The Thriller album was performed by Michael Jackson and released by Epic Records in 1982. Thriller includes songs that may be categorized as funk, pop, post-disco and rock. The production budget for the album was $750,000. Deals were brokered with Showtime and MTV to cover the cost. Seven singles from the album reached the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. Three music videos were released from the album including, “Thriller,” Billie Jean” and “Beat It.” Thriller has sold 65 million copies, which places the album as the best-selling album of all time. The album won a total of eight Grammy Awards in 1984, including Album of the Year. The album broke racial and generational barriers.
“Thriller” is an extraordinary popsong, with lyrics about creatures of the night that terrify their victims. John Landis, that worked on the 1981 movie, An American Werewolf in London, transformed Jackson into a werewolf for the horror themed video. The narration for the video was by Vincent Price, known for horror films. Price’s line, “Must stand and face the hounds of hell,” set the tone for the video. Jackson requested a disclaimer at the beginning of the video stating, “Due to my strong personal convictions, I wish to stress that this film in no way endorses a belief in the occult.” Jackson was a practicing Jehovah’s Witness at the time.
The video was added to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2009. The elaborate choreography, costumes and dialogue was a culturally significant breakthrough for the music video industry. The long version of the video is a 14 minute mini-movie. The short version, which was generally aired by MTV, lasted slightly less than five minutes.
Rod Templeton wrote the song and originally named it “Starlight.” It was changed to “Thriller” before release date, because the new title was easily visualized on the Billboard charts. The unique acoustics of a bathroom shower stall was utilized by some of the background singers. Originally the role of Jackson’s girlfriend was offered to Jennifer Beals, but she declined.
Photo is courtesy of Michael Jackson Thriller LP Vinyl Japan as uploaded by Philip Rood at Flickr’s Creative Commons.