Always cry for love, never cry for pain

It’s kind of like losing a friend. In some ways it’s kind of like losing your best friend. It’s amazing to think such a distant event can have such an impact. Not just on you but on thousands, maybe even millions. Automatically your mind switches to selfish thoughts, “I won’t be able to see that show ever again.” No more waiting in line. No more anxiety trying to get tickets. No more anticipation waiting for the next record to drop.

I’m mourning the music. But I’m mourning the man as well. Not as a friend (but kind of, yeah) and not as an acquaintance (never had the pleasure) but as a human being that gave me so much joy.

Joy and pleasure and catharsis through years and years of listening and watching and learning. Learning what it meant to love, to suffer, to party. What it meant to live. It might sound grandiose but I’ve had this guy in my ear for most of my life giving me advice (not always good advice, but still), urging me to have fun and live life. I’ve spent so much of my waking life listening to his music. Over and over again. New songs then back to the old ones and back again. Each one is like a family member. A well remembered face that feels like home every time you hear it. Each one has its own life. Its own memory. When you first heard it. What (or who) you did while listening to it. And it’s gone. Or at least that’s what it feels like.

There’s always going to be a void now. In our hearts and in our minds. Those of us that have been on the boat for years. Have traveled to different cities and countries to see him perform. Invested so much time and money and love. How do you replace something like that? Why would you even want to?

I’m never ever going to fall in love with a band or artist like that ever again. Even if someone was able to match his output and quality I’m too old to start over. All we’ll be able to do is put on some old records and reminisce about what we use to have. “Remember that show man? That was crazy!”

The music that made me who I am is gone. And so is the man who made it. The songs are still there. And the videos. And the movies. But knowing we’ll never see him again means none of that music will ever be the same. Every ballad will make you sad in a way that wasn’t possible before and every funky bass line will be a reminder that at some point the party will be over.

And at the centre of it all is just another man. A human being. Just like you. Just like me. There may be a perceived crassness at the masses mourning a public figure. Finger pointing and sneering at those who feel a loss even though they have no relation to the deceased. An attitude I’ve held myself at times to my shame. But you should never feel ashamed of the things that make you feel anything. Whether it’s sadness or joy.

But at the end of the day it’s not his death that’s really important. Just another among billions really. It’s his life. That’s what’s important to remember (at least to me). He did more in 57 years than most of us would be able to do in 507. Sure, all we have now are memories but when it comes down to it that’s all our lives are. A series of memories. And he certainly gave us some great ones. Maybe that’s what I’m saddest about. No new memories. Not with him anyway. But we’ll always be able to keep the ones that we have and continue to cherish them and protect them and remember what life can be if we chose to live. And therein lies the lesson.

At the end of the day the sadness is not for him really, it’s for me. What I’ll be missing. How it makes me feel. My life, such as it is, won’t change much in the day to day but behind all that I think that he’ll always be there in some subtle way. The memories and the music. Guiding, advising, laughing. Sharing the good times and the bad.

I’m thankful that I was able to experience what I have. On record and in concert. I’ll be forever grateful. And forever in debt.

 

“I Wanna Be Your Lover” – Prince (1979)

The lead single and opening track from Prince’s eponymous second album. Released on 19 October 1979 by Warner Brothers the album went platinum in February the following year. It’s the album that put young Prince on the map as a pop artist. The album with his first successful single, “I Wanna Be Your Lover”. And it’s the one with our hero naked on the front cover and riding Pegasus on the back cover (in the nude of course). If you’ve ever seen any ancient Greek or Roman portraiture you’ll probably notice some similarities with the shot on the front cover of this record. Eyes looking straight at the camera, shoulders angled slightly, shot cropped just above the nipples (or just under the shoulders) and sometimes naked (sometimes not). No smile. In Greek art warriors or heroes (or gods) were often depicted naked and almost always they were young, buff men and teenagers. The naked male form was the pinnacle of perfection and athleticism (Greeks tended to compete in the nude) and nudity has figured prominently in Western art ever since. Prince has taken these ideas and inserted himself as the new ideal. The album “concept” is credited to Prince so clearly this is his vision and how he wants to be seen; a new hero for a new age riding in on his winged steed.

 

Pegasus was the son of the god Poseidon and the gorgon Medusa and he is one of the best known figures from ancient Greek mythology. It’s said that he and his brother (Chrysaor) were born when Perseus cut off Medusa’s head and they sprang from the wound. Pegasus was eventually tamed and bridled by the hero Bellerophon. Some of you may be yelling at your screen now saying “It was Perseus that tamed the winged steed you fool!” But if you’ve bothered to check Wikipedia you’d know that this idea was a later development where Bellerophon was replaced with the more popular Perseus. An idea that became the standard through the Middle Ages and Renaissance but originally it was Bellerophon. So it’s quite possible that Prince thought he was imitating Perseus on this cover and the Prince/Perseus/Pegasus alliteration kind of hints at the idea. Regardless we are left with the concept of our hero riding into adventure on the back of his flying horse. Bellerophon was the son of the king of Corinth (a prince!) who used Pegasus (son of a god) to help him kill the Chimera (a cross between a goat, a lion and a serpent) and partake in lots of other adventures, including fighting the Amazons.

 

Prince/Bellerophon is the hero in our tale and this son of a king is being carried by the son of a god into battle. Knowing what we know about Prince’s beliefs and philosophy I think we can pretty easily throw a Christian lens over this interpretation and assume that Pegasus represents Jesus (pure and white). Now our Prince isn’t exactly the warrior type. His battles are battles of the heart. If you look at the track list on this album then it’s pretty clear that this is his focus. It’s all about love, romance and heart break. The Chimera that he is fighting is the monster that guards the way to his lover’s heart through all the tracks on this album (“Bambi” even echoes Bellerophon’s battle against the Amazon warrior women). These songs represent the trials and tribulations of our hero and show us his true nature. This is why the album is self-titled; why he’s naked on the cover. There’s no filter on his emotions. The album fluctuates between love and heartache and the opening track is the perfect representation of that dichotomy.

 

“I Wanna Be Your Lover” was recorded between April and June of 1979 at Alpha Studios in Burbank. Another one of Prince’s solo recordings that reached number 11 on the Billboard charts and got Prince a slot on the American Bandstand TV show. When I listen to the song it sounds like it’s trying to be a disco-funk song. Which makes sense given the artist and the era. Disco music is synonymous with the 1970s and Prince is synonymous with funk so the song represents two of the strongest musical influences floating around Prince’s head at the time. Wikipedia labels it as “post-disco” which was characterised by drum machines and synthesisers (if you listen closely to this song you may be able to hear something like that). It’s interesting too that on the album version more than half the song is instrumental with the lyrics dropping out after about two and a half minutes. A strange way to open an album but if you think about it as the start of our hero’s journey with his winged pony then this song would be the opening sequence of the movie version of the story. The lyrics help us set up the story in a kind of pre-credit sequence where the action has already begun and then the instrumental part is where the credits roll and we see the opening montage that shows us how our hero got where he is.

 

I ain’t got no money
I ain’t like those other guys you hang around
And it’s kinda funny
But they always seem to let you down
And I get discouraged
’cause I never see you anymore
And I need your love, babe yeah
That’s all I’m living for, yeah


I didn’t wanna pressure you, baby
But all I ever wanted to do

 
 
After spending almost the entire budget that the record company had given him for his first three albums on For You, the opening line is very probably the literal truth. Even a musician with a record deal can often find themselves below the poverty line (especially if you like to party). Nowadays Prince has approximately zero money problems so there’s no way he could honestly write a song like this anymore (although he does still love to sing it) but funnily enough he’s still writing songs about heartache and wanting someone’s love. And he still isn’t like any other guy that you would likely be hanging around with. But back in 1979 Prince was a poor musician with only one fairly unsuccessful album under his belt and the guys that his lover is hanging around would seem to be rich Los Angelinos (Californian princes if you will) that no doubt stand in contrast to the upstanding citizenry of his home. Prince recorded this song (and the album) in Los Angeles which is a kingdom far from his own homeland of Minneapolis. Similarly, the story of Bellerophon begins with his exile from his homeland (a prince without a country) and arrival in another kingdom with nothing to his name. In this verse he’s talking about his longing for someone that he claims to love. It was a dark time for our young hero. Even though the object of his affection appears to have moved on with other guys it’s clear that Prince believes himself to be the morally superior choice in a lover because the others “always seem to let you down.” Which he finds discouraging; although when he delivers the line he drags out the word “discouraged” and puts a bit of a pause in there so it sounds like “I get dis,” implying that he understands why his love is doing what she does (I’m assuming it’s a she) but it still bums him out. He loves her, he misses her, she’s his everything and he didn’t really want to pressure her (but now he does). But what does she want? It doesn’t sound like he’s even considered that. All of these lyrics are about his wants and needs; which is fair enough to a degree because it is his song. But it doesn’t really consider the desires of the object of his affection; which is kind of what you’d expect from a twenty year old songwriter.
 
 

I wanna be your lover
I wanna be the only one that makes you come running
I wanna be your lover
I wanna turn you on, turn you out, all night long, make you shout
Oh, lover! Yeah
I wanna be the only one you come for

 
With the chorus we get another strategic pause – “I wanna be the only one that makes you come.” It’s clear at this point that when Prince is talking about loving, he’s actually talking about fucking. Based on the first verse you may have thought this song was about a young man’s unrequited love but once you hear the chorus you understand that it’s not really as clean cut and PG rated as all that. “Lover,” “love” and “loving” are all synonymous with sex. So in the first verse when he says “I need your love” he’s basically saying “I want your sex” or “I need to fuck you.” The pressure that he’s talking about now becomes something stronger as though he is forcing himself upon her with his desires even though she’s hanging out with a bunch of other guys. Thematically it’s almost the precursor to “When You Were Mine” with the same type of boy+girl+friends relationships going on. You could even go as far to suggest that the initial focus on lack of money hints at this person that Prince is singing about being a paid professional of some kind that he’s fallen for and that the guys she is hanging with aren’t like Prince because he can’t afford to pay her anymore now that his funds are running low. I did suggest the same thing when I wrote about “When You Were Mine” so I won’t go over old territory here. No sense in beating a dead hooker. Whoever she is (assuming it’s a she) it seems that he wants to help her orgasm; which is a fairly progressive stance to take in that he is focussed on ensuring that his partner is enjoying the experience and putting her needs first. It’s a step away from the self-centredness of the first verse and is almost the leitmotif of Prince’s entire career; reappearing on every album. Making sure your lady comes is what it’s all about. But he has to be the only one who does it because it’s all about the monogamy (another feature of Prince’s career). It’s funny how at the end of the chorus he blatantly talks about her coming but earlier he was being all coy and clever by inserting the pause between “come” and “running.” He’s gotten so horny that he can’t hold back anymore and comes right out and says what he means.

