A few weeks before Christmas in 1982 I had to make one of the most difficult decisions of my life — either buy Lionel Richie’s self-titled debut album, or Michael Jackson’s sophomore album, Thriller.
I already owned Jackson’s debut album, Off The Wall, which produced a bunch of hits — including the post-disco anthems “Rock With You” and “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.” Buying Thriller seemed like a no-brainer. But there I stood — hopelessly staring at two vinyl covers and having only enough allowance money to buy one.
My best friend, who accompanied me to our local Leopold Records, urged me to buy Thriller. Of course, even his welcomed and appreciated opinion was no match for my affinity for romantic music. Needless to say, I chose romance over pop.
Subconsciously, Richie’s outfit may have swayed my decision; I recall searching high and low for the same ensemble at the mall: pink shirt, green sweater, white pants.
As cool and as influential as Jackson’s clothes always were, most people looked “Bad” in the $30 pseudo jackets sold in stores like Chess King and Silverman’s (the real knock-offs were about $300!).
Incidentally, Richie’s album produced two megahits: “Truly” and “You Are.” I even used the latter during an English class unit on poetry.
Because I cannot sing, I felt that if I could write and dress like Lionel, perhaps PYTs would be lining-up at my door. Alas, my own poetry produced a B+, and there was no PYT in sight! (Eventually, I would have a “Lady In My Life.”)
Like so many of you, I ultimately owned and contributed in making the forty-two minutes and nineteen seconds of music the best selling album of all time.
Imagine that … in 18 minutes short of an hour, Michael Jackson changed music … and the world … forever.