Ask anyone who’s into Prince and his music and they’ll have an opinion on this one way or another.
Today I’ve made significant progress regarding “The Word.”
Strange, but I had yet another epiphany while washing my hair… circulating those ions really seems to do the trick with a lot of things. Not quite relating to what will most likely be a massive chapter discussing Purple Rain, but to the title itself.
For whatever reason, I don’t quite remember myself (lol, guess I’ll have to look through this blog to see if I can find the first time I came up with the name) except that it seemed like the perfect song title to name this after.
I had since learned that it referred to something relating to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, therefore we have need of a subheading to explain that it’s a book about Prince and not JW propogranda
It’s going to be saved until towards the end of the book when the 3121 album is being discussed and I’m discussing it among a couple of my “song spotlights”… can’t put it in the beginning or the book wouldn’t get started right away or would probably lose a few people before they even get to the meat of it.
I thought about the lyrics and realized: WOW, this is exactly the way I thought of Prince the first time I saw him.
I’d be mixing a few verses, but I’m going to open it with the following:
What is this new xhaltation?
that I just can’t explain
What are these new inspirations
that I can’t get out of my brain?
I don’t know what you’re afraid of
I don’t know what you’ve heard
Get up, c’mon, let’s do something
Don’t you wanna know The Word?
Wow, this almost sounds like something that should be encrypted in one of the first pages of the book… just the lyrics alone… because they describe so much. Prince better explains Prince than I ever could. Even to this day, I’m never completely set when it comes to figuring out the words to describe him and his music.
The first quatrain of verse one more or less defines who Prince was in my eyes at the beginning of this journey. He was a mystery to me that I couldn’t explain, but was completely bewitched by. There was simply nothing or nobody quite like him. So early on, I just have this insatiable thirst to learn as much as I could about him and his music. I learn things better by writing them down because writing things out helps explains them to me… and that’s more or less how this blog got started. I needed a venue where I could frequently post my thoughts without any restrictions or guidelines. I was more or less writing for myself, but as time went on, I wanted to use my writing to explain to people less willing to peek down the rabbit hole that Prince ought be an artist that’s appreciated rather than… I’m stuck, whatever the opposite of that would be… which brings me to the next quatrain
[I’m thinking that a condensed version of this paragraph will definitely go into my “song spotlight” of “The Word”… at least the first essay titled “what’s in a name?”… followed by why I think the song is so special as well as a possible breakdown of a conceptual music video]
The 2nd quatrain of the 2nd verse, I think, sums up the majority of people. They’ve heard stories about Prince. He’s notorious for one thing or another. He’s very misunderstood, but I think a lot of the time, people give him the cold shoulder or just plain don’t give him a chance because they either think he’s weird or he’s too controversial.
To the latter, I must say: believe me, I was apprehensive about that aspect when I got in… learning that Prince, for a very long time, wrote very provocative material, and was overtly sexual in his presentation and performance. I didn’t grow up in a strict household where that stuff was discouraged. I was just the kind of girl who didn’t want to get into any trouble, wanted to be a model student, so cursing wasn’t my thing. As for the nature of Prince’s material, I wanted to stay clear of that because I was uncomfortable with being around explicit material, both in music and movies. Over time, though, I grew to tolerate and enjoy a lot of it. Plus, in listening to his music, I understood Prince’s skill in innuendo where he can make something raunchy and vulgar sound almost poetic because his lyrics helped disguise the nature of his subject matter.
[again, I’ll need to tighten this up a bit, but I think I’m onto something]
So far with Purple Rain, I have that section organized in four prominent chapters, though two of them are more prominent than the others… which will be the many essays discussing the movie as well as the music on the soundtrack…
Chapter 1 was more or less an introduction to how the movie came about and the introduction of Al Magnoli, the director/co-writer
Chapter 2, whose name I’ll have to shape up a bit, discusses how the key elements came together (the band rivalries, the conflicts within The Revolution). I’m definitely going to go into a little more about how everyone was more or less playing themselves on screen.
But for the time being, the last thing I want to accomplish tonight is one of my side-bar essays… something that will occur frequently within this overall project.
So now I get that part of my entry’s title.
You can’t really discuss Purple Rain without a few things. One of those things is the introduction of Apollonia in place of Vanity.