 

I wanna be your brother
I wanna be your mother and your sister, too
There ain’t no other
That can do the things that I’ll do to you
And I get discouraged
’cause you treat me just like a child
And they say I’m so shy, yeah
But with you I just go wild!

I didn’t wanna pressure you, baby. No!
But all I ever wanted to do

 

Is he talking incest here? Or is it his way of saying “I want to be your everything?” It seems like he wants to be the only one in his lover’s life. No “friends,” no “family,” just him. He wants to become her family (just not her father it seems). But she doesn’t even take him seriously. His puppy love is unrequited. He keeps bragging about being a great lover but he’s really just a shy kid that she has no interest in (until he can afford to pay perhaps?). This entire song is all braggadocio and testosterone. If this was a real conversation then the woman that he is talking to would very likely call him a disgusting creep and walk away. But as a pop song it works because you’re hearing it through the filter of the record player or radio so you don’t really think about how creepy it is because the guy saying these things isn’t right in front of you at the bar trying to get into your pants.
 


I wanna be your lover
I wanna be the only one that makes you come running
I wanna be your lover
I wanna turn you on, turn you out, all night long make you shout
Oh, lover! Yeah
I wanna be the only one you come for, yeah

 

One last chorus and then the song switches gears and goes all instrumental for about three and a half minutes. Even though the lyrics give us no indication that he was successful perhaps our hero is now too busy sexing his lady to keep singing for us or all the sex talk has made him too horny to continue and he went off to make himself “come running.” Either way the outro seems to have the kind of rhythm that would be conducive to some sexual activity (try it at home kids!) but essentially it is filler to add some more running time to the album. I imagine that Prince would have gotten some pressure from the powers that be or perhaps it was even self-imposed to make this album run longer than For You which only goes for about thirty three minutes.

 

So the first chapter in our hero’s journey comes to a close. Prince/Bellerophon and his mighty steed Jesus/Pegasus have had their first adventure into the dark and twisted realm of sex and romance. Prince’s first battle here is to try and convince the object of his desire that he is a worthy suitor; someone with the right moral standing, physical attributes and abilities to be her lover. His battleground is the bedroom and his competition is a bunch of rich guys that have seduced his lady. Has he succeeded? Has he failed? That remains to be seen. I guess we’ll need to listen to the rest of the album to find out if he gets the girl.

 

Bellerophon does eventually get the girl. He marries her and they have children. But Bellerophon’s ego got out of control and he thought that he was one of the gods so he tried to fly up to Mount Olympus on the back of Pegasus. Zeus made sure that he didn’t reach his goal and he ended up falling off the horse. After he landed he ended up living out the rest of his days a blind and cripple hermit. Will our hero Prince share the same fate? He certainly has had his fair share of ego over the years and perhaps his conversion to Jehovah’s Witness is the equivalent to Zeus knocking Bellerophon off his horse; which has crippled his song writing in the sense that he has limited his artistic vision by no longer using the bad words and naughty ideas of his youth. I don’t imagine that Prince has designed his entire career to mimic the Bellerophon story; however there does appear to be a clear ancient Greek influence on the artwork of this album. Which implies that at the time at least Prince saw himself as hero of sorts and worthy of his lover’s affections.

 

 

Running time: 5:50

 

References:
Prince (released 1979)
For You (released 1978)
The Peach & Black Podcast
Wikipedia
Prince Vault
AZ Lyrics
Prince Lyrics (http://www.princelyrics.co.uk/search/)
Prince In Print

“Controversy” – Controversy (1981)

This is track one, side one from Prince’s fourth album. The title track from Controversy. Released on 14 October 1981 by Warner Brothers, the album was certified platinum on 11 January 1985. Just over three years to sell a million records, not too shabby I think you’d agree. But just as a point of comparison Prince was certified platinum on 21 February 1980, four months after it was released.[1] That’s a pretty slow burn for Controversy. Plus it got to pick up some of the heat from 1999 and Purple Rain. In terms of sales and pop culture impact you’d have to say that Prince (the record) was the bigger of the two albums at the time of its release and that Prince (the person) probably alienated a lot of the fans who bought his sophomore release when he put out Dirty Mind and started singing about fucking his sister (I’m guessing). Continuing the comparison, “Controversy” was the lead single from the album and peaked at number 70 on the US chart. “I Wanna Be Your Lover” on the other hand reached number 11. Being someone who came to Prince fandom in the 90s I’d always imagined that Controversy was the bigger record. I guess it’s because I listened to “Do Me, Baby” and “Controversy” a lot more than I listened to any other pre-1999 songs. It makes one wonder what would have become of Prince’s career if 1999 and Purple Rain had come straight after the success of Prince and we’d skipped over the provocation of Controversy and Dirty Mind. But then that wouldn’t be Prince would it. As the man himself said about Dirty Mind “I wasn’t being deliberately provocative. I was being deliberately me.”[2] And the same can be said of Controversy. It’s Prince being Prince and doing what he wants to do. Like fucking his sister.

 

“Controversy” was voted the 14th greatest Prince song of all time on the Peach & Black podcast’s fan vote. Obviously a huge fan favourite which may be the reason it skewed my perception of it and the album in pop history. This has become one of those anthems that Prince will play over and over again when he goes out on tour. And it will bring down the house every time. A minimalist funk jam that can be played for hours on end (and sometimes is), it was recorded during the summer of 1981 in Prince’s home studio and was finished two months before the record was released. The song features Prince on everything except for some backing vocals provided by Lisa. But why write this song and album at this point of his career. Taking the music a step away from the dance, sex and romance of the earlier albums and throwing in some politics and philosophy. This song epitomises that message and is clearly a statement. But a statement about what exactly? Let’s try and break it down. “Controversy – a prolonged public dispute, debate, or contention; disputation concerning a matter of opinion.”[3] Who was Prince debating in 1981? What was the source of the controversy? A thin, muscular, androgynous looking singer bouncing around on stage in heels and speedos? Singing about giving head and fucking his sister? In 1981? I wonder what could have possibly triggered any sort of debate. Good thing Tipper Gore wasn’t around at the time or we’d all be fucked. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it was Prince himself that was the source of the controversy (hard to believe, I know). I realise that the media were the stokers of that flame but ‘twas the Prince what sparked the fire. Then, as now, the media tends to target their shit at the lowest common denominator. In western countries like America that’s usually middle age, middle class, boring people. And that middling persona is usually one that reporters will adopt when interviewing or talking about anyone deemed “controversial.” Pretending to be shocked at the things famous people do as though this was the first time they’d ever heard of anyone acting so strangely. Almost as if the qualifying factor for becoming a Hollywood reporter was never learning anything about the world or the people in it. This song is a reaction to that attitude and it was Prince’s response to all the hype that had been surrounding him up to that point. A hype that he (and his people) definitely had a hand in. What better response than to write a song and album called “Controversy.”

 

The song opens with that pounding drum and bass intro with the keyboard popping to let you know there’s more on its way. Very stripped down and basic. Then the song kicks in proper like and takes off with the funk. Not an overly complicated mix of sounds but orchestrated to make you want to move. There’s a percussive sound that runs throughout the song that sounds like someone grunting to my ears (“oof!”). I imagine it could be part of the drum recording but it sounds human to me (a sample perhaps). There’s also a sound in there that sounds like a door slamming shut (maybe another sample) that comes in and out of the track. Every time I listen to this song on headphones I think Mrs Thrawn is slamming doors around the house to get my attention.

 

I just can’t believe
All the things people say, controversy
Am I black or white?
Am I straight or gay? Controversy

 

I’m not too sure why Prince would have trouble believing the things that people were saying. Given that he actively set out to be “controversial” and give people things to talk about. When you release an album called Dirty Mind that has songs on it about giving head and fucking your sister it’s a little ridiculous to then pretend that you’re shocked at people’s reactions to you. Or that you’re not being provocative. No matter how much you claim “I was being me.” But in this verse he’s specifically talking about the comments on his ethnicity and sexuality in the media. Now when you think about the androgynous way he looked at the time and the type of behaviour he was exhibiting (especially on stage) then it’s kind of understandable that people would have different opinions. And the press being what it is will continue to make those arguments even if you’ve answered the questions, because they need to sell advertising. But the real point here is that being black or white, or straight or gay is actually not controversial and not a thing that requires any heated discussion. This is the whole point of this verse (and the song itself). Prince is saying “you people in the press claim that these things that you write about are important or controversial or lascivious, but I’m here to tell you that they’re not. I’m the new normal and y’all better recognise where it’s at.”

 

Do I believe in God?
Do I believe in me?
Controversy, controversy
Controversy

 

More things which aren’t controversial. He’s a believer. In himself and his ability, and in his god. Was it controversial to be a christian in America in 1981? Certainly not. Now christians may have claimed (and still do) that they are persecuted and mistreated in one of the most christian countries in the world but I don’t imagine that there was any sort of issue for a performer in that era to be proclaiming their belief in the christian god. However there probably weren’t many performers who were as “dirty” or “nasty” as Prince was perceived to be, who proclaimed such faith and so loudly. Faith and unwavering self-belief. The kind of ego you have to project to be a pop music star in any era requires a level of self-belief that the average Joe just isn’t able to muster. I suppose being a supremely talented musician is an advantage on that score. But undeniably self-belief has always been part of Prince’s artistic persona. “I just decided that I was gonna do my own thing.”[4]

 

I can’t understand
Human curiosity, controversy
Was it good for you?
Was I what you wanted me to be?
Controversy

 

Here he is claiming he doesn’t understand things again. But the curiosity he’s talking about is the barrage of questions and bullshit he’s getting from the press. When he says “was it good for you,” he’s basically saying “you fucked me – how was it?” Did I jump through all your hoops? Did I fit into the box that you wanted to put me in? Did I help you sell some more units? Did I tickle your balls just right? At least I assume that’s what he’s talking about. He may have issues with human curiosity in general. Which if true means that he lacks an understanding of one of the fundamental aspects of being human. Which means he’s probably talking about the other thing. Or he’s a psychopath.

