10 Fun Facts About Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’

10 Fun Facts About Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’


Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ is not just a record-breaking album; it’s a treasure chest of intriguing stories and hidden gems. To celebrate its 41st anniversary, here are some of the lesser-known facts that add layers to the legend of ‘Thriller’.

  1. The Original “Billie Jean” Standoff: The iconic song “Billie Jean” was nearly dropped due to its lengthy intro. Quincy Jones wanted it shorter, but Jackson’s instinct to keep it won, creating one of the most distinctive beats in pop history.
     
  2. “Thriller” or “Starlight”?: Believe it or not, the world-famous title track was originally named “Starlight”. The switch to ‘Thriller’ and the addition of Vincent Price’s eerie voiceover transformed it into the unforgettable track we know today.
  1. Prince’s Near-Duet on “Billie Jean”: In a tantalizing what-if, Prince was considered for a duet on “Billie Jean”. He declined, leaving fans to forever wonder about the potential collaboration.
     
  2. The 10-Minute Album Cover Shoot: The iconic cover photo, with Jackson in a white suit, was a hurried 10-minute affair by photographer Dick Zimmerman, proving that sometimes, magic happens in a rush.
  1. Budget Constraints and Innovative Funding: The “Thriller” music video had a budget of $500,000, which was an enormous amount for a music video at the time. When the budget was overextended, MTV and Showtime helped finance it, in exchange for the documentary “The Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller.”
     
  2. A Borrowed Chant in “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’”: The catchy ending chant of this hit was lifted from Manu Dibango’s “Soul Makossa“. This nod to global sounds later resulted in legal action, showcasing Jackson’s diverse musical inspirations.
  1. Jackson’s Inspiration for the Video: Jackson was inspired to create an impactful video after watching the musical film “West Side Story” (1961). He wanted to create a video with a story that had a dramatic arc, much like a mini-movie.
     
  2. Impact on Home Video Market: The “Thriller” video significantly influenced the home video market. The documentary “Making Michael Jackson’s Thriller” was priced affordably for direct purchase, contrasting with the rental model prevalent at the time. This strategy contributed to the rise in VCR sales in the 1980s​​.
  1. Bruce Swedien’s Sound Magic: The unique sound of ‘Thriller’, especially its resonant drum beats, owes much to engineer Bruce Swedien‘s innovative recording techniques, highlighting the importance of behind-the-scenes talent in shaping music history.
     
  2. A Near Miss with Horror: Jackson, a devout Jehovah’s Witness at the time, almost pulled the plug on the “Thriller” music video over concerns it promoted occult practices. A disclaimer at the start was the compromise.

In the annals of music, Thriller stands as a testament to innovation, talent, and the magic of music. These lesser-known facts peel back the layers of its legend, revealing the rich tapestry of creativity and chance that defined this monumental album. Thriller is more than an album; it’s a fascinating storybook of musical history.

2023 PMA Media. All rights reserved.

Search for a Topic

and receive our flipbook magazines early

SIGN UP TO RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER

Email field is required to subscribe.