This is something that is debated even to this day. It’s mostly the men going into this. I believe the majority is that most prefer Vanity to Apollonia. First of all because Vanity was there first and the role was more or less written for her. Prince had been working with Vanity 6 for a couple years because they were a vehicle for some of his material, written under the pseudonym Jamie Starr (who also wrote the songs for The Time). Both The Time and Vanity 6 became associated with Prince because of that as well as the two of them opening for him during the 1999 tour. Often, the night would start with Vanity 6 on stage with The Time playing back-up for them behind the curtain. From there, it would vary whether Prince or The Time would perform first. From that, a rivalry began, but it was a friendly one because Prince and Morris Day were old friends.
Vanity 6 came about when Prince was looking for girls for his girl group and all of them liked the idea of wearing camisoles and lingerie on stage. I can only assume, plus given the nature of the material, that these girls were very secure in their sexualities and flaunting it.
Apparently at the time, Prince was dating Susan Moonsie. I always thought of her as the baby of the group because how she looked and there’s rarely a clip where you see her without her teddy bear.
In doing my research tonight, I came across the video for this song “Drive Me Wild” where Susan sang lead vocals. I can’t quite explain it, but something about the sound of that song was very hypnotic even though the title was repeating a million times.
I can’t completely add my take on this debate unless I know a bit more about Vanity than just the song “Nasty Girl.”
Geesh, it seems like at one time or another, Prince dated all the girls in the group. I heard that he and Brenda were together for a while too. He reportedly wrote “17 days” (the b-side to “When Doves Cry”) about her and she sang back-up vocals on it.
But Vanity was definitely the one Prince was most interested in. Why else make her the center of the group, naming it after her (as for the “6,” it doesn’t take a lot to figure out where the number came from, considering how sex-driven the material for this protege was)?
Vanity was named as such, I believe, because Prince thought of her as his reflection in another person.
I saw maybe three videos/performances on YouTube from these girls.
“Drive me wild” was one.
“He’s so dull” was another. (I believe Dez co-wrote this one, but everything about the video was definitely part of the reason why people think of the 80’s as cheesy).
then two performances of “Nasty Girl”… more on that later
there was also another video I came across, a solo music video by Vanity called “Under the influence”
I saw part of it once on VH1 Soul during the 2008 Labor Day Prince-related marathon. I’d mentioned this a couple times. It was the first time I saw The Time doing their own material (and “Ice Cream Castles” went down as one of “point of no return” moments, lol), Wendy & Lisa doing those three music videos (where I’d about become a fan for life of those girls)… Apollonia had one solo video that had me taking a stepback. She didn’t look anything like she did in Purple Rain, almost as if she’d recently gotten work down (I don’t know when, but based on the latest pictures I’d seen of her, she’d definitely had work done… that really didn’t need to be done)
“Under the Influence,” now that I think about it, looking back… I might have caught the last part of it and found myself caught off guard. Maybe because she was overtly sexual, moreso than before… although I don’t remember much of what I’d seen of Vanity 6 to that point…
something about it stuck out and rubbed me the wrong way, I remember
I didn’t nearly feel that way now. There was a lot going on in that video. Two distinct scenes they kept going back and forth behind: a black & white scene where she’s doing the Tango with a man, and the other where she looks like she’s a French maid who fances lace & leather.
Just maybe… I’m thinking I heard this, but I’m not positive… it was discussed on the messageboards that that video might have shot around the time she started doing cocaine, and supposing she was intoxicated while shooting the video, the song’s title could be very poignent and take on a whole new meaning.
People can have their give & take discussion about whether or not Prince had done drugs. I got berated for making a comment about him being clean, almost like I was being accused of being STUPID and naive about it. as if it was something glaringly obvious
It’s certainly not appreciated when my dad’s the one who said it. Even if I was only 5-6 months in at the time, I knew a great deal more about Prince than he did, so I would think I’d know a bit more about that, despite the fact I don’t know Prince at all.