 

Do you get high?
Does your daddy cry?
Controversy, controversy
Controversy

 

If you’ve ever seen the footage of that James Brown show with Michael Jackson you will know the answer to that first question – high as giraffe pussy.[5]

 

Do I believe in God?
Do I believe in me?
Some people wanna die
So they can be free

 

Depending on who you ask “some people wanna die so they can be free” can have a couple of meanings. Some people want to kill themselves so they can be released from the pain and suffering of life and embrace the quiet nothingness of oblivion. Other people want to die (but not of their own hand) so they can take their place in whatever heaven they imagine. Then there are those people who don’t really want to die at all but they’re not important right now. If you’re not sure which group Prince falls into, just meditate on the fact that the Lord’s Prayer is a significant part of this track and you will find your answer. I find it interesting that at the same time that Prince is singing about wanting to go to heaven the double meaning of his lyrics indicate an almost opposite philosophical viewpoint. People who want to die, who want to kill themselves, not to reach a perceived place of joy and happiness but rather as a means of ending whatever pain or sorrow they are feeling or suffering from. The ultimate escape from whose bourn no traveller returns. Whether this is deliberate wordplay on Prince’s part is hard to tell given his strong religious beliefs which necessitate a strict abhorrence of suicide by any means. But if we’re talking about “controversy” then euthanasia was and still is a controversial idea to many. Although less so these days. Who knows, maybe Prince is a closet Kevorkian fan.

 

I said life is just a game
We’re all just the same
Do you wanna play?
Yeah, yeah, yeah

 

Do you want to play a game? The game of life? To me that implies that life should be enjoyed (Prince the hedonist) but also that this life isn’t really real and not worth stressing about (Prince the christian). Play the game right and you get the big prize! And the rules are the same for everyone right? No. Clearly we aren’t all the same. Each of us has our own unique dimensions and circumstances. But in terms of our opportunities and the way we treat each other, we should be the same. We aren’t. But we should be. Prince is saying that he doesn’t want to be treated any differently from anyone else. “I’m the same as you.” Which in a philosophical sense is true but practically speaking he isn’t the same as the rest of us. I’m definitely not a sexy musical genius who looks great in heels. How ’bout you?

 

Controversy, controversy
Controversy, controversy
Controversy, controversy

 

Some joy in repetition right here kids.

 

Our Father, who art in Heaven
Hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven

Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those
Who trespass against us

Lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil
For thine is the kingdom and the power
And the glory forever and ever

 

Most of the music drops out and the delivery is dead pan. Joyless. No emotion. No emphasis. No flair. The only little flourish is a musical one, just after “day” and just before “bread”. One loud musical stab. What’s he trying to tell us? Enjoy today for it is all that truly exists? Or keep earning that bread and make sure you get paid? Or both? And why insert this cover track here? A statement of his beliefs or a deliberate provocation? Probably both. Is this Prince’s first cover on a record? And not just any old cover but a magical incantation! Which is itself a cover (Book of the Dead y’all!) There are no new ideas kids, everything is a remix.[6] Inserting this prayer into a song called “Controversy” is obviously intended to make a statement. At the time it was viewed by some as blasphemous. Which just goes to show that some christians will get offended at anything. You’d think they would’ve been happy to hear the kids listening to this guy pray on record. Instead of acting like he took a dump on baby Jesus’ head.

 

Controversy, controversy
Controversy, controversy
Love Him, love Him baby

 Controversy, controversy
Controversy, controversy
Controversy, controversy

Listen, people call me rude
I wish we all were nude
I wish there was no black and white
I wish there were no rules

People call me rude
I wish we were all nude
I wish there was no black and white
I wish there were no rules

People call me rude
(People call me rude)
I wish we were all nude
(I wish we were all nude)

I wish there was no black and white
(I wish there was no black and white)
I wish there were no rules
(I wish there were no rules)

People call me rude
(People call me rude)
I wish we were all nude
(I wish we were all nude)

I wish there was no black and white
(I wish there was no black and white)
I wish there were no rules
(I wish there were no rules)

 

The chanting after the pray. To emphasise the message that whatever people say about him is wrong. He’s all about the love. People may call him names (rude boy!) but he just wants to get naked and make sweet, sweet love. Although I’m not sure you would really want billions of people walking around nude. The spike in incidents of skin cancer alone would be enough to negate the idea, let alone the gross factor. Imagine sitting naked on a bus with some dude standing next to you with his balls in your face after he’s been working for eight hours at the chicken manure factory. Hmmm, sexy. So let’s not take him too literally okay folks. I mean you don’t really want a world with no black and white do you? What would zebras do? What about newspapers? What would goths wear? I think it’s fair to say that Prince is talking specifically about race here (just don’t mention yellow, brown or red). But even then, if we eliminate black and white wouldn’t we all be one boring monochrome. How uninteresting would that be? The point here is that regardless of the shade of your skin or your ethnicity we wish to all be treated as one “colour.” But that might be against the rules. Rules or laws or both? Because now I’m confused. You see it’s the rules that ensure that we do treat each other as one “colour.” Whether they are formal laws and statutes or cultural behaviours and taboos. These “rules” that we impose on ourselves and on others are the things that make a colourless society possible (or will once we actually achieve it). Without rules of behaviour, society would quickly devolve and no one wants that. Now I know some of you are thinking “yeah man but if we all were just cool with each other then we wouldn’t need any rules man.” But then the rules would just be in your head and self-imposed. And who’s to say that your definition of what’s cool matches mine? Even if we were all one colour we’d still find ways to hurt one another if we didn’t have some rules to help us.

 

Controversy, controversy
Do I believe in God?
Do I believe in me?
Let me tell ya
Some people wanna die
So they can be free

I said life is just a game
We’re all just the same
Don’t ya wanna play?

Controversy, controversy
Controversy, controversy

 

Wrapping up the song, he goes back to god, playing the game of life (i.e. fucking), wanting to die and be free (and go to heaven). This is what Prince is proclaiming as his philosophy. He’s making the point that these are not controversial stands to make. He’s not the son and daughter corrupting demon that the middle class thinks he is. He’s just a man, standing on a stage, singing about love. Sure he’s standing there in bikini briefs and heels. And the love he’s singing about is incestuous. But then that’s part of the game. The ideas and questions that are articulated during this song are not controversial. Each verse emphasises a point. The colour of his skin. His religious beliefs. His philosophies on life and sex. All uncontroversial ideas but all counterpointed by the ironic repetition of “controversy.” It’s a satire exposing the stupidity and narrow mindedness of the press. And it’s also a plea for understanding to his fans. This is who I really am, not all that crazy shit that you read about in the magazines. I love god, I love music, I love sex and I love life. And I just wanna have a good time with you all before the party runs out.

 

 

Running time: 7:15

 

References:
Controversy (released 1981)
Prince (released 1979)
The Peach & Black Podcast
Wikipedia
Prince Vault
AZ Lyrics
Prince Lyrics (http://www.princelyrics.co.uk/search/)
Prince In Print
 
[1] http://www.riaa.com/gold-platinum/?tab_active=default-award&ar=PRINCE&ti=PRINCE

[2] http://princetext.tripod.com/i_stone81.html

[3] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/controversy

[4] http://princetext.tripod.com/i_stone81.html

[5] Thanks to Joe Rogan for the imagery.

[6] If you haven’t already seen it go check out “Everything is a Remix” by Kirby Ferguson and you’ll know what I’m talking about it – http://everythingisaremix.info/watch-the-series/+

“Black Sweat” – 3121 (2006)

3121 was released by NPG Records and Universal on the twenty first of March in the year two thousand and six (that’s 3/21 for you American numerology fans, 21/3 for the rest of us) and is Prince’s 31st album (31 again!). It’s also his first to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 and his first number one since Batman back in 1989. Finally the prodigal son had returned out of the wilderness and taken his rightful seat at the table between T.I. and the kids from High School Musical. This album was the Purple Rain of the era and Musicology was the 1999. But even though 3121 made it to number one it didn’t sell anywhere close to Purple Rain or even Musicology for that matter which went double platinum in 2004 but only because it was given away as part of the cost of a concert ticket to see Prince on tour. The same tour that saw him become the highest earning musician in the world that year; an ingenious tactic given that most of those concert goers would have purchased their tickets in order to see Prince perform all his hits from the 80s (and maybe some from the 90s) and not necessarily to hear any new stuff. 3121 sold over 500,000 copies and is a certified gold record, which is no mean feat, but for comparison the album that it knocked off the top spot (the High School Musical soundtrack) sold over ten times that amount (four times platinum). So like a shooting star, this album burned brightly for a moment (183,000 copies in the first week) and then faded away. Which raises the question, why the sudden dip in sales? If I had to guess I’d say it had something to do with a buying frenzy around the “purple ticket” promotion that saw a lucky handful of people win tickets to see Prince perform at a private gig at his house in Los Angeles (Purple Prince and the Phunk Phactory – where all my oompa loompas at!). Well technically it wasn’t his house; he was just renting it from Carlos Boozer, a basketball player in the National Basketball Association (playing for Utah at the time I believe). But it was the place that Prince christened “3121” and it became his home/studio away from home/studio. It was also the place that Boozer filed a lawsuit over after Prince went about renovating the place in his own unique style[1]. You see when I say “christened” that means that he (allegedly) painted the lovesymbol and “3121” on the outside of the house, removed carpet, removed baseboards, cut a hole into a wall and installed plumbing for beauty salon chairs (maybe the purple ticket winners got facials?). Talk about the tenant from hell.

