Anniversary of Michael Jackson's Thriller Video Premiere

(Gibson) On this day in 1983, MTV aired the full 14-minute version of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video for the first time. Gibson takes a look back: The early years of MTV were an exciting time…well, for some. There were old school musicians who resisted it, claiming the music — and not image — should do the talking. Right or wrong, that mindset generally worked against established acts. Others, though, realized the potential of the music video and took advantage of, in essence, a three-minute commercial to run in an endless playlist for an entire generation of youth.

Michael Jackson was certainly among the latter group. While the cable channel's first year or so was largely devoid of artists of color, Jackson helped break down that wall with theatrical spectacles chock-full of elaborate choreography and sets, set ablaze by Jackson's own electrifying stage persona. Jackson exploded onto MTV in 1983 with "Billie Jean," followed in quick succession by "Beat It" and the Paul McCartney collaboration, "Say Say Say." As Jackson eyed the release of the last single from the Thriller album, he decided to do something more elaborate — much more elaborate.

The title track of the Thriller album was written by Rod Temperton, who had previously written the hits "Rock with You" and "Off the Wall," among other tracks, for Jackson. The song's horror-themed lyrics gave it an almost cinematic tinge from the outset. Producer Quincy Jones, Jackson and Temperton worked for eight weeks in the studio to do the composition proper justice, bringing in scream king Vincent Price to record the track's creepy voiceover. The result was a dance-funk masterpiece. But that was the music. The video would require an equally expansive eye. more on this story

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