As I mentioned recently, I tend to listen to podcasts more than music when exercising these days, but in light of the passing of Prince, it has been 48 hours of Prince songs (I had to dig out the old iPod to do this). Prince on YouTube, Prince on AppleTV, and Prince while walking on the treadmill.
When I first heard that he had died, I stated that Prince’s death was going to be tougher on me than Bowie. Not just because Prince was a bigger artist and I liked his music more–both are true, but they are not the only reasons. I did not really get into music until 1983. Sure, I would listen to the occasional family 8-track tape before that, but popular music (and Saturday mornings listening to American Top 40) did not start until then. While I know that Prince had three albums and several hits before that year, it felt like he truly arrived with the late 1982 release of 1999. I do now enjoy much of his earlier work, particularly “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?” (although as a piece of advice, if you are trying to rev your wife’s engine, saying that your sex life is like a Prince song, with you being “Soft” and her being “Wet” does not work that well), but 1983 is when I started to love Prince.
- “Little Red Corvette”
I think more people at the time loved “Little Red Corvette, but the jarring combination of uptown dance beat and “the world is ending”lyrics was so damn appealing. At one point I was sure that Prince sang all the parts on the song, including the female-sounding parts. Going by the expertise one finds at Wikipedia, I have now learned that Wendy and Lisa from the Revolution handled the ladies singing. When “1999” came out in 1982, the year seemed so far off, like 100 years in the future. It was less than two decades away, and we did not get our flying cars and monkey butlers. (Although, when Prince sang about people who “…run from their destruction…” do you think he was predicting the Y2K problem?)
- “Let’s Go Crazy”
- “When Doves Cry”
- “Purple Rain”
I did not see Purple Rain in theaters when it came out in 1984–it was an ‘R’ rated film and I was a nerdy-follow the rules 15-year-old (as opposed to now, where I am a nerdy-follow the rules 47-year-old). It wasn’t until three years later that I saw the movie on VHS. The film was amazing, but my favorite part of the film was Morris Day and the Time. I purchased their album Ice Cream Castle based on their appearance in the film. I enjoyed their record, but the soundtrack was inescapable that summer and for the rest of the year. While these three were the big hits from the album, I remember having that soundtrack on cassette and listening to it beginning to end almost nightly. That’s an album I can brag about listening to all the time, along with Born in the U.S.A, Synchronicity, Thriller, and Strong Persuader. It’s a little harder for me to brag about how often I listened to Chicago’s 17.
- “Raspberry Beret”
- “Pop Life”
Like everyone else, I was dying to see how Prince would follow up the success of Purple Rain. I remember initially having mixed feelings about the song “Raspberry Beret,” but the more I heard it on the radio, the more it grew on me. Both of these songs from Around the World in a Day seem more airy than Prince’s earlier work, but his ability to shift gears really made him stand out from his musical contemporaries.
Talk about standing out–I needed no time for this to grow on me; I loved it from the first listen, and I ran out and purchased it on 45. I also enjoyed the cover of the song done by Tom Jones and the Art of Noise. (If you want an underrated greatest hits album, go get the best of the Art of Noise).
- “Sign o’ the Times”
- “U Got the Look”
Once again, Prince shifted gears, giving us a powerful song about the issues of the day. Thanks to “Sign o’ the Times” I learned what horse was. I also learned that the sweet, innocent Sheena Easton of “9 to 5 (Morning Train)”, “For Your Eyes Only”, and “We’ve Got Tonight” was gone, thanks to the raw sexiness of “U Got the Look.” Frankly, I should have figured that out sooner, particularly when she oh so subtly asked people to spend the night inside her “Sugar Walls.” Like horse, it took me time to understand what exactly she was getting at.
- “Alphabet Street”
This is the single I have been listening to the most since I heard of his passing. I think it’s the “slipped through the crack” song. You know when an artist has a deep catalog of songs, some do not get the attention that others do, and you often re-discover the song later. Sometime you think “cool, so-and-so has a new album out” only to discover that it’s a song years or even decades old.
- “Thieves in the Temple”
One song I do not have in my Prince selection is “Batdance.” When Batman came out in 1989, I made the choice to purchase the instrumental soundtrack by Danny Elfman rather than the Prince release. This was clearly a mistake, as thanks to ownership complications, none of Prince’s songs from it can appear on his greatest hits/B-sides CDs that I listen to. I mentioned on Facebook recently that no artist could have taken “Batdance” to #1 other than Prince and I still believe that. I think it would have seemed like a joke in the hands of any other, but if you watch Batman, it’s clear the film was influenced by Prince and not the other way around. Prince’s success with the film is nice to see, as it was clear with Under the Cherry Moon and Graffiti Bridge that Prince was not going to replicate the success of Purple Rain, at least not on screen. The album by the same name worked, producing “Thieves in the Temple,” which is not a favorite of mine, but still a good song.
- “Gett Off”
- “Diamonds and Pearls”
I am not sure how I feel about the transition from the Revolution to the New Power Generation. I guess the important thing was the constant Prince, but I loved the the Revolution as well. These three songs from Diamonds and Pearls did make the transition a smooth one. I was always a big fan of “Diamonds and Pearls” even if it has spelling within the song.
- “Pink Cashmere”
- “Nothing Compares 2 U”
- “I Feel for You”
I always had meant to buy the Prince box set, but I was a broke new worker fresh out of graduate school, so I settled for the two discs of “The Hits/The B-Sides”, which not only had all his big hits (sans “Batdance”), but also his versions of hit songs that he wrote for Sinead O’Connor (“Nothing Compares 2 U”) and Chaka Khan (“I Feel for You”). Of course I also knew about “Manic Monday” being written for the Bangles, but it was only recently that I learned he also wrote “Stand Back” for Stevie Nicks.
- “Cinnamon Girl”
- “The Marrying Kind”
- “Life ‘O’ the Party”
Sadly, I lost interest in new music from about the mid 1990s until 2004 or so. However, thanks to my time at WWE, I received a copy of Musicology. I remember when I first got home thinking how odd it was that Prince would cover a Neil Young song. But his version of Cinnamon Girl was all his own, and the album was an incredible return to the world of Prince. I didn’t partake of much of his music after that, but now that he’s passed away, I feel it is time to do just that, giving me an opportunity to keep his musical spirit in my life.