 

So “3121” is a reference to the house (Party Central), and the date (numerology kids – better than calculus), and I’ve read that it is also a reference to Psalm 31:21 (a bible reference in Prince music – unbelievable!). Depending on which translation you’re reading, the quote goes something like, “Praise be to the lord, for he showed me the wonders of his love when I was in a city under siege,” which if nothing else tells you what Prince thinks about Los Angeles. With the “3121” concept, house, studio and beauty parlour Prince built himself an island of paradise in a sea of diarrhoea. Like most things Prince does, it appears that there is more going than is obvious at the surface. But also like most things Prince does, that deeper layer often only make sense to Prince (or maybe I’m just clueless). If Los Angeles is a city under siege, is Prince here to rescue it? The CD is sub-titled “The Music” or at least my version is. “3121 – The Music” implies (to me at least) that this record was intended to be one part of the “3121” experience. “3121 – The Tour,” “3121 – The Movie,” “3121 – The Book,” “3121 – The Magazine,” “3121 – The TV Show,” “3121 – The Scent,” “3121 – The Fashion,” “3121 – The Ice Cream,” “3121 – The Tax.” Could the album be an oblique reference to section 3121 of the Internal Revenue Code? Nothing gets a party pumping harder than income taxes (where all my CPAs at!).

 

If you put the 3121 album into your CD player and skip to track 4, you’ll hear “Black Sweat”. An acoustic version of this song became part of the set list on the Musicology tour on 25 June 2004 (that’s two years before the album came out for those not paying attention) so it’s probable that the song was written and recorded around that time. Although as you no doubt would have realised, the version on the album is not an acoustic song. It’s an electronic minimalist funk track – old school Prince. But if anyone has the acoustic version, feel free to send me a copy. The song that we get to hear on the album is all drum machine and synthesisers – dog whistle keyboard sounds and simple drum programming combined with Prince’s falsetto and background vocals. The song is a “Kiss” for the modern era and definitely a throwback to Prince’s earlier career but with enough of a spin on it that it sounds fresh. Like the rest of the album, it’s trying to appeal to a new generation whilst at the same time feel like a Prince song. And just what is “black sweat” anyway? To me it sounds like the kind of sweat that you get when you’ve been working in a coal mine and your sweat mixes together with the coal dust and just pours down your face. Toe Jam from the Peach & Black podcast relates the story that apparently “black sweat” refers to the sweat that flows down Prince’s face as he dances (or has sex maybe?) and his black hair dye starts to melt. You could also imagine that “black sweat” has something to do with race but on the surface this is a funky dance song and other than mentioning a white lady, doesn’t appear to be racially driven. That being said, I wouldn’t totally discount it (like I said earlier – I’m pretty clueless).

 

The song opens with the dog whistle and drum machine. Prince’s background vocals and some more keyboards comes in to add some layers to the sound before everything drops out but the drums and Prince’s vocal; a vocal that sounds a lot like “Kiss.” The verses are just drum machine and three or four layers of vocals. The keyboard comes in during the rest of the song but that’s all. Guitar? Bass? I don’t hear any. But I’m clueless, remember and I don’t pay too much attention to these things.

 

Eye don’t want 2 take my clothes off
But eye do
Eye don’t want 2 turn nobody on
‘Less it’s U
Eye don’t want 2 dance 2 hard
But this is a groove
Eye’m hot and eye don’t care who knows it
Eye got a job 2 do

 

He doesn’t want to take his clothes off but there is some force, some urge, compelling him to do just that. Or perhaps he’s trying to say that at the same time he doesn’t want to take his clothes off he also does want to take his clothes off. As though there are two conflicting thoughts battling for supremacy in his head. I’m leaning towards the former though. He just can’t help but get naked. There’s some deep, primal urge that’s driving Prince to get naked and funky with “U”. Because “U” (me? I’m so flattered) are the only one he wants to turn on (he’s making me blush now). Monogamy is the name of the game y’all. From the outset this song is telling us you can’t deny your urges. Whether you want to or not, you will find yourself on the dancefloor if the groove is funky enough. The thing is, in the first line he’s taken his clothes off so it seems fairly unlikely that he’d be dancing naked (although not impossible). Given that he’s naked and wanting to turn “me” on, I’d hazard a guess that he’s talking about sex and using “dance” as a synonym for “fucking”. It has been hypothesised that dancing (especially coupled dancing) is a public substitute for sex so it makes sense that Prince, with his PG mindset, would use it as a replacement in his lyrics. Maybe that makes the “groove” a vagina? Or a butt-crack.

 

I’ve always heard the second line as “I don’t want to take nobody on” not “turn” which if that is the actual lyric skews the meaning ever so slightly and actually mirrors the opening line. It indicates that the urges presented here are more of a battle – taking someone on in the sense of fighting with them. If you look at the first two lines in isolation with “take” in both of them you could almost interpret them as the internal monologue of some southern plantation worker or slave being forced to take his/her clothes off at the command of an overseer – the “U” that is being taken on. “Black sweat” then obviously takes on an entirely different meaning. It’s not unlike Prince to put some hidden meaning into his songs but in this case I think that such a strong misreading might be reaching a little too far. I suspect that Prince may well have accidentally sung the incorrect lyric here but decided to leave it in anyway because the take they recorded was so good and for whatever reason the lyric book that came with the album couldn’t be updated in time (or he just didn’t give a fuck). Any political message would be totally at odds with the entire vibe of the song. But you never know maybe I’m not totally clueless.

 

Eye’m workin’
Workin’ up a Black Sweat
Eye’m workin’
Workin’ up a Black Sweat

 

So he’s working on his black sweat. Dancing? Fucking? Mining coal? Who knows. All we know is that he’s working. And sweating. And the keyboard comes back in for a little bit.

 

Eye don’t want 2 break Ur pride
But eye got 2
U better take Ur woman and hide her
‘Cuz eye’m about 2
Show U what’s really good
Break U off like U knew eye would
Eye got a brand new dance
And it’s called the … workin’

 

Where the first verse appears to be directed at the objection of Prince’s affection (I’m assuming it’s a female but it’s not explicit and I wouldn’t judge him if it wasn’t), this verse is targeted at the partner of the “woman” (boy or girl, it don’t matter no more). I’d say it would almost certainly be a man since most women who have partners happen to have male partners (statistically speaking). I suppose they could both be women but something tells me that Prince is calling out this guy and telling him to stand back because Prince is gonna go to work. In the background you can hear Prince say “about to hurt him, go on hurt him” which leaves no doubt that we aren’t dealing with lesbians here. He’s going to show this guy what’s really good. What’s he going to show him, you ask? Why he’s going to “break U (him) off.” What does that mean? Is he going to break is back? Break one of his legs off? Break his cock off? Whatever does this mean? Well the phrase “break you off” is one of those slang phrases the kids these days use when they want to say something naughty but don’t want to use a naughty word. The top definition for the phrase on urban dictionary is “going down on someone and making them cum.”[2] So the thing that is “really good” here appears to be Prince giving a blowjob just as this guy knew he would. So it turns out that this brand new dance may well be a new gay anthem (fabulous!).

 

Workin’ up a Black Sweat
Eye ‘m workin’
Workin’ up a Black Sweat

 

“Black sweat” as a euphemism for cock? Could he be working his tongue up and down the “black sweat” until he breaks him off?

 

U can act hard if U want 2
This groove will make U sweet
U’ll be screamin’ like a white lady
When eye count 2 three

 

Being told to “act hard” is usually something that is told to men. In my experience I’ve never heard of a woman being told to “act hard” (not to say that it never happens). This leads me to conclude that this verse must be about the man that got broken off in the previous verse. A man being “hard” is also code for a man with an erection so it seems to clearly still be about him. Prince is telling him that he’ll make him scream like a white girl. He’s going to make him ejaculate so hard that he’ll be screaming his lungs out.

 

Work little sister, work
Work little brother, work
Eye don’t want 2 do nothin’ crazy
But eye do

Eye ‘m workin’
Workin’ up a Black Sweat

 

He doesn’t want to break the guy off and get crazy but he does it anyway. The song ends as it had begun. Prince doing things that he claims he doesn’t want to do breaking a sweat while doing it.

 

The structure of each of the lines in the verses indicates a struggle that is going on in our protagonists head. He doesn’t want to do a thing (break pride, turn on, take clothes off, etc.) but he goes ahead and does that thing anyway. Clearly his initial claim of not wanting to do that thing is false. He obviously does want to do the things that he’s railing against. Now you may or may not agree with my homo-erotic interpretation of this song (bigots!) but it seems glaringly obvious that this song is about giving into temptation. This is not a song that Prince would have or could have written in the 80s. Back then he wanted to take his clothes off and he did, he danced and turned people on; he did go crazy (some would say he went nuts). Now, or at least in 2006, he still does those same things but he wants to pretend that it is somehow happening under duress. As though he has no choice in the matter and is compelled to act. Dragged kicking and screaming over the precipice of sin and carnal delight. Dragged by some sexy man (or woman) with whom he can work on his “Black Sweat.”

 

 

 

 

Running time: 3:13

References:
3121 (released 2006)
Parade (released 1986)
The Peach & Black Podcast
Wikipedia
Urban Dictionary
The Smoking Gun
Prince Vault
AZ Lyrics
Prince Lyrics (http://www.princelyrics.co.uk/search/)
Prince In Print
Prince.org

 

[1]http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/crime/extreme-makeover-prince-edition

[2]http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=break+you+off

“Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic” – Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic (1999)

The opening and title track from Prince’s 23rd album – Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic. This was the album that came out in 1999 and is supposed to be the end of millennium party album (oops, outta time). And just like any great New Year’s Eve show it has a star studded line up of extra special guest performers (a cavalcade if you will). Chuck D, Eve, Ani DiFranco, Sheryl Crow and Gwen Stefani (did I miss anyone?) show up on the album to do various things that you may or may not have caught at first listen. Critics will say he was pandering to help boost his record sales by trying to borrow some heat from these other artists to give his career a lift. Fans will say he’s choosing to collaborate with other great artists that he respects in pursuit of his art. The truth is probably somewhere in between. It is true that by this point in his career chart success (or even appearance) was an irregular thing at best, which by extension implies that his relevance to the music listening (and buying) public had somewhat diminished. Inviting some younger and more popular artists to record with you could be one way to help you get your groove back. On the flip side, by this stage in his career Prince had done so many different things that this type of project would be a logical next step on his artistic evolution – proper collaborations with established artists (not just his protégés).

