20 'Thriller' facts


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1. "Thriller" is the biggest-selling album of all time, with worldwide sales debated, but believed to be upward of 65 million. It was also the best-selling album of 1983 and 1984.

2. won a record-breaking eight Grammy Awards in 1984, including album of the year and record of the year for "Beat It."

3. Production of the album began on April 14, 1982, with Jackson and Paul McCartney recording "The Girl Is Mine," and wrapped up on Nov. 8, 1982. It was released on Nov. 30.

4. Jackson wrote four of the songs, including "Billie Jean" and "Beat It."

5. Each of the seven singles released from the album hit the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, including the two chart-toppers, "Beat It" and "Billie Jean."

6. Eddie Van Halen played the famous guitar solo on "Beat It," but the riff was played by Steve Lukather of Toto.

7. "Beat It" helped break the color barrier for contemporary black artists on rock stations and MTV, because of the presence of Van Halen.

8. At Jackson's request, real gang members were used as extras in the "Beat It" video.

9. Concerned that people would think the song was about tennis champion Billie Jean King, producer Quincy Jones wanted "Billie Jean" to be titled "Not My Lover."

10. The coda on "Wanna Be Startin' Something" -- "mama-say mama-sah ma-ma-coo-sah" -- was taken from the Manu Dibango 1972 disco song "Soul Makossa." He sued Jackson and they settled out of court. Rihanna and Kanye West have both subsequently used the chant.

11. The title track was written by Rod Temperton, a onetime member of the band Heatwave who also wrote the hit "Rock With You" on Jackson's 1979 album "Off the Wall." The song "Thriller" was originally to be called "Starlight."

12. With sales of the album waning in the summer of 1983, it was the brainstorm of Jackson manager and Pittsburgh native Frank DiLeo to make a video for "Thriller." He told Jackson "all you've got to do is dance, sing and make it scary."

13. "Thriller" makeup artist Rick Baker, who won the best makeup Oscar in 1981 for "An American Werewolf in London," is in the video as the zombie stumbling out of the mausoleum.

14. Ola Ray, Playboy magazine's Miss June 1980, plays Jackson's girlfriend in the "Thriller" video.

15. To qualify for an Oscar nomination, the video played in an LA theater for one week in 1983, opening for Disney's "Fantasia."

16. The third and final video for the album, "Thriller" is considered to be the most watched music video of all time.

17. Jackson, a Jehovah's Witness at that time, prefaced the video with the disclaimer, "Due to my strong personal convictions, I wish to stress that this film in no way endorses a belief in the occult." He later apologized for making the video in the JW's Awake! magazine.

18. "Thriller" is the first music video ever to be added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress

19. Stone magazine ranked "Thriller" No. 20 on the list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2003.

20. "Thriller" was reissued in 2001 as "Thriller: Special Edition" with remastered tracks, a new booklet and bonus material. In 2005, Epic released "Thriller 25" with seven bonus tracks, the new song "For All Time" and five remixes featuring Fergie, will.i.am, Kanye West and Akon.

-- Compiled by Scott Mervis


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