entry coming soon.
It’s going on 1am here… I do have the ample energy to go through this entry right now if I really wanted to. But I think it’s best that I end my night here and write the entry all in one sitting…
that way, my syntax and flow doesn’t suffer too much 😎
heck, if I’m really lucky, I just might find time to listen to the album first
[the next day]
I’m gonna have to delay this a couple hours because I’m gonna want to be at the top of my age… writing this whole entry at one time, covering all the songs in order… and quite possibly I will write my initial thoughts on what I remember… and at a later date, I’ll add a little something something if anything occurs me when I listen to the album.
phew… where do I even BEGIN? This is quite the daunting task… the best approach is probably to write as freely and spontaneously as possible and take the best out of the whole in the edits later
the idea of going into the album as a whole is extremely hard to even imagine.
Coming into Prince’s career the way I did in 2007, I knew a few things about him. He was the most prominent in the 80’s, but was still working on music even to this day. The only two albums I knew of were Purple Rain and 1999, which I also assumed was his first album because it was the most ground-breaking. Certainly one of the most ground-breaking records in the 80’s, particularly by a black artist. The color barrier was still somewhat of a big thing back then to the point where Michael Jackson was probably the first colored artist to make it big on MTV, successfully crossing over into the mainstream music scene.
But it would seem that Prince not only had a couple 80’s before 1999, but his career had started in the late 70’s. That, I didn’t count on at all. But I disgress… initially, I wanted to keep my collection light to save myself a few dollars, so I made my short list. Obviously, 1999 would have to be on this short list along with a few of his other big albums… like Sign o’ the Times and the material he accumulated during the troubled 90’s when he was fighting against his record company… in addition, I wanted Musicology and 3121 to get the full scope of what he’d be like now.
[geesh, I doubt there’s a lot of this I really want to put into “The Word,” but I digress]
I came into Prince’s career only knowing of a couple of his songs. Among these was Purple Rain (though I had no idea how the song went), two other songs from the soundtrack (“I would die 4 U” and “Baby I’m a star”), When Doves Cry, 1999 (which I’d known of for years, but didn’t know extremely well) and Little Red Corvette, which I only heard in passing by… the inneundo being a hot topic.
Then again, sexual inneundo isn’t a new thing to Prince at this point. In fact, his whole career has been about just that.
To this point, we have the following:
“For You” was a debut record by an extremely talented young man from Minneapolis that really tried hard to make it sound perfect… i.e. the album was more about showing his prowess and skill than having any real personal meaning behind it
“Prince” was to subsidy the fact he overblew the budget for the previous album. The songs were a lot more personal, a little closer to what he wanted to put on record, and overall, it was meant to be very commercial.
Between a number of ground-breaking issues and perhaps less pressure, allowing him to be himself, “Dirty Mind” came out. An album that was very stripped down, very minimalistic, but at the same time, more free and more gritty than anything he’d done before, both musically and lyrically. To the point where there was a song called “Head” and another song talked about incest in no more than 90 seconds.
“Controversy” resulted from the backtalk and discussion between the reception of the previous album and Prince’s first experiences in being interviewed… where he more or less decided that he was going to keep them to a minimum, since people twisted his words around and didn’t get the story entirely right (on the other side of things, the interviewers were saying he was very shy, very distant and very cryptic, so it’s hard to really know who’s right)
Little by little, Prince was getting closer with his band, borrowing some of their ideas, giving them solos and vocals.
Over the years, a few people have come and gone for a number of reasons. Gayle Chapman left because Prince’s increasingly radical material conflicted with her beliefs. Andre Cymone left because he felt his contributions weren’t being acknowledged, almost to the point where Prince may or may not have passed his ideas off as his own.
The line-up of his band, the pre-Revolution, still consisted of Dez Dickerson on back-up guitar, Bobby Z on the drums and Dr. [Matt] Fink on the synths & keyboards. Lisa Coleman and Brown Mark filled in the blanks at their respected times in the place of keyboards and bass.
Jill Jones also came along for the ride, getting a few highlights on this following album.
