with Michael and Janet Jackson. The short film for “Scream” was directed by Mark Romanek and had a massive budget of $7 million. It was a futuristic film in black and white with an amazing dancing, morphing and other special effects. The 6 minute film smashed the record for the Most Expensive Music Video, a record it still holds today. “Scream” had an AA-side release; “Childhood”, which had a stunning short film, directed by Nicholas Brandt. The song was also the theme to the movie, Free Willy 2. The single debuted at number 5 on the US charts, making it the highest debuting single in the history of the Billboard Chart. The single went to number 1 in 19 countries.
On June 14th, Michael and Lisa Marie Presley appeared on Prime Time Live in an interview with Diane Sawyer. During the 60-minute interview, Michael discussed his music and career and along with Lisa Marie, revealed details of their marriage. The programme was watched by 60 million viewers and was the most watched program of 1995.
The following day, Sony continued its $30 million dollar promotional campaign for HIStory, by floating a huge statue of Michael Jackson down the River Thames in the UK. There were a total of nine statues throughout Europe. Each statue was 10 meters tall, 2,100 kilograms in weight and made from steel and fibreglass. The promotion for HIStory was the largest campaign for a single album at that time.
HIStory- Past, Present and Future, Book 1 was released worldwide on June 18th, 1995. The two disc album was a combination of greatest hits and new material. The first disc; “HIStory Begins” featured 15 greatest hits from 1979-1991 and the second disc; “HIStory Continues” featured 15 brand new tracks. The album took a year in the studio to create and Michael showed more independence on HIStory, by producing the album himself, playing several instruments and writing and co-writing 12 of the new tracks: "Scream", "They Don't Care About Us", "Stranger in Moscow", "This Time Around", "Earth Song", "D.S.", "Money", "Childhood” "Tabloid Junkie" “2 Bad”, "HIStory" and "Little Susie". He recorded two covers for the album: “Come Together” (originally recorded in 1988 for “Moonwalker”) and “Smile” by Charlie Chaplin. R. Kelly contributed the ballad “You Are Not Alone”. He also collaborated with rappers Shaquille O’Neill and Notorious B.I.G, singers Boyz II Men and guitarist Slash. The album came with a 52-page colour booklet with photos, lyrics, artwork by Gottfried Helnwein and details of every award Michael had won up until 1995.
HIStory broke sales records in its first week on the charts. In the UK 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 and in the US, the album went to number 1. By the end of June, HIStory had sold a staggering 7.5 million copies world wide.
The release of HIStory was also met with controversy, as Michael was accused of anti-Semitism because of the lyrics in the song “They Don’t Care About Us”. Michael immediately issued an apology and took the album off the shelves. He re-recorded the song and re-released HIStory, funding the cost himself.
On the 25th of June, Michael attended a press conference in New York, where it was announced that Michael & Janet Jackson had been nominated for a record 11 MTV Video Music Awards for “Scream”. Michael also announced that he would be performing at a concert for HBO called “One Night Only” at the end of the year. He was then interviewed by Bill Bellamy for a special called “Michael Jackson Changes HIStory” which was televised shortly after.
“You Are Not Alone”, the second single from the album was released on August 15th, 1995. The short film to accompany the song was directed by Wayne Isham and featured Lisa Marie Presley. The single debuted at number 1 on the US charts, smashing the previous record set by “Scream”. “You Are Not Alone” was the first and still only song to ever debut at number one on the US Billboard Chart. The single was a worldwide smash, reaching number 1 in six countries and record sales for HIStory soared.
On the 17th of August, Michael Jackson participated in his first ever internet Simulcast. It was the largest ever cyber chat at the time and drew in over 16,000 fans, who asked Michael questions about his music and life.
Michael attended the MTV Video Music Awards on September 7th, where he opened the show with an amazing performance. Slash joined Michael onstage for the performance which included “Black or White”, “Billie Jean”, “Dangerous” and “You Are Not Alone”. Michael and Janet won three awards for “Scream”, including “Best Dance Video”, “Best Art Direction” and “Best Choreography”.
Michael graced many other awards shows with appearances in 1995, including BET’s 10th Anniversary show, where he was inducted into their Walk of Fame. He also performed “Dangerous” and “You Are Not Alone” at Soul Train’s 25th Anniversary show where he was inducted into the Soul Train Hall of Fame. In October, Michael appeared on the popular German TV show, “Wetten Das”, to perform “Earth Song” and “Dangerous”. The show was viewed by 21 million people, breaking German viewing records.
