“Anna Stesia” – Lovesexy (1988)

This is the fourth song on the first track from Prince’s tenth album – Lovesexy. If all you’ve ever listened to is an illegal download (thief!) then you may be wondering just what the hell that sentence meant. But if like me, you own a copy of the CD then you know and understand the joy of having an entire album as one gigantic 45 minute track (skipping tracks is for punks). If you have the vinyl, this is the closing song on side 1. But good luck skipping to it if you have a pressing with no track separations on it (it’s art dammit!). Released in May 1988 by Warner Brothers, most of the songs on this album were recorded over a two month period from December 1987 to January 1988, except for “When 2 R In Love” which was a holdover from the abandoned Black Album. Said Black Album was ready to go and set for release in December 1987 (8 months after Sign O’ The Times) but was cancelled by Prince a week before it was due to drop. Apparently Prince felt it was too “dark”. If you’ve heard the Black Album, and I assume you have, then you’ll know how “dark” it is and can make your own judgements.

The story of the Black Album and Lovesexy is a tale, truly marvellous to behold (assuming all the rumours are true). I shall now attempt to tell the tale. So please sit back and relax as I relate to you the tale of “How A Prince Loved being Sexy and got Spooked by Electricity…”

“… time upon a once, a young Camille (allegedly) didn’t vibe on the way people were groovin’ to his Black tunes. Their dancing (allegedly) made him feel “the lowest utmostest” and he started to cry. In an effort to help Camille, his friend named Kitten, (allegedly) sought the aid of a young minstrel named Antonis of the Right Hot Chillin’ Pipers traveling show. Through him she obtained some powerful magix called Multi-Dimensional Mind Activators – also know as “ecstatics” in the common tongue. The Kitten (allegedly) shared the magical bounty with Camille who then (allegedly) consumed the “ecstatics” and got the Spooks real bad. The Spooky Electricity in his brain drove him to go on a 7 state murder spree shouting “I’m Bob George muthafucka!” to every one of his victims (allegedly) and bathing himself in squirrel meat. Luckily, a guardian angel called Ingrind (allegedly) was able to calm him and persuade him to (allegedly) confess his (alleged) crimes. As punishment for his (alleged) crimes he let the (alleged) Black tunes die and from the ashes that remained he created his penance, a Love Sexy, Glam Slam, monster jam.”[1]

At least that’s how I heard the story.

Whatever the back story might be, Lovesexy was the result. A funky psychedelic gospel album that is Prince’s celebration of love and life. This record also marked the end of an era in Prince music. This is the end of his 80s run of truly great albums (sorry Batman fans). And depending on your point of view, it never really got better from here. Whenever I read a music journalist writing about how Prince’s latest album is his “best work since Sign O’ The Times” (or Purple Rain) it not only makes me sad for the state of music journalism but it reminds me that Lovesexy, as great as it is, is often the forgotten child of the Prince catalogue. Lovesexy wasn’t as successful as his previous releases in the US but it did go to number 1 in the UK charts and due to the album’s success there, the Lovesexy tour began in Europe in July 1988, and the Englanders got to see nine shows. What that says about the English, I’m not sure. Maybe they sensed that the album was inspired by the same thing that fueled their Second Summer of Love[2] so they happily jumped on board Prince’s version of the “X” train.

Prince has referred to Lovesexy as his gospel album and when you listen to it you can tell exactly what he means. It’s euphoric in its expression of happiness. On this album you can hear how easily and effortlessly he’s communicating with his audience and increasing his closeness to them. He’s building the New Power Generation. A new society where we’re all as one. It feels like it has elements of enhanced sounds and colours (the soundscape and imagery is almost HD) mixed with a feeling of inner peace and understanding. And overlaying it all is a heightened level of perception and sexuality. If, by the end, you have any doubt about what he was trying to say with this album then you aren’t paying attention. This is not merely music, this is very much a trip.

“Anna Stesia” is a stand out track in Prince’s discography from an album of stand outs. It’s one of those songs that tends to be towards the top of every Prince fams favourite song list. It’s mostly a one man band but it does have some back up from the ladies in the band. The introduction to this song is unforgettable and instantly recognisable. The opening chord on the keyboard is all it takes to get a cheer from any Prince audience. The opening drumbeat, that comes in with the lyrics, mimics Prince’s “dark” heart beating in the quiet of his loneliness. The vocal performance sounds almost as though he’s about to cry. The song slowly builds with the addition of various layers of instruments and vocals throughout with lots of little flourishes and accents as the song progresses. The guitar gets more involved as the atmosphere builds and builds towards its ecstatic conclusion. And the outro is designed for 20,000 people to sing along with in concert and proclaim their love. It may start as a mellow and minor track but the way it finishes leaves us in no doubt that whatever happened to Prince prior to recording to this it was ultimately a positive experience. Maybe he took some ecstasy. Maybe the Black Album scared him. Maybe it was both. Or some other unknown reason. Whatever the case may be, “Anna” was born out of that experience so it couldn’t have been all bad.

 

Have U ever been so lonely
That U felt like U were the
Only one in this world?

Have U ever wanted 2 play
With someone so much U’d take
Any one boy or girl?

If you answered “yes” to both of these questions then maybe you too need some ecstasy. After the positivity of the first few songs on the album this seems like a dark turn. It’s such a departure that he had to include a little transition piece between “Glam Slam” and “Anna Stesia” so it wouldn’t be such a jarring change. The opening line of the song talks of Prince’s isolation from the world. He’s asking us to sympathise. To understand that loneliness is something we all feel at some point. Sitting just behind that is another question – what to do about the loneliness? By the end of the song we find out the answer is (spoilers!) “Anna Stesia”. The word “play” in the second question is delivered with such innocence that you could almost believe he was talking about skipping rope. He just wants to play (boy or girl, it don’t matter no more), to be touched, to be held. To have someone who truly cares. It smacks of desperation, but it also has that undercurrent of desire. A longing to feel something other than the loneliness.

 

Anna Stesia come 2 me
Talk 2 me, ravish me
Liberate my mind
Tell me what U think of me
Praise me, craze me
Out this space and time

Unlike the characters in our earlier story about Camille, “Anna Stesia” is not a real person. She ain’t no Russian princess, that’s for sure. Prince makes it clear by the way he pronounces her name that she represents “anaesthesia” which is “… the practice of administering medications… that block the feeling of pain and other sensations.”[3] In his loneliness and depression Prince is telling “Anna” to come and block the pain (and other negative emotions) that he is feeling. If she can somehow stop the pain, and sing his praises then he can free his mind. He tells her to “praise” him, which is an odd thing to add to a list of requests you are making to another person. But not to a list of demands you are making on a drug. This isn’t Prince begging for relief, this is him demanding it. Make me your deity. Praise me. Praise be. Do this for me out of space and time. In an astral dimension. In heaven. “Anna” is blocking his pain, singing his praises, leading him to heaven.

 

Between white and black, night and day
Black night seemed like the only way…
So I danced

The Black Album has a black cover. Lovesexy has a white cover (with a blooming flower on it). There’s no room for a single shade of grey here (let alone fifty). The Black Album was his attempt to get his funk cred back after getting some heat for selling out with his popular success. His choice was black and white. Funk or pop. The black funk seemed like the only way so he danced and created the Black Album. In his depressed state, Prince chose the darkness and recorded a “dance” album.