Rumor is that in the Prince camp, there was a strict anti-drug policy. Prince simply didn’t tolerate it (that goes into how I interpret one scene in Purple Rain where he’s telling Apollonia not to drink out of that flask [by the way how did she get that back from Morris… or is it possible she never gave it back to him… then where was she keeping it… oh, right, lol]… he doesn’t like people drinking so he didn’t want her drinking… another could interpret it as him not wanting her to drink because her father drinks and that’s why his parents are always fighting)
Now, given THAT… even given that, I always will consider the possibility without prejuidice one way or the other, that Prince may have done ecstasy in December of 1987 and a bad trip resulted in a halluincation that scared him enough to want to stop the Black Album from being released. It could be a cultural thing that everyone was doing at the time. Just saying there’s a possible explanation to why he did, if he in fact did.
And to be honest, given the place I’m in now, I don’t really feel the need to judge people, particularly those in the music business, too harshly if they did do drugs on the job.
Jim Morrison is heralded as one of the greatest musical poets of all time and he did a lot of drugs. The Beatles were tripping on acid while writing their Sgt. Pepper album. Some references were more obvious than others, but it didn’t completely affect their material.
Then again, you string a number of words and adjectives that don’t make sense or sound remotely like anything that exists in reality: my dad would blame it on drugs…
sometimes I think he has little room for imagination and thinking that there’s a possibility anything extraordinary can be dreamt up without some drug-related “aid”
GEESH… I gotta stop talking about myself for a bit…
the point I was ultimately going to make:
Prince wrote a verse in “Pop Life” relating to snorting cocaine, which is said to be reference to Vanity and Morris Day, who were heavily into that stuff around that time. And if one of the YouTube comments proves true, it seems that Prince had reached out to Vanity when she was struggling with her addiction.
How very strange how a couple of people who worked with Prince left because his material was too provocative for them to handle… leading a couple of them to become born-again Christians.
At least I believe (I’ll have to check on that) Dez Dickerson became a born-again Christian at one point (which makes me wonder… hmm, I wonder how they got along during the Revolution reunion, if they had a lot to talk about/discuss)… and Prince would later go on to clean up his act and adhered himself to the Jehovah’s Witnesses
I don’t know the exact story, although I believe her addiction might have been a key factor, but somewhere in the 90’s, Vanity became a born-again Christian and was calling herself Denise Matthews again
During that time, though… phew…
The first YouTube video I watched after searching for Vanity 6 was a live performance of “Nasty Girl” during the 1999 tour… so that has me exciting, watching history as it happens… WOW… she tore that stage apart and actually made me wish I was that comfortable with flaunting my sexuality that same way.
Then again, she had the right body TO flaunt and strut her stuff.
I think I had meant to watch the videos as a means to compare vocal talent, if there was any to be had between the two girls.
I’ll have to go with Jerome on this one: “fine as she is, she doesn’t have to know how to sing”
I think the idea being the girls’ group was to provide eye candy for a male audience moreso than singing prowess.
But from what I can decipher, Vanity had the better singing voice whereas as Apollonia, I was thinking of dismissing as “tone deaf” but that would be a bit harsh. She’s not quite tone-deaf, but she doesn’t have the world’s strongest singing voice. And I don’t mean in that Whitney Houston/Mariah Carey way… I mean just the mere ability of staying in key seemed a challenge for her in the few songs that I’ve heard
[I don’t know how much of this I’ll be able to use in my side-bar, but I might as well get all this out while the thoughts are coming]
Fact of the matter is that the female lead, Prince’s on-screen love interest, was originally meant to be Vanity. For whatever reason (she was sick of Prince, she broke up with him, found out he was cheating on her with someone else, etc.), she walked off and they had to find someone to replace her.
Apollonia came into the picture as the lone standout of the nationwide casting call. She stood out, strangely, because she was the only girl not wearing lingerie. Al Magnoli would later go on to say that she was wearing “the baggest sweats” but her sweet personality came through and won them over.
It’s no secret that the movie would have taken on a completely different tone if Vanity had stayed. My belief is that the movie could have garnered that X-rating because Vanity’s degree of sexuality was off the charts. She exuded it as if she was the embodiment of just that, sexuality.
Definitely, she would have commanded a greater air of respect because she lived the part. She also fit in better with Brenda and Susan because they were all together in this. The overall look and chemistry just came together on its own. Given what Prince’s girlfriend goes through in the movie, Vanity seemed to me like the type that wouldn’t take crap from nobody. Call it a female bravado, even though that’s a bit of an oxymoron.
