The first single on Thriller was "The Girl Is Mine," with Paul McCartney; I was a huge fan of Paul McCartney. And Michael knew this. I was working in the same studio where they were recording the song at one or two in the morning, and he called and said, "Lionel, come on over." I thought he wanted me to hear a track, and I go into the studio, and Paul McCartney was there. Needless to say, I ended my session for the night. I think Quincy went home that night because we were talking so much. Paul and Michael had so much in common in terms of the fame, and Michael was such a sponge. He asked every question. I think Paul had a blacked-out Suburban, and by the time Paul left, Michael had one too.
The irony of it is that Paul McCartney, Quincy Jones and myself had friends before we were 21. We all had to fight on the playground before we were 21. We all had a girl leave us before we were 21. We went through regular-guy growing-up experiences. But when it came to Michael, you couldn't get to "regular." From seven or eight years old, this brother was singing. I remember him coming right home from tutoring and going right to the studio. They wouldn't have playground time. Jackie and Jermaine had a little bit more of a real experience because they were older. But that door closed early for Michael.
With his whole being, he only wanted to be the biggest and the best there was. But in the later years, it wasn't the playground singing "Wacko Jacko" – it was the whole world saying it. How do you get over that? It tears you down. And the result is, we saw a major artist crumble right in front of our very eyes.