Today we'll be revisiting Michael Jackson's adult years, both as a solo artist, as well as part of the Jacksons, otherwise known as his Epic period, both in connection to the name of his label, but also in connection to the scale and influence his music had on the world.
Epic initially placed the Jacksons with Philadelphia producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff and the first album they released, on November 5, 1976, was simply titled The Jacksons. It was certified gold in the US, as well as reaching #4 in Canada.
The first single to be released was called Enjoy Yourself. Since Jermaine, who had married the boss' daughter, stayed with Motown, he was replaced by younger brother Randy. Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, together with the Jacksons, created this hard-driving, disco-leaning Top 10 single, but the sessions left another lasting impression on Michael. "Just watching Huff play the piano while Gamble sang taught me more about the anatomy of a song than anything else," he wrote. "I'd sit there like a hawk, observing every decision, listening to every note."
The song was a #6 hit in the US (#2 R&B):
Their follow-up single, Show You the Way to Go, was surprisingly the only #1 hit the Jackson had in the UK as a group. It was also a #5 hit in Ireland and #28 in the US (#6 R&B):
Dreamer was a #22 UK hit:
There were only two songs actually written by the Jacksons on this album: Style of Life was written by Tito and Michael, while Blues Away was written by Michael alone. Let's listen to the latter:
Their next album, Goin' Places, also under the supervision of Gamble and Huff, was released on October 8, 1977. This is considered their lowest-selling album next to 2300 Jackson Street (their last studio album). The first single, Goin' Places, only managed to reach #82 in the US Hot 100. It did reach #8 in the R&B chart though, as well as #13 in Ireland and #26 in the UK.
Even Though You're Gone was only a minor hit in the UK, peaking at #31:
Different Kind of Lady was written by the group. It became a disco-hit and gave the brothers the confidence to write and produce an entire album, their next, by themselves. The video of this song has been withdrawn from the Internet, so we'll get to hear another single off this album, Find Me a Girl, which peaked at #36 on the US R&B chart.
After the Jacksons' 1977 Goin' Places tanked commercially, it took Michael Jackson to help rescue the band – but not the one you think. Blame It on the Boogie, was co-written and performed by Michael "Mick" Jackson, a bearded Yorkshire singer-songwriter, who released his own version almost simultaneously. As the tracks battled for position in the UK charts, the press hailed it ‘The Battle Of The Boogie’. Of course he didn't stand a chance against the Jackson disco inferno, but harbors no hard feelings. "The fact that the song made it, made it a lot easier for me," said Mick Jackson. "And of course the Jacksons went on to huge success."
Here's Mick Jackson's version:
Blame It on the Boogie (the Jacksons' version) (#54 US Hot 100, #3 US R&B, #8 UK, #4 Australia, and #15 Ireland) was the lead single from Destiny, their first self-produced album that returned them to big success, selling two million copies in America during its initial run and another two million worldwide.
The follow-up single was an even bigger hit: Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground), a tremor-inducing jam, represents the moment Michael Jackson was transfigured from the lead singer of a very successful boy band into the King of Pop – or, at the very least, its young prince. Taking the proto-disco single-mindedness of the J5's Dancing Machine, it added a kinetic dose of Sly and the Family Stone-crossover soul and Stevie Wonder-style synth funk, alongside percussive vocals and Michael's still-teenage yet unmistakably post-pubescent exhortations and squeals. The song peaked at #7 on the US Hot 100 (also #3 US R&B, #4 UK, and #9 Ireland), but that belies its profound pop prescience. It would be memorably sampled on Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock's Get on the Dance Floor, among other hip-hop songs. And it was covered in 2013 by Justin Timberlake – a man who owes Michael quite a lot indeed. The song was written by Michael and Randy. Here's the version by the Jacksons:
... and here's Justin Timberlake covering the song:
Also in 1978, Michael would play the Scarecrow against Diana Ross' Dorothy on the film version of The Wiz (a reworking of The Wizard of Oz). Here they are with the song Ease On Down The Road:
Destiny, though, was merely a prelude: By the time the album was finished, Michael was ready to make crucial changes that would establish his ascendancy as a solo artist. He fired his father as his manager and in effect found himself a new father, producer Quincy Jones, whom Michael connected with while filming The Wiz. Jones was a respected jazz musician, bandleader, composer and arranger who had worked with Clifford Brown, Frank Sinatra, Lesley Gore, Count Basie, Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon, and Manos Hadjidakis, among others, and he had written the film scores for The Pawnbroker, In Cold Blood and In the Heat of the Night. Jackson liked the arranger's ear for mixing complex hard beats with soft overlayers. "It was the first time that I fully wrote and produced my songs," Jackson said later, "and I was looking for somebody who would give me that freedom, plus somebody who's unlimited musically." Specifically, Jackson said his solo album had to sound different than the Jacksons; he wanted a cleaner and funkier sound.
