On this day in music history: December 2, 1983…

On this day in music history: December 2, 1983 – “Michael Jackson’s Thriller” makes its television broadcast debut on MTV. Directed by John Landis (“National Lampoon’s Animal House”, “The Blues Brothers”), the nearly fourteen minute long short film based on the title track (written by songwriter Rod Temperton) to Michael Jackson’s blockbuster album becomes an immediate phenomenon. An homage to the classic horror film genre (particularly the Michael Landon film “I Was A Teenage Werewolf”, and director Landis’ “An American Werewolf In London”), the film stars Jackson with former Playboy model and actress Ola Ray. The films’ dance sequences are choreographed by MJ and famed choreographer Michael Peters (“Beat It”, “Running With The Night”), with make up and prosthetics designed by Oscar winning make up artist Rick Baker. Jackson’s signature red leather jacket is designed by costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis, the wife of Thriller’s director. Filmed in October of 1983 at a cost of $500,000, the clip takes the art of the music video to another level, becoming the most celebrated and honored in the medium. However, the video is nearly discarded by Jackson before it is seen by the public. A practicing Jehovah’s Witness at the time, two weeks before it is scheduled to air, Michael is summoned to a meeting by elders of his church. They tell him that the video “promotes demonology” and that threaten him with being excommunicated. Upset by the meeting, Jackson calls his attorney and business manager John Branca, telling him to have the film negatives destroyed. Branca suggests that a disclaimer be added to the intro, stating that the film “did not reflect Jackson’s personal convictions”. Michael is satisfied by the suggestion, and the video is aired as planned. MTV pays $250,000 for the exclusive rights to air the video, with Showtime paying an additional $300,000 to air it exclusively on their network for a certain period. Its impact is immediately felt, sending the album back to number one over the Christmas holiday, spending another seventeen consecutive weeks at the top of the Top 200. The “Thriller” short film is also released on home video as part of a full length documentary titled “The Making Of Michael Jackson’s Thriller”. Originally released by Vestron Video, “The Making Of” sets video sales records (selling a total of nine million copies overall) winning a Grammy Award for Best Video Album in 1985. “Thriller” is inducted into the National Film Registry by the Library Of Congress in 2009 for its ongoing cultural and historic significance, making it the first time a music video has received an honor normally reserved for feature length films.