Greetings of the New Year from us Cowboys!!
Its 2020, 38 years since the King of Pop Michael Jackson released his epic album ‘Thriller.’ 7 of the singles from the album reached the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, a record for the most top 10 singles from an album. Two of them, “Beat It” and “Billie Jean”, reached number one. It remains the highest selling album of all time and won an unprecedented 8 Grammy Awards. Michael Jackson had set out to make an album which would be unparalleled in music history. He achieved that and how!
To kick things off in 2020, Bandra cowboy and music Wikipedia Narendra Kusnur and me chose to talk about this monumental album in music history, for our Album Talk segment, which was almost named ‘Midnight Man.’
Note: Language maybe altered to suit the platform’s requirements.
Me – The biggest album till date, Thriller.
Kusnur – In terms of sale, true.
Me – And the hype.
Kusnur – People still enjoy it.
Me – They released the video after a year of the album’s release.
Kusnur – Maybe not exactly 1 year but the following year for sure. The album released in 1982 and the video came out in mid-1983.
Me – The title tracks video alone can be a topic for discussion.
Kusnur – The album set a trend when it comes to music videos specially “Beat It” and “Billie Jean” but the songs is what makes the album massive. Initially I just liked 3 or 4 songs on the album, it was only much later that I started appreciating the other songs.
Me – The lesser known songs like “P.Y.T (Pretty Young Thing)”, “Baby Be Mine”, “Human Nature” to an extent. “Baby Be Mine” is the most underrated song from the album, that’s what I think.
Kusnur – Even the ballad, “The Lady In My Life” is also pretty underrated
Me – Jackson’s not been good with the ladies.
Kusnur – But a lot of his songs are based on them, “Baby Be Mine”, “P.Y.T”, “The Girl Is Mine”, “Billie Jean”, “The Lady In My Life “.
Me – The first track on the album, “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” something is actually a rip off of Cameroon musician Manu Dibango’s “Soul Makossa.” What I have heard is that Jackson didn’t give 2 hoots about that fact but later on reached an out of court settlement.
Kusnur – There were a couple of cases against him for the song. The ending also, with Soul Mokosa, which he picked up.
Michael Jackson and Thriller
Me – “Thriller” was supposed to be named “Starlight”. They wanted the video to be the biggest thing in music history. They overshot their budget. The song was played in movie theatres for a week to 10 days so it could qualify for the Oscars.
Kusnur – When I heard it first it somehow didn’t strike a chord. Maybe it was my shifting taste, I was moving on from pop to rock and metal. I was listening to lot of Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, The Doors and all. People of my age group grew up on AbbA, Boney M and all but somehow they got boring. Jackson appeared on the scene around this time so initially except for 3-4 songs, others didn’t have much impact on me. I thought even he would be like those popstars who come and go.
Me – I personally feel it is the most over rated song on the album.
Kusnur – Ya. When people play it for Halloween I wonder why just because there are some spooky sounds and all that! The best part of his music is the bass line. You take any song, the funk, bassline and Quincy Jones’ production is outstanding. One of ear is always on them rather than the tune and whatever.
Me – That’s why he is Quincy Jones. He mixed “Thriller” for more than 90 times till he was satisfied. “The Girl Is Mine” was also Quincy’s idea. “Beat It” was Qunicy’s black version of The Knack classic “My Sharona” and he got Eddie Van Halen to play on it.
Kusnur – That’s why I sought of lapped the song immediately. The first reason to like “Beat It” was Eddie. If Eddie is playing the guitar toh accha hi hoga, that was my initial thought. Later on of course I started liking other aspects of the song.
Me – I think he is not credited on the song, he played just as a session musician.
Kusnur – People know its Eddie on the guitar.
The legend of Billie Jean
Me – He recorded the song thinking the rest of his band won’t know he has recorded with Jackson. How stupid! I love “Beat It” but my favourite on the album is “Billie Jean.”
Kusnur – It would be a toss-up between “Billie Jean” and “P.Y.T” for me. There’s an interesting story about how I got back to “P.Y.T”. I was reading a book on earworms. There was this girl who was humming the song and she was wondering how the song came to her mind as she had not heard it for 20 years. Apparently she saw a car whose number plate had the letters “P.Y.T” and that’s how she related to the song. I had not heard the song since a long time so I played it and liked it again. That song keeps coming back to me. We both had a weird reason to come back to the song. I didn’t like “The Girl Is Mine” too much. Paul McCartney didn’t do much of good stuff after the Beatles at that time.
Me – This was more like you are a song with your best friend which Michael Jackson and Paul were. Untill Jackson bought the entire Beatles catalogue and sold it him again. Jackson was a shrewd businessman. When it comes to Billie Jean, I thought it was about the tennis player Billie Jean King.
Kusnur – A lot of people thought the same. Once Michael Jackson came to India and performed my entire perception towards him changed. I always agreed that he was a good performer, dancer and all but after watching the concert my respect for him grew manifolds.
Me – That was the first music concert I attended.
Kusnur – Accha you were born then!
Me – Ya ya! I also liked “Human Nature.”
Kusnur – That was more for the children, he was targeting them.
Me – Ahem!