Thriller and Bad guitarist Paul Jackson Jr breaks down his parts from the albums

Session guitarist Paul Jackson Jr in a recording studio
(Image credit: Vertex Effects / YouTube)

We can't get enough of hearing session legends talking about their memories and classic parts – as our recent revisit of the Wrecking Crew's Louie Shelton and his 1969 Fender Princeton amp proved. Now here's another audience with a master; Paul Jackson Jr, session guitarist extraordinaire on many hit albums. Including Michael Jackson's Thriller and Bad.

He's a wonderful storyteller as well as player so this extended chat with Vertex Effects' Mason Marangella is a treat. We start with Thriller's deeper cut Lady In My Life – a track Jackson Jr used a Gibson ES-335 and his go-to Paul Rivera-modified Fender Deluxe amp (like Louie Shelton this is another top session player endorsement for Rivera-modded Fender amps folks!).

"The Rivera-modified Deluxe was kind of like the Dumble before there was a Dumble," says Jackson Jr. "It was the go-to amp, all the studio guys used them, they're on countless recordings." As he points out, Rivera released their own take on it with the Stage IV combo. 

When it came to Lady In My Life, songwriter Rod Temperton had already come up with the octave guitar line for the song that Jackson Jr illustrates in the video above. But the guitarist reveals that neither Michael Jackson or Quincy Jones were present at his recording session for the Thriller track, only Temperton and "genius" engineer Bruce Swedien.

Jackson Jr came up with a low register line of his own towards the end of the song, as he explains before he plays over the original track with his semi-hollow PRS. He's also detailed his parts on Thriller classic PYT that you'll be able to see in a forthcoming video on his own YouTube channel

That's just the beginning; Paul also tracked the riff on Beat It with his modded Deluxe and a Les Paul Standard, in addition to Steve Lukather and Mr Van Halen. Then his next Jackson session was Bad's Dirty Diana alongside Steve Stevens. 

Check out the video above for Paul Jackson Jr's single note rhythm guitar tips and memories of tracking songs including Kenny Loggins' Footloose, Daft Punk's Get Lucky and Give Life Back To Music, The Weeknd's I Feel It Coming, as well as the Bob Bradshaw rig behind his tone. 

Check out more from the Vertex Effects YouTube channel

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.