Thriller Nights... and Mornings, and Afternoons...

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What to do after Thriller? Get a pet snake, duh.

What to do after Thriller? Get a pet snake, duh. Source: Liason/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Source: Liason/Getty Images

I know, I know. You're good NPR listeners. I bet you read the papers every day last week — slogged through news on the economy, the election, Iraq. You listened to Morning Edition, TOTN, did your homework. But I bet there's one piece of news that you missed — the kind of news that not only puts a smile on your face, but a little spin, a little shake, a little something in your hips. This year is the 25th anniversary of the release of Michael Jackson's seminal album, Thriller. Significance? Let me list the five best dance songs of all time and see if they mean anything to you. "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'," "Thriller," "Beat It," "Billie Jean," "Human Nature," "P.Y.T." (Pretty Young Thing). Oh wait. That's six. What does that spell? Thriller, baby. You know what else it spells? P-A-R-T-Y. There is no more joyful, funky, timeless music — if it finds its way in and out of your speakers, it's as if you had a pretty inexpensive, but delicious double latte — the effects of which are centered mostly in your hips. It's hip-notic. Today, we're checking in with Harriette Cole — creative director of Ebony — who spent some quality time with Michael Jackson, and reflects on the birth of the classic. You know what we want you to do here? We want you to forget about the weirdness, the allegations, the pet snake (see above) the made for TV movies (although I want to point out that the Jackson movie with Angela Bassett is pretty amazing), and we want you to appreciate the art Jackson made. Tell us your Thriller moment.

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A chat about a pedophile, thx, great use of the money we send in .

Sent by anguss | 2:12 PM | 2-26-2008

When I was about ten years old, we had just moved into a new house, and we had a contractor fixing things up for us. My sister, mother, and I were crazy for the Thriller video. One day in the summer it came on MTV and my mom ran to get the contractor and forced him to sit with us and watch the whole fifteen minute video. I can still remember his bewildered smile as he sat and watched Michael Jackson sing and dance with a zombie dance troupe while my mom talked with him about how great the video was. I could almost hear him thinking, "Please, God, let this thing end so I can just go back to hanging the freakin' drywall."

Sent by matt scheidler | 2:20 PM | 2-26-2008

"Thriller" and Michael Jackson shaped my life so much as a child and pre-teen, it is almost embarrassing to admit. I was IN LOVE with Michael Jackson - In love!!! I went to EVERY concert. We would sit in front of his house and wait for him to "appear." My sister and I would cry...no, SOB, at the concerts, when he came on television at the Grammy's and so forth. So when they were shooting the Thriller video, we convinced my mom to take us to downtown Los Angeles (we lived in Altadena, CA) and drive around and try to find the location of shoot. We didn't unfortunately. But when it came out on MTV and they ran it for 24 hours, we sat and watched it over and over and over again until our parents made us turn it off or go to bed. Then, they made the mistake of buying "The Making of Thriller" for us on VHS (remember those?). We watched that over and over again. I knew every word of that video by heart. I can still do the entire Thriller dance to this day. I bet my parents probably can too because they were forced to watch it so much. At any rate, he was wonderful at one time and those are great fun memories. I still smile when I hear any song off of that album - Hey remember those?

Sent by Dawn Gravely | 2:42 PM | 2-26-2008

my thriller moment came jumping out of the back of a truck on a main street in Kansas City, MO with "Rah-Booty", the newly-founded art school cheerleading troop, and performing the entire thriller dance to a jukebox in front of a gallery.

Sent by anna watson | 2:42 PM | 2-26-2008

I just recorded my new album using the mixing board that Thriller was originally mixed on. The engineer that owns the mixing board is trying to call in. I hope you can take his call.

Sent by Jim Herrmann | 2:45 PM | 2-26-2008

My impression of the album is that the musician involved in the production was Quincy Jones, not Jacko. The only positive to come out of The Wiz...

Sent by ty hodges | 2:45 PM | 2-26-2008

I was 13 when Thriller came out. I remember it was on Friday Night Videos for the first time and I stayed up late to see it. I made my dad watch it with me because it scared me but I wanted to see it so bad. So, I snuggled up to my dad and hide my eyes at times due to the zombies, but I loved it. I will never forget it.

Sent by Moonshadow Washington | 2:46 PM | 2-26-2008

I was a young teenager in Jr High when Thriller released. The album was all my sister and I wanted for Christmas. When we received the album we displayed it open on our dresser in our bedroom. It was a prized possession--with much better sound quality than the recordings of the song we already owned ...cassette tapes we'd recorded from the radio. We took break dancing classes to learn to moon walk like Michael Jackson. We stayed up late on Friday nights to catch the video on "Friday Night Videos". Michael Jackson was a big part of my early teen memories.

Sent by Michelle Paul | 2:49 PM | 2-26-2008

I was in eighth grade when Thriller was released. My middle school actually made a special event by taking us in shifts down to the cafeteria to watch the video. I could hardly stand the anticipation and to this day it is one of my only things I remember from my middle school! (Much to my teachers dismay...) It was and still is truly amazing.

Sent by mmee | 2:52 PM | 2-26-2008

I was 12 and my brother was 9 and the only access we had to videos was Friday Night Videos. We loved it!! In fact, we played the record (goodness, a record!) so often that we wore it out. I didn't think you could really do that, but Mom had to buy us a new one. I'm not sure what could top it today.

