As the "King of Pop", Michael Jackson set the direction in the music landscape for a long time. In retrospect, November 30, 1982 is considered a milestone that paved the way for him to become an absolute world star. When "Thriller" was released, the album was not immediately a mega success. The record took time and spawned oddities along the way - like these:
King of Album Sales
"Thriller" is number one worldwide: The estimated 67 million albums sold give Jackson's 1982 work the international top spot in the Guinness Book of Records. The Australian hard rock band AC/DC followed in second place with "Back in Black" (1980) and around 50 million buyers.
While the matter is clear globally, Jackson has to admit defeat to other artists on a country level. In Germany, for example, the soundtrack to the film "Dirty Dancing" (1987) is at the top with 3.25 million units sold. Only 1.5 million people chose "Thriller". Jackson beats himself here: The "Thriller" successors "Bad" (1987) and "Dangerous" (1991) each reached two million buyers.
Critics did not like "Thriller" at all
Just before the Thriller album was released in late 1982, confidence in the record's success was low. Jackson's record label expected that a "few million copies" could find a buyer worldwide. Even the media didn't jump straight into the subsequent mega hit. The renowned "Time" magazine, for example, said it did not credit the album with a single line when it was released.
"Thriller" boasts countless hits, but critics slammed the first pre-single as "stupid" and "a bad idea". From today's perspective, the song "The Girl Is Mine" is one of the lesser-known tracks on the album.
Stars as guests
Ex-Beatle Paul McCartney took over the second part of the vocals in the duet "The Girl Is Mine". Jackson is said to have decided with his producer Quincy Jones to pre-release the play. "When you have two strong names like that together in a song, it has to come out first," the pop star later explained in his book Moonwalk (1988).
Incidentally, after the collaboration, the friendship with McCartney did not last long. In 1985, Jackson bought the rights to 251 Beatles recordings for $47.5 million, much to McCartney's annoyance. After Jackson's death in 2009, his heirs sold the rights to the record label Sony. To date, McCartney has not been able to regain the rights.
Why tears flowed before publication
In addition to the record company and the critics, Jackson himself had his doubts about "Thriller". He is said to have burst into tears at the first listening party with record managers. The superstar cried "out of horror," according to Alex Gernandt's book "Michael Jackson - Popular Misconceptions and Other Truths," which describes the scene.
Jackson later revealed to a US journalist why the tears flowed: "The mix just sounded terrible." The end of the song: Perfectionist Jackson prevailed - as so often - against the record bosses. Every day a song from "Thriller" was remixed - with the well-known success.
Records upon records
Eight Grammys went to Michael Jackson at the 1984 awards. He received seven of these for his album "Thriller" and one for his speaking role in the cinema blockbuster "ET - The Extra-Terrestrial" by Steven Spielberg. One might think that this flood of awards was a record for eternity. Today, however, Jackson has to share the top spot in the music Oscars with Carlos Santana. The American guitar legend managed the same feat after the comeback in 2000.
"Thriller" music video too scary for Germany?
Based on his film "American Werewolf", Hollywood director John Landis produced the music video for the single "Thriller" from the album of the same name in 1983. With production costs of around half a million US dollars, the 14-minute horror video was the most expensive music clip to date.
Because the video was so scary, it was only allowed to be broadcast in Germany after 10 p.m. There it ran in the then popular show "Formula One". And then an accident happened: according to a report by NDR, the responsible editor received a complaint from angry parents. Her son allegedly wet his pants for fear of the zombies.
The music broadcaster MTV played a key role in the success of "Thriller". He is said to have initially refused to play the second single "Billie Jean". The reason: MTV is a station for the white rock audience - for fans of The Police or Van Halen, it was said. Only after pressure from Jackson's label did MTV agree and play the song. This made Jackson the first African American artist to be promoted by the station.