Superdeluxe Box Of Prince’s “1999” Proves Nothing Succeeds Like Excess [part 11]

prince vault computer

Batman had the Batcomputer® so it follows that Prince had the Vaultcomputer® – click for legible instructions

[…continued from last post]

“No Call U” was a retro Rock and Roll song, albeit made strictly with synths and drum machine. It was an upbeat rocker not a million miles away from a “Jailhouse Rock.” One could imagine Little Richard tearing this one up in 1957 easily enough, but the song’s coda marked it as being obviously pitched as material for The Time. There Prince was definitely using his “Morris Day voice” to ad lib on the outro proclaiming that “I’m the coolest” and wanting the girl to call him. The liner notes claimed that since Jill Jones did BVs for this one, that it was destined for her long-gestating album, even though a tape with her vocal has not been found yet. I say that’s crazy. I say that this was for The Time.

While “1999” marked the end of Prince’s New Wave fusion era, “Can’t Stop this Feeling I Got” was a rare example of Prince diving into uncut New Wave. This one was all bass/guitar/drums with nary a synth to be found, apart from the screaming Farsisa patch keeping time at a steady series of eighth notes. This sounded like nothing more than a song that would have sat nicely on The Boomtown Rats “A Tonic For The Troops” while Prince’s vocal had gospel and soul inflections that were not part of Bob Geldof’s toolkit. This song would emerge years later on the “Graffiti Bridge” soundtrack in a version that stripped off the synths but still had the old New Wave urgency.

“Do Yourself A Favor” began with a beat suggestive of the one on Toni Basil’s “Mickey” before settling into a smooth soul groove more akin to the first two Prince albums from the late 70s than where his head was at in 1982. The prominent synth strings definitely were of that era. Strangely enough, it was a song by Pepé Willie a musician who was married to Prince’s cousin who originally recorded the song as “If You See Me” in 1975 with a teenaged Prince contributing guitar to the session. The Purple One revisited the song from memory seven years later as a long and more conventional R+B soul groove, but the ad libs in the second half of  the song were absolutely in his “Morris Day voice” and redolent of the Day personal as well; marking this as more material aimed at The Time. Due to the changes wrought over the gulf of time and the hazards of memory, Prince was credited as co-writer on this version.

I was bowled over by the immediately brash “Don’t Let him Fool Ya.” The deep synth bass was infectious and the jamming groove suggested tight band choreography on the stage with keytars a’plenty. But once Prince opened his mouth, I got the feeling that this was absolutely Vanity 6 material as he was dissing a lame guy as a warning to other ladies not to fall for his lines. It was down to Prince’s vocal delivery, which was him mimicking a woman’s delivery. There’s a difference between Prince’s famous falsetto and Geraldine Jones. But yow, here was another jamming Vanity 6 number that I was loving [see “Make Up” on “Originals”] and I am starting to get the notion that after years of resisting the cheap come on that was Vanity 6, maybe it’s time to hear it all?

“Teacher Teacher” was another pop/rock outlier with no synths or drum machines; just twangy guitars and vibe that was more Tom Petty + The Heartbreakers than dance floor. It sounded like it could have been recorded any time in the previous decade. It was another example of Prince writing and recording songs no matter what genre and vibe they might slot into when the spirit hit him. Any type of song was worth getting down on tape for possible use later.

Finally, the last Vault disc ended with a tour demo of a medley [“Lady Cab Driver/I Wanna Be Your Lover/Head/Little Red Corvette”] of Prince material dating from 1979-1982 for his “1999 Tour.” The arrangement of “Lady Cab Driver” was so far removed from the LP cut I had a hard time imagining the words to that song in the instrumental bed. More than anything, it reminded me of the vibe that The Machinations attained on their magnificent single”Pressure Sway,” which I always thought had a distinct Prince vibe. I could sing that one just fine to the instrumental here.

It was most exciting hearing Prince update the groove to “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” a great song, but definitely of the 1979 milieu, to sound more contemporaneous to his newer style. This time he was singing to the demo and the minute or so of that one was quite a tease. I would have liked to hear his revision of the entire song. But that was “War + Peace” compared to the 2 bars of “Head” that were barely there at all before segueing into a more dynamic and anthemic “Little Red Corvette;” also instrumental. This was the latest of the Vault tracks in this box; dating from January 1983, immediately prior to the second leg of the “1999” US tour. At the time of this tour demo, the single had not yet been released and had yet to be the hit that he would hoist his star from.

Next: …Got Live If U Want It



About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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2 Responses to Superdeluxe Box Of Prince’s “1999” Proves Nothing Succeeds Like Excess [part 11]

  1. jsd says:

    You definitely should check out the Vanity 6 album! It’s great cheesy fun.


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