MASTER entertainer Michael Jackson was a “nervous wreck” before his record-breaking Super Bowl performance 30 years ago – which was watched by billions, The U.S. Sun can exclusively reveal.
MJ was worried about how the crowd, mostly made up of NFL fans, would react to his pop-hit medley.
However, the King of Pop need not have worried as his 12 and half-minute hit set wowed the full Pasadena stadium – and also left 1.5billion TV viewers spellbound.
Standing next to him and taking center stage for much of that performance was guitarist Jennifer Batten.
In an exclusive interview with The U.S. Sun, Jennifer opens up about having “the best seat in the house” for the once-in-a-lifetime show and working with Michael for three tours.
Jennifer feels MJ was a “supreme athlete” and perfectionist driven by a desire to deliver magic to audiences.
But while she adored the ultimate professionalism of MJ, she admits it was tough to grow close to the star.
Michael paid for his commitment to his craft and relentless work ethic and fame, living a “lonely” existence on tour.
Jennifer recalled MJ’s mood before the 1993 Rose Bowl crowd, which at the time was declared the biggest live TV entertainment show ever.
“That show was the only time in 10 years where I felt he was nervous because he knew that it wasn’t his audience,” she said.
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“Normally 50,000 people pay anything to see him, but these were football fans; so it was a whole different ball of wax.
“I remember him being spacey a lot at rehearsals, looking off into the distance.
“I could understand the pressure he was under – nothing could go wrong, as it was on live TV and would be remembered forever.
“That is what happens when you do a live show like that and then times it by a thousand when the cameras are on you.
“I don’t think any performer having cameras in their face like that would not feel self-conscious to some degree.”
With “billions” tuning in as the game was screened in more than 80 countries, she added: “That is a hell of a lot of pressure. I wouldn’t want my name on the marquee.”
Michael was also less than 10 feet away from crazed fans, including impersonators, in the front row trying to mimic his masterful moves from the side slides, kicks, and moonwalk.
“It always felt surreal, like I was transported into another entity,” Jennifer said.
“You could see impersonators, dressed like him, doing the same moves, which must have been off-putting, and people knew his lyrics.
“But it was a love bubble. I had the best seat in the house.”
Jennifer was not nervous: “I was having a ball because it was so different from what we were doing on tour and it was a one-time gig. It was great seeing people going nuts.”
When it came to the Billie Jean moonwalk segment, she says he knew when he started doing it people would “lose their minds,” adding that it was “otherworldly the level he took entertaining to.”
Michael even gambled by including his trademark statue opening, like at his concerts, where he remained still, soaking up the applause and energy of the crowd.
For more than a minute, the superstar stood completely still.
“I thought it was a mistake,” Jennifer admitted. “But it paid off.
“It was fun seeing fans freak out because I was a fan also.”
MJ’s medley of Jam, Billie Jean, Black Or White, and Heal The World is regarded as one of the greatest ever halftime shows, but not everything went smoothly.
Jennifer stood toe to toe alongside the star, head banging, while playing the Black or White guitar solo.
She laughed: “My neck was in pain for another week.”
Michael and Jennifer also momentarily disappeared out of sight for TV viewers because of an over-excited wind and fog machine operator.
“That guy had to gauge the wind, but he got it wrong so we were covered up for a few seconds. It was hilarious.”
A 20ft inflatable globe appeared behind the stage for the finale, but panicked organizers rushed to complete the effect in time.
“In rehearsal, it took forever to fill it, and it would not have worked. It was super Spinal Tap. So, they had to rush and get a smaller one.”
After the set, MJ and the band were delighted with the reaction.
“There was a lot of joy and high-fiving. But I don’t recall too much feedback from Michael.”
MJ had been on the Dangerous tour for six months before the Superbowl but still spent five days in 12-hour-long rehearsals to fine-tune the medley.
Ever the perfectionist, he made his band and dancers train for a month without him before the tour – and then another month with him.
“We had that stuff nailed, primed, and ready to go,” Jennifer recalled.
“If he was happy with the music then he would start dancing.
“So the number one takeaway was the power of rehearsal. Everything was muscle memory.
“Michael was like a machine when he hit the stage.
“We were astounded at how much energy he put out.
“We would rehearse for hours and hours, take dinner, and then rehearse again.
“He would go home to look at the video of what we did to try and make it better. Most people, including me, did not have the energy to do that.
LONELY ON TOUR
“On tour, he had a dance floor in his hotel rooms so that he could work on new moves too.”
Jennifer trekked the globe with Michael for a decade in the coveted role of the lead guitarist on the Bad, Dangerous, and HIStory tours for a decade until 1997.
“The songs were amazing, but the intensity live was times 10,” she revealed.
“A lot of the songs were much faster than the records live.
“The amount of energy he would put into each song would kill the average person.
“His moves were always so sharp and his energy insane. I never saw him just go through the motions.
“He was a supreme athlete. Physically, nobody could beat him to sing so well and dance those moves.
“There was a video [in between songs] playing and Michael would be backstage with an oxygen tank, getting support to keep going.”
Michael, relentless in his desire to be the world’s greatest-ever entertainer, was always separated from his band and dancers on tour.
“I would never say we were friends. I was an employee.
“The only time we hung out was at rehearsals. But I didn’t have a lot of one-on-one time. He was always professional, very respectful, and generous.”
MJ shut down amusement parks for his touring entourage and on American holidays hosted dinners with hundreds including his employees.
But his fame and security concerns allowed him little time to socialize with bandmates and dancers on tour.
“The performers were in a different hotel than him,” Jennifer said.
“He’d leave the show in a getaway car before we were done playing the final song Man In The Mirror.
“Anytime he wanted to do anything, six security guards were needed. I would guess, but I do not know, that he had been burned by people trying to get close to him.
“When you are out for a year and a half with the same people, you don’t want to get p***ed off with people. You want to keep a friendly distance, keeping things going along well.”
MJ’s life on tour was impossible to feel normal, with Jennifer saying: “It was a lonely existence.
“He had tons of videos and somebody told me he would go back to his room and watch old Brady Bunch episodes.
“When you cannot go out for a beer and hang out with people, it had to be lonely.”
Jennifer was unaware of MJ’s battle with pain medication even when the 1993 Dangerous tour ended early as he entered a drug rehabilitation program.
“I never saw him in pain. He always seemed very normal and consistent to me. He never complained.”
Jennifer added about her time with the star: “Michael will always be the biggest thing in my history. It doesn’t get bigger than Michael.
“He had unfiltered creativity. Even when he was in a makeup chair before shows, instead of chatting, he was writing lyrics.
“Once you build that muscle, it keeps going.”
Michael’s halftime show changed the game for TV networks about the Super Bowl, advertising, and halftime show expectation.
A-list musicians clambered to perform the slot to up their profile, while broadcasters found the highest audience share tuned in at halftime earning them greater ad revenue.
“He set a new bar of expectation. Every performer is measured by, ‘Was that as good as Michael’s show?’ They put a hell of a lot more money into now than what we got.”
Jennifer continues to tour the globe in various formats, from bands to solo shows to clinics and master classes.
In January 2016, she received the She Rocks “Icon” award and shortly after, was inducted into Guitar Player Magazine’s “Gallery of the Greats.”
She’s just recorded the single Mammoth Steps with Mika Tyyskä, known as Mr. Fastfinger, on the Tremors CD. She also records instructionals for TrueFire.com.