 

Music late, nothing great (Music late, nothing great)
No way 2 differentiate (No way 2 differentiate)
I took a chance

The vocal here becomes almost robotic, and the backing music changes slightly. There’s a keyboard stab in the background that sounds almost out of place, like it belongs in another song.  There are even laser beam type sounds towards the end of the verse (one of the flourishes that I mentioned earlier and I don’t think they’re repeated anywhere). The undifferentiated music that he’s talking about is the robotic, cookie cutter stuff that’s all over the charts. The stuff he’s trying to get away from. The Black Album was an attempt, a chance if you will, to go back to the funk. But the Black Album wasn’t so great – it wasn’t enough. At least not to Prince. If it differentiated him at all from what the other artists were playing it did it in the wrong way. So he gambles on “Anna”.

 

Gregory looks just like a ghost
And then a beautiful girl the most
Wets her lips 2 say

Now we set the scene. In a dark club, looking through the smoke, Greg appears as though Prince could almost see through him, to where the beautiful girl is standing. She’s taken some pills (she knows “Anna”) and is dehydrated. Her mouth is dry so she needs to wet her lips before she starts to speak.

 

“We could live 4 a little while
If U could just learn 2 smile
U and I could fly away, fly away.”

If you take some pills with me then, at least for a little while, you’ll be able to forget your sorrows and you and I can fly off to that far off land where loneliness can’t find us. You’ll smile with all your might. We can go to a better place together and fly with “Anna”.

 

Anna Stesia come 2 me
Talk 2 me, ravish me
Liberate my mind
Tell me what U think of me
Praise me, craze me
Out this space and time

Maybe, maybe, maybe I could learn 2 love
I mean the right way, I mean the only way
Perhaps U could show me, baby (show me, baby)

He needs a teacher. A guide. Someone to show him the way. “Anna” will show him how to love. She will teach him the correct methodology to enable him to properly express the emotion known as love. Great guitar screams at the end of this verse. Just to emphasise the point.


Anna Stesia come 2 me
Talk 2 me, ravish me
Liberate my mind

Again, he’s asking “Anna” to free his mind from the loneliness and sorrow. Buy the ticket, take the ride.

 

Maybe, maybe, maybe I could learn 2 love
If I was just closer 2 somethin’ (closer)
Closer 2 your higher self
I don’t know
Closer 2 heaven (Maybe) closer 2 God (closer to God)

How can he get closer to god? Learn to love? Closer to his higher self? Get high? He can get there with “Anna’s” help. To the heavens.


Save me Jesus, I’ve been a fool
How could I forget that U are the rule
U are my God, I am Your child
From now on, 4 U I shall be wild
I shall be quick I shall be strong
I’ll tell Your story, no matter how long (no matter how… no matter)

This is where the “Anna” finally kicks in properly and the love and understanding become clear in Prince’s mind as the chemicals in his brain start to adjust. The curtain has come down and he knows what he needs to do. Being the devote christian that he is, he equates this with praising his god.


We’re just a play in Your master plan
Now, my Lord I understand

(I understand)

Love is God, God is love
Girls and boys love God above
[repeated over chorus]

The great gift that “Anna” has given Prince is the ultimate realisation that “Love is God, God is love”. Love is everything. Love is the universe. Love is all creation. This is Prince’s revelation. All thanks to one little pill (maybe more than one). The power of “Anna” has led him to this realisation. Or rather, made clear what he was feeling and brought it to the surface.

If you haven’t guessed by now “Anna Stesia” is actually a reference to ecstasy and the effects that a drug like MethyleneDioxy-MethAmphetamine has on a person – blocking feelings of pain and bringing the joy of life to the surface. The effects of taking ecstasy include:

  • Euphoria – a sense of general well-being and happiness
  • Increased sociability and feelings of communication being easy or simple
  • Entactogenic effects – increased empathy or feelings of closeness with others
  • A sense of inner peace
  • Mild hallucination (e.g., colors and sounds are enhanced and mild closed-eye visuals)
  • Enhanced sensation, perception, or sexuality[4]

That’s the sound of Lovesexy. It’s as though he took all the joy and sensation of being on ecstasy and put it on wax. This is definitely a euphoric album and although “Anna Stesia” starts off in a “dark” place (coming off the Black Album) by the end of the song, once the pills have kicked in, there’s nothing left but joy and delight. “Anna” has numbed the pain and the suffering and all that remains is love.

This song and the rest of this album are the result of Prince taking some ecstasy (allegedly). And if this is what Prince is capable of producing after taking ecstasy then, shit – let’s get him some more. Imagine the amazing sounds he could have recorded if he kept taking pills. And why stop at ecstasy, get him some LSD and see where that takes him. We could have been tuning into the radio in the early 90s and heard the DJ say something like “That was Prince with his new smash hit ‘We R All Just 1 Consciousness Experiencing Itself, Subjectively, There’s No Such Thing As Death And We R The Imagination Of Ourselves.’ And now it’s over to Tom with the weather.”[5] This song specifically, and by extension the Lovesexy album, are both an advertisement for the positive power of modern pharmacology and better living through chemistry. This is not music, this is a trip.

 

Running time: 4:57

 

References:

Lovesexy (released 1988)

The Black Album (release 1984)

Batman (released 1989)

The Peach & Black Podcast

Sign ‘O’ The Times, Michaelangelo Matos, Continuum International Publishing, 2004.

Wikipedia

Prince Vault

AZ Lyrics

The Hits – Songbook

Prince In Print

 

[1] http://princetext.tripod.com/v_lovesexy_program.html

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Summer_of_Love

[3] http://www.anzca.edu.au/patients/anaesthestist

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MDMA

[5] If you know about Bill Hicks then you know that I’ve straight ripped him off here but it was too good an opportunity to let slip. If you don’t know who Bill Hicks is well then, you better ask somebody.

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“Temptation” – Around the World in a Day (1985)

This is the last (ninth) track on the Around the World in a Day album, by Prince and the Revolution. It was Prince’s seventh album and was released on 22 April 1985 by Warner Brothers. Purple Rain was released on 25 June 1984. For those not so mathematically inclined, that’s about 10 months between albums. Less than a year after the biggest album/movie/thing of his career. There was no single released prior to Around the World in a Day to help promote the album and no tour after. At the time, it appeared that he was going down the Beatles’ route of becoming a “studio-only artist”. Even the cover of this album was compared to the Beatles (Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band), as was some of the music. Does that make Susannah his Yoko Ono? The other big change was the massive increase in the number of players on the album. There were about 20 musicians working on this album (as opposed to 9 on Purple Rain), some were added to the Revolution and for some this is their only Princely appearance. The expansion of “The Revolution” also seemed to show that he was trying to move beyond them being just a touring back-up band and it’s likely that this was the catalyst for their eventual demise. As the older members of the band saw themselves “replaced” with fresh blood they started to become disgruntled and Prince disbanded the Revolution just before Sign O’ The Times came out. ‘Cause ain’t nobody got time for that. Wendy and Lisa have since confirmed that with the added Revolutionaires, Prince’s focus switched – It felt more like he had used up all he needed from us and he was going on to something else.”[1]

Even before Purple Rain came out he was recording songs for the next album. “Temptation” was recorded in the spring of 1984, before Purple Rain’s release, and most of Around the World in a Day was recorded before the Purple Rain tour started. “Temptation” was recorded at Capitol Records in L.A. (you may have heard of it, it’s in Los Angeles)[2] which is not on the usual list of studio locations for Prince but David Leonard, the engineer, was working there so Muhammad went to the mountain. The Purple Rain tour started on 4 November 1984 and concluded on 7 April 1985. Around the World in a Day was released on 22 April 1985. Two weeks after the end of the tour. During the Purple Rain tour Prince announced that the tour would be his last. Some of the songs from Around the World in a Day got a run during that tour (even snippets of “Temptation”) but the next Prince tour wasn’t until August 1986 with Parade. That’s the next tour after he was going to stop touring (if changing your mind earned you skill points then Prince would be a level 9000 paladin). If you have any doubts about the type of musician/artist/performer Prince might have been, consider the schedule that would have been in place from 1984 to 1985 in order to make all the above happen.

