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The Vincent Price “Rap” on “Thriller”...
Old 2nd September 2006
Bruce Swedien's Avatar

The Vincent Price “Rap” on “Thriller”...

The Vincent Price “Rap” on “Thriller”...

When I begin reminiscing about recording the song “Thriller”, one of the first things that comes to mind is the Vincent Price “Rap”. Quincy’s wife, Peggy Lipton, knew Vincent Price. So Quincy and Peggy got it together and called him. Vincent said he would love to do it. I remember Rod’s idea, at first was that Vincent would just talk some horror talk from the type of lines he would deliver in some of his famous roles.

Well, the night before the session with Vincent Price, I remember Quincy and Rod on the phone, talking excitedly about something to do with Vincent’s part in “Thriller”. I was getting the track ready for Vincent to overdub on for “Thriller”, so I only overheard bits and pieces of Quincy and Rod’s conversation.....

The next day at about 12:00 noon, Quincy shows up at the studio, looking like the ‘Cat That Swallowed The Canary’! Q looked at me and said, “‘Svensk’, (Quincy’s nickname for me... It means, “Swedish Man”, in swedish.) Vincent Price is going to be here at 2:00 pm! Rod is writing Vincent’s ”Rap” lyrics in the taxicab on the way here to the studio!”

Quincy told me, “I don’t think that Vincent has ever been on a pop record before. This should be interesting...” I get chills just thinking about it!

The next thing I knew, Rod came roaring into the control room with several sheets of paper in one hand, and a Marlboro cigarette with a two-inch ash ready to fall over the floor, in his mouth... Out-of -breath Roddy said to me, “Bruce, quick... He’s here! I saw a car pull up, and it was Vincent Price! He’s on his way in!” He thrust the papers in my hand and said, “Give these to the secretary -Have her photo-copy these quick!”... This was done, we put the ‘Rap” lyrics on the music stand... Vincent walked in, sat down on his chair, off he went, and it was all done in about two hours.

Vincent Price had never used earphones in his work before. He reluctantly put them on, and when the music track for “Thriller” started, he jumped up from his stool with a very startled look on his face. I know he had never heard anything like that before. He asked Rod Temperton to come out in the studio with him and help him by cueing him where to come in and speak his verses.

Rod actually wrote three verses for “Thriller”, for Vincent to do. We recorded all three but only used two. I have that unused verse in my tapes somewhere.
Vincent experienced a huge resurgence in his career commensurate with the incredible success of “Thriller”.

About six months after the release of “Thriller”, Vincent appeared on the “Johnny Carson, Tonight” show. He told about being in Paris and walking down the street and having a group of young people recognize him and chase him down the street to get his autograph.

To me, the miraculous thing about the Vincent Price ‘Rap” on “Thriller”, is that Rod Temperton wrote a brilliant ... Edger Allan Poe style spiel... in the Taxi-cab on the way to the session! When the chips are down, that’s when you find out what true genius is all about!

Of course, speaking of unquestionable genius... Vincent’s performance was remarkable! Obviously, Vincent Price was in his element on “Thriller”... Timing, inflection... And he did it in two takes! Michael’s vocals’ are more than wonderful as well... What an experience!

In 1985 I worked with Rod Temperton and my old pal Dick Rudolph on the buddy cop movie, “Running Scared” starring Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines. It’s about two wisecracking Chicago cops, Ray and Danny, who tackle drug lord Julio Gonzales in a battle of wits across the city of Chicago.

Rod composed and arranged the music score for this action-comedy film. We had great fun on this wonderful project. Bea and I lived in Chicago for 19 years so the movie’s location meant alot to me. The story takes place in the cold winter of Chicago where Ray Hughes (Gregory Hines) and Danny Costanzo (Billy Crystal) are cocky undercover policemen on the trail of a ruthless Spanish "godfather" named Julio Gonzales (Jimmy Smits in his film debut).

The critics said: Quincy Jones' finest colaborator, Rod Temperton, keeps the score hot in it's own "Beverly Hills Cop" kinda way. The easy going soundtrack featuring some of the best music had to offer back then. Michael McDonald's "Sweet Freedom" which was on the top 10 on the Billboard charts that summer. Also features tracks from artists such as New Edition, Ready For The World, Patti LaBelle, Klymaxx, and many more.

There you are...... And, I was there!!!!

Bruce Swedien
Old 2nd September 2006
Gear Head
dissolva's Avatar

Listening back to Thriller, the Vincent Price bit stands out as one of the most brilliant elements to a brilliant production. Thanks for the living history.

To follow up on Thriller (the track) -

What is the drum machine used on Thriller? Was this the Linn Drum/Roland Micro Composer set up that Quincy Jones was using in that period?

How did the sound effects come about, and what was their source?

Who wrote the killer bass ostinato and was it always part of the track?
Old 3rd September 2006
What great stories Bruce!! Really.. thanks for sharing.

Old 3rd September 2006
Lives for Jesus
stevep's Avatar

The next thing I knew, Rod came roaring into the control room with several sheets of paper in one hand, and a Marlboro cigarette with a two-inch ash ready to fall over the floor, in his mouth...

Nice !heh heh heh

Old 7th September 2006
Gear Addict
Michael Maeurer's Avatar
As far as I remember there was a collection of remastered CDs with some bonus tracks in the stores a few years ago, "Thriller", "Bad" and some others. On the "Thriller" remaster there were a demo version of Billie Jean which made my hairs stood in my neck, so awesome to hear this musical feel MJ has. An there was also an acapella of the whole "Rap" of Vincent with all 3 verses.

See if you can get them somewhere, it is definately worth it. Also because of the interview with QJ on it.


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