The Victory Tour was a concert tour of the United States and Canada by The Jacksons between July and December 1984. It was the first and only tour with all six Jackson brothers (even though Jackie was injured for most of the tour). The group performed 55 concerts to an audience of approximately 2 million. Most came to see Michael Jackson, whose album Thriller was dominating the popular music world at the time. Songs from it and his earlier solo album Off the Wall made up most of the set list. The tour reportedly grossed approximately $75 million and set a new record for the highest grossing tour. It showcased Michael's single decorated glove, black sequined jacket and moonwalk.
Despite its focus on Michael, it was named after the newly released Jacksons' album Victory although none of the album's songs were performed. Marlon confirmed it was because Michael refused to rehearse or perform them. He had, in fact, only joined his brothers, who needed the income while he did not, on the tour reluctantly, and tensions between him and them increased to the point that he announced at the last show that it was the last time they would perform together, ending plans for a European leg.
The Jacksons did make money from the tour, along with promoter Don King. Michael donated his share to several charities as he had promised before it in order to save face over a controversial ticket-lottery system, eventually eliminated, that he had opposed. But the rancour between him and his brothers had a deep and lasting effect on the Jacksons as a family, alienating him from them for most of his life; it effectively ended the Jacksons as a performing group. The tour was also a financial disaster for promoter Chuck Sullivan, who along with his father Billy was eventually forced to sell the New England Patriots football team they owned, along with Foxboro Stadium, the team's home field, as a result of the losses he incurred.
In November 1983, The Jacksons announced plans for a major tour in 1984 at a press conference, with boxing promoter Don Kingoffering $3 million in upfront advances. That spring, the Victory album was recorded, to be released shortly before the tour itself. On the eve of the tour in July, Michael announced, in response to complaints about the lottery system for allocating tickets, that his entire earnings for the tour would go to charities—The United Negro College Fund, the Michael Jackson Scholarship Fund, Camp Good Times for terminally ill children and the T.J. Martell Foundation for Leukemia and Cancer Research.
At the time the tour was announced, the Jacksons had not lined up a promoter for the shows. In the spring of 1984, Chuck Sullivan, son of Billy Sullivan owner of the New England Patriots of the National Football League (NFL), went to Los Angeles to see if he could get the Jacksons to choose the team's home, Sullivan Stadium, which the family also owned, for the group's Boston-area shows. After using his financial and legal expertise to help his father regain control of the team he had founded and built in the wake of a 1974 boardroom coup, the younger Sullivan, who had promoted concerts as an undergraduate atBoston College and during his Army service in Thailand, had begun staging concerts at the stadium to generate extra income for the team.
Planning and organization
At a meeting, Frank DiLeo, a vice president at Epic Records, the Jacksons' label, told Sullivan that the group's talks with its original promoter had broken down and they were seeking a replacement. Sensing an opportunity, Sullivan returned to Boston and began putting together the financing to allow Stadium Management Corp. (SMC), the Patriots' subsidiary that operated the stadium, to promote the entire Victory tour. Initially he partnered with Eddie DeBartolo, then owner of another NFL team, the San Francisco 49ers, in putting together a bid offering the Jacksons two-thirds of the tour's gross revenue against a guaranteed $40 million ($90.8 million in modern dollars).
DeBartolo withdrew when he began to see the deal as too risky, but Sullivan persevered by himself, and in late April DiLeo told him at another meeting in Los Angeles that SMC, which had never handled a tour, would be the promoter of the year's most eagerly anticipated concert tour, expected to gross $70–80 million. The deal was very generous to the Jacksons. Sullivan had agreed that they would receive 83.4% of gross potential ticket revenues, which meant in practical terms that the group would be paid as if the show had sold out regardless of whether it actually did. That percentage was at least 25 points above what was at that time the industry standard for artists on tour.
Sullivan Stadium, used as collateral to finance the tour, as seen shortly before its demolition in the early 2000s.
Sullivan also guaranteed the Jacksons a $36.6 million ($83.1 million in modern dollars) advance. He put the stadium up as collateral for a $12.5 million loan to pay the first installment shortly before the tour started. The balance was due two weeks later.
The month after winning the tour bid, Sullivan approached stadium managers at the NFL's meetings, many of whom were there to bid for future Super Bowls. He sought changes to their usual arrangements with touring performers in order to make the Victory Tour more profitable. Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Chiefs, agreed to accept only a $100,000 fee for the three opening concerts instead of its usual percentage of ticket sales and concessions. The Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida, provided nearly half a million dollars' worth of free goods and services. Ultimately, 26 of the 55 dates were played in 17 stadiums that were home to NFL teams.
