School band pulls `Thriller' from Macy's parade routine

Hit song is inappropriate given arrest, leader says


NEW YORK - This may not be the biggest bit of fallout from Michael Jackson's arrest on child molesting charges, but when one high school band struts in front of the cameras during Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade next week, the trombonists, sousaphonists and mellophonists will not play the piece they rehearsed for months.

That would be Jackson's 1983 hit "Thriller."

Instead, in a late scramble to keep everyone happy in Herald Square on Thursday, the marching band from Bloomington High School North in Bloomington, Ind., will strike up "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A." by John Mellencamp.

Sure, the band members know the Mellencamp tune - they memorized it weeks if not months ago, along with "Thriller" and the two other numbers they will perform. But they had mastered the steps for "Thriller," from Jackson's moonwalking days, and now will have to figure out a whole new routine for "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A."

The band director and Macy's were singing the same tune yesterday: The switch began with the director, Thomas Wilson. He called the parade producers after the Jackson story broke this week and said he wanted to do something different for the big number - 90 seconds on live national television at the end of the parade route on Thanksgiving morning.

Wilson said yesterday that he felt that "Thriller" no longer fit the bill as "appropriate for the morals and the ideals and the sense of pride that the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade represents."

Bill Schermerhorn, the creative director of Macy's annual events, said he probably would have raised the issue of whether "Thriller" was right for the parade. But he said that if Wilson hadn't had a readily available substitute, the parade probably would have gone on with "Thriller."

"One thing is, we would never disappoint these kids when they have their moment on national television," Schermerhorn said.

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