Sent by Kim | 2:52 PM | 2-26-2008

In 1983 I was a recent college graduate from Michigan teaching English in Bogota, Colombia. Any song played from the Thriller album immediately transports me to a vehicle packed with Colombian and North American friends, singing along to that great music as the car careened along the perilous roads of Colombia.

Sent by Anne Lehker | 2:52 PM | 2-26-2008

My Thriller Moment was just last week, when I introduced my 8 year old daughter to YouTube and Thriller. We had just finished watching the new commercial with the lizards dancing to Thriller. My daughter wanted to know where the dance came from and I was excited to show her... we pulled both up on YouTube and she was 'THRILLED' with the fact that this was something I watched when I was just a few years older than she is now. The music that Michael Jackson created then is timeless now. I will admit though, it makes me sad to know he isn't as revered now as he was 25 years ago.

Sent by Suzanne Marinelli | 2:53 PM | 2-26-2008

This is the second time I heard on NPR that Michael Jackson fought to get on MTV because videos by blacks were forbidden. Huh? Black artists have ruled pop music forever. Are we supposed to believe that the music business circa 1982 was like a 1930s an Alabama lunch counter - whites only? This isn't the least bit credible. Michael Jackson seems to be confusing his experiences with Billie Holiday's.

Sent by Mike | 2:57 PM | 2-26-2008

I have had many Thriller moments two of which involved two different youth groups I have worked with over the past 5 years. The first one was where my youth group performed our own rendition of Thriller on stage a a youth conference in from of 2,000 high school students and the other will be taking place next Sunday as my youth group now performs their rendition in our annual fundraiser.

Sent by Kelly Baker | 3:00 PM | 2-26-2008

In 1983, I was a graduate student in theatre at Indiana University. The great horror actor Vincent Price came to the I.U. Auditorium to give a lecture about his life and career--and the place was PACKED--a whole new generation of kids had come to know and love Price because of his wonderful voice track on the song "Thriller." He was asked by the students in the audience to say the passage on the song, and as soon as he said the words, "Darkness falls across the land . . ." the place just EXPLODED. Everyone went nuts. Price actually came to the theatre class I was teaching and talked about life show business and how much fun it was to make Thriller. It was definitely a thrill for us!

Sent by Stacey Connelly | 3:00 PM | 2-26-2008

I think the most interesting and disturbing comment I have heard in along time is that previous to the Thriller album Black musicians were NOT shown on MTV and there was no intention of them being "allowed" on MTV. My god how far we have come and yet it is obvious we have very far yet to go if only 25 years ago this was true.

Sent by Connie Storey | 3:03 PM | 2-26-2008

When I was about 3 or 4 years old, my parents were made the Godparents to the son of one of their friends. After the christening, there was a very elaborate dinner ceremony, with all the friends and family, most of whom were from Japan as the parents were.
At one point during the dinner, one of the grandfathers, stands and in Japanese, recites this elegant poem poem about the beauty of Mt. Fuji. Our friends translate the poem to my parents and everyone at the end claps, some of the women cried. A very touching moment, which right afterwards, I took my little 4 year-old self, stood up on a chair, grabbed a spoon, and proudly announce "My turn!" and proceed with singing Michael Jackson's song "Beat it" without a care in the world as my poor parents melt with embarrassment on the chairs next to me.

Sent by Blanca | 3:18 PM | 2-26-2008

I didn't get into thriller until two years ago. On Halloween, a bunch of students got together to put on makeup, latex, and fake blood and hit campus as a zombie horde. Most importantly, a dance student worked out the "Thriller" dance and taught it to us. On Halloween, late night revelers stumbled out of the bars and into the midst of about a hundred zombies. The horde happened for the second time this year, with two hundred people and a jeep sped in blasting the Thriller soundtrack just before every dance. I still get the itch to moan "brains!" and break into the dance every time I hear the song. The student newspaper posted a sideshow of the horde: http://media.dailyillini.com/media/2007/10/29_zombie/publish_to_web/index.html?keepThis=true&TB_iframe=true&height=550&width=650

Sent by Ewan | 4:05 PM | 2-26-2008

I still play the Thriller song every halloween for the kids. I set my stereo speakers out the window or front porch and blast it! Kids and adults alike love it!

Sent by Terry Owens | 1:23 PM | 2-27-2008

I was born in 1984, but the enormous popularity of this album and Michael Jackson was so huge that they take up much of my early memory. This really speaks to the unmatched volume of this one simple album. Michael is the king of it all, and that is just about as indisputed as you can get.

Sent by jody | 5:18 PM | 2-27-2008

My mom and I were in a mall in Edmonton (Alberta, Canada) when I found it- the Michael Jackson glove!! I pleaded with my mom to get it and she finally said yes. As we paid, she asked where the other one was. She was a little confused when I told her there *was* only one. I'm sure it's still in the storage somewhere next to the Light Bright and the Cabbage Patch doll.

Sent by Juli | 10:07 PM | 2-27-2008

I think that "Beat It" overshadowed the whole "monster" concept in Thriller. True, it is a dance song, but the video had a highly interracial cast which led to its appeal to a wider market.

The element that tipped the scales though had to be the blistering guitar solo by Eddie Van Halen! Even rock fans took notice of this album and it appeared to be played in rock clubs as well as dance clubs which gave it a new universality for a black artist. Many Van Halen fans purchased the album, just to learn the solo...even if they did hide the record under their bed to avoid heckling by thier friends.

Sent by Mike Schreindorfer | 11:13 AM | 2-28-2008