On August 10, 1979, Off the Wall, produced by Quincy Jones, was released. It was preceded by a couple of weeks by the album's lead single, one of the two best MJ songs of all-time: Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough.
Jackson called the opening track on Off the Wall "my first big chance," and he wasn't kidding. Six minutes of joyous pop funk that whooshed like a jet stream, Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough was both an unstoppable hit and a milestone in Jackson's creative life. "That song means a lot to me," he wrote in his memoir Moonwalk, "because it was the first song I wrote as a whole." Indeed, it embodied Jackson's new, hands-on approach to his music. He not only wrote it but also sang all the multilayered backing vocals and devised the spoken intro ("to build up tension and surprise people," he said). He even played the glass bottles (along with his brother Randy) that lend the song added rhythmic sparkle. When his mother, Katherine, questioned the sexual undertones of lines like "Ain't nothing like a love desire. . . . I'm melting like hot candle wax," Jackson responded, "Well, if you think it means something dirty, then that's what it'll mean. But that's not how I intended it."
The song was an international hit: it peaked at the very top on the US Hot 100, the US R&B chart, Australia, Denmark, Norway, South Africa and New Zealand, #2 on the US Disco chart, in Belgium and the Netherlands, #3 in the UK and Canada, and #4 in Switzerland.
Follow-up single, Rock With You, a smooth ballad with a dancing beat, was also a #1 hit in the US, and a big Top 10 hit in most major markets. "So much uptempo dance music is threatening, but I liked the coaxing, the gentleness, taking a shy girl and letting her shed her fears rather than forcing them out of her," Jackson recalled, describing Rock With You. Arguably the last hit of the classic disco era, this chart-topper remains one of the great seduction jams in modern R&B, a template for countless wanna-be mirror-ball lotharios, wrapped in vibrant string arrangements and poised halfway between a silk-sheet ballad and a dance-floor burner. "Songs like Rock With You made me want to become a performer," Usher said in 2009. It was the first song written for Jackson by key collaborator Rod Temperton, of boogie merchants Heatwave, after a request from Quincy Jones. (Temperton went on to pen Thriller, Off the Wall, Burn This Disco Out, Baby Be Mine and others.) The video, with Jackson working his magic in a silver outfit with little more than lasers and smoke as visuals, shows a solo artist looking barely more than a kid but in complete control of his game.
His next single off the album was the title track, yet another Top 10 in the US and the UK. "In the studio, Michael was silly and fun-loving," recalled Rod Temperton, who began working with Jackson during the late Seventies. "He never swore. He didn't even say the word 'funky,' he said 'smelly.' So that was Quincy's nickname for him: Smelly." His loose, playful side is on display during the title track, written by Temperton. Off the Wall was an ode to "party people night and day." It invited listeners to "hide your inhibitions/Gotta let that fool loose deep inside your soul" by hitting the dance clubs and "livin' crazy, that's the only way." But its succulent groove, swathed in Jackson's sumptuous overdubbed harmonies, was as smoothly seductive as the vision of dance music in his head. Temperton, who arranged the rhythm and vocal tracks, re-created the dance-floor vibe of his disco band Heatwave, and the song's growling funk synths were partly played by jazz and fusion keyboardist George Duke. The song was also strangely prophetic: In the decades after its release, the world saw how truly off the wall Jackson's life could become.
The pairing of Michael and Quincy proved as fortuitous as any collaboration in history. Jones brought an ethereal buoyancy to Jackson's soft erotic fever on songs like Rock With You and Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough, and in a stunning moment like She's Out of My Life, Jones had the good sense to let nothing obscure the magnificent heartbreak in the singer's voice. The resulting album, Off the Wall – which established Jackson as a mature artistic force in his own right – has the most unified feel of any of his works. It was also a massive hit, selling more than 8 million copies in the US, and more than 20 million worldwide.
