I was wondering-how much artistic freedom did you get to contribute in sessions like these? Is it a case of Quincy/producer having a pretty good idea of what they want or did you get quite a lot of input?
Thanks in advance
In all of the sessions I did for Thriller, I was always impressed by how much Michael knew exactly what he wanted, from the first demo sessions at his home studio to the final work with Quincy at Westlake.
We started Billie Jean by Michael singing the top three notes of the opening chords, and we spent a long time trying to find the right harmony. As you know, there are a million ways you can harmonize three moving notes, and I tried about every one, but Michael had a clear sound in his head that he wanted, not only the harmony, but the synth sound itself. It was a patch he had heard me fooling around with when we were on the '81 tour, and recreating it wasn't easy either, because he could only try to describe it to me.
Michael was especially hands-on for all three of those songs (Bille Jean, Wanna be startin' somethin' and Beat it), because those were his
compositions, he had done the 16 track demos in his house, and he had a clear solid vision of every little sound.
So, the artistic freedom in this case was always Michael's. We were just there to get the sound out of his head and onto tape. It wasn't easy for him, because he didn't play an instrument. He could just sing the parts, and try to describe the sound he wanted. But he was always patient, and we worked as though we had all the time in the world.
For me, it's easy to hear the difference between Michael's songs and Quincy's, and I could see that they were starting to move in different directions. For example, Michael told me that at first Quincy didn't like Beat it, and felt it was out of place on the record. Michael stuck to his guns, worked extra hard on the demo, and won his case, and Beat it went on to win record of the year.