I think that all that can be said about this particular song has been said. It can be counted as a song that changed the destiny of popular music in the 1980s, and the album for which it was named broke records and allowed black artists on a fledgling MTV channel to break through the barrier…..
So, what’s left to say about Thriller?
Written by Rod Temperton, keyboard player and main songwriter for Heatwave – oh funny story about him did you know that he lived above a hairdresser in Hull? True story! He wrote some of his biggest tunes there….
Anyway, this song starts off with a creaky door sound, footsteps, and then the build up to the big synth stabs…
PANNAAAAAA! PAHHHH NAHHHH NAHHHH!
Then we’re off to the races.
The drum machine here is the sound of the 80s the LinnDrum LM1, with a little bit of swing to it – kick playing four on the floor, hi hats, snare, clap playing on every second bar, it’s pure funk pop at its best….
The synth bass is raw, with a bit of roughness around it, and muted guitars, just really eerie in the delay, and double tracked too… wow. Then the horns provided by the seawind horns… even wolves howling, everything on this track is polished to the point of sonic beauty. Produced by Quincy Jones, so why not?
It all sets the stage for Michael’s vocals at 0:59:
It’s close to midnight
Something evil’s lurking in the dark
Under the moonlight
You see a sight that almost stops your heart
You can tell he’s feeling playful and the beat grooves underneath his vocals, it’s not until the chorus hits, where he opens up full throttle with harmonies the hoo hoos, and just cuts loose… you could almost see him at the microphone busting moves. Rumour has it that they actually put a dance floor in the vocal booth just so he could dance it’s the kind of energy you couldn’t hold back….
My favourite bit of the whole song is at 2:45, it’s where he goes into the bridge, it’s such a catchy part!
Night creatures call
And the dead to start to walk in their masquerade,
There’s no escaping the jaws of the alien this time,
They’re open wide,
This is the end of your life….
4:14 the break down… here we go…..
BOOM! Vincent Price doing the rap…
It’s chilling even listening to it now, but that’s the desired effect, he was a horror film stalwart. But it’s the laugh at the end, it’s processed and then sounds chopped up… love it.
This song is from the album of the same time, and went on to be one of the biggest selling albums of all time, a couple of things to be noted, Michael’s vocals were recorded on a Shure SM7, a mic that when suggested was laughed at, but as you can hear from the result did its job….
It’s not my favourite song by Michael Jackson by a long shot, but hey it’s Halloween…. Always makes me think of halloween though!
Words by Del Osei-Owusu