Odd Couples: How Eddie Van Halen Reworked a Michael Jackson Song
Eddie Van Halen received a phone call from someone who introduced himself as "Quincy" in 1982.
“I don’t know anyone named Quincy," the guitarist confidently told the caller. But he did know someone named Quincy: Quincy Jones, who was producing Michael Jackson's sixth solo album. Jones wanted to know if Van Halen was interested in playing a guitar solo on one of the LP's songs, "Beat It." Jackson had purposefully written the song intending to incorporate a harder rock sound — "the type of song that I would buy if I were to buy a rock song," as he described it.
Once Van Halen realized he wasn't being pranked, he agreed and arrived at Los Angeles' Westlake Recording Studios to lay down a track.
"I asked Quincy, 'What do you want me to do?'" Van Halen recalled to CNN in 2012. "And he goes, 'Whatever you want to do.' And I go, 'Be careful when you say that. If you know anything about me, be careful when you say, 'Do anything you want!'"
"Beat It," the third single from Thriller, was a colossal success, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and staying there for three weeks, selling 7 million copies worldwide and becoming one of the most recognizable pop songs in history.
We revisit this unlikely collaboration in the below video from our "Odd Couples" series.