Michael Jackson told the Chinese people, "Your butt is mine."
But by the time Jackson began singing his hit song "Bad" 52 minutes into last week's premiere of "The American Music Hour" on Chinese radio patrons of the Yue You Cafe Bar were no longer listening. The cafe had switched back to its usual fare: Muzak-style versions of Gershwin tunes and "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina."No one knows how many Chinese tuned into the inaugural broadcast of the twice-weekly nationwide program, produced by a Santa Monica, Calif.-based company called ChinAmerica and brought to fruition through a contract with the Chinese government.
And no one knows how many of the listeners responded more warmly than the 30 or so patrons at the Yue You.
But the folks at ChinAmerica are certainly banking on a hearty welcome for their amalgam of American poular music, "from Glenn Miller to Madonna."
Indeed, in a glossy brochure prepared for potential sponsors, they say they're aiming for all "2 billion ears" and then some in this nation of a billion-plus people, who own about 400 million radios.
The music they hope will attract that vast, divergent audience is primarily selected by ChinAmerica president and CEO Donald Altfeld, composer of the timeless "Little Old Lady From Pasadena."
His choices are subject to approval by ChinAmerica's partner here, the China People's Broadcasting Station. One of CPBS' few rejects so far has been "Roll Over, Beethoven," because of its lack of respect for the composer.
A CPBS announcer introduces the songs and translates messages from abroad. Among the well-wishers on the premiere program were Lionel Ritchie, a San Diego disc jockey and President Reagan.
To make a profit, the Music Hour needs paying advertisers from China or abroad five minutes of ad time is available each hour at $5,000 per minute. So far no one has signed on, but the wealthy producers don't seem concerned.
Says the enticing brochure: " . . . For the first time, advertisers can sell to this incredibly large audience . . . a quarter of the world's consumers . . . early in their cycle of brand awareness and loyalty."
At the Yue You, a dim room with full-length red drapes and multicolored ceiling lights, reaction to the show was cautious as Huey Lewis and The News opened the show with "Heart of Rock & Roll."
"That's the name of the group?" asked one customer. "It's strange."
"The music's so fast it makes me nervous," said cafe manager Bai Songnian.
The next couple of songs went over better: John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Road" ("We learned this at Beijing University," said one young woman) and the instrumental "Theme from Love Story," which has been familiarized with Chinese lyrics by a Taiwanese-American singer.
But as the show, complete with DJ chatter, progressed through "It Never Rains in California" (produced by Altfeld) and Glenn Miller's "In the Mood" to "Da Doo Ron Ron" (written by ChinAmerica chief operating officer and international director Jeff Barry), the audience grew bored.
And when the manager finally switched back to the cafe's regular recordings, several customers shouted their approval.
Several young customers said they like rock `n' roll ("yao gun" in Chinese), but only when they want to dance, not when they want to sit with a beer or a cup of coffee and a few friends.
That may bode well for "The American Music Hour" in its repeat broadcast on Sunday mornings, because morning is the time for one of China's biggest fads: when scores of exercise-craving retirees head for their nearest park to practice disco dancing.