Can you believe it's been 36 years to the day since the release of Michael Jackson's sixth studio album Thriller? Released on Epic Records and CBS Records, we celebrate one of the most important musical masterpieces in history; a seminal record that has broken numerous records over the last three decades.
Thriller remains the world's best-selling album and has sold a massive 47 million certified copies worldwide since its release, though it has been claimed that the true number is more like 66 million. The only album to surpass it in domestic sales was the Eagles' Greatest Hits (1971-1975).
Produced by Quincy Jones, with whom Michael Jackson worked on his previous record Off The Wall, the album won eight Grammy awards including Album of the Year, Producer of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance. But it wasn't an easy ride. He and Jones repeatedly clashed over Jackson's preference to spend his time practising choreography, and they spent a week per song remixing the tracks after being unhappy with the initial result.
Thriller featured the hit singles Billie Jean and Beat It, as well as The Girl Is Mine with Paul McCartney, Wanna Be Startin' Somethin', Human Nature and P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing). But it was the title single that really became a benchmark moment for the music industry with the iconic video being one of the first examples of music videos used as promotional tools.
The video, directed by John Landis of An American Werewolf in London fame, features Jackson and his on-screen girlfriend Ola Ray walking home from a movie theatre only to be confronted by a horde of zombies. Jackson then tranforms into zombie himself and proceeds to perform one of the greatest dance moments of all time. The video is now in the National Film Preservation Board's National Film Registry.
In true horror style, Vincent Price's voice is featured on the closing lyrics of the song. Several other notable names were also involved in creating the record; Toto's Steve Lukather and Eddie Van Halen featured on Beat It, which was one of the songs crucial to Thriller's step away from MJ's disco-heavy sound which was falling out of favour at that time.
Thriller was a seminal album for its success in breaking down racial barriers, becoming something that appealed to people of all colours and creeds. It landed him on MTV, something that had previously been a struggle given that he was African-American, and he even got to meet President Ronald Reagan at the White House. Unsurprisingly, it has been cited as a culturally significant recording and thus features on the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry.
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