When Michael Jackson had his album “Off the Wall” he suggested to Epic Records that he will work with Quincy Jones. As a brief background he met this producer when he played the Scarecrow in the movie version of “The Wiz” and Jones produced the soundtrack. As usual, Epic Records is worried and hesitant because Jones seemed to be jazzy.
That time, Quincy Jones gladly accepted the offer, he said “I’m amazed of his profound discipline and focus”, and added that “he could still be bigger than everyone else was saying.
In December 1981, they started laying the foundation of “Thriller”. They had several trips and talks with other music writers. Both Michael and Jones wanted to work with Paul McCartney so they decided to go to Tucson, Arizona and spend three days recording with duet with Paul in the song, “The Girl is mine”. A song written by Michael himself.
As the project progressed, he was also able to write other songs, to wit, “Beat It,” “Billie Jean” and “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’. But some of you might be wondering how the song “Thriller” started. It was Rod Temperton, who wrote “Rock with You” on the “Off the Wall” album that brought the amazing song that was first entitled, “Straight Love” and eventually was changed to “Thriller”.
But it doesn’t end there; they reviewed 700 demos for four (4) months. Michel was always reminded by Jones’ advice that, “You don’t make records to say how many you’re going to sell,” he says. “You can’t control that. You make something that touches you and will hopefully touch someone else.” They worked with creativity for creativity’s sake.
Eventually they settled on nine. Then four of those were replaced by “The Lady in My Life,” “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing),” “Human Nature” and “Beat It.”
At that point, Michael thought everything is done but Quincy said not so fast. Their one priority was to balance “Thriller” between R&B and pop, disco and rock, funk and ballads and they still lack certain elements. Michael was pretty disappointed but then that’s how we got ‘Lady’ and ‘Beat It.’ ”
At its release, by God’s blessing Quincy was fulfilled to say, it was indeed an out of the box project. Disco dominated the charts and Jones and Jackson wanted to transcend it. ” ‘Beat It’ came about with Eddie Van Halen because we wanted to do a black rock’n’roll song,” Jones says. “The Knack’s ‘My Sharona’ was No. 1 at the time, plus we had to crawl over disco, which was still so big. We wanted to find a way to transcend all that. By God’s blessing, we got out of the box.”
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