She's Out of My Life peaked at #10 in the Hot 100, marking the first time any solo artist had ever achieved four Top 10 hits from one album. She's Out of My Life was an emotional ballad. The song has a tempo of 66 beats per minute, making it one of Jackson's slowest songs. Jackson's vocals on the record were considered by critics to be some of his best. It also peaked at #3 in the UK, #4 in Ireland and #6 in New Zealand.
"Maybe that was too personal for a party – it was for me," Jackson said of She's Out of My Life, the moment of ballad heartbreak amid Off the Wall's disco celebration. The song was written by Los Angeles musician Thomas Bähler, about the end of a two-year relationship (Bähler had been with Karen Carpenter but has said the song isn't about her). Quincy Jones had planned to record the song with Frank Sinatra, but Jackson got a shot instead and dug deep for a stunning version. She's Out of My Life was Off the Wall's fourth Top 10 single, and Greg Phillinganes' electric piano set the tone for seemingly every hit ballad of the next decade and a half. Famously, Jackson's mighty voice cracks and wavers on the song's last few words. "Every time we did it, I'd look up at the end and Michael would be crying," Jones said in 1983. "I said, 'We'll come back in two weeks and do it again. . . .' Came back and he started to get teary. So we left it in." It was a staple of Jackson's set lists from 1981 to 1993, always followed by a peppy medley to bring the mood back up.
Girlfriend was a composition of one of Michael's greatest idols, Paul McCartney, who offered the song to Jackson to sing. This would be the beginning of their fruitful collaboration.
Here are some great album tracks from this outstanding album. First, here's Get on the Floor: Quincy Jones says it was a leftover from a session by the funk group Brothers Johnson. One of the Brothers, bassist Louis "Thunder Thumbs" Johnson, says it came from a home-recorded cassette of bass ideas that he played to Michael. Either way, the slap-happy collaboration is the hardest funking thing on Off the Wall. Even though Louis Johnson would play on three other Jackson albums, it was a high point he couldn't repeat. "What I'll always cherish is the fun and excitement of playing live together on the Off the Wall sessions," he said. "Michael and everybody laughing, knowing we were making magic."
The closing track on Off the Wall, Burn This Disco Out bursts with giddy dance-floor flair. The wriggly guitar line could've squirmed in from a Stevie Wonder record. Jackson, who'd worked through a Saturday night memorizing the lyrics so he wouldn't have to read from a cheat sheet on a Sunday recording session, bounces his voice around a melody designed for his percussive vocal style. "He was very rhythmically driven," said Rod Temperton. "So I tried to write melodies that had a lot of short notes to give him some staccato things he could do . . . and came up with Burn This Disco Out."
One of those monster Off the Wall grooves that easily could have been a huge hit – except it never became a single, maybe because the charts were already packed with hits from Off the Wall, Workin' Day and Night sits halfway through the unstoppable Side One of the original vinyl LP (the disco side), one of two tracks Jackson wrote solo. (The other was Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough.) The lyrics give an early hint of MJ's combative side, with the standard bluesman's plaint about how hard his woman makes him work. Yet the hyperactive Latin percussion, spiky horns and gulping-for-oxygen vocals all reflect the fanatical work ethic MJ brought to his solo breakthrough. "When he commits to an idea, he goes all the way with it," Jones said. "It's ass power, man. You have to be emotionally ready to put as much energy into it as it takes to make it right." As a deep cut, Workin' Day and Night is prized among MJ cognoscenti – thanks to all that ass power.
We've practically presented the whole album, and we'll do the same with the next one. The reason is obvious: all the tracks are worth presenting.
Michael Jackson had in effect become one of the biggest black artists America had ever produced, and he expected Off the Wall to win top honors during the 1980 Grammy Awards ceremony. Instead, it received only one honor, for Best Male R&B vocal. The Doobie Brothers' What a Fool Believes won for Record of the Year, and Billy Joel's 52nd Street won Album of the Year. Jackson was stunned and bitter. "My family thought I was going crazy because I was weeping so much about it," he recalled. "I felt ignored and it hurt. I said to myself, 'Wait until next time' – they won't be able to ignore the next album… That experience lit a fire in my soul."