On November 27, HIStory’s third single, “Earth Song”, was released world wide, but not in the US. The short film for the song was directed by Nicholas Brandt and was filmed in four countries. The single went to number 1 in the UK and stayed at the top spot for six weeks. The song also reached the top 10 in 16 different countries and sold 3.5 million copies world wide. The short film was also nominated for a Grammy Award.
Before the year’s end, Michael successfully merged his ATV music publishing company with Sony, creating Sony/ATV Music Publishing. The company contains over 400,000 songs and became the second biggest music publishing company in the world.
While rehearsing for the special “One Night Only”, on December 6th 1995, Michael collapsed and was rushed to hospital suffering dehydration, low blood pressure and a viral infection. He spent several days in hospital. The special was eventually called off due to HBO management changes and insurance reasons.
On January 18th, 1996, it was announced that Lisa Marie Presley had filed for divorce from Michael Jackson. The divorce would become final on August 20th, 1995.
Michael’s next stop was the Grammy Awards in January where he had been nominated for 4 awards for HIStory. He took home the “Best Music Video” Award for “Scream”.
At the end of February 1996, Michael performed “Earth Song” at the Brit Awards. It was Michael’s first TV performance in England in over 20 years. The performance was interrupted when Jarvis Cocker stormed the stage in protest. He was carried off by security and later questioned by police. Michael also accepted the “Artist of a Generation” Award. The controversy created by the performance led to another rise in HIStory’s sales, putting the album back in the top 10 in Europe.
On March 19th, Michael announced at a press conference in Paris that he was forming a new company with Saudi Prince, Al-Walid Bin Talal, called Kingdom Entertainment. The company’s first major project would be the sponsoring of Michael Jackson’s HIStory World Tour, to begin at the end of the year. They would also be involved in film projects and family entertainment. Also in March, MTV announced that HIStory was the best selling double album ever in the US.
In April, Michael released the fourth single from HIStory, “They Don’t Care About Us”. The single was supported by two music videos, both directed by Spike Lee. One was shot in Brazil with cultural group Olodum, and the other was shot in a New York prison. The “prison version” created controversy due to the use of news footage depicting violence. This version was taken off MTV’s play list and Michael released the “Olodum version” in its place. The single became a top 10 hit in nine countries, including the US.
In May, Michael attended the 1996 World Music Awards and received a record five awards: “Best Selling Artist Ever”, “Best Selling Record of All Time” (for Thriller), “Best Selling Male Artist of 1996”, “Best Selling American Artist” and “Best Selling R&B Artist”. No other artist has won five WMA’s in a single year.
On July 16, 1996, Michael held a special concert for the Sultan of Brunei’s birthday. The private concert was held at Jerudong Park Garden in Brunei and was attended by 60,000 fans. Michael was careful not go give away the set list of his forthcoming HIStory Tour, and performed 18 songs, mostly from his previous Dangerous Tour set list.
Michael then embarked on his HIStory World Tour on September 7th, 1996, starting in Prague, Czech Republic. The amazing show featured 20 songs, special effects in several performances, a bigger light show than ever before, a specially built stage, breathtaking costumes and stunning choreography. His crew consisted of over 200 personnel and each concert was 2.5 hours long. As Michael travelled Europe, he set new attendance records in many countries. One of the concerts at Seoul, Korea, was filmed and released in Asia on home video.
While on tour, it was revealed that Michael was expecting a baby with his long time friend, Debbie Rowe. They married on the 14th of November 1996, at Sheraton on The Park in Sydney, Australia in a private ceremony.
Tickets for Michael’s concerts in Australia and New Zealand broke records when they sold out in just a few hours. While in Australia, Michael attended the premiere of his new film, Ghosts. The 38-minute film was written by Michael Jackson and Stephen King and directed by Stan Winston. The film tells the story of a man being forced out of his small town home by the Mayor. Michael starred as multiple characters, (including the Maestro, the Mayor and as an incredible dancing skeleton!) with mind-blowing dance sequences, special effects and makeup. Three of Michael’s songs were used in the film: “2Bad”, “Is It Scary” and “Ghosts”. The film Ghosts currently holds the record for the world’s longest music video. It was released on home video in the form of a special box set in 1997. The film won the Bob Fosse Award for “Best Choreography in a Music Video”.