Five months prior to the album being released, Santana’s Supernatural came out and similarly to this album it featured a number of younger and more popular guest performers. Dissimilarly to this album, Supernatural was a monster hit and became Santana’s biggest album ever (fifteen times platinum) and their first US number one since 1971 (the longest gap between number one records by the same artist). That’s not to say that Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic was a complete flop. It did go gold in the US but overall it did a lot worse than Emancipation in most markets, except in Canada. It wasn’t an especially cold Canadian November in 1999 (compared to 1996) so I’m not sure we can blame it on the weather. Although the average maximum for November in 1999 was higher than 1996 and the minimum was lower. So maybe the fluctuating temperatures played havoc with Canadian self-restraint and allowed them to unleash the funk with gay abandon. Although it could be the increase in maple syrup production (in 1999 it was more than double the amount in 1995 ) that got Canada feeling sticky and they just wanted to stay that way.

Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic was released on 9 November 1999 by NPG Records in conjunction with Arista, the same label that released Supernatural (what are the odds?). At the time it was touted as a return to a “major label” by the artist now known as Prince (formerly known as the Artist, formerly known as TAFKAP, formerly known as 0(+>, formerly known as Prince). At the time of this release he was still going by Artist/TAFKAP/0(+> but this would be the last time he released an album under that name. Unless you’re reading this 20 years from now and he has since released a love-symbol boxset from out of the vault (“Purple Rebellion – Lost Hits of the 1990s”). Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic is also the third chapter in Prince’s career as an independent artist (for chapters one and two see Emancipation and Crystal Ball/The Truth, whether Newpower Soul counts depends on your definition of a “Prince” album). The three independent albums up to and including Rave didn’t really come close to matching anything that he put out under Warner Brothers in terms of sales but with his new found freedom he began doing cover songs, pulling out old tunes from the vault and even collaborating with special guests (each one specialer and guestier than the last). Importantly, it also meant that his cut from each album sold rose significantly. Whereas under Warner Brothers he might have gotten up to 20% at most, as an independent artist he can retain anywhere up to 95% from the sales of his albums, “You do the math”.

The original recording of this song took place in 1988 and was intended for an album of the same name. Sadly Prince got side-tracked by the Batman project and nothing came of it. Not until twelve years later, when he decided to resurrect the track and build an album around it. “The title track is one I did 12 years ago, but it sounded so much like Kiss that I wanted to put it in the vault and let it marinate for a while,” “Kiss” is not the song that immediately springs to my mind when I hear this track but then I ain’t no musical genius (and I haven’t heard the original recording). I guess the falsetto is similar-ish? Perhaps, like a dog, Prince is able to hear things the average human can’t. Regardless, “Rave un2 the joy fantastic” is an old song that was brought forward and released by an artist that continually tells people that he doesn’t like to look back while consistently performing music that is 20 to 30 years old. Funnily enough even the title of this song is meant to sound old and invoke the bible in the archaic way that it is phrased (King James version of course) while at the same time referencing the new rave culture that was starting to grow in the late 80s (something he references on “The Future” which is from the same time period). It also hints at the song “Power Fantastic” which was recorded a couple of years before “Rave” (but not released until 1993 on The Hits/The B-Sides). In my mind “joy/power fantastic” is another of Prince’s euphemisms for god (he’s got a million of ‘em). You could almost translate “rave unto the joy fantastic” as “pray to (or praise) god”.

Rave un2 the joy fantastic – Rave!
Rave un2 the joy fantastic – Rave!

The track starts with three seconds of silence and then fades in to the “Prince choir™” interchanged with a nice little four-note guitar riff between each line. The lead guitar line, as sparse as it is, sounds almost Middle Eastern to my ear (biblical one could say). It’s the type of introduction that tells you this song will be (or will attempt to be) epic. A statement of joy and power.

World full o’ lovers, city full o’ good times – Rave!
Don’t go undercover, eye can get U out of yo mind – come on, Rave!
All U need is a good walk and a brand new position
Then we can spread the real soul, doin’ it like a mission (rave) – Rave!
Oh, rave un2 the joy fantastic – Rave!
Everybody, rave un2 the joy fantastic – Rave!

So if you were thinking about god after the introduction then the first verse gets straight into the sex talk to remind you that this is a Prince song. He also switches to his falsetto here and maintains it for the rest of the song. I’ve always wondered what this song would sound like if he maintained the same vocal range he uses for the introduction so if anyone has that remix, please send it to me (I’ll be your best friend). Perhaps the vocal is meant to evoke Prince getting “high” on the “joy”. Whatever the case may be, there’s no doubt that Prince’s “rave” is all about having a good time (with a planet full of one-night stands in every port, no doubt). So don’t you go hiding if you want Prince to show you a good time (good walk = good fuck, according to my translation) in a “brand new position,” again referencing another one of his own songs (“New Position”). But is the brand new position sexual or religious? Either way, you’re likely to end up on your knees or on your back, spreading your “soul” (spread it wide) and doing some missionary work (Rave!). I guess this is Prince confessing that he prefers the missionary position. He likes to look you in the face when he “raves” all over you.

Arrividerci cock poppy, that was hip yesterday – Rave!
New thang hittin’ where it feel good, what’d U say? (Rave)
Tell me u’all: ain’t that the bomb? Mack Daddy ain’t got no gun – Rave!
Everybody got a new thang, new fun – scandalous – Rave!
Ooh, u’ve got 2 – Rave un2 the joy fantastic, Rave!
Everybody, rave un2 the joy fantastic – Rave! aaah yeah oh

Arrivederci (note the misspelling) is Italian for “see you soon”. See you soon penis flower? Perhaps. But when I listen to the song it kinda sounds like he says “cock puppy” which, according to Urban Dictionary, is “A guy following around a chick he’s looking to score with” . But I’m pretty sure this isn’t what he’s talking about here because that sort of thing was never “hip”. Translating the opening line literally (and liberally) he’s saying, “See you soon penis flower, which was once the fruit of the rose (i.e. rose hip)”, which could be a coded message from Prince saying farewell to his suppressed homosexual urges (or trying to) but it’s more likely that he’s putting old nonsense behind him and looking towards this new thing (Rave!). But cock poppy is very likely an inversion of poppycock which refers to nonsense or foolish words/ideas. So he’s saying goodbye (or see ya later) to cock and/or nonsensical ideas (and poppies because heroin is bad). He’s the Mack Daddy and like all great pimps, he don’t need no gun (‘cause he’s the bomb). But he can still hit you where it counts and make it feel good with the new “thang” he’s going to give you. And by “thang” he of course means penis (or whatever your preference is).

Come on, sugar
Rave!
Take a look inside your mind

If you could truly look inside your mind, would you like what you see? Not your brain, which would just be gooey, fleshy stuff, but your mind. Would you honestly want to take a look inside there? Beyond all the layers of self-imposed ignorance and control. Would you like what you see? Would you be able to continue with your life once you’d seen it? Or have you already taken a look? And is that what keeps you up at night? The reason you frequent those dive bars. Maybe if you’re lucky there just might be enough hookers and blow to help you drown out the noise.

Sister got a sizzler on, (know she 2 hot) ooh – know she 2 hot (rave) – Rave!
Brutha playin’ an apache scarf
Gaultier – stop! (oh-oh)

Sizzler = 70s bikini style dress where the dress is short enough that the bikini bottoms are just visible; Apache scarf = western style cravat that sits loosely around the neck; Gaultier = French fashion designer. This is what Prince’s “rave” scene looks like. Lots of skin and lots of pretention.

Ooh, if eye had a dollar 4 every time they smiled
Eye’d sho nuff jump and holla
Cuz eye’d sho nuff b rich awhile – Rave!
Everybody Rave
(Rave un2 the joy fantastic) – ooh Rave! [2x]
Ooh

At the time this song was originally recorded (1988) he very likely did have a dollar for every smile. Or at least fifty cents. And by the time this album came out, probably two dollars. Essentially what he’s doing is equating money with happiness but for some reason pretending like he doesn’t have any. If this verse was from an earlier album (70s, early 80s), it would be more appropriate. But here it just feels disingenuous. Reading between the lines, it’s possible that Prince is having a dig at Warner Brothers and the whole recording industry. Musicians that sign with a label famously receive a tiny amount per album that they sell, so getting as much as a dollar would be an improvement.

I’ve read, more than once, that Prince’s style is to record in the moment and capture what is happening right now. But this song is the complete opposite of that philosophy. This is Prince basically admitting that a good song is a good song and there’s no reason to keep it hidden. Now “good” is obviously a subjective term and you may hate this song, but Prince obviously had enough love for it to bring it back. Maybe his creative well was starting to run dry and he felt the need to dip back into the vault. Maybe he felt this song represented where he was as an artist in 1999. Luckily for him this song seems to be about sex, god and partying which are pretty much the holy trinity of Prince music so he could have easily released it at any time and it would have been a suitable track for one of his albums.

