Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” is one of the most iconic albums of all time, and while just about everyone has heard the three most famous songs from the album (“Thriller,” “Beat It” and “Billie Jean”), it’s always sort of irked me that I couldn’t say I’ve listened to the entire album from start to finish. I put this album on my “bucket list” several years ago, and finally got around to listening to it all the way through just the other day. In fact, I’ve listened to it about five times during the past week.
You’ll find “Thriller” on all sorts of “best of” lists, and my interest in this album really ramped up when I saw it listed on Rolling Stones magazine’s prestigious list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” Rolling Stone released that list in November 2003, and ranked “Thriller” No. 20, between Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks” and Chuck Berry’s “The Great Twenty-Eight.” The fact that this album is ranked so highly among some of the greatest albums of all time says a lot about the overall quality of “Thriller.”
One reason that it’s taken me so long to listen to the entire album is because I was only six years old when it was first released in November 1982. Having no real money and being a second-grader of limited mobility, it wasn’t like I was going to hop in the car and drive down to the local record shop. As time passed, “Thriller” faded into the background, and the opportunity to listen to the whole thing just never arose.
The album is 42 minutes and 19 seconds long and consists of nine songs. Just about everyone has heard the three most popular songs from the album (“Thriller,” “Beat It” and “Billie Jean”), but I was pretty much unfamiliar with the other tracts on the album. Those songs include “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin,” “Baby Be Mine,” “The Girl Is Mine,” “Human Nature,” “P.Y.T.,” and “The Lady in My Life.”
While listening to the album over and over again, a number of surprises dawned on me. First, I was surprised by the number of big name performers who made “cameos” in some of these songs. Beatles legend Paul McCartney is featured in “The Girl is Mine,” and I read later that Eddie Van Halen played the guitar solo in “Beat It.” Of course, “Thriller,” one of the spookiest songs of all time wouldn’t be nearly as spooky without the contributions of Vincent Price.
Another thing that becomes obvious during a complete listen to of “Thriller” is the genius of Michael Jackson. Not only is his voice incredible, but he seems to exude an appeal that crosses multiple audiences. The album really has a little some for everyone, and if you take the time to really listen to the lyrics, the depth of Jackson’s genius becomes even more apparent.
In the end, how many of you have listened to Jackson’s “Thriller” from start to finish? What did you think about it? What other bucket list-worthy albums would you recommend listening to? Let us know in the comments section below.