Around the World in a Day is an odd member of the Prince discography. The follow up from the massive hit album (and movie) that came before it and widely touted as a failure. Still, it went double platinum in the USA (back when that meant something). There was no leading single before it came out and “Raspberry Beret” wasn’t released until three weeks after the album was out. It’s almost as though he deliberately went out of his way to sabotage the marketing of this album. Or at the very least subvert the perceived “industry best practice” on hit making. “I sorta had an f-you attitude, meaning that I was making something for myself and my fans.”[3] This album and its delivery is a statement to his fans, the industry and the world that his art is going to take precedence over any demands from the money men. The music that opens this album is probably the biggest departure from “Prince music” that he’s made up to this point in his career, with the middle eastern sounds that start “Around the World in a Day” and the opening lyric of the album is “Open your heart, open your mind”. A plea for his fans to come on this trip (around the world – get it?) with him to Paisley Park – “I was trying to say something about looking inside oneself to find perfection. Perfection is in everyone. Nobody’s perfect, but they can be. We may never reach that, but it’s better to strive than not.”[4]

On the opposite end of the record is the album closer, “Temptation”. Rocking blues guitar, piano noodling galore and Eddie M. on the saxophone. A twisted wet dream of a song that’s full of sexual innuendo and moralistic retribution. Like Captain said on the Peach and Black podcast this song is “Prince being Prince.” Part serious, part sexual, part tongue in cheek (and in a few other places). It starts with an ejaculatory guitar solo intro. Then in comes the drum machine shuffling along making a sound similar to “Little Red Corvette” (to my ears anyway). That drum shuffle sound plays along unchanged all through this song (even in the second half) giving it an underlying drive and relentlessness, and tying the two parts of the song together. More drum sounds are layered over the “little red shuffle” until the sax pops in and there’s the bass in there too, swinging along. Essentially, the first part of this song (the wet dream part) sounds like a blues with some swing on it. The guitar sounds kind of “off” through most of it. As though it represents Prince not being able to contain himself. The guitar solo is the peak that leads into him just screaming the chorus as he finally climaxes. Then in the second half of the song (post-climax) the music slows and the piano takes over from the guitar – the two don’t interact. If the guitar represents his libido then the piano is his conscience (and never the twain shall meet). After the first half of the song climaxes he starts thinking “clearly” now that he’s physically spent (“It’s ’cause you ain’t got the baby batter on the brain anymore!”) and is starting to feel guilty about the potential spiritual harm he’s doing to himself and others. Where the first half was a rock/blues sound the second half is more jazzy and avant-garde. The sax punctuates the monologue and goes off on unhinged tangents that speak to the decline into chaos that our hero is experiencing in his sexy hell dream and the conflict in his mind. Even the piano work is kind of flighty and almost stream of consciousness.

 

 

Sex
Temptation
Lust

Each word is ejaculated by the guitar at the end of each riff. The guitar in this song is an extension of Prince’s “manhood” (penis, penis, penis). Every weird note and bent string. Every out of tempo run. Every off key riff. And every time he nails it. It’s Prince struggling with (or reveling in) his desire.

 

Pop go mama

Pop go Prince! Or Susannah. Probably Susannah.

Everybody on this earth has got a vice
And mine, little darlin’, mine is the opposite of ice
Mine is the running hot water of the daughter of morality
In other words, this little prince thinks a lot about U, see?
Baby, baby, baby
I’m guilty in the first degree

Even before the morality play that is the outro of this song, Prince is confirming that his attitude and feelings are criminal (sinner!). Daughters usually disobey their parents when Prince is around and this daughter’s “water” is running straight towards her “little prince” (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). Running hot water is the metaphor for female orgasm/ejaculation, so what our little Prince is saying is that his vice is not his own pleasure but the pleasure of his woman. His crime/sin is bringing women to orgasm (the shame of it all!). The use of the words “guilty” and “think” here echoes the idea that he later develops into “Electric Chair”. The idea of sexual thought crime and pre-emptive punishment. He deserves to be punished for what he’s thinking. Someone needs a spanking. It’s strange that even though Prince writes a lot of songs about sex and sexuality, and appears to be free and open about it, he still treats it as a “sin” or slightly transgressive in a lot of his lyrics. And when he writes about it (like in this song) he’s being naughty. It’s as though he understands that sex is a good thing and nothing to be feared or ashamed of but somehow his Christianity (or the culture he finds himself surrounded by) won’t allow him to get beyond what he perceives as the sinful nature of what he’s singing about.  It says something about the perverse nature of the culture at the time, and Prince’s place in it, where he was attacked for being too graphic and sexual, yet when he writes about sexuality he’s writing with essentially the same attitude as his critics. The bottom line is, sex outside of marriage is wicked and sinful and the devil will get you if you don’t do it for “the right reasons”. He may be cutting edge at this point of his career but deep down he’s still a prude.

 

Temptation
Working my body with a hot flash of animal lust
Temptation
All my fingers in the pool go splash we must

Interestingly he refers to it as “animal” lust; implying that humans should somehow be (or act like) non-animals. And that by giving in to his animalistic urges, he’s being sinful and less than human. It implies that we, as humans, are somehow not animals. But his body is all animal and his animal fingers (no thumbs) go splash. Go splash in a pool. A pool of temptation. He’s going to make you cum so much that your vagina will become a pool for his fingers to splash around in. That would make an interesting game of Marco Polo indeed.

 

Everybody in this room
Everybody in this room has got an urge
What’s yours, baby?
Mine is temptation, it reigns at a party where lovers splurge
Pop go mama when daddy gets a little 2 much
You know what I’m talkin’ ’bout?
Purplelectricity whenever our bodies touch
Ooh baby, I love it when our bodies touch

The lady that he’s singing to (probably Susannah) may well be starting to feel overwhelmed by this point. He keeps asking her questions but he never gives her a chance to respond. He’s too busy letting her know all about what he wants to do, see and touch. Pop goes Susannah when Prince gets a little too horny and “tempted” by her femaleness (so a win for Susannah!). You know what he’s talking about right? It’s that purplelectricity baby. Interestingly, there is another other reference to “purple” in the lyrics of this album is in “Around the World in a Day”. He opens and closes the album with purple, so to speak. As much as Prince would like to claim (and did at the time) that this album was a departure from his Purple Past™, there are references to Purple Rain all over this album if you look hard enough. It’s not so much a clean break from what came before as it is a dirty continuation.


Temptation
Working my body with a hot flash of animal lust
Temptation
All my fingers in the pool go splash we must

Temptation, temptation, temptation

Here starts an excellent guitar solo.