 

 

Running time: 4:19

References:
Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (released 1999)
Batman (released 1989)
The Hits/The B-Sides (released 1993)
The Peach & Black Podcast
Wikipedia
Urban Dictionary
Prince Vault
AZ Lyrics
Prince Lyrics (http://www.princelyrics.co.uk/search/)
Prince In Print
Prince.org

“Let’s Pretend We’re Married” – 1999 (1982)

Prince (and the Revolution) released 1999 in 1982. “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” is the fourth track from the album 1999. 1999 is Prince’s fifth record. If you’re still not sure which album I’m talking about, it’s the one with the cartoon penis on the cover – 1999. The album was released by Warner Brothers on 27 October 1982 as a double vinyl LP, a cassette tape and this was the first Prince album released on Compact Disc (and probably one of the earliest CDs released ever citation needed). That original pressing of the CD didn’t include “D.M.S.R”, allegedly due to limitations on the size of the disc, but 1999 is 70 minutes and 28 seconds long (or thereabouts) and the alleged capacity of the first CDs was 74 minutes (room for Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9”[1]). Sounds like they had enough space. The whole thing stinks of conspiracy to me. And more to the point, if you’re gonna drop one of the tracks from this album, why “D.M.S.R”? If it was any other artist I’d say the label made him drop the song because of its suggestive lyrics. But this is Prince; getting’ freaky is his bread and butter (or at least it was). I can’t explain how the decision was made but that happens a lot whenever I talk to people about Prince and his music – sometimes it’s just better to accept the way things are and move on.

 

This is also the first album to have “and the Revolution” added to the cover (in backwards type no less – how will we ever read it?). The “original” line up included Wendy, Lisa, Bobby Z, Dr Fink and Brown Mark (with Eric Leeds on the sax). Dez Dickerson does appear on this album in a few places but I don’t think he was ever “officially” part of the Revolution. The cover art on 1999 is pretty interesting with the number “1” in “1999” drawn as the aforementioned penis (artwork by Prince’s libido). The words “and the Revolution” appear in the middle of the letter “i” in “Prince” in a shape that looks like a football (of the American variety) but the football appears to represent part of a globe of some kind with a pair of eyes looking down on it over the horizon next to a chocolate chip cookie. So it appears that the message is “Prince is leading a global revolution with his penis (and there’ll be cookies).” Sounds like it might be one of the more enjoyable revolutions that our little planet has seen; shame it didn’t work out. The cover also has an early (perhaps the first?) incarnation of the love symbol. It’s upside down and kind of looks like a banjo but there’s no mistaking it. The inside cover (of the CD at least) has a picture of a tastefully naked Prince (with tastefully covered buttocks) lying face down on a bed with his water colours out and a blank piece of paper in front of him (paintbrush in hand) but he’s giving the camera the Christopher Tracy eyes and not looking at the paper. I guess that’s why the paper’s blank – it’s hard to draw when you’re being so damn seductive.

 

“Let’s Pretend We’re Married” is track four on both versions of the CD and the cassette (what are those?) and track one on side two of the vinyl. It was recorded on 30 March 1982 at Sunset Sound (in glamorous Hollywood, California). This was the last of the singles released from 1999 (released on 23 November 1983, 13 months after the album came out), backed with the B-side “Irresistible Bitch”. Interestingly “Irresistible Bitch” received just as much airplay as the A-side, which makes sense if you look at both songs as a thematic pair focused around mouth-sex and loose women. Plus they’re both pretty decent songs, which helps. Musically this song is relatively simple – drum machine and keyboard. That’s pretty much all there is, right? Are there any other instruments on this track? Definitely no other musicians. Surely they would be surplus to requirements. There’s no mistaking this as an early 80s track and the intro and pulsing rhythm of this song kind of reminds me of “Neutron Dance” by the Pointer Sisters (released in 1984). I can picture this song being used by some LA gym in the early 80s for their new “aerobics” classes – Jane Fonda would’ve had this song in high rotation.

 

Excuse me but I need a mouth like yours
To help me forget the girl that just walked out my door
Funny but it seems that you’re alone like me
If you are, go, let’s come see what we can see

 

Straight into the mouth-fucking. Presumably the mouth could be attached to bag of dicks filled with elephant shit and it would suffice. Too bad for Prince that the Fleshlight was still 16 years away. But I guess when you don’t have an inanimate object nearby that you can use and objectify then a woman will do. But why does he need the mouth and the accompanying mouth-fucking you may ask. He just needs the mouth-fucking to help him forget (Lethe’s blowjob for you classicists out there). He’s on the rebound. Heartbroken. Whatever will he do? The object of his desire here seems to be single, which is important. Because married mouths have other obligations. No time to see whatever Prince has for them to see. Notice the way he’s phrased the last line “If you are, go, let’s come see”, not “If you are, come, let’s go see” which would make more grammatical sense and give the sense that he wants her to follow his lead (to the mouth-fucking). The way he’s written it allows him to plant the idea “let’s come” in the object’s mind, suggesting he’s not just about the mouth-fucking for his own selfish reasons but it’s for her too (what a gentleman). Even the way he delivers the words emphasises “let’s come”. They kind of pop into your ear.

 

Ooh, little darlin’ if you’re
Free for a couple of hours (Free for a couple of hours)
If you ain’t busy for the next seven years (Next seven years)
Say, let’s pretend we’re married and go all night
There ain’t nothin’ wrong if it feels all right
I won’t stop until the morning light
Let’s pretend we’re married and go all night, tonight

 

There’s nothing wrong, if it feels right (how hedonistic). But in order for it to feel right, I have to pretend I’m married. Because I wanna mouth-fuck you but I also want Ronald Regan to be okay with it? It’s a confused message to say the least. He’s happy to give her a throw or two for a couple of hours but hey stick around for a bit and pretend to be my wife if you like. And why seven years (longer than either of his marriages)? He could’ve used any number here (“if you ain’t busy for the next million years”) but he goes with lucky number seven (“watch them fall” – into his pants!). He’s trying to convince himself that mouth-fucking this new girl will take his mind off the girl from the opening line. When you think about what’s going on here, the underlying message is that Prince is sad and lonely. He wants to slut it up and try to fuck away the blues. On the surface it may seem like this song is about free-love and oral-pleasure but underneath there’s still this heartache that’s triggering this reaction. If there ain’t nothing wrong if the feeling is right then why do you need to pretend to be married? Shouldn’t the feeling (and the mouth-fucking) be sufficient? He’s trying to combine his free-love ideas with his conservative moralism. He’s yearning for comfort and understanding in the guise of a “wife” but he has to coat it in this sexual veneer so that he doesn’t fall apart on us.

 

Ooh-we-sha-sha-coo-coo-yeah
All the hippies sing together

 

Hippies = free love = sexy times. There’s lots of mouth-fucking and freedom in the commune. Hippies get another mention on this album (“take a bath hippy!”) and it appears that from the context being a free-loving hippy is a good thing (later in his career Prince will go on to wish he was born on the Woodstock stage). The lines themselves have nothing to do with the rest of the lyrics other than to put the idea of “hippies” in people’s minds with all the baggage that label comes with. This is also a good excuse to introduce a sing-a-long chorus. Sure it’s essentially meaningless but it’s fun and it has the added bonus of helping Prince forget about his broken heart and all the forgetful mouth-fucking.

 

Excuse me but I need your chemistry
Don’t you wanna be my fantasy?
My girl’s gone and she don’t care at all
And if she did – So what? C’mon baby, let’s b-b-ball

 

Back to his girl leaving him. She left him but he just can’t let her go, can he. He got dumped and she doesn’t seem too hung up about it. Which means he screwed up or she realised he just wasn’t the long term relationship type of guy. He might be able to pretend to be married and committed but to actually do it is a step too far. Which is his ultimate downfall. He thinks he’s figured out that women want commitment so he’s willing to give it a try even if it is just a pretend. He’s claiming that even if his ex did still feel for him he wouldn’t care (then why keep bringing her up?). He’d still wanna play ball (baseball? basketball? testicle?). And that’s likely the reason that his lady left him. He’s a sex-mad hippie with no impulse control. Even if his ex still loved him and wanted him back he’d still want to hook up with the new girl mouth vagina. Or that’s the line he’s feeding her so that he can get into her pants/mouth – “I want you baby, none of those other girls mean anything to me”, or something like that.

 

Ooh little darlin’ if you’re
Free for a couple of hours (Free for a couple of hours)
If you ain’t busy for the next seven years (Next seven years)
Oh I say let’s pretend we’re married and go all night
There ain’t nothin’ wrong if it feels all right
I won’t stop until the morning light
Let’s pretend we’re married and go all night, tonight

Ooh-we-sha-sha-coo-coo-yeah
All the hippies sing together

Let’s just pretend we’re married, tonight

Excuse me but I need a mouth like yours
To help me forget the girl that just walked out my door
Let’s pretend we’re married and do it all night
I won’t stop until the morning light

 

A lot of repetition in the lyrics while the underlying music keeps driving forward in the same intense disco rhythm (work those thighs!). All signifying his heightened libido and desire. He wants to do her all night. The way married people do? Do married people even have sex?

 

Let’s pretend we’re married and go all night
Ooh, little darlin’ if you’re
Free for a couple of hours (Free for a couple of hours)
If you ain’t busy for the next seven years (Next seven years)
Oh darlin’, let’s preted we’re married and go all night
There ain’t nothin’ wrong if it feels all right
I won’ stop until the morning light
Let’s pretend we’re married and go all night, tonight
(Ooh-we-sha-sha-coo-coo-yeah)
Pretend we’re married
Let’s pretend we’re married

Ooh-we-sha-sha-coo-coo-yeah
All the hippies sing together
Ooh-we-sha-sha-coo-coo-yeah
Oh everybody yeah
Ooh-we-sha-sha-coo-coo-yeah
All the hippies sing together
Ooh-we-sha-sha-coo-coo-yeah
Yeah, yeah
My girl’s gone and she don’t care at all
And if she did – So what? C’mon baby, let’s ball

 

Back to the break-up. And the hippies. And the marriage. And balls. It feels like there could have been some editing with this song and we still would have gotten the general idea.

 

I wanna fuck you so bad it hurts, it hurts, it hurts
I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna fuck you
Yeah, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna wanna, I wanna fuck you
Look here Marsha, I’m not sayin’ this just to be nasty
I sincerely wanna fuck the taste out of your mouth
Can you relate?