In an interview Prince did in 1981, he had said that he would directly collaborate with his band on his songs when he felt all of them were on the same page and could work like a well-oiled machine. One album at a time, this is becoming more and more evident as Prince lends back-up vocals, even going as far to let someone else play their specialty on certain tracks because he thought they were the right person for the job [boy is that a run on sentence, lol]… an example being Dr. Fink playing synths on “Dirty Mind” because he was the one who wrote the keyboard riff that Prince inevitably constructed the song around
This album comes very close to that, but not the point where it could be credited to Prince & The Revolution. For the majority, Prince played all of the instruments himself except where he specified otherwise. It should be noted, however, that on the cover of album, you will see “and the revolution” written backwards inside the dot of the “i” in Prince
[it always seems that explaining the entire album, its history or whatever is the most daunting task, but going on a track-by-track basis, it should be a lot easier]
It would seem that Prince hit a very prolific period between 1982 and 1984. Dozens, if not hundreds, of bootlegs still hover around of the many songs he wrote during that time, but never made a single album.
“1999” was overally ambitious and was to be a double album. Despite the previous album not nearly being as much a success as “Dirty Mind,” his record label allowed him to follow suit.
There are literally too many elements in this album to name, but what was clear was that Prince had started to really nail the specifics. He was beginning to find himself as an artist, sticking with a number of techniques and more to the point, the Linn-drum and using layered synths in place of horn lines were his bread & butter [boy is that cheesy]
There was a certain spark about this album that Prince hadn’t quite nailed down before, so it was starting to turn some heads. What helped with a lot of that was MTV. In the warehouse where he rehearsed with his band, Prince shot a number of performance videos for the songs on this album.
That, and the huge tour Prince and his band went on (the Triple Threat tour where his proteges Vanity 6 and The Time were the opening acts), put Prince in a position where he was just on the brink of superstardom.
As a number of people said on the Purple Rain DVD, it was at the point Prince’s career when he was really starting to peak and gain a lot of notion and the question on a lot of people’s minds, whether they were in the industry or merely fans, “what is Prince going to do next?”
Going into the album the first time, I experienced the pitfall I’d experienced a number of times with Prince. Based on things I’ve heard, some of those things being a couple songs, I assume that things are going to break a certain way. In the end, as I often am, I completely miss the point and that throws me for a loop.
First of all, there are 11 songs on the album, the majority of which run for more than 6 minutes a piece… it’s a lot to take in for a newbie. When things run too long, I grew bored and restless. When things weren’t what I expected, I think I’m on another planet.
I’m not going to sugar-coat it. I waited until I’d listened to the album at least half a dozen times before I considered posting an entry on my blog about it. I didn’t want to write or go into anything I didn’t feel good about without enough information, otherwise I’d find myself at another pitfall: saying negative things that I want to take back a few months after the fact.
Patience was the key, first off.
Secondly, I’d experienced another pitfall a number of times… which is trying to sum up the album into a theme. I like to think of Prince as the type of artist who doesn’t just write songs, but he constructs albums where all the songs have a purpose and connect in some way to the reoccurring theme based on the album’s title.
Therefore, I have found myself a number of times trying to look into each song, trying to determine who they coincide with “1999” and its message.
That never works… certainly in any way where I want to write about it in the book and I just completely lose whoever is reading.
The album is simply too big and too massive (even though I’m quite familiar with it now after 4 years of listening to it) to attempt this. It sucks the fun out of it. Plus, each song is almost like an episode in itself… so I might as well treat them on a case by case basis
[I’ll leave the rest to chance… not quite sure how much of that I want to keep in here, but I’m sure there’s plenty to salvage later on]
where it all began [boy am I glad I have the notes from the podcast on my Word.doc, that’ll make matters a lot easier]
the manner in which the song came about wasn’t gone into, so I’ll continue on with it in hopefully a continuous stream of consciousness
Somewhere between 1981-2, a special was aired on TV about Y2K and how, supposedly, the world is going to end come New Year’s Eve 1999. Prince and his bandmates were watching this and when it was over, Prince noticed that everyone around him was very concerned about it. He was flabbergasted (as he explained in his interview with Larry King in the year 1999) because he knew these people really well and thought they were intelligent, grounded individuals that wouldn’t take this nearly as seriously as he thought they would.
In the end, he wrote a song about it. If the world is supposed to end in 1999, why worry about it? You should enjoy life, live it to the fullest and just have fun with whatever time you have.
