The time has come today… I have come off of a two week period from late July to early August where there were Ron Kane-like levels of music purchase that saw me bagging nearly 90 titles in that time. Methinks its time to once again delve into the marathon that is 30 Days: 30 Albums so that I can even begin to digest this heap of music in a somewhat timely fashion. First up? An album I had waited a ludicrous amount of time to hear.
I first encountered Prince with videos for “Uptown” on some very pre-MTV outlet. He sure seemed to be cross-pollinating the funk and new wave genres like no other person out there! I saw and noted. And when his next album was released in 1981, it was all over my college station of choice [WPRK-FM]. I immediately went out and bought the promo 12″ of the title track and loved, loved, loved that record. It was my first Prince purchase, but for reasons unknown to me; then and now, I failed to buy the holy album it gave a title to. <FLASH FORWARD 37 YEARS> This is no longer the case!
#30 • Prince: Controversy US CD 
- Do Me baby
- Private Joy
- Ronnie, Talk To Russia
- Let’s Work
- Annie Christian
- Jack U Off
The stellar title track served as a précis to the entire Prince M.O. distilled into a single serving of whipcrack taut, new wave funk. This was the next generation on from Parliament’s seminal “Flashlight” on the evolutionary scale of synth-funk. It’s built on a riff that can go for days. It builds its considerable power from a deeply syncopated vibe that has a coiled anaconda of a rhythm guitar riff playing off of the bleating bass synths. Through it all Prince lays down his credo and ups the ante of controversy by adding in the Lord’s Prayer before the middle eight chant of “people call me rude, I wish we all were nude, I wish there were no black or white, I wish there were no rules.” Which was spoken in multipart harmony until it all circled back on the one.
As much as I never tire of “Controversy” [never in its 7″ edit form, please] I’d probably put my all time favorite Prince song down as “Sexuality.” The intro had a spastic drum machine intro that sounded this close to the slightly more conventional sound that DEVO were putting down concurrently [on “Freedom Of Choice” and “New Traditionalists”]so I’ll chalk it up to a shared usage of Roland synth/drum machine gear. Prince threw in some orgiastic yelps that would never occur to Mark Mothersbaugh, though.
While the song is ostensibly about Prince’s need for the title activity, his focus shifts dramatically in the song to single out “tourists” who’re “double drags.” And he ultimately calls on the need for a new generation of leaders to stand up and organize, after dropping the word “revolution” for the second time since the last album’s “Partyup” [which also cited “double drags,” come to think about it]. By the next album, Prince had branded his band with the name Revolution. In any case, “Sexuality” was a killer jam not quite like anything else I’ve heard that was head-scratchingly only released as a single in Japan and Europe. I would have paid good money for a 12” single of this!
“Do Me, Baby” pointed to the thread of humid sex jams that ran through his early career, though the “1999” album would have another track in this vein with the wittier “International Lover.” On “Do Me, Baby” he fearlessly pursues a self-gratification storyline that would leave egg on many a face; even if they had the nerve to go there like he did. Elsewhere, “Ronnie, Talk To Russia” burst into the world with tattoos of gatling gun drums over textbook new wave bop complete with screaming farsisa before adding real machine guns to the mix in a pre-Art Of Noise move.
The abrupt cut into “Let’s Work” revealed a jam that was perhaps closer in feel to what he was cutting in his off hours for The Time concurrently. This one did become the first 12″ remix from Prince. “Annie Christian” presaged the dour “Something In The Water [Does No Compute]” on next year’s “1999.” For the first time, hints of Joni Mitchell [think “Jungle Line”] were informing Prince’s music. He was fan enough to put her name on the back cover at this stage of the game but Ms. Mitchell was definitely one of his inspirations.
“Controversy” is sometimes seen as the weak link between the transformative “Dirty Mind” and the consolidating commercial beachhead of “1999,” but I really love the mixture here best. For me, it’s the most Prince-like of his early albums with a spicy brew of funk and new wave that sprawled all over the map conceptually while being a tight, concise 38 minutes. Longer than the brief “Dirty Mind” but nowhere near the length of “1999’s” 12” mix length jams.
CONCLUSION: enjoy… a lot