Just in time for Halloween: Thrilling facts about “Thriller”

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We’ve all seen it. Multiple times. It’s one of the greatest music videos ever produced. Here are a few of the things you may, or may not have, known about this landmark video (courtesy of Rolling Stone):

1.The video cost half-a-million dollars; at the time, it was the most expensive video ever made. But CBS Records wouldn’t pay for a third video from Thriller, and MTV had a policy of never paying for clips. Jackson and Landis funded their budget by getting MTV and Showtime to pay $250,000 each for the rights to show the 45-minute The Making of “Thriller.” (MTV reasoned that if they were paying for a movie, they were circumventing their own policy.) Landis nicknamed the stretched-out documentary The Making of Filler.

2. Before songwriter Rod Temperton came up with “Thriller,” Michael Jackson’s working title for the album was Starlight. Temperton, a British native formerly of the funk band Heatwave, also wrote “Baby Be Mine” and “The Lady in My Life” for Thriller (and earlier, had penned “Rock with You” and “Off the Wall” for Jackson).

3. “Thriller” had a Playmate: Jackson’s “Thriller” costar, former Playboy Playmate Ola Ray, also appeared on Cheers and in Beverly Hills Cop II, but her only other notable music video was “Give Me the Night” by George Benson (a single also written by Rod Temperton and produced by Quincy Jones), on a date with Benson that involves hot dogs and champagne. That video’s biggest special effect: Benson playing guitar on rollerskates.

4. Fred Astaire could’ve been a “Thriller” extra: Hollywood legend Fred Astaire, a fan of Jackson’s dancing (Jackson personally taught him to moonwalk), attended a “Thriller” rehearsal. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who e edited Jackson’s Moonwalk autobiography, logged some serious hours: When they were filming at 3 A.M. in a bad neighborhood in east Los Angeles, she was hanging out in Jackson’s Winnebago.

5. The “Thiller” choreographer was a “Beat It” gang member: Choreographer Michael Peters also did the epic dance sequences in Pat Benatar’s “Love Is a Battlefield” and in Jackson’s “Beat It” video (where he played one of the gang leaders — the one dressed in white, with sunglasses and a mustache). He won a Tony for his work on Dreamgirls and died of AIDS in 1994, at just 46 years old.

6. Vincent Price’s “lost rap” is fantastic: When horror-movie legend Vincent Price (House of Wax, Edward Scissorhands) recorded his spoken word, he did a whole verse that got cut: “The demons squeal in sheer delight / It’s you they spy, so plump, so right / For though the groove is hard to beat / Yet still you stand with frozen feet / You try to run, you try to scream / But no more sun you’ll ever see / For evil reaches from the crypt / To crush you in its icy grip.”

And now, with over 152 million views on Youtube and counting…

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Some fun for your Friday: isolated vocal tracks

microphone-in-studioYou know these songs, but I bet you’ve never listened to them like this before. The Huffington Post has compiled some isolated vocal tracks of such artists as Adele, Queen and Michael Jackson where the instrumentation is stripped away and all that’s left are the vocals, pure and simple. It’s great fun, and while not all on the list are gems (One Direction? really?) some of these will knock your socks off.

You can find the whole list here, but I’ve posted a few of my faves below:

Abbey Road Studios for Sale: Got $20 Mil? (Paging Paul McCartney)

One of the most fanmous recording studios is being up for sale. The Beatles recorded 90% of their music at the studios. Another iconic album, Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of The Moon” was also recorded there. Other artists who spent time there include Michael Jackson, Radiohead, U2, Green Day and Oasis.

The studios are presently owned by music label EMI. The studios are rumoured to be worth around $20 million. Maybe Paul McCartney has some cash burning a hole in his pocket…

The “I really hope this week goes well” shuffle report

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The Shuffle Report: 10 songs I listened to, in order, on my iPod in shuffle mode at a given point in time. No editing, no skipping. It is what it is.

It’s Monday. Here’s hoping the week goes well for everyone. 🙂

Joining me on the subway ride this morning for a little distraction:

1. Taxman—Stevie Ray Vaughan (Greatest Hits) [Great Beatles cover from a phenonmenal bluesman.]

2. It Don’t Hurt—Sheryl Crow (The Globe Sessions) [Really nice tune.]

3. Streets of Philadelphia—Bruce Springsteen (The Essential Bruce Springsteen) [Great song from a great movie.]

4. Code of Silence (Live)—Bruce Springsteen (The Essential Bruce Springsteen) [A killer cut, co-written with the underrated Joe Grushecky].