But some others balked at Sullivan's demands. To use John F. Kennedy Stadium, he asked the city of Philadelphia for almost $400,000 in tax breaks and subsidies. Among them were free hotel rooms and suites for all tour workers, free use of the stadium and waiver of concession revenue. He said the Jacksons' presence would generate revenue that would make up the difference, but the city stood firm on some provisions. Outside of negotiations, his behavior on tour further embarrassed the Jacksons on some occasions. At Washington's RFK Stadium, he forgot his pass and was denied entry.
Sullivan was particularly humiliated when the board of selectmen in Foxboro, where his family's team and stadium were located, uncharacteristically denied a permit for the concert, citing "the unknown element." What that meant has never been clear. It has been suggested that they were racially motivated. There had been continuing security concerns about the stadium during Patriots' games and previous concerts, but the board had never denied permits on that basis before.
To help defray the tour's costs, the Jacksons sought a corporate sponsor. They had all but concluded a lucrative deal with Quaker Oats when King came to them with a deal he had already signed with Pepsi. Although it would pay them less money, they had to take it and break off talks with Quaker. Part of the deal was that Michael, who did not drink Pepsi, would have to do two commercials. He made sure that his face appeared minimally in them to avoid overexposing his image. During filming of one of the two commercials, Michael suffered second and third degree burns on his scalp when a firework effect malfunctioned, catching his hair on fire. Many people, including friends and associates of his, believe this incident is what sparked his problems with prescription drug abuse.
Ticket controversy and other business issues
King, Sullivan and Joe Jackson came up with a way to generate additional revenue from ticket sales. Those wishing to attend would have to send a postal money order for $120 ($270 in modern dollars) along with a special form to a lottery to buy blocks of four tickets at $30 apiece, ostensibly to curtail scalpers. Upon receipt the money was to be deposited into a standard money market account earning 7% annual interest; it would take six to eight weeks for the lottery to be held and money to be refunded to the unsuccessful purchasers. Since only one in ten purchasers would win the lottery and receive tickets, there would be more money in the bank for that time period than there were tickets to sell, and they expected to earn $10–12 million in interest.
Joe and his sons were all in favor of the scheme—except Michael, who warned them that it would be a public relations disaster. The $30 ticket price, already higher than most touring acts charged at the time, was compounded by the requirement to buy four. This put tickets out of reach of the many of his fans who were poor African Americans. That community was joined by many commentators in the media in vociferously criticizing the Jacksons over the scheme. Nevertheless, when newspapers published the form for tickets to the first show in Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium in late June, fans lined up at stores before they opened to buy them. A local radio disk jockey said some newspapers were even stolen from lawns.
On July 5, 1984, after receiving a letter from eleven-year-old fan Ladonna Jones, who accused the Jacksons and their promoters of being 'selfish and just out for money,' Michael held a press conference to announce changes in the tour's organization and also to announce that his share of the proceeds from the tour would be donated to charity. Following a controversy with the way tickets were purchased, lead-singer Michael Jackson donated his proceeds (approx. $5 million) from the tour to three charities, including the T.J. Martell Foundation for Leukemia and Cancer Research, The United Negro College Fund, and Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times.
Jones later received VIP treatment at the Dallas concert. The following is Michael's speech at a press conference on July 5, 1984, the day before the tour began:
After, the procedures were modified, but all sales continued to be made by mail (except for the six final shows at Dodger Stadium, where tickets were also sold throughTicketmaster.) Tickets were typically made available only a week to ten days in advance, and many tickets ended up in the hands of ticket brokers.
Arrowhead Stadium, where the tour opened, as it appeared at the time
The tour sold what was then a record number of tickets despite the high price. The opening shows were widely covered in the national media and sold out. "Anybody who sees this show will be a better person for years to come," King told the media before the first date in Kansas City. "Michael Jackson has transcended all earthly bounds. Every race, color and creed is waiting for this tour."
Sullivan had estimated in June that he would make up to $13 million, but by August he had reduced that estimate by more than three-quarters, to $3 million. Transporting the 365-ton (331 t) stage Michael had designed, which took up one-third of a football field (approximately 19,200 square feet (1,780 m2)), required over 30 tractor trailers. It was so large it required using some of the seating area, in some venues taking as much as a quarter of the potential available seats off the market.
Before the tour began Sullivan had spent nearly a million dollars on legal fees and insurance. Among the 250 workers on the tour payroll was an "ambiance director" who provided "homey touches" to the traveling parlor the group relaxed in before and after shows. Overhead costs were soon averaging around a million dollars a week, far over expectations, and Sullivan was unable to pay the $24 million balance on the advance. He renegotiated the deal down to 75% of gross potential seat revenues soon after the tour began.
Tensions among The Jacksons
Tensions between Michael and his brothers increased during the tour. He stayed at his own hotels and flew between stops on a private jet while the rest of the family flew commercial. At one point he demanded that a publicist be fired. When he found out right before a show that she had not been, he refused to go on until she was. Michael had also been disappointed when his idol James Brown declined his invitation to join the group on stage in New York due to Brown's continued outrage about the ticket lottery.
