Happy Birthday, Thriller! Ten Facts You May Not Know About The Album

michael-jackson-thriller

The biggest selling album of all time is 30. Happy birthday to Michael Jackson’s Thriller!

In 1982, an album was released that changed the 80s in a big way. In fact, it changed music and pop culture in a big way too. That album was Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It was released on this day in 1982 by Epic Records following on from Michael’s critically acclaimed Off the Wall. Thriller went a little further than Off The Wall in terms of genre exploration, going deep into pop, R&B, rock and funk.

To commemorate this joyous occasion, we’ve come up with ten facts you may not have previously known about the album.

1. Thriller after an Oscar?

 

The music video for Thriller was played in a cinema in the US for one week in 1983 so it could qualify for an Oscar nomination. Parents weren’t too happy with how it was presented – it opened for Disney’s Fantasia. Alas, it didn’t win.

2. The song Thriller was originally titled Starlight.

During the demo sessions, Thriller had a different name. Entitled Starlight, the demo had a similar arrangement to the final track with differences in lyricism, notably with no references to the supernatural. We think he made a good call adding them in.

3. Billie Jean could have been called Not My Lover.

Early collaborator Quincy Jones had many ideas for Billie Jean (as you’ll find out later) and one of them was to call it Not My Lover. Why? Well, Q didn’t want  people thinking the song was about Billie Jean King. That didn’t stop someone claiming they were carrying Michael’s son, leading to a possible theory that the song was about that incident, despite Michael’s denial.

4. Billie Jean may never have made the cut.

Digest that thought for a second. Thriller without arguably the greatest pop song ever. How could that decision have crossed anyone’s mind? Quincy didn’t like the long bass line and wanted to make a lot of changes. Michael wanted it to stay how it was. Quincy wanted it out completely. Michael stood his ground and left recording. After some time to sleep on it and think it over, Michael got his wish and the track stayed on as it was.

5. The vocals for Billie Jean were done in one take.

Reason #123,456 why I love this song. Michael walked in, did all the verses and ad libs in ONE TAKE. Just perfect.

6. The knocking sound in Beat It was someone at the door.

Do you remember that knocking sound before Van Halen’s guitar solo starts in Beat It? If not, listen to it here (or at 2:45 if the link doesn’t skip to it). According to an urban myth, that knock was someone walking into Van Halen’s studio. Of course, with mysteries like these there’s another story – it’s also claimed to be nothing more than Van Halen knocking on his own guitar. I prefer the first story.

7. Jackson’s girlfriend in Thriller was also Playboy magazine’s Miss June in 1980.

Michael always got the finest ladies for his videos and Ola Ray was no exception. In the June edition, she listed her favorite entertainers as “Michael Jackson, Donna Summer, Ben Vereen and Emry Thomas.” She also listed her turn-ons as “music, men, dancing and romancing, health and nature” and turnoffs as “waiting for something that never comes.” That’s what she said!

8. Wanna Be Startin’ Something was written for LaToya.

The track was written, composed, and co-produced by Michael himself but it was originally written for his sister La Toya, apparently about her troubled relationship with her sisters-in-law, but Michael eventually recorded it for the album. La Toya performs it at her own concerts sometimes.

9. Human Nature was co-written by a member of Toto

Remember Africa by Toto? Well, the guy on the keyboards in that song, Steve Porcaro, wrote Human Nature with John Bettis.

10. Make up artist Rick Baker was in the video for Thriller.

He was the zombie seen stumbling out of the mausoleum.

About Luke Alex Davis

Luke Davis is a music producer and editor of music blog Sampleface. In his spare time, he enjoys watching tennis and football and reading.