Wait a minute now

The guitar solo builds to a climax with Prince moaning and groaning and making all sorts of sexing type sounds.


Temptation
Working my body with a hot flash of animal lust
Temptation
All my fingers in the pool go splash we must

The way he screams the first half of this chorus makes it barely recognisable as words let alone the specific ones written above. This is where Prince and his guitar (little prince) come to climax. His temptation has been satiated.


Temptation
Working my body, working my body, working my body

Here is where the guitar drops out completely but the “little red shuffle” continues to motor along to remind you that this story is not quite over and there’s something more to be said. The rest of the lyrics are spoken word.

 

Temptation
I’m not talkin’ about just ordinary temptation, people. I’m talking
About the kind of temptation that’ll make U do things.
Oh, oh, temptation.
Oh, darling, I can almost taste the wetness between your…
Temptation, temptation
I’m not talking about any ol’ kind of temptation, people, I’m talkin’
About, I’m talkin’ about… sexual temptation.
A lover
I need a lover, a lover, I need a…right now.
U, I want U.
I want U in the worst way.
I want U.

I’m not too sure what “ordinary temptation” is – maybe it’s chocolate related? But I think that even ordinary temptation would make you do things, like eat chocolate. I think, however, that Prince is more interested in eating something else. Something a little moister. So moist you can virtually taste the moistness between the saxophone solos. Now we get to the topic at hand (finally!). The whole song, or so it would seem, is about “sexual temptation”. Who woulda guessed it? Notice that he kind of breaks the fourth wall here during the monologue and stops talking to his lady friend in a couple of the lines and directs the message specifically to us, the listener. His “people”. The line “want U in the worst way” is an echo of a line from the song “Girl” (recorded in 1982) the b-side to the “America” single. Wanting someone sexually is just the worst way to want someone, ever. Even worse than wanting to cut off their head and wear their skin as a coat. Again, this attitude highlights Prince’s conservative morals despite his sexual gratuitousness. Sex is “bad” and “sinful” but he’ll still sing about it all day long.

 

“Oh, silly man, that’s not how it works.
You have 2 want her 4 the right reasons.”

I do!

“U don’t, now die!”

No! No!

Let me go, let me go.

Initially I assumed that the deeper voice speaking to Prince was supposed to represent god. But I no longer think that’s right. First of all, I don’t think that an omnipotent, loving god would refer to him (or anyone) as “silly man”. It seems like such language would be beneath a deity of such stature. God’s more likely to use a phrase like “my son” or “my child” or something less harsh. Second, an all loving deity wouldn’t “kill” anyone. And lastly, Prince being the christian that he is wouldn’t be screaming “let me go” to god. He’d be screaming “take me away!” I think the voice represents something else. A demon, satan, the saint of killers or some part of Prince’s own psyche teaching him a lesson. Strangely enough, the demon does sound like he has some empathy in his voice, especially on the “right reasons” line, so maybe it is some part of Prince talking to himself. The lines in the monologue aren’t printed on the album sleeve like the “song” part is. The lyrics printed inside the album end with a quote “Temptation is useless love is more important than sex”. Love is the “right reason”.

I’m sorry.
I’ll be good.
This time I promise,
Love is more important than sex.
Now I understand.
I have 2 go now.
I don’t know when I’ll return.
Good-bye

Human beings can feel love and you can argue that some of the other animals in the world can feel love or something equivalent. So if we choose love over sex, then sexual reproduction would eventually cease which would lead to a universe without anyone left to feel the most important thing in the universe – love. They’re both important but without sex, there’s no-one left to feel any love. So sex (even loveless sex) must be just as important as love (if not more so). If only so that love has a chance of remaining in existence. He promises this time to exalt one over the other (maybe the last time wasn’t a promise – pinky swear!). So he’s tried to be good before but this time is different because now he’s got Susannah. He’s stopped touring. He’s looking to settle down. John and Yoko are about to get serious.

Prince recorded most of “Temptation” before Purple Rain came out and Eddie M. put down the sax parts later, but the closing monologue wasn’t recorded until 24 December 1984. Eight weeks into the Purple Rain tour. While on the road for Purple Rain he tires of touring and decides that he doesn’t want to tour anymore. Or like the Beatles, thinks that he couldn’t do justice to what was recorded in the studio anymore. So after the decision is made he finishes off a concert at the Saint Paul Civic Arena and goes back to his mobile recording studio and records the “outro” monologue over the tracks that he (and Eddie) had already put down. As a final goodbye to his fams. The final recording session for Around the World in a Day. No more tours. “I have 2 go now. I don’t know when I’ll return. Good-bye”.

The Peach and Black team hypothesised that the original track order on this album was “Temptation” and then “The Ladder”. Which makes sense if you want to end your album on an inspirational high. Putting “Temptation” as the final track only makes sense in light of the closing monologue and Prince’s “goodbye”, which is a late addition. I can see how the original ending to “Temptation” might have just been an awesome extended instrumental outro (not unheard of in Prince’s catalogue). Just Prince and Eddie M. having fun for three and a half minutes. Finishing the album in the way he did, it becomes clear that Prince is sending a message to his fans – you won’t see me for a while because I’m going to choose love and settle down with Susannah. His love for her is more important than all the backstage Betty’s. His lover takes precedence over his urges.

 

 

 

Running time: 8:18

 

References:

Around the World in a Day (released 1985)

Purple Rain (released 1984)

Batman (released 1989)

The Peach & Black Podcast

Wikipedia

Prince Vault

AZ Lyrics

Out.com

Prince In Print

Overthinkingit.com

 

[1] http://www.out.com/entertainment/2009/04/16/revolution-will-be-harmonized

[2] Ripping off Matthew Wrather again – www.overthinkingit.com

[3] http://princetext.tripod.com/i_mojo85.html

[4] http://princetext.tripod.com/i_stone85.html

“If I Was Your Girlfriend” – Sign O’ The Times (1987)

The eleventh song on the Sign O’ The Times album; that’s the second track on the second CD or the second track on side three if you have the vinyl. This song was recorded at Sunset Studios in late 1986 through to early 1987 and was one of the songs originally included on the unreleased Camille album; a planned release by one of Prince’s alter egos – Camille. Camille is the high-pitched, fuzzy voice on songs like “Housequake”, “Shockadelica” and “If I Was Your Girlfriend”. The Camille album unfortunately was canned though some of the songs eventually made their way onto Sign O’ The Times (via the Crystal Ball project). I think if the record company had allowed it, Prince would have put out a new record every six months during the 80s. As it is, he had to settle for about an album a year.

If you take a look at the lyric book that came with the album, this song is credited with “Lead Vocal by Camille”. “U Got the Look” is also credited to Camille (along with Sheena Easton) but strangely was recorded after the Camille project had already been scrapped. “Strange Relationship” is also credited to Camille. The opening three tracks to the second disc (side three on the vinyl) are all credited to Camille. I can understand wanting to retain some of the history of that lost project, but why add a completely new song under the same moniker to open the second half of the album? It’s as though Prince is trying to unite these three songs as part of one story. “The Sad Story of Camille”, perhaps.

