If you get the creeps every time you hear the “rap” about grizzly ghouls and bloodthirsty creatures at the end of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” then just remember these images were conjured up by a mild-mannered English guy, speeding through Los Angeles traffic in a cab.
In the new book “The Invisible Man,” by author Jed Pitman (out Sept. 1), the reclusive but gifted songwriter Rod Temperton (responsible for Vincent Price’s famous verses, among many others) is brought into the spotlight for the first time. Few pop fans know anything about him, but he was behind some huge hits, and had a massive part in Michael Jackson’s post-Motown solo career. He was credited as songwriter on three songs from Jackson’s debut “Off the Wall” (1979) and three from the biggest-selling album of all time, “Thriller” (1982).
During his research, Pitman found that Temperton was usually meticulous about his work. “He had all the parts in his head,” Pitman told The Post. “He knew exactly what he wanted, and how to get there.” But recording the iconic “Thriller” monologue was unusually slapdash.
Working with Quincy Jones, Temperton initially suggested Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (of the TV show “Fright Night,” originally), to record the spooky spoken-word part. But Jones suggested Price, who was a friend of his wife’s.
On the day of recording, Temperton was running late and had to write en route. “It was just so easy to visualize Vincent saying this stuff . . . the words were just falling out of me,” Temperton says in the book. After getting to the studio, he noticed Price’s limo was already there and so ordered his cab to go around the back. He copied his verses, put them on a music stand, Price nailed them in just two takes, and music would never be the same. With the help of the title track, the album “Thriller” went on to sell more than 100 million copies.
Temperton’s journey to working with Jones, Price and Jackson was a long, unlikely one. He was born in the nondescript seaside town of Cleethorpes in the North of England in 1949. After playing in prog-rock bands in the early 1970s, he hooked up with Johnnie Wilder Jr. of the group Heatwave, and masterminded their disco-funk hits “Boogie Nights” (1976) and “The Groove Line” (1978), which both went Top-10 in the US. Jones spotted Temperton’s potential and invited him to write songs for Jackson, helping launch the singer into the stratosphere.
But Temperton didn’t go along for the ride, keeping himself firmly out of the spotlight. “He didn’t want to be part of the Michael Jackson circus,” says Pitman. “I remember he said working with him was quite strange, although Rod got on pretty well with Bubbles the chimpanzee and Michael’s boa constrictor, Muscles!”
Instead, he quietly altered pop’s course from a safe distance, writing ’80s hits for Michael McDonald, Donna Summer, Patti Austin & James Ingram, the Brothers Johnson and George Benson. He even helped Jones co-write the theme to “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 1986.
Temperton’s work made him a very wealthy man, earning him houses in the UK, Beverly Hills, the South of France, Switzerland and Fiji. And not just cozy little studio apartments, either. “If the rumors are to be believed, he owned an entire island in Fiji,” adds Pitman.
His reclusion was such that when his death was announced in 2016 (he was 66), the funeral had already happened. His publisher said Temperton had passed after a short battle with cancer. Specifics were never made clear of his condition, but almost everyone who ever worked with him recalls him smoking constantly.
The nickname of “The Invisible Man” is well-earned, and it’s undoubtedly how Temperton wanted it. “There was no doubt that he was a genius,” says Pitman. “And true geniuses do what they do without the need for fanfare.”
This News Credit Goes To >> Source link