“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

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