In a number of instances, Prince drew inspiration from Sly & the Family Stone. This is the reason why his band has male and female members and of black and white, the reason why the set on stage is with different platforms.
As it is with a lot of his songs, Prince writes everything and plays everything himself, recording his own footage first. Then he calls people into the studio to bring in their input. The podcast questioned where Prince got the idea for splitting the vocals three ways, if it was something he thought about at first or decided to do later on. I can’t comment either way for sure.
I am somewhat inclined to believe, though, that he came up with the idea for the three-part vocal later on. Some songs by Sly & The Family Stone had three-part harmonies, so that’s what he did with this. Jill Jones & Lisa would share the first, Dez would sing second and he would sing third.
On the 2003 BBC radio special, “Purple Reign,” it was noted that this was the first time you heard the voices of the Revolution. Before that, the most you heard were their vocals harmonizing with his, not really getting a chance to shine.
This song also came with one of the 4 music videos Prince shot for this album. It also happened to be the first Prince song I ever heard. Our VHS with several MTV videos recorded in 1987 contained this video. My folks played the “1999” video either in 1998 or 1999 because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Other than that, my memories were very vague. The only thing I did remember was a lot of bright colors and Jill & Lisa singing together (Jill wearing a pilot cap on its side).
The most striking feature that I remembered about the song to all the way back then… the main synthesizer hook… which is probably among the best Prince had done in his entire career. It was just so different and unique, unlike anything I’d heard before and definitely, it was something very 80’s in flavor. That, along with the catchy Linn-drum pattern.
[I am very sad to report that I checked the link where I found those dozen Prince videos 5 years ago that gave me my start… it’s completely gone… Ifilm was replaced some place called Screen Junkies which appears to be no better than… and I just lost my damn signal again… WTF!!
I was really hoping to be able to find the “1999” video and actually watch a couple of his videos and comment as I go, but I guess I’m not that lucky tonight]
What can I say?
“1999” is probably one of the most attention-grabbing opening tracks Prince had written in his career. It’s always going to be one of my personal favorites.
[maybe after seeing the video and/or listening to the album again, I can add more, but I must press on for the sake of time]
2. Little Red Corvette
The origin story wasn’t brought into the picture with the podcast with this one either, so I think I’ll take the reigns and start there (…for the record, aside from DMSR being somewhat of a sequel to “Uptown,” that’s the last I have in this department)
If the urban legend holds true, Prince got the idea for this song after falling asleep in the back of Lisa’s pink Edsel. And after that, he wrote it over the span of cat naps that he had. Supposedly, it was written about his then-girlfriend Vanity.
MTV launched this song in the most striking way… people came across it and were blown away. As time went, they started to read into the lyrics, figuring the oh-so-subtle point that the song was not about a car. Word of mouth about Prince and what he could do started to spread like wildfire and if anything, this was the powder keg because MTV was that big at the time.
Can’t say that I blame them all that much. As with a couple of his singles, I heard this song for the first time via the music video. It was a really fun, poppy song that I got into almost immediately… as soon as the lights came up and Prince was fully visible. In his very doe-eyed way, Prince poured it on with his stage presence. Then there was the choreography during the guitar solo… it brought back to a time many years back to where I couldn’t remember the exact year… I saw Prince tear up the stage at the end of Purple Rain… and from there, I was completely sold.
That brought back very fond memories of just that mere sensation of being mesmerized.
This song had a number of notable contributions by the band. Dez and Lisa sung back-up vocals. AND Dez played the guitar solo I mentioned above. It is highly celebrated as one of the best guitar solos of all time. Him being part of the band helped Prince become more accessible to rock music and little by little, he incorporated more of it into his music.
It’s also an example of what was a great partnership. Prince believed in Dez’s abilities enough where he wanted him to be the one to do this solo, which is actually a number of guitar solos edited into one by none other than Prince himself.
The Linn-drum work is not to be missed and in the 12″ extended version, there is plenty more where that came from. It simply blows my mind everytime I listen and certainly one of those songs I can never get sick of.
is… I would say among the shorter songs on the album, when it is in fact the shortest song on the album. There’s more synth lines and the Linn-drum creates a bit of an off-beat that just works all the same.