5. Jesus In A Camper Van—Robbie Willams (The Ego Has Landed) [Throwaway but still fun pop from the Brit whose huge popularity overseas has never quite transferred to North America.]

6. I Love The Rain—Lenny Kravitz (It Is Time For A Love Revolution) [Released in 2008, it was his first decent outing in years. Worth checking out if you like his earlier stuff.]

7. Workin’ Them Angels—Rush (Snakes & Arrows) [You’re in one of two camps: you either love Rush, or you don’t. Ok..I don’t love them, but I do like them. Make that three camps.]

8. The House That Jack Built—Aretha Franklin (30 Greatest Hits) [A must own. Period.]

9. She—Elvis Costello (The Very Best of Elvis Costello) [Originally heard in the film Notting Hill. An interesting side to the former angry young man.]

10. Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough—Michael Jackson (The Jacksons Story) [In my opinion, and it’s just my opinion, this is the greatest single of his career.]

“Michael Jackson’s This Is It”

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As you may have heard by now, coming to theatres on October 28th is Michael Jackson’s “This Is It”. The film is a behind-the scenes look at the preparations for the series of concerts that would have been held in London starting this summer. The movie is directed by choreographer Kenny Ortega (whose next project is a remake of Footloose, scheduled for release next June).

In what could be called a shrewd a marketing move, the film will be released worldwide at the same time and will only be in theatres for two weeks. Advance ticket sales start September 27th. If the outpouring of emotion from his fans around the world and the media attention since his death are any indication, ticket sales are sure to be brisk.

A side note: less than ten days before his death (talk about timing), I blogged about seeing the Jacksons on their Victory tour in 1984. You can read about it here. I’ll admit I wasn’t a fan of the concert, and didn’t have much of a desire to see Michael Jackson in concert again. But then I watched the trailer for “This Is It.”

Chalk it up to the way the trailer is cut, chalk it up to the reality that the guy is really gone, but the trailer gives viewers a pretty good idea as to what could have been. And in my opinion, those London shows looked they would have been nothing short of spectacular. Call me converted. (As for the rest of the Jackson brothers, they should do the world a favour and not get back on a stage. Honestly, no one cares.)

Will you go see it? Here’s the trailer:

Rest in Peace. Finally.

Apparently Michael Jackson will finally be laid to rest on August 29th, over a month after he died. Either by pure scheduling and coincidence, or just sheer creepiness, August 29th would have also been the singer’s 51st birthday. And of course, the saga over the cause of his death, his alleged drug abuse, the state of his financial affairs and the care of his children seems to be ongoing. At least Larry King will have something to talk about for awhile yet.

And while I don’t want to dwell on the subject, I can’t help but take note that the announcement of the self-proclaimed King of Pop’s funeral falls on the 32nd anniversary of the funeral of that other King, Elvis Presley. He was buried on August 18, 1977, just two days after his death.

On the upside, August 18th is also notable as it was on this date in 1962 that Ringo Starr played his first public gig with The Beatles at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. And in 1986,  Bon Jovi released their “Slippery When Wet” album. Just a wealth of valuable info, aren’t I?

I think we’ve all probably seen enough MJ and Elvis visuals to last a lifetime, so I’m not going to post any videos. But can one ever really get tired of The Beatles? I think not. Found this great clip online of a performance at the aforementioned Cavern Club. The song is a cover of “Some Other Guy” by Richard Barrett, and according to Wikipedia, it is the only known existing film with synchronized sound showing the Beatles performing live at the Cavern Club. The historical significance is self-evident. Enjoy.

Cover Me: Smooth Criminal

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I think it goes without saying that it’s going to be some time before Michael Jackson is out of the news. So while every media outlet out there is busy celebrating his contributions to musc, video, and pop culture, I thought this would be a great time for an edition of “Cover Me”.

As everyone remembers, ‘Smooth Criminal’ was originally released on Jackson’s “Bad” album in 1987. In 2001, Alien Ant Farm released their cover version and it became an instant smash, in no doubt helped by the teriffic music video. The video pays great homage to the song as well as other Michael Jackson videos such as Billy Jean, Thriller and Bad. It’s simply a knockout cover because the band took a song so readily associated with its original composer and performer and made it their own. Unfortunately, Alien Ant Farm never again duplicated the success they had with Smooth Criminal. Watch the video and see if you can spot all the Michael Jackson references.

And while we’re on the subject of Michael Jackson tributes, nobody does ’em better than Weird Al. Yo! Ding Dong man, Ding Dong, Ding Dong yo! 🙂