Jon Anderson on how Vangelis album inspired Thriller

Jon Anderson press shot
Jon Anderson (Image credit: Cathy Miller)

Jon Anderson has recalled how the 1981 album The Friends Of Mr Cairo which he produced with composer Vangelis inspired Michael Jackson’s smash hit album Thriller.

The former Yes man claims that producer Quincy Jones told him that he and Jackson took a guitar riff from the record and “made it funky” for the 1982 hit Billie Jean.

Anderson tells the new issue of Prog magazine: “The luck of the draw, I met Vangelis – a very different kind of musician, who started the trend of electronic music. Over the 80s we were evolving musically, not thinking about what was hip or what was good business.

“There’s my classic story of how we inspired Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Quincy Jones told me that he and Michael had been listening to our album, The Friends Of Mr Cairo.

“They took the riff and made it funky for Billie Jean. Quincy said he’d been recording our song State Of Independence with Donna Summer, and I said he had an incredible guy singing backing vocals.

“He said, ‘That guy was Michael – we were both digging your album.’ So that’s kinda cool, that cross-pollination in music.”

Jon Anderson will be presented with the Prog God prize the 2016 Progressive Music Awards, held at London’s Underglobe venue on September 1.

Issue 68 of Prog is out now and is available in print and via TeamRock+.

Prog God 2016 Jon Anderson: in his own words

Former TeamRock news desk member Christina joined our team in late 2015, and although her time working on online rock news was fairly brief, she made a huge impact by contributing close to 1500 stories. Christina also interviewed artists including Deftones frontman Chino Moreno and worked at the Download festival. In late 2016, Christina left rock journalism to pursue a career in current affairs. In 2021, she was named Local Weekly Feature Writer of the Year at the Scottish Press Awards.