It’s rather simple, straight forward and to the point. Prince is singing about a girl that makes him feel weak in the knees, unable to stand and he’s tripping over himself to get together with her. There is a certain catchyness to the lyrics.
Oddly enough, it was released as a single and once or twice I had come across on the Sirius/XM 80’s station.
Lisa lends back-up vocals to this.
More or less, it follows the lead of the previous songs where it’s very poppy, very fun and very accessible to the casual listener.
Although there is one thing I don’t quite understand and that happens to be the ending. The very last note is a baby cooing. Is that an allusion to consequences that might follow? Or does it just examplify the fact that Prince is ga-ga over this girl?
[there is just no easy way to really go into this short/sweet track… not a whole lot to say]
4. Let’s Pretend We’re Married
Now we’re getting to the meat of the album, the start of a number of really long songs.
I first heard OF this song in infamy… there’s explicit language laced throughout the 3rd act, including the line “I wanna **** the taste out of your mouth”
the podcast brought forth an interesting point, which is “how in the world did this escape the censors back then?”
the short answer being: Prince made a note of not printing certain lyrics in the album insert, go figure
as many know, “Darling Nikki” on the follow-up album triggered a movement on the part of Tipper Gore that resulted in the creation of the “parental advisory” stickers for albums with questionable lyrics. Most likely this is due to the fact that Purple Rain was a soundtrack to a highly successful movie that gained popularity rather quickly and on a grander scale than anything Prince had done before
I first heard this song on the music video… which is shot on the same set of those of the first two songs on the album. It features a lot of flashing white lights and smoke machines… and oddly enough, Dez Dickerson behind a keyboard despite the fact that’s not his instrument (there are no guitars in this song either)
More to the point, synthesizers and keyboards ruled this song like nobody’s business, Prince had a lot of choreography and the video ended before anything major could take place (much in the way the other videos ended when there was at least 2-3 minutes left on the respected songs).
The first time I heard this song in its entirity… I was lured in, sucked in, however you want to put it. I disappeared into it for several minutes. Then I started to get paranoid, wondering where the explicit language was going to come in. It came and went, but the way the song ends was pretty surreal.
It somewhat continues on the same train of thought that Controversy left us with, but an extra punch is packed in just before it ends… strangely enough, that’s what had me sold.
Plain and simple, this is a song I could chill with for a while. The synth-line is so amazing, so cool. When the lyrics stop for a while and the instrumentals take over for a bit, that’s the kind of thing I love to hear in songs… the instrumental breakdown of choruses and verses as if to relive what we’d listened to mere minutes before.
Then it more or less became a personal favorite that I couldn’t get enough of.
The message might rub some people the wrong way: Prince talking about making love to a woman all night to make up for the fact that he got dumped by his girlfriend.
Actually, I think one of the main reasons why this album was hard to get through came around this point. I wanted to be swallowed up and pulled under between this song and “Automatic,” but there was a little something in between called
5. Dance Music Sex Romance
oddly enough, on some early pressings of the album, this was the song that got left off to make room for everything else. But to this day, it is still an anthem and creed that Prince lives by.
A few albums ago, he wrote about a utopia called “Uptown” where people of all colors could party together and have a good time. This is an extension of that in every possible way.
It was a song that I had dismissed, skipped over and even put in another part of the album because I just wanted to be swept away by those two really long, really mesmerizing songs on either side of this. But with a little time and patience (it was also a lot to take, three long songs in a row… it was exhausting), I grew to like it. It might not be one of my personal favorites, but all the same, I will listen to it because the album just isn’t quite complete with it.
The key to having a good long song is keeping things interesting. If there aren’t any new lyrics to be had, change up the melody a bit or add a few tidbits here and there.
This song handles that extremely well, including probably one of my favorite rhythm guitar solos that Prince had ever done (definitely up there with the end of “1999” and halfway through “Controversy”).
The lyrics also give nod to all the races and you hear just about everyone Prince has worked with providing back-up vocals to make it sound like the song is being played in the middle of a massive party scene.
