Michael Jackson – Thriller
You close your eyes and hope that this is just imagination
But all the while you hear the creature creepin' up behind
You're out of time
'Cause this is thriller, thriller night
If I have to say which videoclip had the biggest impact on history and on the habits of a whole generation, and maybe also of the generations that followed, well, there’s no doubt: it’s Micael Jackson’s “Thriller”. I mean, the album itself was outstanding and numbers speak for it: it’s the best-selling album history, over 110 million copies. Seven singles released out of this album, all reached top ten places. “Thriller” also won 8 Grammy Awards in 1984, so it’s clearly on outstanding album. But there’s something more.
Michael Jackson released the album at the end of November 1982. As a single, he released “Thriller” almost one year later, on November12, 1983. The video followed in December, one year after the album release. He wanted to make a super video. Actually, he wanted to do a “short movie” as he called the videos, also with an outstanding budget.
His music company, Epic Records, did not agree, because the album was out since the previous year, and it really made no sense to waste that money for something that people already knew and maybe already bought. Michael insisted and persuaded them by threatening also contract resolutions. And he was damn right! The video of “Thriller” was so successful that the album went once again on top of the charts, after one year! MTV itself was not going through good periods, but the success of “Thriller” helped MTV to generate profits and avoid a premature close of business.
Everything has already been said on this video; Quincy Jones as producer, John Landis as director, Vincent Price and his deep voice… how many times in the following years we saw someone with the werewolf’s yellow eyes like in “Thriller”?
Michael Jackson wanted to make a small film, which eventually lasted about 14 minutes (in fact, a five-minute mini version is almost always broadcast). In addition, a video tape (or home video, as we said at the time) was produced containing the video and some backstage scenes, and that was the best selling Christmas gift in 1983. He also proposed to personally fund the production costs (the video cost half a million dollars in the end, an unprecedented amount for those years), then the sale of rights and exclusives managed to cover the costs.
Shooting the video was all but easy. There is a famous story about the howls, which were recorded directly by Michael Jackson. The original plan, however, was different: a sound engineer had a Great Dane, and one night he took the dog to a desert ranch, convinced that, hearing the coyotes howling, he would answer with other howls that he was ready to record. Of course the dog did never reply in front of the coyotes howls!
Speaking of the success of Thriller, we need to mention at least three other characters. The first is Rod Temperton, the actual author of the song. To find the title, Temperton wrote two or three hundred proposals and eventually found the right title. Or at least he thought, because the next morning he woke up with a word in mind that obviously was not among the headlines he had thought of, but he could visualize it in the headlines, and so he chose this word, which of course was “Thriller”. Curiously, in 1984 another song became famous with the title Temperton initially chose, which was “Midnight man“.
We already mentioned the actor Vincent Price, who gave the voice to the narrated parts of the song. Certainly without his interpretation the song would not have been the same. By the way, legend has it that Price was able to choose between an immediate compensation of twenty thousand dollars or a percentage on future sales. Price chose the immediate money. Years later, when he was told that he would be much richer, he took it with philosophy and reacted with a joke and a laugh.
Ola Ray, the actress and model who played Michael Jackson’s girlfriend in the video, should also be mentioned.
But I think that the most important thing is really the impact of this song! Without this video, in fact, if MTV had closed between 1983 and 1984 the whole pop music and the whole 80s history would have been different! Without MTV few artists would have created videoclips again; they would probably just make videos with artists singing a song in some tv show like in the 70s, and we would have missed all those fantastic videoclips of the 80s!
I mean, the whole 80sneverend project is about 80’s songs, but also 80s videos, of course! Because, let’s be honest: when we think about a song of the 80s, we also remember those fantastic videos! Think about “Wild Boys”, “Billie Jean“, “Like a virgin“, “Sledgehammer” and all of those fantastic videos that went along with us during our lifetime… in the latest 30 years!
So, once more, thanks Michael, King of Pop and undisputed King of the 80s, because you really helped us write the history of our favourite years!!
Michael Jackson on Wikipedia