The best-selling album of all time turns 40 and reappears in an expanded version
How to continue taking advantage of album best seller of all time? This is the question that Sony Music and the Michael Jackson estate are trying to answer with ‘Thriller 40’, a new edition of the sixth solo LP from the so-called King of Pop that is published on Friday, November 18. Apparently, 70 million copies shipped worldwide are not enough, so, living up to the letter of its title track, ‘Thriller’ comes back to life on the occasion of its 40th anniversary, and this time it does so in an expanded format, with the nine songs from the original album and another ten contemporaries of those but more or less unpublished to date (some had been published on discs that were somewhat remote and in different versions).
The record company has been extraordinarily stingy when it comes to managing information about the content of this new edition, so that the list of ‘new’ songs has not been known with an acceptable degree of reliability until the very last minute. They are the following (although, given Sony’s secrecy, some change in the order is not entirely ruled out):
‘star light’: Rod Temperton wrote it thinking of offering Michael Jackson a song that would evoke his love for cinema and show business. Producer Quincy Jones liked it so much that he decided it should be the centerpiece of the LP, but he asked Temperton to find another title. The composer got down to it, rewrote the lyrics completely and named it… ‘Thriller’.
‘Got the hots’: Fruit of the collaboration between Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones and Rod Temperton, this song was discarded in the successive editions of the LP and only ended up seeing the light in a limited edition of the Japanese version of ‘Thriller 25’, published in 2008.
‘Who do you know?: Michael Jackson started working on the song in 1980, but didn’t consider it finished until late 1982. After discarding it for ‘Thriller’, he considered including it on The Jacksons’ ‘Victory’ album, but ended up rejecting that option as well .
‘Carousel’: A fragment of this composition by Michael Sembello (author of the famous ‘Maniac’) appeared in the 2001 reissue of ‘Thriller’. Also known as ‘Circus Girl’, the song was included in its complete version in the Italian edition of the ‘King of Pop’ compilation, released in 2008.
‘Behind the mask’: During the recording sessions for ‘Thriller’, Quincy Jones heard this song by the Japanese trio Yellow Magic Orchestra and proposed to Jackson that he do something with it. The singer wrote a lyric and composed a new melody line. The result, however, did not make it onto the album due to a legal dispute. A version of the song was finally included in ‘Michael’, from 2010, the artist’s first posthumous album..
‘Can’t get out of the rain’: It’s actually a mostly instrumental ‘jam’ built on the final coda of ‘You can’t win’, a song composed by Charlie Smalls that Michael Jackson recorded in 1978 for the movie ‘The Wiz’. ‘Can’t get out of the rain’ was released as a B-side on some editions of the ‘single’ ‘Billie Jean’.
‘The toy’: This song was written and recorded for the 1982 film of the same title starring Richard Pryor. After it was scrapped, Jackson continued to work on it in subsequent years, renaming it first ‘I am your joy’ and then ‘Best of joy’. With this last title he appeared on the posthumous album ‘Michael’.
‘Sunset driver’: This is supposedly a new version of the same song that was recorded for the LP ‘Off the wall’, from 1979. Despite its undeniable charm, Jackson discarded it then because it did not fit the general narrative of the album, but returned to her during the ‘Thriller’ sessions. Finally, the theme came to light as part of the compilation box ‘The Ultimate Collection’, from 2004.
‘What a lovely way to go’: Another piece written for ‘Off the wall’ that didn’t make the cut. In its first incarnation, it was titled ‘What a lonely way to go’, but during the sessions for ‘Thriller’ Jackson wanted to give it another chance by changing a letter and turning it into “lovely& rdquor; the “lonely & rdquor; original farewell. Nor did it achieve a place among the disc cuts.
‘She’s trouble’: Also known as ‘Trouble’, this song was co-written by composer Terry Britten, who soon after achieved huge success when Tina Turner recorded her ‘What’s love got to do with it’. Michael Jackson’s version was archived and had never seen the light of day until now. In 1983, the English reggae group Musical Youth (famous for ‘Pass the dutchie’) recorded it and released it as a ‘single’, but it had a rather discreet reception.