On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
Michael Jackson – Thriller (1982)
We’re staying in the US, dear reader, and heading over to Indiana to check in with Michael Jackson. He’s been on our list three times already, one as a solo artist, and twice as part of the Jackson 5. When we pick up Michael’s story in 1982 it is with the release of his sixth solo album – Thriller – and the impact of this record is set to shake up the music industry like no one could have imagined. 1001 Songs have selected the title track for our consideration today.
The song itself is all about horror and spooky incidents in the middle of the night. The narrator sounds like they are singing to a love interest of the impending doom that awaits them in the shadows and these feelings of maladjustment and terror become the “thriller” of the title. On its own the song had many merits but what propelled it into the stratosphere was the 10+ minute music video, directed by John Landis (The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London), which had scenes of Jacko on a date with his girl and turning into a werewolf and later transforming into a zombie before dancing with a horde of the undead shuffling down the streets. It remains a memorable piece of choreography. Throw in narration from acting legend, Vincent Price, and you had a winning combination with the song and an expensive, but award winning, video to promote the single and the album.
1982 was arguably the peak of Michael Jackson’s career. At this point he was untouchable. Thriller became the biggest selling album in history and 7 of the record’s 9 tracks were released as singles with all faring well in the charts. Personally, I prefer Beat It and Human Nature on this album. With the launch of MTV back in 1981, music videos such as Thriller helped galvanise the channel and set the benchmark for future artists to follow with their own video extravaganzas. Michael Jackson really was the King of Pop at this time but the many controversies and scandals that followed in the years to come would forever cast a shadow over his life and long after his death in 2009 at the age of 50. A great artist Michael Jackson certainly was but history will also remember him as a divisive figure.
Favourite songs so far:
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
The Doors – The End (1967)
The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)
Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell (1977)
Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now (1978)
The Police – Message in a Bottle (1979)
Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart (1980)
Ultravox – Vienna (1980)