Musically, the song feels melancholic and sad; slightly pathetic even. The drum programming and rhythm section sound pretty sparse throughout and it reminds me a little of “We Can Funk” from Graffiti Bridge, especially towards the end before it transitions into “Joy in Repetition”, albeit at a slower tempo. There’s some keyboard in there too filling in the background and coming in during the chorus to play a handful of notes that make up the hook which you can’t help but hum along to. A one-man band affair though the real focus of this song is the vocal. The high pitched Camille vocal as the lead, with the back-up vocals on the low end complementing the rhythm section. A large portion of the lyrics are spoken word really (Prince’s proto-rap) which makes this song feel more like a conversation than a song. A late night, drunken (or drug-induced) phone call to his object of desire. Thematically this song is almost “Bambi – part II”. But now Prince is a little more mature in his expression of frustration (but only a little). And he’s not necessarily trying to convince her that it’s “better with a man” but rather that he can be the person that she needs him to be (male or female). Lisa Coleman has described Prince in an interview as a “fancy lesbian”[1] and in this song he’s trying convince his lady friend of exactly that. He wants her to fall in love with him, the way she fell in love with her girlfriend and if there was anyone that could do it then it would be Prince. Wendy Melvoin (in the same interview as Lisa) describes meeting Prince and how “we looked at each other for the first time and I thought “Oh, I could so fall in love with that girl easy”… He looked at me like a gay woman would look at another woman”. [2] Prince’s attitude, sexuality and perceived androgyny might have been enough to turn Wendy’s head (or at least get her looking in his direction) but Camille and the object of his desire are a different story.

 

“Look at the bargains over here, ladies…”

Why would you open a song like this? The opening ten seconds have seemingly nothing to do whatsoever with the rest of the song. I don’t know if this was put in specifically for the Sign O’ The Times version or whether it appears on the Camille album as well. It’s obviously quite deliberate and is meant to convey some sort of meaning; it’s here to tell us a story. The intro to this song sounds like a smash-cut short film. Cut to orchestra tuning up. Cut to hawker yelling in the street. Cut to wedding march. Cut to black. End. Then the song proper fades in. Now imagine the orchestra sound is playing over a shot of a couple breaking up. Cut to the girl, now with another girl shopping hand in hand at the local market and finally our two ladies are getting married (lesbian wedding!). The sound of the orchestra is Prince’s relationship with the subject of the song struggling to stay “in tune”. The hawker is calling out to the lady and her new girlfriend/lover. And they are keen to find as many bargains as possible for their lesbian wedding (yay!) The opening 10 seconds is the entire back story to this song and the reason why Prince/Camille is so sad. He was with this girl who broke up with him because she finally found the strength to come out and be who she really is; falling in love with the person that she wanted, not the person society told her she should be with.

 

If I was your girlfriend
Would U remember 2 tell me all the things U forgot
When I was your man?

Hey, when I was your man

If I was your best friend
Would U let me take care of U and do all the things
That only a best friend can
Only best friends can

It appears that he’s been dumped because his lady friend digs girls too. Unfortunately, Camille can’t really understand this (similar to Bambi) so the whole song is him trying to convince her to come back to him. I say back to him, but the overall vibe of the song feels like she was never really his to begin with. His talk about him being her man feels almost forced and untrue. As though he’s trying to convince himself that he was more than just a friend or acquaintance to her; that now he’s trying to convince her he would make a great lesbian too. Maybe she touched his hand once and he assumed that they were going steady. The reason she didn’t tell him everything when they were together was because she never did feel for him like he does for her. They were never best friends; he just wishes they were. All great couples are best friends; but Camille and his “ex” are not. The two girls are, and that is just killing Camille. She didn’t tell him everything because she knew that their relationship would go nowhere. She was always struggling with coming out and finding the strength to confront her fears. She tells her girlfriend everything because she really, truly loves her. They’re best friends and lovers. She doesn’t need to be taken care of, at least not by Camille. She can take care of herself now. She has someone. She has a best friend that can do all the things the way only a best friend can.


If I was your girlfriend
If I was your girlfriend

Translation: If I was your lesbian lover.

 

If I was your girlfriend
Would U let me dress U
I mean, help U pick out your clothes
Before we go out
Not that you’re helpless
But sometimes, sometimes
Those are the things that bein’ in love’s about

Be honest buddy, you didn’t mean that you’d help her pick out clothes. There is definitely a silent “un” after “let me”. You want to see her naked, you want to undress her. The pause after “dress U” just highlights the hidden meaning here. It’s that kind of half-joke where  he’s hoping that she just might say yes. I can picture him with his arms raised, palms pushing up against the invisible wall between them, Marcel Marceu style, and doing his best Woody Allen impersonation “I mean, help u pick out your clothes”. Camille is imagining what it’s like for his ex in her new relationship and the things she’s doing with her new girlfriend. They going shopping together (“Look at the bargains over here, ladies”) and picking out clothes together. He starts to back pedal a little here too. In the first verse he wants to “take care” of her but now he’s starting to understand that she’s not “helpless” but he still wants to do stuff for her; because love or something.

 

If I was your one and only friend
Would U run 2 me if somebody hurt U
Even if that somebody was me?
Sometimes I trip on how happy we could be
Please

You mean how happy YOU could be. She’s already happy. Without you. No amount of begging and pleading will change that. She won’t be running to you for anything anymore. And if a she had only one friend then of course she would run to that friend for emotional support. It’s like he’s phrasing his questions so that she can only answer them in a way that makes him feel better. But it’s a hypothetical. In real life she likely has a multitude of people she’d rather run to ahead of him. I will say that the “please” at the end of this verse sounds like every ounce of emotion has been poured into it. If you ever wanted an audio sample of what desperation sounded like, then this “please” would be it. As deluded as Camille might be, his emotions are still quite real.

 

If I was your girlfriend
If I was your girlfriend

 Translation: If I was your lesbian lover.

 

Would U let me wash your hair
Could I make U breakfast sometime
Or then, could we just hang out, I mean
Could we go 2 a movie and cry together
Cuz 2 me baby that would be so fine

The music changes coming out of the chorus. He’s starting to get a little more frantic now. Frustrated and desperate he stops singing for a moment. He’s just begging to be near her. All on the small hope that she might turn back to him. The activity that he’s describing here is all romantic and suggestive. There’s something more behind each line that implies what Camille really has on his mind. Washing the lady’s hair (in the shower, before going to bed), making breakfast in the morning (after spending the night together), going to the movies (sitting in the dark and making out or copping a feel). All the things that a couple in love would do together.

 

If I was your girlfriend
Baby can I dress U
I mean, help U pick out your clothes
Before we go out
(If I was your girlfriend)
Listen girl, I ain’t sayin you’re helpless
But sometimes, sometimes
Those are the things that bein’ in love’s about (sugar)

Sugar do U know what I’m saying 2 U this evening? (sugar)
Maybe U think I’m being
a little self-centered (if I was your girlfriend)
But I, I said I want 2 be (sugar)
all of the things U are 2 me (sugar)
Surely, surely U can see (if I was your girlfriend)

 A “little” self-centered the way the sun might be called a “little” ball of gas. Finally a small taste of self-awareness though not enough to change anything. The entire focus of the song has been you Mr Camille. If you were any more self-centered you would collapse under the weight of your own vanity and form a singularity of ego. From which no empathy can escape. This verse is the part in Camille’s drunken phone call confession where he confesses that he wants her to think of him the way he thinks of her. She was once his girlfriend (maybe) and he wants to be her girlfriend now because that is the only way he’s gonna get what he desires.

