Demo of Beat It composed using only Michael Jackson’s voice
As Jackson couldn’t fluently play any instruments, he would sing and beatbox out how he wanted his songs to sound by himself on tape, layering the vocals, harmonies and rhythm before having instrumentalists come in to complete the songs.
One of his engineers Robmix on how Jackson worked: “One morning MJ came in with a new song he had written overnight. We called in a guitar player, and Michael sang every note of every chord to him. “here’s the first chord first note, second note, third note. Here’s the second chord first note, second note, third note”, etc., etc. We then witnessed him giving the most heartfelt and profound vocal performance, live in the control room through an SM57. He would sing us an entire string arrangement, every part. Steve Porcaro once told me he witnessed MJ doing that with the string section in the room. Had it all in his head, harmony and everything. Not just little eight bar loop ideas. he would actually sing the entire arrangement into a micro-cassette recorder complete with stops and fills.”
Reasons why I laugh when people say he wasn’t a real musician.
“We are promised very long hours and low wages. And stale bread. That’s pretty much it. It’s this crazy thing where you’re asked to come and work a lot, and you lose money on the job, because you wind up spending more in tips than you ever earn. But you get to see the world, and see Wes live this wonderful, magical life, where his dreamscape comes true. So, if we show up, he gets to have all his fun, and I guess it’s because we like him that we go along with this.”
"Willem Dafoe said this production was like the ‘actor’s retirement home.’ We had this small hotel in Görlitz, a town on the border of Poland and Germany, and it was all us — there were no other people in it. We walked over to Poland one night, but it was closed, so we were all just in this hotel. The hotel was also our restaurant, and where we’d do prep and makeup. So you’d come down for breakfast and then on the other side of the lobby was makeup and hair. So you’d say, ‘Excuse me, hold on a sec, I’m gonna go get another croissant.’ And then you’d march back over, all the time in your slippers and a robe, like a bunch of old men dying in a hotel."
"[W]ith Wes, specifically, all his props and sets are so perfect, you just have to relax and be part of the chemical process. It’s almost like the developing of a photograph. If you’re in the midst of it, you’re a part of it — this picture that he’s made. You’re like the flower in the still life."