Superdeluxe Box Of Prince’s “1999” Proves Nothing Succeeds Like Excess [part 2]

prince delirious cover photo

Prince – rocking his MKII purple trench in 1982

[…continued from last post]

While “1999” was an instant classic to these ears; second only to the compulsive pull of  “Controversy” at the time, the fact was that the title track and first release single to “1999” was only a hit on the Billboard Dance [#1] and R+B [#4] charts. In the Hot 100, where Prince had his sights set on, it didn’t even make the Top 40; stalling at a shocking #44. Worse, his manager, who heard the delivered “1999” album came back with the worst thing any artist can hear upon completing an album. His manager “didn’t hear a hit single.”

prince little red corvette labelThis was corrected with the late inclusion of “Little Red Corvette” into the flow of the album with Prince even taking care to segue the track in to the flow from the dying embers of the apocalyptic opening track. The most arresting thing about the song was immediately apparent; the slithering rhythm; reliant on shaker percussion juxtaposed against heavy bass synth with a fast attack and slow release. The bass had emphasis on the off beat to create a tension that was contrasted by the pop elements of the song, which were top loaded up front in the song’s first half.

The friendly, genial tone of the music bed insured that the otherwise overripe sexual metaphors, which were the song’s focus, sagely got a pass on the Pop airwaves. Prince also cannily cast himself in the naif role of the song, which also helped to make his case on the charts. Had the lyrics here been mated with more lascivious Prince music… think “Head,” for example, it may have gotten push back on Pop radio for excessive provocation. Which indeed, “Darling Nikki” managed to do on his next album, but by then it was too late, he was already the hottest star in music. So the design and construction of this Corvette was to establish a beachhead for Prince in the Top 10 after several years as a one-hit wonder from 1979.

The song was very effective in this role, with the first three minutes being a perfect pop moment with a singalong chorus and a rare guitar solo [Prince played 95% of the music here] from the soon-to-be-departed Dez Dickerson of his touring band. At around 3:20 the complexion of the number changed after the edit point on the 7″ version. There, Prince dropped the coy persona he’d used thus far and let loose with some real Soul in his vocals as he proclaimed “gi-rrrr-rrr-rl you’ve got an ass like I’ve never seeeeeeeeen!” He rode his falsetto up into the clouds for the moment of bliss as he further compared this “fast” girl’s “ride” as being “so smoooooooth, you must be a limousine!” With the last phrase being doubled for emphasis. It began as Pop and ended with Soul melisma; giving the LP version a two-sided kick that was more complex than the simpler 7″ edit. MTV couldn’t lap it up fast enough, and the video played heavily for like what seemed to be a full year. The song went to #6 on the Hot 100 and only #15 on the B+B chart. Mission accomplished.

prince delirious cover artPretty much the only real light moment on the album came in the form of its third single; the boisterous “Delirious.” The perky little Rockabilly-influenced number came on the heels of the similar “Jack U Off” from the previous album, “Controversy.” Apparently, when Prince toured England in 1981, he was taken with the Rockabilly revival that the Stray Cats were cresting there that year and it filtered back into a small body of songs that could stand as his take on Rockabilly, but this was not your father’s Rockabilly. This was a hybrid vigor version built on a foundation of synths and drum machine from a very different corner of the playing board.

Prince favored the shakers and tambourines for a percussive-led rhythm on the Linn Drum, along with a synthetic, Simmons-like electroslap keeping time. The song’s characteristic synth hook came in the form of a patch that sounded like someone pinching the neck of a balloon to result in a high pitched squeal. Resulting in an almost goofy sound to match the lyrics of Prince relating “a stupid look on my face” as the object of his desire sent him into his reverie. In spite of no video at all this time, the song still vaulted into the Top 10 and cemented his stardom with three Top 20 hits in a row from this album. “Little Red Corvette” didn’t have a picture sleeve that I can find for America, but this time, “Delirious” got the rarity of a US 7″ poster sleeve sporting a 1982/1999 Prince wall calendar, so there was some money splashed out on promotion. Not that he needed it. Prince was the star of the moment and the sequencing of the first three singles up front on side A of the 2xLP set was a feat of bravado matched by few others.

Next: …The Album Hits Its Stride

 

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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9 Responses to Superdeluxe Box Of Prince’s “1999” Proves Nothing Succeeds Like Excess [part 2]

  1. bpdp3 says:

    I like reading about this album as much as I do listening to it. Looking forward to your dissection of the 1-2 punch that is the almighty ‘side two’.

    Memory’s hazy, but I think ‘1999’ was the first video to air from this album…but only sparingly at best. Then came the undeniable video for ‘little red corvette’ (those red glowing lights in the background get me every time). It was only after that that mtv went back for the ‘1999’ clip, using it on their promotional spots, etc.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      bpdp3 – Then strap in. we could be here a while. You are correct. It was the sparing MTV play for first release “1999” that let me hear the song initially. And there were two slightly different videos in play after it was re-released. I think the first one ended with Dr. Fink lip-synching to the down pitched “1999” in the song’s coda, but that shot of him was edited out of the 2nd version that was a hit on re-release. Possibly the most critical re-release I can name. It was gratifying seeing that become the hit it always was. There may be more editing differences but that’s one that I noticed at the time [and remembered]. And… so right about the second side, but “Automatic” on side C definitely completed the triumphant 2nd movement of “1999.” Hopefully I can fit those three in today! Tricky.

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  2. No, no, no, that song was everywhere…. *checks* HOLYSHIT”1999″WASN’TAHIT!!!

    I have a CD of this album, fortunately a later pressing so it includes all the songs as (supposedly) intended but I need this release for those vault inclusions. These Prince reissues are great for mining the depths but limiting their number and having the price to jacked up really sucks.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      postpostmoderndad – Yeah. Hard to believe, isn’t it? I agree that limiting the edition is a bad thing. Especially with an artist so popular. The price I put down to the hardcover book this time. It’s not the first thing I want with a BSOG, but they didn’t ask me. It would be $100 without the book, I’m guessing.

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      • I’m just thankful for “streaming” where I can listen to albums that are out of my price range. Believe me, I’m all for owning the physical media (much to my gen z offspring’s chagrin) but it’s almost like record companies are trying to drive sales away.

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        • postpunkmonk says:

          postpostmoderndad – I think you may have a point there. They are trying to drive sales away. They want to be in the rental business. The goal of record labels since time immemorial is to have listeners
          a) Pay for every listen they have to a piece of music
          b) Have total control over what anyone may listen to may a given time
          Prior to streaming, this was not remotely possible. Streaming fulfills both of these heretofore impossible goals capably well. Which is why I choose to resist.

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