Eddie Van Halen'Beat It' (1982)
Michael Jackson's rock collaborations didn't stop with Paul McCartney. Van Halen's Eddie Van Halen agreed to record a free and uncredited guitar solo on the song "Beat It" as a favor for Thriller producer Quincy Jones. Van Halen reportedly cut his 20-second solo in less than a half hour. In an interview with CNN, Van Halen marveled at the fact he believed that his bandmates would be none the wiser to his appearance on Thriller. "I said to myself, 'Who is going to know that I played on this kid's record, right? Nobody's going to find out.' But according to the Van Halen News Desk, Van Halen says that the collaboration did not go over well with the other members of the band. “Certain people in the band at that time didn’t like me doing things outside the group. But [singer David Lee] Roth happened to be in the Amazon or somewhere, and Mike [Anthony, bassist] was at Disneyland and Al [Van Halen, drummer] was up in Canada or something, and I was home alone. So I thought, well, they’ll never know." After having suggested an alternate arrangement for "Beat It," Van Halen didn't quite know how Jackson would react to the changes he made to the song. "I was just finishing the second solo when Michael walked in," he recalled. "And you know artists are kind of crazy people. We're all a little bit strange. I didn't know how he would react to what I was doing. So I warned him before he listened. I said, 'Look, I changed the middle section of your song,' Now in my mind, he's either going to have his bodyguards kick me out for butchering his song, or he's going to like it. And so he gave it a listen, and he turned to me and went, 'Wow, thank you so much for having the passion to not just come in and blaze a solo, but to actually care about the song, and make it better.' As a side note, the guitar riff that underpins "Beat It" was played by Steve Lukather of Toto.