Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
I was nine or ten the first time I heard a Prince song. Some age where it was something I might have heard out of a car radio or at a friend's house, but not something my parents were listening to. Apart from records and cassettes from the fifties and sixties, and some Disney records for me (raise your hand if you ever Mousercized), the only album from the actual 1980s that we had in our house before I discovered the box of cassettes full of U2 and hair metal at a YMCA Camp, was Michael Jackson's "Thriller".
The next post will deal with my first exposure to Prince. And then I'll talk about coming way late in the game to his most famous album, and then how a middle school dance got me into the filthy stuff. But his early stuff? Not until I was in my late thirties.
Maybe because I was born at the tail end of it, I've never liked the sound of AM radio soft rock and R&B. I can enjoy a song or two from that era, but after about three songs, I'm out. It takes effort to listen to Simon & Garfunkel, even though I genuinely love their music.
To me, early Prince is just funk music trying to bust out of AM radio. I like it. It works. But rarely am I in the mood to listen to it. It's in that Before My Time era where nobody I spent a lot of time with was nostalgic for it, and I just prefer 80s and 90s Prince. But that's not to say there isn't a great album to be made from his 70s and very early 80s output.
The first track off of Prince's first album, For You, is a perfect Intro To Religious Prince. Like, how did anyone not foresee his religious conversion coming? Sure, the man was Filthy! But, also, so much of his music owes itself to Christian spiritual influence. While this song may just be about Prince's desire to share his music with the world, it sounds like something an acapella choir would perform to let Jesus know that all of their art is for his emaciated, loin cloth wearing ass. It's a sweet, soft, lilting welcome song.
So let's fuck it right up as soon as possible. Gotta Stop (Messing Around) gives us a perfect 70s funk riff for Prince to be a judgmental prick about someone's sexuality. And, ok, it's probably himself that he's casting shade on, but it's still a judgey song for someone who's going to spend most of his career singing about fucking. But I love the Devo-like synth happening near the end of the track. And once he says stop, it's over.
When I was in my mid-twenties and living in Burlington Vermont, I worked with a Good Christian Girl, whose father owned the company I worked for. She was super proud that she was a virgin, and was going to stay that way until marriage, but she would always talk about the guys she gave head to, and how much she loved to do anal. This amused the hell out of me. I imagine Prince having a similar interaction, and coming up with Head, which sounds like a really good early 70s funk song that happens to be about a bride-to-be who loves going down and being gone down upon. And Prince claims to be just the man to lick her away from her impending groom.
Do you like spacey adolescent Bowie, but wish his music was more about fucking? Sister is Prince's fucked up, incest ideation. I had really hoped, when I heard this the first time, that Prince was an only child. But he has four sisters. I bet this song creeps them the hell out.
Let's move away from filthy lyrics to a filthy guitar riff. Something more Van Halen than Bootsy Collins. The whole homophobic it's better to be with a man delivered to a woman hasn't aged well. And the last verse and couplet of Bambi are gross in a much different way than "Sister". I just imagine both of these songs are persona work from the perspective of someone Prince never liked.
Now we're slowing back down to the AM radio bullshit. When We're Dancing Close And Slow is so 70s croony that it irritates me. My enjoyment of this song is all spite. The breathy vocals, the "I love you in a non-threatening way baby" vibe, though, makes me laugh, as he sings about how he wants to share his feelings with the woman he's whispering to. Oh, and he wants to come inside her. Can't you feel his love touching you? The moral of the song is: Don't dance with Prince if you don't want him poking you with his dick and leaking precum on you. So, maybe don't dance with Prince at all.
