Angelino Heights, Los Angeles, California. This is the house where the final scene of ‘Thriller” was shot. Turns out that neighborhood is full of old, spooky Victorian homes which are often used in films, television shows, and videos. I personally love old Victorian homes and castles. I find them fascinating! Not sure I’d spend the night alone in one though! But I am intriqued by them. The theater sequence in “Thriller” was filmed at the Palace Theatre in downtown Los Angeles, and the zombie dance sequence at the junction of Union Pacific Avenue and South Calzona Street in East Los Angeles.
Owners of The Palace Theatre at 630 S. Broadway near the Los Angeles Fashion District paid respect to Michael Jackson by re-creating its marquee as it was in 1983 during filming of Jackson’s “Thriller” video. You can see a photo below.
“I thought it would be a special gift for those people to look up at the marquee and to have the realization that you are standing where Michael Jackson once stood while filming the greatest video of all time,” said theater owner Shahram Delijani, whose family owns the Palace, as well as the Los Angeles, State and Tower theaters.
The Palace Theater was built in 1911 as the third Los Angeles home of the Orpheum Vaudeville circuit. It was originally known as the Orpheum and is the oldest remaining Orpheum theater in the world. Renamed the Palace Theatre in 1926, it became a silent-movie house and later added sound.
No one will ever be able to reproduce Vincent Price’s spooky rap in that song. Being well over 40, I remember Price in many spooky films, that mahogany rich voice of his with just the right tinge of accent to lend excellent theatrical value and that oh-so-wicked laugh! Sadly, Vincent Price also died on a 25th, specifically the 25th of October, 1993.
For an interesting rundown of 10 facts about Vincent Price’s involvement in the making of “Thriller“, see this link. I was surprised to learn that Price did the rap in “Thriller” for a flat $20K rather than taking a percentage of the film’s proceeds. He said he did so because his career was well-established and money wasn’t a huge issue. I have to wonder if he ever regretted that or if he was simply trying to help a young Michael along with his own career and if it was payment enough for him to see what a success Michael subsequently became. Of course I want to assume the latter, and from what “Svensk” says below, Price’s own career got a considerable boost from that gig too, so it probably paid off in other ways!
Written by Rod Temperton, it’s also interesting to note that “Thriller” was originally titled “Starlight” and that it had quite different lyrics. “Thriller” was also the first music video to ever be entered into the National Film Registry.
Someone emailed me a while back looking for better shots of the “House of Wax” posters on the Palace Theater’s windows in the film. I have not been able to locate any, nor am I certain whether the last zombie at the end is Price in full ghoul. What do you think?
Master Sound Engineer Bruce Swedien over at GearSlutz shared this about the making of Vincent Price’s rap part in “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!
Now, about that rap Vincent Price did:
There are one or at most two rap verses in the various versions of “Thriller” that have been released. But, three were written by Temperton and recorded. I think I’ve located what seems to be the actual session itself – beginning to end – with both Michael and Vincent. In this session, you can hear all three verses recorded: