Steve Lukather Shares Michael Jackson’s Reaction When He Changed Jackson’s Riff

In his recent interview with Guitar World, Toto guitarist, Steve Lukather recalled the times when he played the guitars for one of the legendary songs of Michael Jackson. He also revealed that what Michael Jackson did when he learned the change in his riff.

Michael Jackson’s iconic sixth studio album entitled ‘Thriller’ was released on November 30, 1982. The album was considered as a combination of pop, rock, and funk and consisted of pessimistic themes. ‘Thriller’ reached number one on the Billboard Top LPs & Tapes chart and also its singles such as ‘The Girl Is Mine,’ ‘Billie Jean,’ and ‘Beat It’ stayed at the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for weeks.

‘Beat It’ became very popular and people from all around listened to it a lot. The song was produced by Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson was on the lead vocals, Paul Jackson Jr. was on the rhythm guitar, Bill Wolfer was on the keyboards, Jeff Porcaro was on the drums. Steve Lukather was on the lead guitar and the bass guitar along with Eddie Van Halen’s guitar solo.

During his interview, Steve Lukather remembered the times when he played the lead guitar and bass guitar of ‘Beat It.’ The producer, Jones wanted him to make the song funky to play on R&B radio. So, he double-tracked the song and in the second part, he slowed down to tape and he created a different sound with different techniques. When Michael Jackson learned that his riff was changed, he danced while he was listening to the new version of the song.

Here’s what he told in the interview:

“When I played on ‘Thriller,’ Quincy Jones, producer gave me free rein all the time. For Human Nature, he told me: ‘You gotta make this funky for me, man – I gotta get this on RnB radio’. I said to Bruce Swedien, legendary record engineer, ‘Let’s try something – plug me directly, let’s get a weird sound.

I came up with the part and double-tracked it, but for the second track, we slowed the tape down a bit to make it a little out of tune, like the Beatles used to do. The two parts rubbed against each other a bit, gave it a quirky chorus feeling, and Quincy loved it. ‘Beat It’ was Michael’s riff, and when I changed it a little he started dancing, doing the Michael Jackson thing two feet away from me.

I’m 24 years old thinking I’d made a big time! I played the bass and all the guitars on that one, except Eddie Van Halen’s solo. I’d used all these Marshalls, then Quincy called me back saying, ‘It sounds too big! I want to make this a crossover hit – use one of your little amps!’ So I plugged in my Fender Deluxe, backed off the distortion, and gave him what you hear on the final record.”

You can listen to the song below.