Liberian Girl


It’s 1987.

I’m 14 and and at boarding school in the Lake District.

After lights out- Walkman smuggled under duvet- Michael Jackson is my escape route…

Here we go, lots of dreamy G notes and exotic birdy sounds.

‘Naku penda piya-naku taka piya- mpenziwe’

Does that mean something? Sounds a bit silly.

Ooh, I know, maybe it’s Liberian. Where’s Liberia? I hate Geography.

Definitely hot; you can’t wear leather there. Or white gloves.

‘Liberian girl…

You came and you changed my world’

Here’s the slow beat, here’s Michael. He’s smitten. She’s done lots of changing, this girl. Maybe she gave him Bubbles. And coconut hair oil.

Now the second verse and – what a treat!- a key change so soon. Normally you have to wait until the end of a song for that.

Plus- Double Fantastic!- Michael’s splitting himself into two, high and low.

She can’t doubt his feelings now, with the oral pincer bonanza.

‘More precious than any pearl’

Gosh, I’d love to be more precious than that. Will I be one day? Not to any of the boys at the school dances; they wouldn’t understand.

Now she’s asking if he loves her and he says it out loud: ‘Endlessly’.


Oh, Michael, I think I love you like that. Your voice isn’t very masculine but that’s O.K., that’s Motown.

‘You kiss me then,

Ooh, the world,

You do this to me’

Michael, I’m here! On the top bunk in Kirkby Lonsdale.

I’m wearing my froggy nightie but I’ll be a woman soon.

I’ve already been sick on alcohol!

And she’s still changing his world and now he’s changing hers back and when he tells her he loves her this time the notes aren’t descending, they’re rising, and he can’t suppress it! Out to the hot night sky! He’s mad for the girl!

‘All the time!’

And now multiple Michaels. All over the place. You can’t stop them.

Singing ‘Girl’ and ‘I want you baby’ and all the loving stuff.

She must be thrilled. I am and he’s not even talking to me…

Press rewind. All over again. Maybe 3 more times.

I’m there, I’m there.

Batteries sound drunk. Press pause.

Listen to see if my sexually-precocious room-mates have finished talking about doing unspeakable things to boys.

Yes, they have. Walkman away. Time to dream.

On a beach in paradise with Michael Jackson moonwalking back to me.

‘Just like in the movies’…


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