The other Jacksons also had grievances with Michael. He turned down a multimillion-dollar offer from a movie producer to film one of the shows that his brothers had accepted, only to have a crew he had hired show up to shoot its own film several nights later (they have subsequently blocked its release). Despite a pretour agreement that only the Jacksons themselves could ride in the van chartered to take them to shows, Michael began taking child star Emmanuel Lewis along with them. Later, after a similar agreement over a helicopter that took the brothers to a show at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, Michael showed up with Julian Lennon, and his brothers glared at him for the entire flight. Before the tour was halfway completed the brothers were taking separate vehicles to concerts.
The brothers all stayed on different floors of their hotels, and refused to talk to each other on the way to shows. Meetings broke down among factions, with two lawyers frequently representing Michael's interests, another Jermaine's, and one more for the other three. "It was the worst experience Michael had ever had with his brothers," said a longtime family friend. "Some were jealous, there was denial, the whole gamut of human emotions."
Health issues also affected the tour. Jackie Jackson missed the first half with a leg injury, supposedly sustained during rehearsals. At one point Michael became so exhausted and dehydrated from the stress of quarreling with his brothers that he was placed under medical care.
By the later shows on the tour its novelty had worn off and the strains were having an effect. The Victory album had not sold well, and shows were increasingly failing to sell out. Dates planned for Pittsburgh were canceled; extra shows in Chicago made up the difference. By early October, the time of the shows in Toronto's Exhibition Stadium, a total of 50,000 tickets had gone unsold. Sullivan renegotiated again, getting the Jacksons to agree to revenues based on actual sales.
Things did not improve as the tour reached its final leg on the West Coast. In late November, the shows at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, just outside Phoenix, were canceled. Officially the reason was that Jermaine was too sick with the flu to perform, but there was some speculation that slow ticket sales played a role as well. Sullivan was so short of cash he stopped payment on a $1.9 million check to the group after the Vancouver dates. Immediately afterwards, he suffered a minor heart attack, and left the hospital early to renegotiate with the Jacksons again, claiming losses of $5–6 million. By this time the parties were no longer meeting in person. The Jacksons agreed to waive the stopped payment in return for a greater share of revenue from the six final shows in Los Angeles's Dodger Stadium. Sullivan's estimated profit was down to half a million dollars.
The Jacksons and Don King had made money even though Sullivan had not, and near the end of the tour they began making plans for a European leg. When word reached Michael, he let them know through his representatives that he would not be taking part. At the rain-soaked tour finale in Los Angeles's Dodger Stadium, where many seats were conspicuously empty and the fans in those that were filled were noticeably less enthusiastic than they had been earlier in the tour, Michael announced at the end of the show, to his brothers' shocked expressions, that this would be the last time they all performed together. The plans to go to Europe were ended.
Michael's announcement generated some great backlash from his brothers. Don King's reaction was blunt:
Michael was so upset when he learned of King's remarks that he called his lawyer John Branca and said "Sue his ass. That guy has been pushing my last nerve since day one." Branca calmed him down and persuaded him to drop the idea.
Financially, the Jacksons themselves ended up making very good money based on excellent ticket sales and the financial deal they struck with Sullivan. The Jacksons netted approximately $36 million, which worked out to about $7 million for each brother, most of which they spent on expensive lifestyles. Michael, who alone did not need the money, donated his share to charity as he had promised. He had also received an $18 million advance from Sullivan for a Michael Jackson designer jeans brand, few of which were ever produced and sold before Sullivan had to stop production.
Estimates of SMC's losses have ranged from $13 million to $22 million ($29.5 million to $49.9 million in modern dollars) Sullivan and his father quietly put the word out around the NFL that the Patriots and their stadium were for sale. Their $100 million asking price for the combined package made more sense when the Patriots qualified for Super Bowl XX after the next season, the first time they had ever done so.
An early deal for the team collapsed, and the Patriots limped on. Even after making the Super Bowl, the team's revenue was not nearly enough for the Sullivans to service the debt from the Victory Tour. At one point they were so close to bankruptcy that the NFL had to advance them $4 million to make their payroll. Sullivan's woes increased when his wife filed for divorce, and he had to set up a luxury box at the stadium as his personal living quarters. He allegedly wrote several letters to Michael Jackson, begging the star for money to bail the team out. Jackson never replied.
The Sullivans finally gave up and sold the Patriots to Victor Kiam in 1988. However, Kiam was unable to keep himself or the team financially stable either, and eventually they were sold again in 1992 to James Orthwein, who nearly moved the team to St. Louis before selling it in 1994 to Robert Kraft, their current owner, under whose management they have won several Super Bowls. Kraft had entered the picture some years earlier, when he bought Sullivan Stadium out of bankruptcy. He has a Victory Tour poster in his office as a reminder of how he was able to realize his lifelong dream of owning the Patriots.