They also acknowledge his proteges (“it’s time to fix your clock” in reference to The Time & the 2nd album “what time is it?” and “Vanity 6 is so sweet,” also adding that his pseudonym & mastermind of the two groups, Jamie Starr, “is a thief”)
It would seem that there are a number of question marks in this album… things that Prince either had some odd reason behind that he isn’t willing to disclose to anyone or had no purpose at all…
another of these comes at the end of this song.
huh… maybe they were right… I’m looking at the album credits here and Jill Jones isn’t listed at all under collaborators… but at the end of the song, which is very abrupt, someone bursts onto the scene asking for help… I cannot for the life of me figure out what that means… is it totally random or does it have something to do with the songs that follow?
excluding extended versions of songs and “Cloreen Baconskin” from Crystall Ball (it’s a compiliation set, not an album), this is the longest song Prince put on an album after the title track of “Come”… it runs for nearly 9 and a half minutes
and it is completely worth hanging with this song all the way to the end.
Prince had done a lot of “hot” things in his career from singing about incest and oral sex to doing his concerts wearing nothing more than bikini underwear and high-heels.
But the music video for this song was so hot that MTV refused to air it… and MTV had shown some pretty racy material (for whatever reason, Madonna is the only person coming to mind between the cone bra in “Open your heart” to several images in “Like a Prayer”)…
It might be because I’m just a little naive (even 5 years after listening to Prince’s music and getting more and more exposure to racier movies with my growing more mature) and I still very much am… I never would have pegged the lyrics to be S&M related.
Several times, Prince repeats that he responds to his partner’s every whim automatically because he can’t help himself. I see it as nothing more than a relationship where Prince is so enamored by his girlfriend that he is literally doing everything he can to make her happy.
To cut to the chase, the music video leads up to a scene where Lisa and Jill Jones tie Prince down onto a bed and start whipping him. It doesn’t look nearly as bad as it sounds, but at the time, I’m sure that was pretty racy.
The first time I heard it, I didn’t really know what to think. I just found the synth line very mesmerizing as if falling down the rabbit hole. Things slowly get more and more intense until we reach a climax… which involves the girls crying. Another thing I never completely understood, especially since the video shows them abusing him rather than the other way around. Are they cries of ecstasy or is it the other way around… and why if that’s the case?
Then aside from all that, after everything calms down, the inital synth line returns, slowly starts to build again and there’s one of the best basslines I’d heard on any Prince song.
It breaks down to the littlest of details and nit-picks, but some things are more intense than others.
For starters, the synth line, as awing as it is, it can be a little unnerving and disorientating at times. It reminds me of a rusty chandelier that’s slowly tossing back and forth, squeaking because it hadn’t been oiled in several years.
Then at the very end of the song after the bassline, there’s a humming that’s almost reminsicent of something you’d heard at a dentist’s office. It’s just long enough where it doesn’t get too alarming, but you know…
In the end, the details really don’t matter. It’s the longest song on the album and so happens to be one of my personal favorites, even all the way back at the first listen. Clearly, there was a lot of potential there.
7. Something in the water (does not compute)
it seems to be the perfect song… (and I just got my signal back, weird) to follow up “Automatic”… and it is.
just the first time I heard it, I was caught a little off guard because maybe I was expecting something else. Then I remembered that I had heard another version of it before. It’s a little more melodic, not only as bare-boned.
In comparsion, I found this song very unfeeling, very unnerving and it felt wrong in a couple of places. Part of the reason why I didn’t like the album the first time around.
In it, Prince discusses how the women in his life use him and thinks that there’s something wrong with all of them.
Supposedly this is the start of Prince using computers as a metaphor in his music, although “Computer Blue” is by far a vast improvement on this
[somehow I get the feeling that I won’t be able to use a lot of this for this chapter of “The Word”, but I’ll try to get this finished within the next half hour]
contrary to what I said in the previous entry, this song wasn’t something I got at first… the podcast said that it felt a little out of place and definitely overlooked compared to all the monsters of songs it intermingles with.
This is supposedly a song that Prince is very close to, gets pretty emotional about it (its rumored that you can hear him breaking down a bit at the end of the recording and during one of his recent concerts, he performed this and near brokedown in doing so).
Coming into the final choruses, you hear a number of back-up vocals from Lisa, Jill, Vanity and Wendy…
which leads to an interesting point.
