10 Things About Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' 30 Years After Its Release

PHOTO: The cover of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" is shown.
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Thirty years ago today, at the age of 24, Michael Jackson set out to become the King of Pop with the release of "Thriller." It became -- and still remains -- the best-selling album of all time.

The album, which produced such hits as "Beat It," "Billie Jean," "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" -- as well as the title track -- changed the way we view music videos and influenced a generation of artists.

"Thirty years ago the greatest album ever made was released and it still stands the test of time," Jackson biographer Stacy Brown told ABCNews.com.

Click through to read 10 things you might or might not know about the making of "Thriller."

PHOTO: Michael Jackson receives the first Triple Platimum awards for the multi-platinum 'Thriller," from Jane Fonda.
Chis Walter/Getty Images
'Thriller' Was Jackson's Response to Disappointment of 'Off the Wall'

"Thriller" was Jackson's follow-up to his 1979 album "Off the Wall," which, by most accounts, was a critical and commercial success, selling more than 20 million copies. But Jackson didn't see it that way.

"When he did not win best album, he was so upset that he wrote in his sister La Toya's lipstick on the mirror in his room that he would sell 50 million copies of his next album," said Brown, who used to work for the Jackson family. "Talk about prophetic."

"Thriller" went on to win eight Grammys in 1984 and sell between 65 and 110 million copies worldwide.

PHOTO: Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones are shown at the Grammys in Los Angeles, Calif., Feb. 28, 1984.
Barry King/WireImage/Getty Images
'Thriller' Continued Jackson's Collaboration with Quincy Jones

When Jackson first suggested working with Quincy Jones on "Off the Wall," his record label was hesitant.

"Quincy was considered more of a jazz kind of person," Gail Mitchell, Billboard's R&B senior correspondent, told ABCNews.com. "But Michael really pushed it and out of that came 'Off the Wall.' That was kind of an appetizer. It opened the door to that perfect storm of a relationship."

After "Thriller," Jones and Jackson collaborated on his next album, "Bad," which sold 45 million copies.

PHOTO: The cover of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" is shown.
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How They Got the Songs

"Quincy and Michael had gone through 700 demos, got that down to nine, then threw out four of those and that's how they got 'Beat It' and 'The Lady In My Life,'" Mitchell said. "So you have to think what kind of songs were they working with, because the album is so tight."

Often overlooked is the fact that Jackson wrote four of the songs, "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'," "The Girl Is Mine," "Beat It" and "Billie Jean."

"Beat It" was Jackson's peace offering to the Los Angeles gangs, according to Brown, who added that the video included some of South Central's most notorious gang members.

Heatwave's Rod Temperton added "Rock With You" and a song he originally titled "Starlight" or "Midnight Man" but later changed to "Thriller."

PHOTO: Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson are shown, Dec. 19, 1983.
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Jackson's Duet With Paul McCartney

Jackson's first single released from "Thriller" was his duet with Beatle Paul McCartney, "The Girl Is Mine." Critics widely panned it, but the song reached No. 2 on the pop charts.

"Here was the emerging King of Pop with the great Beatle and it was a statement," Brown said. "Michael was always disappointed that people seemed reluctant to put him in the same class with the Beatles and Elvis."

After "Thriller," Jackson not only established himself as the King of Pop, but he amassed so much wealth that in 1985 he was able to purchase the Beatles catalog of about 250 songs.

PHOTO: Pop singer Michael Jackson in a still from the video for his hit single 'Thriller' which was released, Los Angeles, California, Dec. 2, 1983.
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
'Thriller' Changed Music Videos

The 14-minute video for the album's title track changed the way we view music videos.

"It was so epic," Yahoo! Music reporter Billy Johnson Jr. told ABCNews.com. "We had never seen anything like that: a mini movie with a horror theme. For it to still be regarded as one of the best music videos 30 years later just shows you how far ahead of the game he was at that time."