“Stranger in Moscow” was released in November 1996 world wide, but would not be released in the US until August 1997. The short film was again directed by Nicholas Brandt and was black and white; using a number of special effects methods, depicting Michael walking down a busy street on a rainy day. The single became a top 10 hit in 8 countries and also reached number 1 on the UK Club Chart.
Michael wrapped the first leg of his HIStory World Tour after two sold out nights at Hawaii’s Aloha Bowl on January 3rd and 4th. Michael became the first pop artist in history to sell out the 35,000 capacity venue.
Michael Jackson’s first son, Prince Michael Joseph Jackson was born on the 13th of February 1997 in Los Angeles. February soon became a busy month for Michael. He performed an original song he had composed at Elizabeth Taylor’s 65th Birthday Gala, called “Elizabeth I Love You”. Later in the month he also announced that he had split from his manager of six years, Sandy Gallin, and that Kingdom Entertainment would now be managing his career.
In Early April, 1997, Michael was interviewed and photographed with his family by OK! Magazine. OK! paid for the pictures and interview and Michael donated all the funds to his Heal The World foundation.
At the end of April, Michael released the first single, “Blood on The Dance Floor” from the forthcoming album of the same name. The song was accompanied by a dance loaded short film, directed by Michael Jackson and Vince Patterson. The single was popular in Europe and became a number 1 hit in seven countries, and a top 20 hit on the US R&B chart.
Michael was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the Jackson Five on May 6, 1997. He soon received another honour when Soul Train renamed their Video award to the "Michael Jackson Award for Best R&B/Soul or Rap music Video".
On May 20th, 1997, Michael released Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix. It was a compilation of eight remixed tracks from the HIStory album plus five brand new songs. The five new tracks were all written by Michael Jackson; “Blood On the Dance Floor”, “Morphine”, “Superfly Sister”, “Ghosts” and “Is It Scary”. They were recorded in different studios all over the world while Michael was on the first leg of his HIStory World Tour. The album was very well received despite little promotion. It peaked at number 1 in eight countries around the world, including the UK.
“HIStory/Ghosts” was the second single released in Europe from Blood on the Dance Floor in July 1997. It was an AA-side single, and went onto to become a top 10 hit in eight countries.
The second leg of Michael’s HIStory World Tour began in Bremen, Germany on 31st of May and concluded on October 15th in South Africa. Michael sold his millionth concert ticket at the Wembley Stadium and sold out four concerts in a row there. He also played on his 38th birthday in Copenhagen where 50,000 fans wished him Happy Birthday. Michael did not tour North America, but the tour was so successful that he had played 82 concerts to 4.5 million fans in 35 countries on 5 continents. The estimated grosses totalled more than $160 million and again, it was the biggest concert tour of its time.
While on tour, Michael was interviewed by Barbara Walters shortly after Princess Diana’s death, to discuss the paparazzi, fatherhood and the impact of the Princess’s death.
On the third of April, 1998, Michael announced the birth of a daughter, Paris Katherine Michael Jackson.
In September, 1998, Michael was named by Billboard Magazine as the Number 1 Male Artist with the most number 1 singles in the US. He had a staggering 13 number 1 hits over his solo career.
In June 1999, Michael held two special concerts for charity, called “Michael Jackson and Friends”. The first concert was held on June 25th in Seoul, Korea and the second concert was held on June 27 in Munich, Germany. His celebrity guests included All Saints, Andrea Bocelli, Luther Vandross and Status Quo. Michael’s set list included performances of “Billie Jean”, “Dangerous” and “Earth Song”. The concerts raised approximately $3.3 million for charities Red Cross, UNESCO and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. Both concerts were televised in Europe and Asia to a massive viewer response.
In October 1999, Debbie Rowe and Michael Jackson filed for divorce. They remained good friends and Michael was given sole custody of the children.
By the end of 1999, Michael had released two albums, had seven singles, released a feature film, toured the world and broke several records. The HIStory album to date has sold over 18 million copies (36 million units) and is currently listed as one of the best selling double albums of all time. Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix has sold approximately 6 million copies to date and is currently listed as the best selling remix album of all time.
Michael had dominated media headlines and the music charts throughout the era. He had the two biggest tours and two of the biggest selling albums of the 1990’s. Michael had had more interviews than ever before and created a stir wherever he went. He’d set many records, most of which remain unbroken today.