1984 – Michael Jackson wins eight Grammys, all connected to his album “Thriller.” Eddie VanHalen is a Noted player on Beat it!
Thriller is the sixth solo album by American pop singer Michael Jackson, released on November 30, 1982 on Epic Records and the second of his three albums with producer Quincy Jones. With sales of approximately 104 million, it is the best-selling album ever and made Jackson’s fame global. In 2007, NARM/The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ranked Thriller third on their “Definitive 200” albums list.
Thriller is one of only three albums to remain in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 for a full year, spending 80 consecutive weeks there, 37 at #1. It was the first of three albums to have seven Billboard Hot 100 top-ten singles and the only album to date to be the best-seller of two years (1983-1984) in the USA. It still sells an estimated 130,000 units in the USA per year. In 2008, the Thriller album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Recording and release
Recorded between April and November 1982, with several members of Toto, Thriller was the second of Jackson albums Quincy Jones produced. Showing growing creativity, Jackson wrote four of Thriller’s songs. Following the hit with “The Girl is Mine”, a pop duet with then-friend Paul McCartney, the single “Billie Jean” made Thriller a chart topper. Jackson performed the hit on Motown 25, showing off his signature “moonwalk” dance move to an enormous audience. Success expanded with crossover rock hit “Beat It” featuring guitarist Eddie Van Halen.
Jackson was nominated for twelve Grammy Awards in 1984, winning a record breaking eight in a year. Seven were for Thriller (including the award for “Album of the Year”) and the other for the E.T. storybook track “Someone In The Dark”. That same year, Jackson also won eight American Music Awards and the “Special Award of Merit” and three MTV Video Music Awards. At 25, The New York Times called Jackson a “musical phenomenon”, commenting that “in the world of pop music, there is Michael Jackson and there is everybody else.” Time magazine explained that “the fallout from Thriller has given the music business its best years since the heady days of 1978, when it had an estimated total domestic revenue of $4.1 billion.” Thriller also helped bring African-American music back into mainstream radio for the first time since the mid-1970s.
Still popular, Thriller reached #2 in the US Catalog charts in February 2003, and #39 in the UK in March. Recently, it charted in the Catalogue charts in May 2007 and the UK charts and in November 2007 “Thriller” re-charted in the UK at #57. On February 14, 2008 it re-charted in Ireland at #5.
“Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” (Jackson) – 6:02 (US#5, UK#8)
“Baby Be Mine” (Temperton) – 4:20
“The Girl Is Mine (with Paul McCartney)” (Jackson) – 3:42 (US#2, UK#8)
“Thriller” (Temperton) – 5:57 (US#4, UK#10)
“Beat It” (Jackson) – 4:17 (US#1, UK#3)
“Billie Jean” (Jackson) – 4:57 (US#1 UK#1)
“Human Nature” (Bettis/Porcaro) – 4:05 (US#7)
“P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” (Ingram/Jones) – 3:58 (US#10, UK#11)
“The Lady in My Life” (Temperton) – 4:57
High profile samples/covers
In 2006, Charlotte Church and Amy Winehouse sang “Beat It” at the end of The Charlotte Church Show’s first series.
On December 10, 2007, Alicia Keys sang “Human Nature” at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo.
“Good Life” by Kanye West features keys from “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)”
“Don’t Stop the Music” by Rihanna sampled “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'”
“Right Here/Human Nature” by SWV sampled “Human Nature”
“The Way It Is” by The Prodigy sampled “Thriller”
Music videos and MTV
It is often claimed Jackson was the first person to make an art out of music videos, with story-telling and choreography styles that continue to influence. Short films like “Thriller” largely remained unique to Jackson, but the group dance sequence in “Beat It” has been frequently imitated and the group dance in “Thriller” became part of global pop culture, being replicated everywhere from Bollywood to American prisons.
Central to Michael Jackson’s success with music videos was new channel MTV, which put his videos in heavy rotation throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Before then, Jackson struggled to get MTV to air his videos because he was black. To change this, CBS Records President Walter Yetnikoff denounced MTV, warning, “I’m pulling everything we have off the air, all our product. I’m not going to give you any more videos. And I’m going to go public and fucking tell them about the fact you don’t want to play music by a black guy”. This harsh, rhetoric stance worked; MTV started showing “Billie Jean”, forming a partnership with Jackson to last decades, helping future black artists.
When the 14-minute-long “Thriller” video aired in December 1983, MTV ran it up to twice an hour to meet demand. The horror theme reportedly scared many viewers, especially children. It marked an increase in scale for music videos and is often claimed as the best-ever music video. MTV, a struggling cable channel, became huge. Jackson’s videos were credited to this success and MTV’s focus switched from rock music to more and pop and R&B.
Country Certification Sales Country Certification Sales Country Certification Sales
Argentina 10x Platinum 500,000 Australia 12x Platinum 850,000 Brazil 6x Diamond 2,000,000
Belgium 11x Platinum 550,000 Canada 2x Diamond 2,000,000 Finland 3x Platinum 90,000
France 3x Diamond 3,000,000 Germany 3x Platinum 1,500,000 Japan 2x Diamond 2,500,000
Mexico Diamond 500,000 Netherlands 11x Platinum 880,000 New Zealand Diamond 150,000
Portugal 3x Platinum 140,000 Spain 8x Platinum 640,000 Switzerland 6x Platinum 240,000
UK 11x Platinum 3,570,000 USA 27x Platinum 27,000,000
Thriller spent 37 weeks (26 February, 1983-20 April, 1984) at #1 in the US, 144 days in 1983 and 111 days in 1984, before remaining in the charts for a further 85 weeks.
Producer: Quincy Jones
Co-producer, lead and backup vocals: Michael Jackson
Guitar: David Williams, Dean Parks, Steve Lukather, Paul Jackson
Bass: Louis Johnson, Steve Lukather
Saxophone and flute: Larry Williams
Trumpet and flügelhorn: Jerry Hey, Gary Grant
Trombone: Bill Reichenbach
Drums: Jeff Porcaro and N’dugu Chancler
Percussion: Paulinho Da Costa
Keyboards/synthesizers/programming: Greg Phillinganes, Steve Porcaro, David Paich, Brian Banks
Keyboards/synthesizers: Michael Boddicker, David Foster, Bill Wolfer, Rod Temperton
Synthesizer programming: Anthony Marinelli
Horn and string arrangements: Jerry Hey
Backup vocals: James Ingram, Bunny Hull and Becky Lopez
Recording engineer/mixer: Bruce Swedien
Technical engineer: Matt Forger
“Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” – vocal/horn arrangement: Jackson, rhythm arrangement: Jackson /Jones
Julia Waters, Maxine Waters, Oren Waters,
“Baby Be Mine” – arrangement: Temperton
Keyboards: Greg Phillinganes
“The Girl Is Mine” (with Paul McCartney) – vocal arrangement: Jackson/Jones, rhythm arrangement: Jones/Glately
String conductor: Jerry Hey
Concertmaster: Jerry Vinci
“Thriller” – arrangement: Temperton
Rap: Vincent Price
Effects: Bruce Cannon and Bruce Swedien
“Beat It” – vocal arrangement: Jackson, rhythm arrangement: Jackson/Jones
Guitar solo: Eddie Van Halen
“Billie Jean” – arrangement: Jackson
String conductor: Jeremy Lubbock
“Human Nature” – arrangement: Paich/Porcaro/Lukather
“P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” – arrangement: Ingram/Jones
Keyboards: James Ingram
Backup vocals: Janet Jackson, LaToya Jackson, and Howard Hewitt
“The Lady in My Life” – arrangement: Temperton