15 Facts You Didn’t Know About MJ’s ‘Billie Jean’

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Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images

Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images

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Just two days ago, was Michael Jackson’s mega hit “Billie Jean’s” 30th birthday!

And to honor one of the most memorable pop songs in music history, “NME” an online music magazine has 30 facts about the single you may not know. Out of the 30 there are 15 that kind of surprised us…

  1. Memo to this decade’s lazy pop moguls: ‘Billie Jean’ was mixed 91 times by Bruce Swedien. 91 times!
  2. Walter Yetnikoff, the president of Jackson’s record label CBS, threatened MTV that he’d go public with their stance on race:
    “I said to MTV, ‘I’m pulling everything we have off the air, all our product. I’m not going to give you any more videos. And I’m going to go public and fucking tell them about the fact you don’t want to play music by a black guy.”
  3. ‘Quincy Jones did not want ‘Billie Jean’ to appear on ‘Thriller’.
  4. Michael Jackson said he came up with the idea while driving his Rolls-Royce down a motorway. He was so absorbed by the song that he didn’t notice his car had caught fire. A guy passing on a motorcyclist warned him and saved his life.
  5. Jones hated the bassline.
  6. He also hated the intro.
  7. Jackson sang the vocals into a six-foot-long cardboard tube.
  8. He performed his first moonwalk when he sang ‘Billie Jean’ on the TV show Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever
  9. You might think ‘Billie Jean’ sounds similar to Hall & Oates’ ‘I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)’. You’d be right. Here’s Daryl Hall on whether his song influenced the King of Pop.
    No question about it. Michael Jackson once said directly to me that he hoped I didn’t mind that he copped that groove. That’s okay; it’s something we all do.
  10. He nailed the vocals in one take.
  11. Jackson’s head was set on fire by special effects explosions while filming a Pepsi-Cola commercial sound tracked by ‘Billie Jean’.
  12. Billie Jean is based on the groupies that used to hang around Jackson and his brothers when they were in The Jackson 5. Here’s MJ:
    Billie Jean is kind of anonymous. It represents a lot of girls. They used to call them groupies in the ’60s…They would hang around backstage doors, and any band that would come to town they would have a relationship with, and I think I wrote this out of experience with my brothers when I was little. There were a lot of Billie Jeans out there. Every girl claimed that their son was related to one of my brothers.”
  13. The song is in the key of F# minor.
  14. The UPC bar code on the album cover contained seven digits that were rumored to be Jackson’s telephone number.
  15. The handwritten lyrics to ‘Billie Jean’ sold for £24,984 at auction in 2012.

Comment below to share your favorite facts about Michael Jackson or even the single ‘Billie Jean’! Check out the rest of the fun facts here on NME’s site!

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