I was going to do this the day before Halloween, but I figured that’s a better time for one of my meme collections. I have my son for the holiday this year, which means I’m going to be busy during that time. So, this seems like the best time to talk about the first time I saw the ‘Thriller’ music video.
Some people might not understand why Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ can be such a big thing for those of us born around the time of its release. I’ll admit that I was 2 and didn’t see the video until I was around 11. Yet, we’re talking about a time when Michael Jackson was huge and not a controversial figure. Let’s just leave that second part out of this, but I’m sure I’ll get at least one private comment like I do every year I post ‘Thriller’. Anyway, my exposure to Michael Jackson was primarily through a younger cousin who was obsessed with him. I think he had the jacket, but I know he had the one glove. I was into Billy Joel and Elton John at the time, so I was left scratching my head while still enjoying the music of all three. Of course, this will be when I find out that he reads the blog. Hey, I can’t really talk. I run around the neighborhood with a backpack that was surrounded by a cardboard box and connected to an old vacuum hose with handle because I swore I was a Ghostbuster. Really miss being a kid.
Yet, he never managed to get me to watch ‘Thriller’ and I only had a vague notion of its existence. I’d hear it on the radio and recognize Vincent Price’s voice since he was on ‘The Muppet Show’ once. The music was catchy and I knew several people who would do the dance, which I couldn’t get right. I degrade into toe-tapping and hip-swaying when it comes to music because my mind wanders away from reality. It’s a major reason why I don’t like going onto a dance floor. So, it meant that I was always kind of on the outside of the ‘Thriller’ phenomenon. That is until I turned 10 and went to a birthday party down the block. I got the full effect then and I could even say that this is the first ‘scary’ thing I ever watched entirely.
Now, the birthday party was for a boy who I hung out with and he was younger. I was the same age as his sister and they had all these cool things in their house. So, we always enjoyed going over there. The party was held in the basement and they brought out the videotape (we’re in the early 1990’s, people) of ‘Thriller’. I was confused because I didn’t understand why a music video would be on a tape that is typically used for movies and TV shows. Knowing that it was scary, I considered leaving, but I was an older kid and none of the younger ones were scared. Looking back, there was also his sister, who I had a small crush on, but I also had a reputation in school as being a shy, quiet crybaby. This seemed like a terrible time to carry this over to the block environment. So, I watched the music video all the way through and the party ended soon after.
Did I mention this was at night? Since it was on the same block, I was able to walk home by myself. At least, I think I did. The problem is that I was still a kid with a hyperactive imagination and I’d just seen ‘Thriller’. We’re talking maybe 5-6 houses to get to mine, but it felt like days. I was nervous about every shadow. Turning around could result in me seeing zombies shambling towards me. I couldn’t run because the zombies might be hiding ahead and I’d crash into them. Not until I reached my lawn and then I sprinted across, leapt over the flower bed, and darted inside. I see that I had anxiety issues even back then. The funny thing is that I still enjoyed the video because it was both scary and entertaining.
I should point out that I went to a summer camp starting in Kindergarten. We had a talent show at the end of the season, which was when each age group performed. There was always one group that did ‘Thriller’. It reached a point where a rule was made that nobody could do it for a year or two. Even with that constant, I didn’t really understand what I was looking at. A bunch of people who fell down the stairs are dancing? Did they forget to do laundry before going out? Maybe I wasn’t the brightest kid back then.