 

Is it really necessary 4 me 2 go out of the room
just because U wanna undress?

 Yeah dude, it is. Stop being a creep.

 

I mean, we don’t have 2 make children 2 make love
And then, we don’t have 2 make love 2 have an orgasm
Your body’s what I’m all about

Two girlfriends having sex generally can’t have children. But they can make love together and they can orgasm together. Camille is trying to convince her that he can do everything her girlfriend can do (so what’s the problem lady?). But she doesn’t want to do any of those things with you buddy. So just chill. She wants someone who wants her for more than just her body. He’s basically admitting that all he wants to do is fuck her (or her body to be specific). Forget about the fact that there’s a person there.

 

Can I see U?
I’ll show U
Why not?
U can think it’s because I’m your friend I’ll do it 4 U
Of course I’ll undress in front of U!
And when I’m naked, what shall I do?
How can I make U see that it’s cool?
Can’t U just trust me?
If I was your girlfriend U could
Oh, yeah, I think so
Listen, 4 U naked I would dance a ballet
Would that get U off?
Then tell me what will!
If I was your girlfriend, would U tell me?
Would U let me see U naked then?
Would U let me give U a bath?
Would U let me tickle U so hard U’d laugh and laugh
And would U, would U let me kiss U there
You know down there where it counts
I’ll do it so good I swear I’ll drink every ounce
And then I’ll hold U tight and hold U long
And together we’ll stare into silence
And we’ll try 2 imagine what it looks like
Yeah, we’ll try 2 imagine what, what silence looks like
Yeah, we’ll try 2 imagine what silence looks like
Yeah, we’ll try…

The last verse is the culmination of Camille’s drunken, late night phone call to his ex-girlfriend. As he starts to talk faster, I get the distinct impression that on Camille’s end of the phone this has turned into phone sex. The end of the song and the drifting off into silence just reinforces that he’s now “spent”. Camille spends the whole song trying to convince his ex that he’s just as much of a lesbian as her new love. Throughout the song, none of his sexual innuendo and graphic descriptions are penetrative. He’s trying to get her to not remember that he has a penis. The imagery that he uses and the acts that he describes are all “feminine” (or at least that’s how Camille sees them) because he wants her to believe that he is a “fancy lesbian” and that he can be the girlfriend in her life. But when he stares into the silence all it does is stare back and remind him that he’s alone.

The title of the song is “If I Was Your Girlfriend” but what he’s really saying is “What Can I Do To Get In Your Pants?” Imagine you’re the girl in this song. You’ve finally found the strength to break up with your boyfriend (as wonderful as he may or may not be) and you’ve found love and a new life with your new girlfriend (lesbian wedding!). Then Camille comes along and calls you up at 3am one night, telling you all the things he would do to you, with you, for you if he was in her place. Even if you were still single (and still into guys), having your ex profess his desires like that in the middle of the night is creepy. She’s not a human being in any real sense. She’s become a means to an end. A way for him to feel joy or pleasure. When they broke up he told her he wanted to “be friends” but now he’s pretty much confessing that he still wants to get in her pants. He even shows some self-awareness when he calls himself out as self-centered. But it’s not enough to actually change his behaviour.

It’s not love. He doesn’t love her, he wants her, he wants her body. If he truly loved her then he would want her to be happy. Even if that happiness meant she loved someone else. But this isn’t about her happiness. It’s about him and his desires. Just like Bambi, the message is the same. It’s just the delivery that has changed. Now he’s just older and sadder and more pathetic. Pleading for her to come back to him. But all his pleading will come to naught.

I may be drawing a long bow here but I get the sense that this song is about Wendy and Lisa. I’ve read about it being written for/about Prince’s former fiancé and Wendy’s sister Susannah (which may still be partly true) but I think that what this song is really expressing is Prince’s jealousy of Wendy and Lisa’s relationship and his desire for the type of relationship that these two “girlfriends” had at the time (Wendy and Susannah being twins probably has a bit to do with it too). Yes, the song is titillating in the way that a lesbian relationship can be to a heterosexual male, but behind that you can hear the aching in his voice and the desire to be part of something beautiful. Prince wanting him and Susannah to have what Wendy and Lisa have (if he was her girlfriend they might have a chance at happiness). Outwardly, Camille may be crass and slightly indifferent about the subject of this song (focusing more on his own needs) but I think that Prince is using the character Camille to express something about his own desire for the type of relationship that he saw on display by the girls in the band. Deep love, full of trust in one another and an understanding of who they are and what they mean to each other. This song may not have done too well when it was released as a single but amongst Prince fams, this is usually cited as one of the greatest songs in his discography (sorry Captain). The emotion of the vocal, balanced against the sparseness of the backing track creates something that really lets you feel the artist’s emotions at every level. Whether the song is about Susannah or Wendy and Lisa or the girl he had a crush on in high school or all of the above, the way the song makes you feel when you listen to it is really the point. Like all great art, it’s a catharsis.

 

Running time: 4:59

 

References:

Sign O’ The Times (released 1987)

Prince (released 1979)

Graffiti Bridge (released 1990)

The Peach & Black Podcast

Sign ‘O’ The Times, Michaelangelo Matos, Continuum International Publishing, 2004.

Wikipedia

Prince Vault

AZ Lyrics

The Hits – Songbook

out.com

 

[1] http://www.out.com/entertainment/2009/04/16/revolution-will-be-harmonized

[2] ibid.

 

“Way Back Home” – Art Official Age (2014)

Track ten from the 37th Prince album (and latest as of this writing – HitNRun coming soon!) – Art Official Age and last song on side C of the vinyl. Now mock me if you will, but until I actually heard this album and heard him say the words, I had no idea that it was supposed to be pronounced “artificial age”. I thought he was just trying to be artsy and weird. Which I guess he kinda was. This album was released at the same time as Plectrumelectrum, his record with 3rdEyeGirl. Art Official Age has Joshua Welton credited as co-producer. To be specific, the album was “ARRANGED, COMPOSED AND PER4MED BY @3RDEYEGIRL @JOSHUAWORLD”. I think this may be the first time a co-producing credit like that has ever gone on a Prince album. It looks like Josh may be Prince’s new go-to guy.

Art Official Age was released by NPG records and under licence to Warner Brothers (the prodigal son returns!) in September 2014. He’d been putting new songs out online for a while before this and there are a couple of tracks on this record and Plectrumelectrum that had been heard in various incarnations before the album was released. Even a few that didn’t make either album. This album didn’t generate that much online gossip (as I recall) in the Prince-verse. Plectrumelectrum had been spoken about and much anticipated. And 3rdEyeGirl was the new big thing. But no one was really expecting a stand-alone Prince album. At least I wasn’t. And definitely not a sci-fi R&B record with a three-eyed Prince on the cover. The font used on the cover and inside the sleeve for the track listing has a strange way of representing the “A” and “O” in each word (excluding the affirmations). At first I thought the “A” looked like a finger with the circle inside it (like a zero) but then I noticed the “O” with the line through the middle of it (like a one). Ones and zeros. Binary. And only the album and song titles receive this special treatment. Everything else is just regular script. The binary sequence (starting with the cover) is 01000100101100100001011. I don’t know if it means anything (Google didn’t help) but it is likely representative of the artificial age/cage that Prince finds himself in. Someone who was once a pioneer of online distribution and fan interaction has now become a detractor. Even to the point of declaring that the internet is “completely over” (“all these computers… just fill your head with numbers and that can’t be good for you”[1]). The numbers (ones and zeros) hold you back from the real (i.e. not artificial) world, which in Prince’s mind usually means music, sex and god.

