Recorded throughout most of 1982, Michael Jackson’s Thriller LP was released that November. Critically acclaimed, even at its launch, the album has gone on to sell an estimated 65 million records worldwide, 32 million of those in the United States. To put that in perspective, roughly one out of every ten Americans owns a version of Thriller in some format, and the majority of these formats are either vinyl or cassette. People actually had to leave their house and drive to some sort of store to buy this album, which took some effort, unlike the instant downloads of today.
Following Jackson’s Off the Wall album, which itself had been a solo hit, Thriller was conceived to be a follow-up blockbuster by ongoing producer Quincy Jones from day one, an all-out effort to save a then slumping recording industry. Eventually yielding a groundbreaking seven top ten singles, the album actually started out the gate relatively slowly with the curious lead off single choice of Michael’s duet with Paul McCartney The Girl is Mine.
Sales traction quickly ensued with the 1-2 power punch single and electric video choices of Billie Jean and Beat It, at which point the LP’s momentum was practically full tilt.
In fact, it was over a year later when Thriller the song and 14-minute music video were released as the seventh single and the LP shot back to #1 on Billboard.
Recording of the album itself cost $750,000, through which Jones and Jackson whittled an initial pile of 30 songs down to the final nine. Two weeks before the album was due to be handed over to Jackson’s record label Epic, the team sat down to listen to the final mix. Jackson was reportedly so disappointed with the results that he started crying. Jones retained camp composure and noted that enough time remained to give it one more shot. A song was then reportedly re-mixed a day, resulting in the final track-listing and offering that has since sat on turntables worldwide.
- Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin
- Baby Be Mine
- The Girl is Mine
- Beat It
- Billie Jean
- Human Nature
- P.Y.T (Pretty Young Thing)
- The Lady in My Life
Few albums before or after have had such a sweeping culture impact as the tour de force that is Thriller. It drove MTV, and it raised Michael Jackson into a status level only previously enjoyed by Elvis Presley and The Beatles. Thriller, released on November 30th, 1982, 34 years ago today.