Today’s my last day of Michael Jackson posting for a while (i.e., until his next video comes around on the 1988 countdown). I’ll have some MJ excerpts from the Warhol diaries a little later in the day, but first I thought I’d share two historical updates from last week.
Another tidbit from the early 1980s at CBS Records: at the peak of Thriller, CBS had one record plant that did nothing but make copies of Thriller for over a year.
You might have missed Chris Molanphy’s interesting comment last week about my contention that by modern practices, Thriller seems absurdly backloaded:
Actually — not disagreeing but amplifying your point — in the early ’80s it was Standard Operating Procedure to put your first single, or your anticipated big single, at the start of Side B. Thriller, Synchronicity, Seven and the Ragged Tiger, Colour by Numbers, Heartbeat City — the second side of each was led by the first single, or the biggest single (“Billie Jean” got Thriller’s pimp spot even though “The Girl Is Mine” was the leadoff, auguring its status as the legendary single of that album).
(“Beat It” got the pimp spot, actually.) Spot-checking the #1 albums of 1982-84, I would say that there are many more albums that put the big hits up front: Freeze-Frame, American Fool, Business as Usual, Metal Health, Can’t Slow Down. But Purple Rain is a perfect example of putting the smash in the pimp spot. (And Born in the USA perversely leaves the breakthrough single until close to the end.)
Side-two openers were also a good spot to put a quiet song that wouldn’t fit anywhere else on an album. I miss side-one closers just as much, though: they had to have enough drama to finish a side, but still make you want to flip the record over.