“Thriller” was recorded at Westlake Recording Studios in Los Angeles, California, with a production budget of $750,000. Sessions began on April 14, 1982 at 12:00 noon with Jackson and Paul McCartney recording “The Girl Is Mine”, and the album was completed with the final day of mixing on November 8, 1982. Several members of the band Toto were also involved in the album’s recording and production. Jackson wrote four songs for the record: “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'”, “The Girl Is Mine”, “Beat It”, and “Billie Jean”. Unlike many artists, Jackson did not write these songs on paper. Instead, he would dictate into a sound recorder; when recording he would sing from memory.
The relationship between Jackson and Jones became strained during the album’s recording. Jackson spent much of his time rehearsing dance steps alone. When the album’s nine songs were completed, both Jones and Jackson were unhappy with the result and remixed every song, spending a week on each.
Jackson was inspired to create an album where “every song was a killer”, and developed Thriller with that in mind. Jones and songwriter Rod Temperton gave detailed accounts of what occurred for the 2001 reissue of the album. Jones discussed “Billie Jean” and why it was so personal to Jackson, who struggled to deal with a number of obsessed fans. Jones wanted the long introduction on the song to be shortened; however, Jackson insisted that it remain because it made him want to dance. The ongoing backlash against disco made it necessary to move in a different musical direction from the disco-heavy “Off the Wall”. Jones and Jackson were determined to make a rock song that would appeal to all tastes and spent weeks looking for a suitable guitarist for the song “Beat It”. Eventually, they found Steve Lukather of Toto to play the rhythm-guitar parts and Eddie Van Halen of the rock band Van Halen to play the solo.
1) Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ (Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones)
2) Baby Be Mine (Rod Temperton, Jones)
3) The Girl Is Mine” (with Paul McCartney) (Jackson, Jones)
4) Thriller (Temperton, Jones)
5) Beat It (Jackson, Jones Jackson)
6) Billie Jean (Jackson, Jones)
7) Human Nature (Steve Porcaro, John Bettis, Jones)
8 P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) (James Ingram, Jones)
9) The Lady in My Life” (Temperton, Jones)