It is rumored that this song was a later addition to the album. That it and the popular bootleg “Moonbeam Levels” were written around the same time… and also, there was a configuration that had this song on the album just after “1999” ends (note in “Moonbeam Levels” how the song begins), and that he wrote these while on tour.
During one of these tours, Prince heard Wendy play for the first time. She had been tailing Prince and his band from city to city because she and Lisa were childhood friends. Supposedly, Prince heard Wendy play in her hotel room and wanted to see more of what she could do. That may well be the reason she contributed to this one song. Also it was rumored that around this time, Dez was talking about maybe leaving the band to work on his own music (like Gayle Chapman before him, he was starting to get a little unnerved by Prince’s increasingly racy subject matter) and Wendy looked to be the replacement Prince was looking for. Plus, her tightness with Lisa was an even greater asset he wanted to get a hold of.
“Free” took me a little while, but once I got it, it stuck with me every time I listened to it. The first interesting about it is the way it starts… the image that comes to mind is Prince pacing back and forth on the sand of a beach as if he’s at the Jersey Boardwalk (although I don’t know why he’d be there in particular).
The chorus has me thinking a little about Purple Rain in just the way it sounds and feels.
And I don’t know, if you’re feeling down on yourself, it can potentially serve as a pick-me-up. It reminds you of how fortunate you are compared to other people in this world and how can you not get a little choked up about that?
9. Lady Cab Driver
This somewhat started a line of songs where I really wasn’t feeling the album all that much anymore the first couple of times. After a couple of short songs, I wasn’t quite ready to get back on the horse and endure another doosey of a song
if “Free” had me thinking about the Jersey Boardwalk, this song has me thinking about Prince taking a taxi cab through NYC (well, that image is helped along a little in that the next song lends its name to New York)
One interesting tidbit about it: there’s a snare drum on it that Prince played live. It’s little things like that you don’t notice too often or get to fully appreciate.
The premise starts easy enough: it’s a duet between him and Jill Jones, the cab driver for all intensive purposes. He’s asking her to take him away from the trials of pain & suffering for a while. And it would seem this is Prince using sex to escape his problems.
This is among a couple of songs that are fan-favorites, they get talked about all the time (“Free” is another big fan-favorite). Everyone seems to love discussing this one, really coloring up this scene to make it nearly as X-rated as it sounds.
Strangely enough with my naivety, that wasn’t what turned me off of the song after a while… what did turn me off and therefore it took me a while to really get into the song at all… it runs a little too long for me in places and not enough is changing or happening to keep things interesting.
But it has a great guitar solo, that much I can grant it
10. All the Critics love you in NY
this song was more or less a WTF moment… as in why was this on the record in the first place?
It was said best on the podcast: Prince seeming to believe that NYC is the one city where he feels like he’s free to be himself without being judged
to this day, Prince still plays it in his shows, but keeps it interesting and different for each city
it’s mostly spoken word, rather than him singing… the beat gets a little repetitive after a while and I don’t know… I don’t think it really goes anywhere or serves any great purpose, but I’m sure that Prince had some reason for writing it
11. International Lover
There have been a couple of times where I have literally have laugh out loud moments while listening to Prince.
“Temptation” on Around the World in a Day was one… this was another the first time I heard it.
I’ve always kinda been crazy about his ballads and this is definitely of his more distinct ones. “Do me baby” kinda showed the way for songs like “The Beautiful Ones”… this one set the tone for songs like “Insatiable”… where it starts with the singing and a monologue takes over when the singing ends.
As I said earlier, Prince is no stranger to innuendos and metaphors… “Soft & Wet” was his first ever example of this. But this probably will go down as one of the cheesiest schemes of metaphors Prince ever used…
he used the airplane metaphor in his monologue… but for a number of reasons, between that and everything in between… I don’t know if it was the best ending that the album could have had, I mean it was kind of strange that it was where it was (most of Prince’s ballads occur towards the beginning… mainly the third track, lol)… I always kinda liked this one, no matter how cheesy it was.
Comments have floated around about it being better suited for someone like Morris Day than Prince… I heard a rumor somewhere that this song was originally written for Morris Day and like a couple others, Prince took it back and used it for himself
I may go back and add more comments later after listening through the album… but with that, I think I had just made the tail-end of my deadline 😎 1:30am