In the meantime, Michael worked with his brothers for their upcoming album, Triumph. It was released on September 26, 1980 and sold over 1 million copies in the United States and over two million copies worldwide. The album was produced by the Jacksons and all of the songs were written by them. Lead single, Lovely One, peaked at #12 in the US.
The future King of Pop took on the legacy of the King of Rock & Roll on the Jacksons' 1980 take on Heartbreak Hotel (US, #22). Written by Michael, it has little in common with Elvis Presley's 1956 classic; it's a lithe disco-pop tune that takes the original's theme in a darker direction with lyrics about a hotel where relationships break up. Heartbreak Hotel became a Number Two R&B hit; then somebody at the Jacksons' label, perhaps sensing legal complications, changed the title to the nonsensical This Place Hotel.
My favorite song from this album was their third single, called Can You Feel It. It didn't do very well in the Hot 100 (#77), but it peaked at #1 on the US Dance chart, as well as in Belgium and South Africa. It also peaked at #6 in the UK and at #12 in Ireland.
"I got a call at three in the morning, it's Michael Jackson," says vocal coordinator Stephanie Spruill, who had assembled the 30-voice choir for the Jacksons' Can You Feel It. "He says, 'I know I asked you to get the choir of voices . . . but now I need a choir of children. And I want them to be every race, creed and color.' Mind you, the session was in two days." Spruill – who also sings the song's high notes – pulled it off. The choir was triple-tracked, creating a triumphal disco entreaty that, according to Tito, defines the Jacksons. "It speaks about what we're about," he told Larry King. "Love and peace and harmony for the world."
The song's video was voted one of the 100 best videos of all time in a poll to mark the 20th anniversary of MTV:
Walk Right Now similarly wasn't a big mainstream hit in the US, but it made #7 in the UK:
Now it's time to speak of that album: You may recall (unless you suffer from short memory loss, in which case, I'm sorry) how unhappy Michael was over the perceived Grammy shun of Off the Wall. Jackson told Quincy Jones – and apparently others as well – that his next album wouldn't simply be bigger than Off the Wall, it would be the biggest album ever. When Thriller was released in November 1982, it didn't seem to have any overarching theme or even a cohesive style. Instead, it sounded like an assembly of singles – like a greatest-hits album, before the fact. But it became evident fast that this was exactly what Jackson intended Thriller to be: a brilliant collection of songs intended as hits, each one designed with mass crossover audiences in mind. Jackson put out Billie Jean for the dance crowd, Beat It for the white rockers, and then followed each crossover with crafty videos designed to enhance both his allure and his inaccessibility.
Yet after hearing these songs find their natural life on radio, it was obvious that they were something more than exceptional highlights. They were a well-conceived body of passion, rhythm and structure that defined the sensibility – if not the inner life – of the artist behind them. These were instantly compelling songs about emotional and sexual claustrophobia, about hard-earned adulthood and about a newfound brand of resolution that worked as an arbiter between the artist's fears and the inescapable fact of his fame. Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'? had the sense of a vitalizing nightmare in its best lines ("You're stuck in the middle/And the pain is thunder/Still they hate you, you're a vegetable/They eat off you, you're a vegetable"). Billie Jean, in the meantime, exposed the ways in which the interaction between the artist's fame and the outside world might invoke soul-killing dishonor ("People always told me, be careful of what you do/'Cause the lie becomes the truth," Jackson sings, possibly thinking of a paternity charge from a while back). And Beat It was pure anger – a rousing depiction of violence as a male stance, as a social inheritance that might be overcome. In sum, Thriller's parts added up to the most improbable kind of art – a work of personal revelation that was also a mass-market masterpiece. It's an achievement that will likely never be topped.
Except, in a sense, Jackson did top it, and he did it within months after Thriller's release. It came during a May 16th, 1983, TV special celebrating Motown's 25th anniversary. Jackson had just performed a medley of greatest hits with his brothers. It was exciting stuff, but for Michael it wasn't enough. As his brothers said their goodbyes and left the stage, Michael remained. He seemed shy for a moment, trying to find words to say. "Yeah," he almost whispered, "those were good old days…I like those songs a lot. But especially," and then he placed the microphone into the stand with a commanding look and said, "I like the new songs." He swooped down, picked up a fedora, put it on his head with confidence, and vaulted into Billie Jean.