The cover of this record is an interesting combination of images and ideas. Obviously the title is referencing the artificiality of the world we live in but in the background we have some floating platinum records. It’s hard to make out which albums they are but they seem to have the flowers on them from the Purple Rain album. Although every vinyl picture I was able to find of Purple Rain has the flowers in the bottom left, not top left. Make of that what you will, it seems clear that the records represent his past and they are behind him. In the foreground we have our hero with his afro-naut helmet in his shiny space suit and three-rimmed glasses. In the reflection of the glasses is a vision of outer space but behind the records is a field of clouds. As though he’s at the edge of the earth’s atmosphere looking out at the universe. The “third eye” is something that has come up a few times in Prince’s career. There’s a song, a band and now an album cover. “The third eye (also known as the inner eye) is a mystical and esoteric concept referring to a speculative invisible eye which provides perception beyond ordinary sight… In some traditions such as Hinduism, the third eye is said to be located around the middle of the forehead, slightly above the junction of the eyebrows.”[2] In his latest incarnation Prince is professing his ability to see what we ordinary folks aren’t able to see with our regular old pairs of regular old eyes. When you open up the cover, on the inside we see what it looks like through Prince’s third eye. The background (his past/earth) becomes binary or digital – artificial.

It’s hard for me to articulate, but somehow this album (and to some extent Plectrumelectrum) feels like a breath of fresh air in the last 10 or so years of Prince’s career. Maybe it has something to do with the four year break between the last album (20TEN) and these two. Maybe he’s reached a new level of comfort with his history, his age and his place in the world. Maybe it’s my own perception. There is definitely some new territory that Prince is covering with this album and he’s tried to wrap it all together in a concept that straddles spirituality and science fiction. I imagine his co-producer had a little to do with it too. Whatever the case may be, this album sounds fresher and more considered than a lot of his latter day career.

This song is really one part of a thematic arc running through the whole album and the arc is held together by the English voiceover lady – Lianne La Havas. She starts in “Clouds” which is track two on the album (side A on the vinyl) but then she doesn’t come back until “affirmation I & II” (seven tracks later – side C on the vinyl) then immediately followed by “Way Back Home” and finishing with “affirmation III”, the last track on the album (side D). Lianne is credited on the record as “Charlotte Ann Telepathy” (her middle name is Charlotte) which, in a similar way to the album title, sounds like “charlatan telepathy” when spoken aloud. Earlier on the album during “Clouds” she says that he’s been asleep for 45 years. So either he’s been “asleep” since 1969 and the summer of love (when he was 11) or he’s waking up 45 years from now in some utopian future (2059) where all the cool characters are English. I’m going to argue that it is both. The songs on the album are themselves nostalgic but the story (the album concept) is futuristic. Inside the album sleeve it says “there used 2 be a time when music was a spiritual healing 4 the body, soul & mind…” The time that he’s referring to is his youth and this song (and a lot of the album) is full of nostalgia and pathos about an earlier, simpler time.  I think that 1969 is right around the time when Prince’s parents split up. It may have happened a little earlier, I’m not 100% sure on the dates, but I think it’s close. Regardless, with this song he’s expressing a longing for the past and a simpler life, and his regret at some of the choices that lead him here. The good old days when musicians were real and the world wasn’t “artificial”. A different age (100% organic!). If I had to guess I’d say that something happened in 1969 that had some impact on young Prince.

While doing the research for this song I came across a movie from 1969 called “Prince”. It’s a Hindi movie about “the story of a Prince who brought about his own downfall so that he may rise as a human being.”[3] I haven’t watched the movie but I’m going to presume that if there was a movie made whose title was the same as my name that I would not only know about it but that I would also have watched it more than once. And perhaps even taken on some ideas and concepts from that movie (and the culture from which it came). Prince finding his way home is him becoming a human being again, not just a collection of platinum records.

Musically, “Way Back Home” starts with a pulsing, ultrasound heartbeat type of sound. It reminds me of “Sex in the Summer” from the Emancipation album, which I believe was the sound of Prince’s unborn child’s heart. On this album the sound represents Prince’s heart beating again after coming out of stasis (45 years in the future) but the echo of that earlier song is there. The pulsing sets the scene behind the opening monologue. There’s the high bell-like sound of the keyboard that introduces Prince’s vocal which starts as a call and response between his singing voice and spoken word. The marching drum beat sounds like a stronger heart beat or a quickening pulse and it comes in on the phrase “trophy wife”. The ding-dong sound of the bells and the drum and the pulsing are all intended to mimic the sounds that our protagonist is hearing as he awakens. The machines that he’s hooked up to are beeping and keeping track of his heartbeat and his vital signs as he awakens and tries to find his way home.

 

Any person or object whatsoever
That requires your attention
Is something that has veered
from its path
And preordained destiny
of total enlightenment

An interesting suggestion that somehow inanimate objects are capable of “enlightenment” but it’s likely that this is some sort of allusion to the circle of death and rebirth. If the destiny of a thing or person is preordained then how is it possible that it could have veered from that path toward enlightenment? Preordained destiny implies that the person or object has no choice but to attain enlightenment (by definition). To suggest that said person or thing has veered suggests that it has free will or has been acted upon by an agent of some kind that had free will. Either way, nothing is then preordained or destined to occur. Furthermore, if that person or thing requires your attention doesn’t that also mean that you yourself Mr Prince have chosen to veer from your path of enlightenment and have been distracted by the shiny objects? (Squirrel!)

Given that they have a preordained destiny to attain enlightenment, then any path they take, no matter how convoluted must lead to enlightenment. However, if they have veered from their path toward enlightenment (and there’s a chance they may not reach their destination), then in no way can it be said that their enlightenment was a preordained destiny.

So everyone’s and everything’s destiny is to attain enlightenment. This is preordained. But some people or objects veer from that destiny. So they are somehow able to avoid their destiny. Which is preordained. But still not certain. But their enlightenment is destined and preordained. But sometimes they veer from the path.

A loop, is a loop, is a loop.

The short introduction to this song specifically is saying that anything that stands out, that isn’t part of the collective, is something that has lost its way. Which is why it has been added to the start of a song called “Way Back Home”. Coming back home is a synonym for “enlightenment”. Prince was lost but now he’s trying to be found.

 

I never wanted a typical life
scripted role, huh…trophy wife
All I ever wanted, was to b left alone
See my beds made up at night
Cuz in my dreams I roam
Just trying to find, trying to find
My way back, back home

He definitely hasn’t had a “typical” life but if all you wanted was to be left alone then choosing a career as an international superstar was probably a bad choice. Prince has always written his own script and made his own choices, regardless of public opinion (or common sense) so he’s definitely lived his life as he chose. The call and response of the first two lines emphasise his desire to not want to live a normal life (whatever that is) but also wanting to truly find love (not just a trophy). Songs where he’s looking for love probably form over half of Prince’s back catalogue, so it’s a theme that he’s covered many times before. And while it’s true that he does shun publicity and the media (or at least purports to), he very clearly doesn’t want to be left alone. If that were true he wouldn’t be seeking love in every other song he writes (or have two ex-wives to boot). But a man can dream and it sounds like in Prince’s dreams he’s astral projecting (roaming) his way back “home”.

