The music video "Thriller" includes this lyric: (around 5:47 in this video)

They're out to get you
There's demons closing in on every side (ooh)
They will possess you
Unless you change that number on your dial

This seems like an odd way for demons to behave. Is this in reference to something?

(Context suggests that it might be a reference to a thriller movie?)


1 Answer 1


This is from the days before TV remote controls, when you actually had to get up out of your seat to change the channel (by turning a dial on front).

A close up of TV dials: two big rotary knobs, one labelled UHF, the other VHF, both with number labels around them

Source: Pixabay, public domain.

The lyrics immediately following the ones you quote are:

Now is the time
For you and I to cuddle close together, yeah
All through the night
I'll save you from the terror on the screen
I'll make you see

You know it's thriller, thriller night...

The narrator is not caught in a nightmare world, he's sitting on the sofa watching a horror movie marathon with his SO!

  • 16
    @AnthonyX I don’t think the song was written with the video in mind. That wasn't really a thing yet.
    – Spencer
    Commented Jan 2, 2023 at 15:39
  • 22
    The phrase "don't touch that dial" is still used to tell people not to change the channel. It's a metaphorical dial, like dialing a telephone.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jan 2, 2023 at 18:12
  • 4
    @KeithPayne: But you surely heard the word "dial" related to phones. "Dial me", "Speed dial", "Dial-up Internet" all come from the same original telephone dial.
    – rodrigo
    Commented Jan 3, 2023 at 16:39
  • 5
    @AzorAhai-him- Wikipedia: "Along with the rest of the album, "Thriller" was recorded over eight weeks in 1982...."Thriller" was the final single released from the album. It was not initially planned for release, as Jackson's record label, Epic, saw it as a novelty song...By mid-1983, sales of Thriller began to decline. Jackson...urged Yetnikoff and executive Larry Stessel to help conceive a plan to return the album to the top of the charts. Jackson's manager Frank DiLeo suggested releasing "Thriller", backed by a new music video."
    – Spencer
    Commented Jan 3, 2023 at 18:03
  • 7
    @AzorAhai-him- In the 1970's, the album was the basic unit of music production. You had to have enough new material to play on tour. Standalone singles existed but they were rare. Videos were considered promotional and a cost center. (Thriller changed that forever).
    – Spencer
    Commented Jan 3, 2023 at 18:25

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