This was one of Michael Jackson's first public acts as a star outside and beyond the Jacksons, and it was startlingly clear that he was not only one of the most thrilling live performers in pop music, but that he was perhaps more capable of inspiring an audience's imagination than any single pop artist since Elvis Presley. There are times when you know you are hearing or seeing something extraordinary, something that captures the hopes and dreams popular music might aspire to, and that might unite and inflame a new audience. That time came that night, on TV screens across the nation – the sight of a young man staking out his territory, and just starting to lay claim to his rightful pop legend. "Almost 50 million people saw that show," Jackson wrote in Moonwalk. "After that, many things changed."
He was right. That was the last truly blessed moment in Michael Jackson's life. After that, everything became argument and recrimination. And in time, decay. But more of that later. Now it's time to celebrate Thriller.
Let's begin by listing the album's achievements: it spent 37 weeks at #1 in the US, second only to the soundtrack of West Side Story. In just over a year, Thriller became - and currently remains - the world's best-selling album, with estimated sales of 66 million copies. It is the best-selling album in the United States and the first album to be certified 33× multi-platinum, having shipped 33 million album-equivalent units. The album won a record-breaking number of eight Grammy Awards in 1984, including Album of the Year. Seven singles (out of nine tracks) were released from the album, all of which reached the top 10 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, establishing a record. Thriller also enabled Jackson to break down racial barriers in pop music, via his appearances on MTV and meeting with the US President Ronald Reagan at the White House. The album was one of the first to use music videos as successful promotional tools, and the videos for the songs Thriller, Billie Jean and Beat It all received regular rotation on MTV.
The album's first single, The Girl Is Mine, was also its weakest, and led some to believe that the album would be a disappointment and to suggestions that Jackson was bowing to a white audience. Jackson called this Paul McCartney duet the "obvious first single" from Thriller. But Quincy Jones has referred to it as a "red herring," since it only hinted at Thriller's power. Jackson offered McCartney the song, which has an easy, jazzy groove and shows off a breezy rapport between Jackson and the ex-Beatle, as a duet to "repay the favor" of McCartney giving him Girlfriend for Off the Wall. McCartney's one concern was the word "doggone," which he felt some listeners might consider "shallow." "When I checked with Michael, he explained that he wasn't going for depth, he was going for rhythm, he was going for feel," McCartney said.
It was the next single that sealed the deal: Billie Jean was Michael's greatest song, which sums up all the contradictions in his music: youthful exuberance, tortured nerves, pure physical grace. As he told Rolling Stone at the time, Billie Jean reflected his own sexual paranoia as a 24-year-old megastar: "Girls in the lobby, coming up the stairway. You hear guards getting them out of elevators. But you stay in your room and write a song. And when you get tired of that, you talk to yourself. Then let it all out onstage." Although Billie Jean was one of the first songs MJ wrote for Thriller, he and Quincy Jones kept tinkering with it right up to the final mastering stage. The miles-deep bass line comes from funk stalwart Louis Johnson of the Brothers Johnson. Drummer Ndugu Chancler cut the drum track over Jackson's original drum-machine beat, and jazz vet Tom Scott played the eerie lyricon solo. At five minutes long, Billie Jean has the sleek sweep of disco, yet a classic-rock sense of epic scale. Quincy Jones worried the intro was too long: "But [Jackson] said, 'That's the jelly, that's what makes me want to dance.' " The world has been dancing to Billie Jean ever since.
And here's his iconic performance, on May 16th, 1983, for the TV special celebrating Motown's 25th anniversary:
Billie Jean was an easy #1, all over the world; in the US it held the position for 7 weeks. The follow-up, Beat It, held the US #1 position for 3 weeks. (The song that hit Number One in between? Dexys Midnight Runners' Come on Eileen.) The song was a visionary mix of metal bluster and disco glitz, complete with a headbanger's ball of an Eddie Van Halen guitar eruption. Beat It was the last song added to Thriller, as the clock was ticking to the release date. As Quincy Jones told Rolling Stone, "When we were finishing Beat It, we had three studios going. We had Eddie Van Halen in one. Michael was in another singing a part through a cardboard tube, and we were mixing in another. We were working five nights and five days with no sleep. And at one point, the speakers overloaded and caught on fire." The only person not blown away was Van Halen's David Lee Roth, who scoffed, "What did Edward do with Michael Jackson? He went in and played the same fucking solo he's been playing in this band for 10 years. Big deal!" Shame on you David! The star line-up also included Steve Lukather and Steve Porcaro, both members of Toto.
