31 years ago today (Nov 30) Michael Jackson’s colossal album, Thriller, was released. Eddie Van Halen collaborated with Jackson on the album’s third single,”Beat It,” and wrote and performed the guitar solo for the song.
Upon the song’s release on the radio, Eddie remembers standing in line at Tower Records when ‘Beat It’ started playing.
“The solo comes on, and I hear these kids in front of me going, ‘Listen to this guy trying to sound like Eddie Van Halen.’ I tapped him on the shoulder and said, ‘That is me!’ That was hilarious.”
Eddie reflects on his experience working with award-winning producer/songwriter Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson in the later half of 1982:
“Certain people in the band at that time didn’t like me doing things outside the group. But Roth happened to be in the Amazon or somewhere, and Mike was at Disneyland and Al was up in Canada or something, and I was home alone. So I thought, well, they’ll never know. Seriously: who’s going to know that I played on a black guy’s record? Michael said ‘I love that high fast stuff you do.’ So I played two solos over it and said, ‘You guys pick the one you want.’ It was 20 minutes out of my day. I did it for free and later everybody was telling me, you could have got a royalty point out of that record. But it didn’t matter because Quincy wrote me a letter thanking me, and he signed it ‘The Asshole’. I framed it. Classic.”
“Beat It” hit the charts on 3/12/83, lasting 15 weeks and reaching #1 in the U.S. on April 30th, 1983, and #3 in the U.K. Michael Jackson’s Thriller went on to sell more than 30 million copies.
When the King of Pop met the King of Rock Guitar
Eddie Van Halen Performing “Beat It” Live With Michael Jackson, 1984 (Video & Photos)
Eddie Van Halen Deconstructs His Collaboration On ‘Beat It’