Aside from a few months in mid-1975, the Victory Tour era marked the only time that all six Jackson brothers worked together at the same time as a band. Jackie Jackson missed most of the tour because of a leg injury. That injury was described at the time as a knee injury incurred during strenuous rehearsals. Margaret Maldonado (the mother of two ofJermaine Jackson's children) has alleged that Jackie in fact broke his leg in an automobile accident: his first wife Enid ran him over in a parking lot after catching him with another woman. In any case, Jackie made a speedy recovery and was able to rejoin his brothers on stage for the last portion of the tour.
Michael sang all the lead vocals, except for a medley of Jermaine's solo hits.
Eddie Van Halen made at least two special guest appearances doing the "Beat It" guitar solo.
Shortly after the tour ended, Michael returned to his solo career and Marlon left the group to start his own solo career without The Jacksons.
The set list included songs from the Jacksons albums Destiny and Triumph. Despite the name of the tour, the Victory album was not represented. There were also songs on the list from Jermaine's and Michael's solo careers. Songs from Michael's albums Off the Wall and Thriller were both represented. The set list did not include "Thriller" itself because Michael did not like the way the song sounded live.
Jermaine sometimes performed the song "Dynamite" during his solo medley in place of the usual "You Like Me, Don't You?".
- 1. "Sword in the Stone" (Introduction)
- 2. "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'"
- 3. "Things I Do for You"
- 4. "Off the Wall"
- 5. "Ben"/"Human Nature"
- 6. "This Place Hotel"
- 7. "She's Out of My Life"
- 8. Jermaine Jackson Medley
- "Let's Get Serious"
- "You Like Me, Don't You?"/"Dynamite"
- "Tell Me I'm Not Dreamin' (Too Good to Be True)" (with Michael)
- 9. The Jackson 5 Medley
- 10. "Rock With You"
- 11. "Lovely One"
- 12. "Workin' Day and Night"
- 13. "Beat It"
- 14. "Billie Jean"
- 15. "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)" (featuring snippets of "State of Shock" and "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough")
- Four concerts, although not in high quality, have been leaked: An almost complete recording of the second concert of the tour recorded in Kansas City, and three complete shows recorded in Dallas, New York City and Toronto.
- Jackie Jackson made his first appearance on the tour in Montreal during the song "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)". He would continue to join in during the last song on every tour.
|Full dress rehearsal concert|
|July 1, 1984||Birmingham||United States||Birmingham–Jefferson Civic Center|
|July 6, 1984||Kansas City||United States||Arrowhead Stadium|
|July 7, 1984|
|July 8, 1984|
|July 13, 1984||Dallas||Texas Stadium|
|July 14, 1984|
|July 15, 1984|
|July 21, 1984||Jacksonville||Gator Bowl Stadium|
|July 22, 1984|
|July 23, 1984|
|July 29, 1984||East Rutherford||Giants Stadium|
|July 30, 1984|
|July 31, 1984|
|August 4, 1984||New York City||Madison Square Garden|
|August 5, 1984|
|August 10, 1984||Knoxville||Neyland Stadium|
|August 11, 1984|
|August 12, 1984|
|August 17, 1984||Pontiac||Pontiac Silverdome|
|August 18, 1984|
|August 19, 1984|
|August 25, 1984||Buffalo||Rich Stadium|
|August 26, 1984|
|September 1, 1984||Philadelphia||JFK Stadium|
|September 2, 1984|
|September 7, 1984||Denver||Mile High Stadium|
|September 8, 1984|
|September 17, 1984||Montreal||Canada||Montreal Olympic Stadium|
|September 18, 1984|
|September 21, 1984||Washington, D.C.||United States||RFK Stadium|
|September 22, 1984|
|September 28, 1984||Philadelphia||JFK Stadium|
|September 30, 1984|
|October 5, 1984||Toronto||Canada||CNE Stadium|
|October 6, 1984|
|October 7, 1984|
|October 12, 1984||Chicago||United States||Comiskey Park|
|October 13, 1984|
|October 14, 1984|
|October 19, 1984||Cleveland||Cleveland Municipal Stadium|
|October 20, 1984|
|October 26, 1984||Atlanta||Fulton County Stadium|
|October 27, 1984|
|November 2, 1984||Miami||Miami Orange Bowl|
|November 3, 1984|
|November 9, 1984||Houston||Astrodome|
|November 10, 1984|
|November 16, 1984||Vancouver||Canada||BC Place Stadium|
|November 17, 1984|
|November 18, 1984|
|November 30, 1984||Los Angeles||United States||Dodger Stadium|
|December 1, 1984|
|December 2, 1984|
|December 7, 1984|
|December 8, 1984|
|December 9, 1984|