I only knew I Feel For You as a Chaka Khan song until the late 90s. I had no idea it was written by Prince, or that he recorded it first. Despite the rise of the feelings-oriented folk singing man of the 1970s, I think it says a lot that this song only won a Grammy when it was sung by a woman. I do think Chaka Khan's version is superior, with its added rap elements, and her name said roughly four billion times like a 1980s Jason Derulo. Also, if her video was any more 1984 (the year, not the Orwell book) it would just be Q*Bert spinning on a Rubik's cube with a fade (Yes, the Rubik's Cube has the fade not Q*Bert, I don't know why that's important, but it is). I might only enjoy the Prince song because I'm nostalgic for Khan's version.
There is a certain sound that I associate with sitcom intros from the 1970s and early 1980s. And that's the driving riff of Soft And Wet. I can just picture Tom Hanks in drag, entering a series of rooms to this song. Or Richard Mulligan looking beleaguered after accidentally knocking over a house of cards. I mean the song is all about fucking, but it sounds like it's a forgettable pop song about nothing.
When You Were Mine is another song that I didn't realize was Prince until much later. I grew up listening to the Cyndi Lauper cover, which isn't much different. Also, I was much older before I realized Cyndi Lauper was a cover artist. Like, all her hits except for "Time After Time" were first recorded by other people. Like "I Feel For You", I enjoy this more out of nostalgia for the version I grew up with. But it's still a solid tune.
The first real hint at what's coming in the future is Partyup, which is another song that starts out as just a generic 70s synth song about seemingly nothing. But instead of being all about fucking, it's about not wanting to go to war and kill people. I like to imagine it's Prince's subtle dig that he doesn't want to ever be some Billy Joel getting famous for singing about a war he didn't actually fight in. The ending cavalcade is an interesting precursor to the end of "1999".
Rising out of "Partyup" is In Love. Look, baby, Prince really wants to fuck you. Has he not been clear? He really wants to "play in your river" and other creepy nonsense that is radio subtle for "let's fuck". Sure, he talks about he's falling deeper in love with you and can't live without you, but the only deeper Prince wants involves penetration. Make sure he wears a condom because young Prince could get it. And seemingly did get it on an incredibly regular basis. There is almost definitely a strain of gonorrhea named after him.
Oh, hey, did you know Prince wants to fuck you, baby? Well he does. And he wants it to a disco beat in I Wanna Be Your Lover. In this version of the story, he's poor and doesn't want to pressure you. He doesn't want to pressure you, but he is going to follow you around singing songs about how he'd totally be the best at fucking you. But no pressure. He just wants to be your mother and your sister. So, in many ways, this is the antithesis to Madonna's "Justify My Love", even though both songs are trying to rip your clothes off and throw you on their almost definitely uncomfortable bed.
Not only does Prince wanna be your lover, he also wants to Do It All Night, which was how I talked about sex when I was fourteen and not having any. This song is almost identical to "I Feel For You" but with a cool upbeat synth riff breaking through every once in a while. Once again, Prince is talking about how the other men trying to get with you aren't as good at The Sex as he is. Yea, yea. I see what you're saying Prince, will you get out of my driveway? I need to get to work.
Christ, are you still here Prince? Just As Long As We're Together. Can I guess what this song is about? Is it about how you're going to please your woman and be respectful of her. And also about how you're going to be fucking all the time? I. am. shocked.
Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad seems to hint that there is finally some karma for Prince Hormones. Look, Prince. She's not your girlfriend. This relationship you have with her where you're going to get married and fuck all the time in a river or whatever? It's all in your head. If she wanted to fuck you, she would have fucked you. Take your pre-incel sadness to your bedroom and work it out with your hands. Leave. her. alone. She's not treating you bad, you're being a creepy stalker.
Wrapping up this tale of Creepy Prince the Wannabe Sex Addict (who, in real life, was almost definitely getting all the flesh he wanted), is Gotta Broken Heart Again, which he fucken deserves based on the narrative of this album. He spent all his money on a long distance phone call / begging someone who was not his girlfriend to come back to him. It's a shame he didn't grow up in The Age Of The Internet, he could have saved himself a bunch of money. I also love that the album ends with there ain't nothing left to say.