Putting Apollonia on set changed things dramatically. It wasn’t necessarily as close as an 11th hour casting (reportedly what happened in “Under the Cherry Moon” where Terrence Stamp walked away at the last minute and Steven Berkoff as a quick replacement, but he immediately fell right into place as if he was originally cast in the role), but in places, the movie looks like her character was written at the last minute. There’s a different camerarderie between her, Brenda and Susan. The three of them looked like they became best friends really fast and that’s more or less what they were to each other. Whereas with Vanity, the three of them really had a commanding presence and just fit together a lot better with that whole Vanity 6 persona.
[this is me thinking aloud, no way am I gonna add my bicuroisty as thing of debate in this book, lol]
It’s an interesting, somewhat daunting task to consider going about this another way.
Given my recent rants relating to my bicuriosity, where I’d annonoted a few women as ones I am so crazy about that that might just me with a girl crush…
now, supposing I were to consider these girls from that point of view…
Vanity just screams… as I’d said a million times already… sexuality. Seeing that performance from the tour, my jaw was almost dropping because her stage presence was that sharp. Certainly if I were a guy, she’d easily be able to seduce me to the mattress.
But considering my options, I’m more liable to apt for Apollonia for more reasons.
Vanity is so much in the core of that element that I think she would have been a little too intense for my tastes. And heck, “Darling Nikki” sounds like its better suited to describe her than Apollonia (although I doubt the song would make Vanity cry and run out of the nightclub the same way).
Apollonia’s personality came through the first time I saw her, but I also thought she was incredibly gorgeous… not to mention exotic looking. If we’re talking about going the whole nine yards, Vanity would be the girl for that.
But with Apollonia, I always thought she was the better looking one. Even now after doing a bit of research on YouTube, I’m still sticking to my guns. Based on what I said earlier with her relationship with Brenda and Susan on screen, she’d be the girl I’d love to be best friends with and hang out with.
In the movie, Apollonia plays the female lead, soon to be the object of both The Kid and Morris’s affections. She came to Minneapolis because she heard the club was where you wanted to get into if you wanted to make it. The Kid wants to be with her. Morris Day wants to recruit her for his girls’ group, which is ultimately a ploy to kick The Revolution out of the billing of First Avenue.
This is a girl who’s just trying to make it. She’s in a new town where she doesn’t know anybody. There’s a lot of naviety and innocence in that role that needs to be acknowledged for it to be believable. There’s simply no way you can look at Vanity and believe she could affectly pull it off the same way… being a woman who already looks like a star and then some.
I don’t know quite what it is, but there was something about Apollonia that makes you want to root for her. You want her to get her due. So in a way, it almost doesn’t make sense that she would want to end up with The Kid at the end of the movie. Just earlier, he was telling her that he didn’t want her to be famous because he didn’t want other people oogling at his girl… for the same reasons why his dad didn’t want his mom to work anymore.
It’s hard to really determine which guy is worse for the wear. The Kid has those intentions in mind. As for Morris Day, he was using her to become part of his girls’ group, which would help him become the top star at First Avenue after getting rid of his main competition. After that, it looks like he only wants an easy score (something that I’m not sure even alcohol can excuse in my eyes).
And sure, Apollonia doesn’t look nearly as good in lingerie as Vanity did, but so what?
Aside from that, the only negative thing that I could say is that she doesn’t have the strongest singing voice. Reportedly (don’t know how true this is, read it on Wikipedia), Prince let Apollonia 6 crumble because he discovered later on that Apollonia really couldn’t sing… but it could have also been that he lost interest in the project and was moving on to other things (most likely, The Family and Sheila E.)
It would also seem that… based on a few links I see on YouTube here, there was a version of “Sex Shooter” recorded with Vanity singing lead vocals before she left. Reportedly a funkier version.
BUT… I think I’m going to stay well clear of that and just fight off the curiosity.
I quite like the Apollonia 6 version and would rather not confuse myself in hearing another version, only to wish that I could hear a certain element in their version.
Not to mention I have it on my iPod so I can listen to it whenever I please.
Something somewhere in this entry, I think I can accumulate and put together for my “Vanity vs. Apollonia” side-bar.