The fourth single was yet another suberb song: Originally written during the Off the Wall sessions, Wanna Be Startin' Somethin, the opening track on Thriller was a declaration of radical intent. Using the African chant "ma ma se ma ma sa ma ma ku sa" from Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango's unlikely 1972 international pop hit Soul Makossa, Jackson widened the earlier song's universal appeal, paying tribute to his own roots with a prescient crate-digging hip-hop savvy. Foremost, it's a club banger, "something you can play with on the dance floor and get sweaty working out to," as Jackson described it. But it also has a dark lyrical drama and whip-crack call-and-response vocal tension. Between the swirl of synth beats, Brazilian percussionist Paulinho da Costa's friction drum colors, hot horn stabs, and rhythms pounded out by Jackson and bandmates on a "bathroom stomping board," the groove never stops coming. If Off the Wall had been pop disco's crowning moment, this is the first great example of polyglot, post-disco dance music – basically, what global pop has become.
Next came one more masterpiece: Human Nature had the honour to be covered by jazz legend Miles Davis. One of Jackson's most vulnerable R&B ballads, it had a surprising origin – the rock band Toto, of Africa and Hold the Line fame. As I've already mentioned, some of the band played on Thriller, including keyboardist Steve Porcaro. Late in the sessions, Jones was still hunting for songs, so Toto sent over a couple of demos. But at the end of the tape was an unfinished instrumental that caught Jones' ear. "There was this dummy lyric, a very skeletal thing," he recalled, "but such a wonderful flavor." Jones sent it to lyricist John Bettis, who also co-wrote tender hits like the Carpenters' Top of the World and Madonna's Crazy for You. The result perfectly fit Michael's shy, breathy vocals, even if the plot involves hitting the clubs and snagging a one-night stand ("If this town is just an apple," he sings, "then let me take a bite"). Though it was a last-minute addition to Thriller, Human Nature became its fifth single and a Top 10 summer hit. It returned to the charts 10 summers later as SWV's 1993 Number One R&B hit Right Here/Human Nature, from Free Willy, a kiddie movie about a killer whale. Here's the original version:
Here's SWV's version:
... And here's Miles Davis' version:
The next single was P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing): Full of funky keyboard squiggles and playful slang like "tenderoni," P.Y.T. was Thriller's most carefree single. Quincy Jones wrote it with singer James Ingram after Jones' wife brought home lingerie called Pretty Young Things. Ingram has said that he was astonished by how Jackson actually danced in the studio as he was singing the song. That energy comes through, as Jackson trades off "na-na-na's" with a few pretty-young-thing backup singers he knew quite well: sisters Janet and La Toya. Artists ranging from American Idol singer Justin Guarini to Jones himself – with T-Pain and Robin Thicke – have covered the song, and the 25th-anniversary edition of Thriller featured a completely refigured version of the song by Will.i.am, but no one could capture the electric energy of the original. "I love Pretty Young Thing," Jackson recalled. "I liked the 'code' in the lyrics, and 'tenderoni' and 'sugar fly' were fun rock & roll-type words that you couldn't find in the dictionary."
The seventh and final single was Thriller. The epic video for the title track of Jackson's bestselling album has become so iconic that it's easy to underestimate the song itself, one of the strangest pieces of music he ever released. Written by Rod Temperton, the song was first called Starlight until Quincy Jones asked Temperton for another title. "The next morning I woke up and I just said this word [thriller]," Temperton says. "Something in my head just said, 'This is the title.' You could visualize it at the top of the Billboard charts." Temperton also revised the lyrics to take in Jackson's love of horror movies. The track took the percolating-funk feel of Off the Wall to a grander, more theatrical level, with its supernatural sound effects – howling werewolves and creaking coffins – and the creepy-crawly narration of actor Vincent Price, a friend of Jones' then-wife, Peggy Lipton, who nailed his part in two takes. The weirdness of Thriller didn't end there: While the song was being mixed, Jackson's eight-foot-long boa constrictor, Muscles, slithered across the console. The last of a mind-boggling seven singles from Thriller, it hit #4 on the US Hot 100.
I thought that the Michael Jackson story would be over today, but there's so much more to say and to hear; there will be a third part. Till then, toodle-oo!