Saturday, October 30, 2010

Michael Jackson: Thriller

Our album feature for this next to the last day of the Halloween week is probably the best selling album of all time: Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” The album has sold an estimated 50 million copies worldwide (29 million in the US alone), it produced a record seven single releases, “Thriller” was the number one album for both 1983 and 1984, the album contributed to breaking down racial barriers at MTV, and got airplay on stations of every format except country and beautiful music.

Thriller (the song)

A dramatic video that is twice as long as the LP’s final cut and final single release captured audiences with its choreography, acting, effects, and who can forget Vincent Price’s recitation. It has become a Halloween favorite since the album was released in late 1982. The single only peaked at 4 in 1984 on the American charts; however, it was certified platinum for over two million copies sold.

“The foulest stench is in the air – the funk of 40 thousand years and grisly ghouls from every tomb are closing in to seal your doom. And though you fight to stay alive, your body starts to shiver. For no mere mortal can resist the evil of the Thriller.”

Billie Jean

The album’s second single is no doubt Michael Jackson’s hottest cut of all time; however, producer Quincy Jones hated the song. He thought it was weak and not up to par with the rest of the album’s material. Jackson insisted that it be included and he won in the long run. Q was also critical of the intro and wanted it edited – but Jackson refused. In the recording of the tune, Jones had Jackson sing the vocals through a large cardboard tube; this was accomplished in one take. Fearing that people would equate the title to Billie Jean King, Jones wanted the song named as “Not My Lover”; however, Jackson stood firm on the title.

In the end, 91 mixes of Billie Jean were created and the second mix was the one used for the album release. The hard work that went into this tune paid off as it was the biggest single of the album holding down the number 1 slot for seven weeks and selling in excess of two million copies. It is the quintessential dance song from the 80s. Two bands I was in during that decade, Audio Game and Street Heat both performed this tune and it was an immediate dance sensation.

Beat It

The album’s third single featuring guitarists Eddie Van Halen and Toto’s Steve Lukather even received airplay on Album Rock stations on the strength of Van Halen’s guitar solos. It was the album’s other number one single where it held the top spot for 3 weeks. Like “Thriller” and “Billie Jean,” the single also was certified platinum. Jackson wrote the song as he felt he needed to create a rock song that teenagers and college students would like.

Other singles on the album included “The Girl is Mine” (a duet with Paul McCartney) that charted at 2, “Wanna be Startin’ Something” that charted at #5, “Human Nature” at #7, and “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” – a hit at #10. “The Girl is Mine” was the only one of these singles that was certified gold. The singles charted over three calendar years 1982-1984.

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