 

He’s really serious about the mouth-fucking isn’t he? His sincerity is so clearly evident. Don’t think he’s trying to be lewd or gaudy folks. He’s as serious as a heart attack. I’d be interested to know just how one fucks the taste out of another’s mouth. Surely they could still taste your cock and/or your semen? Or is Prince saying that he wants to mouth-fuck this girl so hard that the taste buds will come loose from her tongue and she will be unable to taste anything? Or that the mouth-fucking (or the vagina-fucking, or, dare we say it – even the butt-fucking) will perhaps sever or numb the part of her brain that registers taste. Sounds a little rapey, don’t you think? Plus, what’s in it for the girl other than a throat full of semen and pubic hair? He’s pushing the lyrical envelope here but I’m not sure it’s necessary. He claims he’s not saying “just to be nasty” but we all know that’s bullshit. That’s the only reason he’s saying it. But yes, I can relate.

 

My girl’s gone and she don’t care at all
And if she did – I wouldn’t care. Let’s ball

 

Back to the ex. This is clearly a revenge fuck for Prince. But he’s totally over her. He could totally stop talking about her if he wanted to. He just doesn’t want to right now.

 

Whatever you heard about me is true
I change the rules and do what I wanna do
I’m in love with God, he’s the only way
‘Cuz you and I know we gotta die some day
If you think I’m crazy, you’re probably right
But I’m gonna have fun every motherfuckin’ night
If you like to fight, you’re a double-drag fool
I’m goin’ to another life, how ’bout you?

 

Unlike “Controversy” (another 7 minute song) he’s actually confirming that the stories about him are true. He’s saying that we can believe all the things people say (“controversy”). Yes, he’s black and white. Yes, he’s straight and gay. Yes, he’s changed the rule that says you have to be a timid, sexless wallflower to be a good Christian. He’s admitting that the controversy is true. But he raises an interesting question – if we’re right to think he’s crazy does that mean that you have to be crazy to love god? He knows that he’s going to die and that’s why he believes. Essentially he’s saying that he’s afraid of hell and he’s betting on god. But he still wants to have the mouth-fucking and the fun. In this life and the next.

 

There’s a formula at work in this song that uses a lot of common Prince elements. The sexy song with religion added to it. The seven minute “dance” track. The heartache of being dumped that gets covered over and hidden by the graphic sexual lyrics. The graphic sexual content here is a young man’s braggadocio and inability to take responsibility for his failed relationship. The one man band musical production. The drum machine and keyboard. Lyrically it falls into the same musical family as “Controversy” and “Temptation” (there are more but this isn’t a BuzzFeed list). This song is about sex, god, heartache and orgasm (not necessarily in that order); themes that are constant throughout his career. This is just an early example. Ending the song on a religious note highlights what he’s really all about and what he’s really thinking. The sexual aspect is important too and its repetition emphasises his desires alongside his beliefs. If they pretend to be married they can satiate their carnal desires whilst still being accepted in the eyes of heaven. It’s Prince trying to reconcile his love for god with his extreme desire to fuck everything that gets in his way.

 

Running time: 7:21

 

References:
1999 (released 1982)
Controversy (released 1981)
Around the World in a Day (released 1985)
The Peach & Black Podcast
Wikipedia
Prince Vault
AZ Lyrics
Prince In Print
Prince.org

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compact_Disc_Digital_Audio#Storage_capacity_and_playing_time

“The Future” – Batman (1989)

This is the opening song from Batman. The eleventh official album released by Prince. As the name suggests, this is the soundtrack to the Tim Burton directed movie – Batman. The album was released on 19 June 1989 by Warner Brothers records and the movie opened four days later for Warner Brothers studios. Now I’m no conspiracy theorist but I think there’s a link there. Apparently we have Jack Nicholson to thank for Prince’s involvement on this project. He suggested Prince’s participation to the powers that be and Jack gets what Jack wants. The movie was a certified blockbuster and like a lot of young boys and girls, I got swept up in all the excitement. I wore my “Batdance” cassette-single down into dust (we hadn’t yet invested in a CD player) and I even got my picture taken with the Batmobile (Mrs Thrawn too – just not together). It’s a shame that a lot of Batman fanboys weren’t super pleased with the movie. It just wasn’t as truthful to the books as they’d hoped. Batman, they argued, would never shoot at people or try to kill them. Alfred would never bring anyone into the Batcave (even Kim Basinger). And who the fuck is Jack Napier? It was a lot closer to the books than Adam West’s portrayal but it just doesn’t stack up that well against the Dark Knight movies. It was a fun and exciting movie for its time and the Batmobile and the Batwing looked exactly as you hoped they would. It just hasn’t aged too well as a movie even though it still looks pretty good.

With the release of Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies it’s easy to forget just how much impact Tim Burton’s version had when it came out (despite the criticism). Batman had the highest-grossing opening weekend of 1989 and broke Superman II’s record for the highest weekend for a superhero movie.  It was the highest-grossing film in the US that year ($251,188,924) beating out Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade ($197,171,806)[1] and there were at least two soundtracks released for the movie; Prince’s Batman and Danny Elfman’s Batman: Original Motion Picture Score. The score only made it is as far as number 30 on the Billboard 200 but as far as movie music goes, it’s one of the most iconic pieces of movie music ever made and has become synonymous with the Batman (definitely more than Prince’s music or the stuff in Nolan’s movies). So much so that it has been re-used in a number of other Batman related projects (Batman: The Animated Series, the Lego Batman series, etc).

Prince’s Batman made it all the way to number one (made it ma, top of the world!) and stayed there for six weeks; which is no surprise given how popular the movie was. You could have released an album of nothing but the Joker making fart noises and it still would’ve gone gold at least (purple and green fart machine). This was Prince’s biggest selling record since Purple Rain (eleven million copies worldwide) and it was essentially a one man band affair. There are other musicians and voices on the album but for the most part Prince has used these parts as samples; acting as DJ Gemini and putting together the songs at his mixing desk. The lead single from the album, “Batdance” is the best example of DJ Gemini’s work. It was Prince’s fourth number one single in the US but it never appears on any compilations or best-of albums. This is because the ownership of Batman is a bit of a hot and twisted mess so Prince essentially signed away all his rights when he agreed to make this album. From a legal perspective, it’s a Batman album, not a Prince album (and with all the vocal samples, no song is more linked to the franchise than “Batdance”). The bulk of the album was recorded over about 6 weeks through February and March 1989 (“Electric Chair” and “Scandalous” were from 1988, and “Vicki Waiting” is a reworking of “Anna Waiting”).

“The Future” was recorded during this period and the song is a cold, dark minimalistic funk house track featuring Prince (obvs) and the Sounds of Blackness. It also includes samples of Clare Fischer’s orchestra. Prince grabbed a sample of Clare’s strings from the song “Crystal Ball” and added them to the mix. Even the contributions from the Sounds of Blackness are a bunch of samples that DJ Gemini has put together. Which is a really interesting way to use their contribution. There are some “real” instruments on here too (guitar, bass, etc.) but everything has been put together in a way that makes it obvious that this is supposed to be a “dance” track. This is Prince riding the wave of electronic dance music that started to gain ground in the late 80s. The Peach and Black team made the observation that this song is a vision of the future of music in the way it’s constructed and the samples that it uses. Sampling certainly wasn’t a new thing at the time but it has become almost a genre unto itself in recent years. The future will be full of samples.

 

“I’m not gonna kill you. I want you to do me a favor,
I want you to tell all your friends about me.”
“What are you?”
“I’m Batman”

 

The first few seconds of this record are almost silent and the sounds of the movie are the first things you hear giving it an eerie feel. This is Batman’s introduction in the movie so it makes sense that this is how the album should open. It introduces our hero and reminds us that the album is tied to the future number one film in the country. The reason the voices of Batman and the bad guy (Nic) are so low in the mix is because Prince was using a rough cut of the movie to sample the audio before any additional dubbing was done. Interestingly, this opening fight scene also lets you know exactly what type of Batman you are watching. He doesn’t swoop in and save the family from getting mugged (he just watches) and he doesn’t even return the stuff that they had stolen from them. He just beats up on the bad guys and then flies away. At this point he’s just another thug having a good ol’ time wailing on some punks. This is just the first of the many bits of movie audio used throughout the album but in this song this is the main sample (there’s one other at the end, but we’ll get to that).

 

I’ve seen the future and it will be
I’ve seen the future and it works
And if there’s life after, we will see
So I can’t go… like a jerk

 

The future will be what? What will it be? Will it be pretty? Will it be rich? Tell us caped crusader! It sounds like the opening line’s a partial sentence but really what we are being told is that the future will just “be”. That is to say, the future will exist. Whatever else the Batman does, the future will still be. The apocalypse will come or not but the future will still happen (as Doris put it – whatever will be, will be). In that sense, the future works. It might even work well (maybe). This is starting to sound like a song of hope (perhaps). A hope for the future (?). Which implies that the present doesn’t work. Something in modern day Gotham City just isn’t working. But how do they get from where they are in the broken and busted present day to the future that works. The song book says that this song has a “lead vocal by Batman” (all the songs on the album are “sung” by characters from the movie). So this song is the Batman outlining his vision of the future after he’s finished cleaning up Gotham City. If today’s Gotham is broken and overrun with delinquents and vagabonds then the future will run like a well-oiled machine. Batman will fix what’s broken. This is Batman’s dream. This is why he puts the bat suit on every night. Don’t forget though, this is also a Prince song so we get the mention of the afterlife thrown in. A mention that comes with a very powerful “if” statement. Considering Prince’s firm belief that there are no ifs, ands or buts when it comes to the afterlife (it will be, period) this line is clearly intended for Batman’s mouth, so it makes sense that he’s a little more skeptical than Prince. There’s also the double meaning of “we’ll see if there is anyone left alive after I finish cleaning up Gotham”, if there’s life after I’m done. Given the amount of collateral damage inflicted on the city by Batman’s crusade there may not be many left at all. Remember that this is “year one” Batman. He’s new to this whole caped crusader game and isn’t too sure what he’s doing (he hasn’t even got a sidekick yet). Sure he has some dreams and expectations about what his role will be but he’s essentially flying blind (as a bat).


