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Old 30th August 2006
Bruce Swedien's Avatar

For me, it's almost like falling in love.

About "BILLY JEAN"....

Here's the real deal on "BILLY JEAN"....

How Music “Speaks” to Me

In order for a piece of music to communicate a feeling to me, or to anyone actually, it must first have a "hook"... not simply a catchy phrase in the chorus, but a melody and rhythmic concept, combined with highly interesting sonic values, that instantly arrests our attention. I think that this is true to some degree in everyone.

A piece of music must "Speak to me". For me, it's almost like falling in love. I think it is purely an emotional response. It must make me respond instantly. This response in myself does not have anything to do with style or variety of music. The actual feeling varies in myself a little. In classical music, if a piece of music "Speaks to me", it makes me feel 'jubilant', or 'sad' or it can make me want to cry. In 'pop' music it is usually a more primitive, animal-like response. It can make me want to dance, or 'move'. I think it is much the same in most people. I'm sure it varys with the individual, though. It is the one thing in myself that I hope falls in with this same type of response in the masses. If that is true then it makes it very easy for me to pick records and songs that will appeal to the general public.

I think I have this quality. Most of the records that I have recorded that have been huge hits, are songs and recordings that I have liked very much right from the start. A perfect example of this is Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean". I fell in love with “Billy Jean’ immediately, the first time I heard Michael sing a demo of the song. I call this ability for affection for certain pieces of music, in myself, my "Antenna".

Here's another thing that frequently happens to me when I go out and buy a record that I have heard on radio or TV and liked very much.(I think maybe I should get into this in depth elsewhere, if you are interested.) If I hear a song on the radio and it sounds interesting to me, more often than not, I get the record home and the sonics of it sound like doo-doo! This seems to happen mainly when I hear a record that sounds great on the radio, and that is my main interest in it. Perhaps it is musically not "Speaking to me", but the sound of it, on the radio, is interesting. Often when I play these records at home or in the studio, I am very dissapointed. Hmmm - Interesting...

But, More About "BILLY JEAN".....

The year is 1982. The song is "Billie Jean". The sonic image of Michael Jacksons' "Billie Jean" is a perfect example of what happened, when I sat around dreaming awhile, about combining different recording techniques to produce a unique musical canvas with a tremendous 'sonic personality'.

I recorded the drums,(played by my pal N'Dugu) with as tight, and powerful a drum sound as I could come up with. Of course I put N'Dugus' drum set on my plywood drum platform. Also at this time, I had a special kick drum cover made that covers the whole front of the kick drum. There's a slot with a zipper in it that the mike fits through. When the kick drum mike is in place, in the slot in my drum cover, I zip the opening tight around the mike.

Brucie asks - Shall I post a Photo of this beautiful device????? I still have it and use it on every session!!!

I brought in my old pal George Massenburgs' spectacular sounding, portable, 12 channel recording console and used it to record the rhythm section. With it I recorded the bass, drums and guitars on my analogue 16 track, with no noise reduction equipment in the way of that fantastic sound!

In my estimation, “Billie Jean” is a perfect example of what I call “Sonic Personality”. I don’t think there are many recordings, where all you need to hear is the first few drums beats, and you instantly know what song it is.

Great albums always start with great songs....

“BILLY JEAN” is just such a superb song! Of course, Michael wrote “BILLY JEAN”.

Quincy says that the lyric he wrote is highly personal. I’m sure that’s true. Michael told us... it was about a girl, that climbed over the wall at Michael’s house, and was lounging out there, by the swimming pool.... she was laying out there, near the pool , lounging... hangin’ out... with shades on, her bathing suit on.

One morning she just showed up! Kind of like a stalker, almost. She had accused Michael of being the father of ONE of her twins... Is that possible? I don’t think so....


Bruce Swedien