The video was also one of the first made by a major film director, John Landis, who directed "The Blues Brothers" and "An American Werewolf in London."

'Thriller' Broke Racial and Other Barriers

Mitchell said the video for "Beat It" helped break the color barrier on a nascent MTV. "At the time, Rick James and other black artists were trying to get on there and that's when the racist tag got affixed to MTV because R&B videos just weren't being played," Mitchell said. 'Beat It' was something that MTV just couldn't deny and certainly opened the door for Prince and others to be on MTV."

"Thriller" also transcended musical boundaries, incorporating elements of pop, rock, R&B and more. "A key legacy of this album is that music is universal and can speak to people, whether you're white, black, Asian or whatever," Mitchell said. "Rock stations were playing 'Beat It.' Michael showed that music can be universal and incorporate all these elements, that you can be a mainstream artist and be creative."

PHOTO: From left: Tito, Marlon, Michael, Randy and Jermaine Jackson perform during the Jackson 5 Victory Tour.
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The Jacksons' 'Victory' Tour Became Michael's 'Thriller' Tour

To get Jackson on board with his final tour with his brothers, former manager Frank Dileo convinced the singer that the "Victory" tour would allow him to promote "Thriller," biographer Brown said.

Jackson, with his single sparkly glove, black sequined jacket and moonwalk, was the clear draw of the tour. "The highlight of the 'Victory' shows was his performance back-to-back of 'Beat It' and 'Billie Jean.' Even at Giants Stadium, with 65,000 people, you could not find one person in their seat when the bongs of 'Beat It' rang out and he emerged on Randy's shoulders with his arms outstretched," Brown said.

Jackson saved the live performance of "Thriller" for the tour of his next album, "Bad." Ironically, none of the songs on the "Victory" album, on which Jackson's vocals were scarce, were performed during the tour and the rancor between Jackson and his brothers during the tour would drive a wedge between them.

PHOTO: Michael Jackson performs at the Super Bowl XXVII Halftime show at the Rose Bowl on January 31, 1993 in Pasadena, California.
Steve Granitz/WireImage
'Thriller' Was the Beginning of Michael Jackson's Transformation

At the height of "Thriller," Jackson still enjoyed good press and looked more like the little boy who grew up in the spotlight as the star of the Jackson 5.

"This was pre-him being called 'Wacko Jacko.' There was no bad media. Michael was the King of Pop, the king of the media. He could do no wrong," Brown said.

Soon after, Jackson began tinkering with his appearance and his antics began to overshadow his talent.

"In between the time the 'Victory' tour ended and in 1987 when 'Bad' was released, he started doing different surgeries," Brown said. "By 1991, he had totally changed his skin color."

Yahoo's Johnson said, "You have to wonder why. Maybe it was all a part of this transformation he was trying to make. He wanted to be the King of Pop. He wanted to take himself from one place to another place. Maybe for him, his physical makeup was also a part of the transformation he wanted to make."

Jackson Was Always Chasing the Next 'Thriller'

"Thriller" was both the best and the worst thing that happened to Jackson, according to Brown. The downside of his meteoric success was that he could never top it. "It was a noose really," Brown said. "All he kept doing was chasing it and it proved reckless. His addictions, I think, were really brought on by his never-ending quest to top 'Thriller.'"

"A lot of people would be happy if they had an 'Off the Wall' or a 'Bad.' I don't think a lot of people can comprehend a 'Thriller,'" Mitchell said.

PHOTO: Chris Brown
Getty Images
The Legacy of 'Thriller'

Justin Bieber, who was born 12 years after "Thriller" was released, has talked about modeling his career after Jackson's. Chris Brown, who has called Jackson his idol, sampled "Human Nature" from the "Thriller" album and paid tribute to Jackson in the video for his song "She Ain't You" just last year.

"You can't name an artist on the scene who is not influenced in one way or another by Michael Jackson" Johnson said. "He's left an incredible legacy encouraging other artists not to be complacent and push the envelope as much as possible."

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