Systematic overthrow of the underclass
Hollywood conjures images of the past
New world needs spiritually
That will last
I’ve seen the future and it will be

 

In any revolutionary setting it’s usually the ruling class that gets overthrown but here it’s the “underclass”. Not middle class, not lower class. Underclass. Why is that? Has Prince/Batman misspoken? Is this a typo? Remember that this is Gotham. A wretched hive of scum and villainy that is crying out for a hero (or at least a guy who punches criminals for fun). Our Batman is singing about the underclass that is currently running Gotham. The criminal class. The mobsters, punks, vandals, corrupt police and politicians. One by one, he plans to take them out. Prince is making a comparison to the real world here too (double the meaning, double the value!). In the real world future the criminals and sinners will be overthrown and the future afterlife will be totally awesome. The heavenly future will totally “work.” Remember that Prince is coming off his most spiritual record to date (Lovesexy) prior to recording this album so he’s still trying to find new ways to preach. But what does all this have to do with Hollywood (other than assisting with the rhyming scheme)? Hollywood conjures all sorts of images about all sorts of eras. Past, present, future and  non-existent. So what’s the intent here then?  “Conjure – to affect or influence by or as if by invocation or spell… To summon a devil or spirit by invocation or incantation.”[2] Hollywood (i.e. the entertainment industry) is all about influencing and invoking people to come and watch their movies and buy into their point of view (as though under a spell). Movies aren’t always about the past but the ones about the past often plaster over the ugly parts (at least they used to) and make everything look super awesome (this album came out before the rise of the gritty reboot and trend towards realism). Even movies set in the present and future do this when looking back into history. Hollywood movies (and TV shows) about the past were/are usually all about nostalgia. The entertainment industry placates and subdues the masses regardless of the genre. But when it’s an historical hero story, it gives people a false sense of the greatness of their past and a way to happily ignore the present (and future). Politicians use this same type of messaging to garner votes (make America great again!). This is why in the movie the mayor is so focused on celebrating the 200 year anniversary of Gotham. Forget about the problems of the present and worship the past. But the Batman is looking to the future. Hollywood’s past is just a cheap conjurer’s trick (trying to summon the devil), whereas Batman’s future is something that is tangible (at least from Batman’s perspective). Prince is saying that the past that we idolise is not real (it’s just an image) and the Future is what we should focus on (getting to heaven). And how will we make the future great? With spirituality of course. There’s only one way Prince thinks the future will be saved and in this song he’s letting us know that Batman agrees with him. America (the new world) needs salvation. This generation (the new world – double meaning again) needs to find spirituality to save their future. That’s the only way they can make it work. Batman/Prince has seen this future vision in his dreams and this is what he’s working towards.

 

I’ve seen the future and it will be
I’ve seen the future and it works
And if there’s life after, we will see
So I can’t go… like a jerk

 

Batman wants to go to the afterlife but he doesn’t want to go “like a jerk”. He wants to do the right thing and help build a new world paradise (lest he end up in bat-purgatory). He’s going to do the good work so he doesn’t get punished in the afterlife. Prince is letting us know that the fear of damnation is what is driving him (and Batman) to do the work. Don’t go to hell like a jerk. Go to heaven like a bat.

 

Yellow Smiley offers me X
Like he’s drinking seven up
I would rather drink 6 razor blades
Razor blades from a paper cup
He can’t understand, I say 2 tough
It’s just that I’ve seen the future
And boy it’s rough

 

“New and improved Joker products! With a new secret ingredient: Smylex!” The “yellow smiley” was a symbol of the drug culture of the 80s during the Second Summer of Love. It became synonymous with acid house and dance music (especially in the UK). Funnily enough what appears to be a dig at the dance scene at the time appears on an album that at times sounds fairly “housey” (he even calls “Batdance” out as “house” if you listen closely).  Ecstasy (“X”) was (and still is) the drug of choice for club kids all over the world and in those days (much like today) drugs were freely available to people who knew where to be. And if you were famous like Prince then you probably had them offered to you as regularly as a tall glass of lemonade. I imagine that razor blades would not be offered so freely but a razor blade is also a cocktail so they might have been. But then again swallowing razor blades is a fairly well known suicide attempt (double meaning again!). Drinking cocktails from a paper cup is probably a greater sin than suicide but I think Prince is more likely referencing the suicide thing. I think in the context of this song the yellow smiley and the X are referring to the Joker and his art with the real world meaning crossing over into Prince’s experiences with drugs and dance music. “I make art until someone dies,” says the Joker. He’s offering a solution to the same problem that Batman is trying to solve. He’s trying to “clean up” Gotham too. It’s just his tools are different and he has slightly different (and more numerous) targets. Batman (our lead vocalist) is saying that the Joker can’t understand that he’s doing is wrong. Which is tough luck on the Joker because now Batman has to take him out. Because he knows the future won’t be able to handle the Joker’s solution. It’s a rough trip to get to Batman’s future and not everyone’s going to be there at the end.

 

I’ve seen the future and it will be
I’ve seen the future and it works
And if there’s life after, we will see
So U can’t go… like a jerk
No, no

 

“U” can’t go. No longer “I”. Who is the Batman directing this to? Us? The Joker? Whoever it is, he’s telling them/us to behave properly so as not to allow the future to become eternal torment and damnation.

 

I’ve seen the future and it will be
Wait a minute

Pretty pony standing on the avenue
Flashin’ a loaded pistol – 2 dumb 2 be true
Somebody told him playin’ cops and robbers was cool
Would our rap have been different if we only knew?

 

The Joker is a pretty pony isn’t he (that hair – swoon). In the movie he uses a pistol a number of times but the two times that really count are when he’s standing on the street (or avenue) and he (spoilers) shoots Bruce Wayne’s parents and then when he shoots down the Batwing with his pants cannon. That’s why the number 2 is repeated (twice) “2 dumb 2 be true.” It’s more than just Prince-bonics. The shootings are the two key events in the story; the first gives rise to the Batman and the second leads to the end of the Joker. Somebody might have told Jack Napier that playing a robber would be a cool thing to be. But for Bruce Wayne, this is serious business. This is his work. Would the relationship between the Batman and the Joker have been different if they had known the future? Undoubtedly. Batman is wondering why he and the Joker have to be enemies or that he has to even be the Batman at all (existential crisis unlocked!). If there was no such thing as crime. If his parents hadn’t been murdered. If, if, if. The entire universe would have to be practically re-written for the Batman not to exist. He may be questioning it but at the same time he can’t escape it. It’s been said that Bruce Wayne is the mask that Batman puts on so that he can travel through normal society unnoticed. Here he’s trying to pretend that he doesn’t want to be the Batman, that somehow fate has brought him here but as a wise person once said “there is no fate but what we make” and Batman’s fate is of his own making.

 

I’ve seen the future and it will be
I’ve seen the future and it works
If there’s life after, we will see
Don’t go out… like a jerk

Systematic overthrow of the underclass
Hollywood conjures images of the past
New world needs spiritually
That will last
I’ve seen the future and it will be
I’ve seen the future and it will be
I’ve seen the future and it will be

I’ve seen the future and it will be

I’ve seen the future and it will be
I’ve seen the future and it will be

“Think about the future!”

 

Now we are commanded. “Don’t go out.” Batman is becoming more forceful. This song is supposed to be sung by Batman but it’s based on one of the lines that Jack Napier (prior to becoming the Joker) yells out to Lieutenant Eckhardt just before shooting him – “Think about the future!” (for the movie geeks out there, the actor who played Eckhardt was the same guy who played Porkins in Star Wars and he was in Raiders of the Lost Ark as Major Eaton). This is no surprise because Jack Nicholson gets all the best lines and scenes in this movie (it was basically made around him). But from a character and story perspective it tells us that Jack Napier (before becoming the Joker) may have been one to think about the future which is why he and the Batman can agree during this song. But the Joker has no such thoughts. He will go like a jerk (straight off the top of a cathedral).

The song ends with Jack Napier telling us exactly what Batman wants to tell us. But Batman plans to do more than just think about it. He’s “seen” the future and it comes about as a direct result of his actions (or so he hopes). But as we’ve seen, this isn’t the perfect Batman that we know and love with his strict moral code and standard behaviour. He’s not 100% ready for the work that he’s trying to do and some errors are made but hey, how many mistakes did you make in your first month on the job?

Although he may try to claim that this song is from the perspective of Batman, this is really a Prince song. Prince, being who he is, has woven his own thoughts and feelings and beliefs into this track (and the album). Gotham City is an avatar for the real world and he uses it as his model to tell us what’s going on in the world right now. By extension, Batman is Prince’s avatar. The vehicle through which he can continue his Lovesexy message. He’s going to do the work that will bring about the future heavenly paradise on earth. I have a sneaking suspicion that this song and pretty much all the other “new” songs (apart from Batdance) were the scraps of an abandoned project that he scavenged for this record. Still, he’s managed to weave enough of the character of Batman into the song or enhance the parts of his own character to be Batman-like enough so that it fits the overall tone of the song. The Future is the light on the hill. The whole reason that the Batman exists is so that the Future can be better than the present. Which is Prince’s goal as well. The present is ugly and corrupt but if we keep true to our spirituality then the Future will work. Both wear their costumes and put on their masks to help them navigate through the world and hide their true identity from the public. Both use an array of tools and weapons to help them do their work (Batarang, Batmobile, bass, guitar, keyboards). Both are working towards an ideal Future that is their vision of what the world should look like. But for both of them it is a struggle with no end. The Future that they’re hoping for never really arrives. Or at least hasn’t yet. The criminals continue to flourish and spirituality continues to decline. But that doesn’t mean that the struggle ends for either of them because the struggle is what defines who they are and without it they would cease to exist. Neither one of them will ever go out… like a jerk.

 

 

Running time: 4:08

 

 

References:

Batman (released 1989)
Lovesexy (released 1988)
The Peach & Black Podcast
Wikipedia
Prince Vault
AZ Lyrics
Prince In Print
Prince.org
Box Office Mojo

 

 

[1] http://www.boxofficemojo.com/yearly/chart/?yr=1989

[2] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/conjure