 

So many reasons why
There’s so many reasons why
I don’t belong here
But now that I am I
Without fear I am
Gonna conquer with no fear
Until I find my way back home
Until I find my way back home
Find my way back home

So many reasons. Too many reasons. I’m just not going to mention any right now. He doesn’t belong on the spaceship with Charlatan. He doesn’t belong in the “Art Official Age”. He doesn’t belong on Earth. Prince is turning on his third eye and is starting to approach enlightenment; now that he is coming out of his suspended animation, he’s seeing what is really going on in this artificial cage. Or at least that is what he is affirming by claiming that he is going to “conquer with no fear”. But now that “I am I” (I am what I am) he’s realised who he really is and now has the power to conquer (“I know kung fu”). But conquer who exactly?

 

Most people in this world are born dead
But I was born alive
I was born with this dream
With a dream outside my head
That I could find my way back home
My my way way back home

He’s talking here about being spiritually dead or alive, however the way the lyric has been phrased, it does evoke images of miscarriages and still births. Which feels like another echo of “Sex in the Summer” and the child that didn’t survive. What he’s trying to explain here is that he was born with his third eye (his special power) which will allow him to achieve the enlightenment that he requires. His astral projecting spirit is the dream outside of his head that will lead him to enlightenment. Lead him back home.

 

Power to the ones, power to the ones
who could raise a child like me
The path was set
But if u look the truth will set us free
I’ve heard about those happy endings
But it’s still a mystery
Lemme tell u about me
I’m happiest when I can see
My way back home
Can u see my way back home
Can u see my way back home

The drums (heartbeat) stop just before the first line in this verse. This is the memory that stops his heart for a moment. He’s talking about his parents (and the other folks who helped raise him). This song is ultimately a nostalgia trip where Prince is recalling a simpler time in his life when he was young. He had his destiny but… the truth will set him free (he who has ears to hear, let him hear). He will overcome his destiny with his true voice. His singing. His song will show him the way back home.

 

Running time: 3:05

 

 

 

 Addendum

The opening of this song is a spill over from the previous track “affirmation I & II”, which in turn is a continuation of the story from “Clouds”. I don’t think that there’s any way to properly talk about this song without discussing those two earlier tracks and the last track on the album “affirmation III”, which could have easily been called “Way Back Home (reprise)”. Let’s put it all together and see what we can see:

 

Mr. Nelson, Mr. Nelson, can you hear my voice?
Sir, we know you’re a little bit groggy
And you’re probably going to find it hard to speak
But don’t try to talk or process too much now
We just want to let you know that the medication you were given
Has put you in a suspended animation for quite some time
Well, in fact, about 45 years
But where you are now
Is a place that does not require time
That being said, you are completely safe
And we are here to help you

 

“Before you have any interaction with members of the opposite sex
We’re going to have to debrief you thoroughly over the course of the next few sessions.
Today though we’re just going to start off with some simple affirmations that will be automatically induced to your memory temple, which you can upload on to a hard drive and can review at your desire.

Affirmation number one, there are no such words as me or mine.
Words of this nature were introduced into society as a control mechanism which systematically divided the subjects first individually and then as a collective.

“Any person or object whatsoever
That requires your attention
Is something that has veered
from its path
And preordained destiny
of total enlightenment

 

“How are u feeling 2day Mr Nelson?
I trust ur having a quick and enjoyable adjustment period
As u can see, we are communicating telepathically
Which makes things move so much faster here
After u have completed the planned affirmation therapy
u will find this way of interaction far easier
You’ve probably felt many years in ur former life,
that u were separate from not only others, but even yourself.
Now u can see that was never the case
U are actually everything and anything that u can think of.
All of it is U
Remember there really is only one destination, and that place is U
All of it, everything is U.”

There’s a lot that I could bring in here about each song on the album and how it relates to the overall narrative but I’ll just try to touch on a few key points, otherwise I’ll be here for months. The narration starts in “Clouds” but in the opening track “Art Official Cage”, we hear Prince’s muffled cry “Let me go!” and it sounds like he’s being water-boarded. This is the sound of him being captured and put into suspended animation which he then starts to come out of during “Clouds” (45 years later), a song which opens with what sounds like a radio dial searching for a signal – this is Prince searching for the lost memories that the suspended animation has taken from him. I won’t get too deep into that song but sufficed to say that the narration in “Clouds” is the set up for the concept of the album and the story that is to come. The lyrics before this narration are sung by Lianne herself and they talk about life being a stage in this age and how we may be better off in space. Which is where Prince finds himself. Awakening in space (above the “Clouds”). Unable to speak. You can even hear his background vocals mumbling after she says “voice”. But it’s okay because he’s safe with Charlatan Telepathy.

In between “Clouds” and “affirmation I & II” Prince finds himself reliving his past, searching his memories and breaking down his history through the different songs on the album. In “Breakdown” he’s asking, almost begging to be saved (broken down and rebuilt) by the subject of the song. An argument could be made that the subject here is god or so he believes. The rest of the songs are there to represent that breaking down process. Prince’s captors (who he believes are god/heaven) are forcing him to relive the best and worst parts of his history. The electronic manipulation of the vocals in a number of the songs (“Gold Standard”, “U Know”, “Breakfast Can Wait”, Funknroll”) is Prince struggling with the artificial world he is in as he tries to approach enlightenment.

The first “affirmation” track references avoiding women until after he gets a full debrief (how will our hero survive!), which is odd considering that most of the album is songs about women. Or maybe that’s the point. But to go on and say that “there are no such words as me or mine” is a little silly when she’s clearly just said the words. The memories are “induced” into a “memory temple”. Induce is defined as “succeed in persuading or leading (someone) to do something.”[4] Charlatan Telepathy is trying to persuade Prince (via his “memory temple” or astral brain) that the nature of the universe is unity. I find it strange that she tells him he can put his memories on a hard drive for later. A hard drive sounds very “artificial” so it makes a strange kind of sense that his memories of his past – his “artificial” memories will be stored on such a device. Charlatan seems to be working at cross purposes to our hero. If you’re a Star Wars fan then you’ll know that most of the bad guys have English accents and it’s starting to become clear that Charlatan is living up to her name – “A charlatan is a person practising quackery or some similar confidence trick in order to obtain money, fame or other advantages via some form of pretense or deception.”[5] It’s the concept of individuality that is at issue here and the last “affirmation” confirms that this is the point of everything that Charlatan has been talking about. You’re not separate. We are all one. Everything is you because you are everything she tells him. Prince has come home. He’s finally made it to “heaven”. With Charlatan.

The whole of the narration is a ruse to deceive our hero. A brain washing exercise. Telling him what he wants to hear. All so that he can be uploaded to the hard drive and become part of the artificial cage. His spirit has been broken down and his resistance is fading. Charlatan appears to have beaten him by the end but the chorus in the last track is still searching for home as everything starts to fade. And the last ten seconds are silent. Game over.

 

 

References:

Art Official Age

The Peach and Black Podcast

Wikipedia

Prince Vault

Google

The Mirror

AZ Lyrics

Emancipation

[1] http://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/prince—world-exclusive-interview-233220

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_eye

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_%281969_film%29

[4] https://www.google.com.au/?gfe_rd=cr&ei=tzncVaqvMLHu8wfF9aD4Dg#q=induce

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlatan