Move over James Brown, there's a new sex machine in town, and his name's Prince.Prince Rogers Nelson (born June 7, 1958), generally known simply as "Prince" or "His Purple Badness" to fans, is probably the most famous musician from Minnesota since Bob Dylan to become incredibly successful and carve a place for himself in the annals of pop music history.Known as a multi-instrumentalist who can play several instruments pretty epically (keyboards, synthesizers, guitar, bass, drums, drum machine) and a highly idiosyncratic (sometimes bordering on Control Freak) songwriter, Prince had a future rock star's obligatory chaotic childhood and parent separation, though his mother has stated he only had "normal disagreements" with his father, and other people have suggested it wasn't anywhere near as bad as depicted in Purple Rain or songs like "Papa" (food for thought: Prince also co-wrote several songs with his father John L. Nelson). After running away from home and staying with his neighbours (where he met future bandmate André Cymone), Prince entered his first band in the early seventies, playing piano and guitar. A demo recorded in 1976 brought the attention of a few major record labels, and he wound up signing with Warner Bros. Records because they offered him the most creative freedom (commence laughter). His first two albums for the label, For You and Prince, were full of rather generic, disco-influenced R&B, recorded in one-man band mode.With Dirty Mind, Prince finally hit upon his Signature Style that would hereafter be called the "Minneapolis sound": a fusion of funk (by way of Parliament-Funkadelic, Jimi Hendrix and Sly & the Family Stone), New Wave (lots of robotic synths and drum machines), pop and rock. It also helped that by then he had assembled a good backing band (bassist André Cymone, guitarist Dez Dickerson, keyboardists Lisa Coleman and Doctor Fink, drummer Bobby Z.). Lyrically, Dirty Mind marked the first appearance of Prince's overwhelming preoccupation with sex and matters of the flesh in general, as showcased by such songs as "Dirty Mind" (about having a dirty mind), "Head" (about him tricking a bride into marrying him through the power of head), "Sister" (about really SquickyBrother-Sister Incest). The album was also recorded entirely by Prince on all the instruments except for "Head", which included vocals from Lisa Coleman and Doctor Fink contributing a noisy, atonal keyboard solo.Unsurprisingly, this all proved to be a bit too much for America in The Eighties (his bizarre wardrobe certainly didn't help matters) - while opening for The Rolling Stones in 1981, Prince got pelted with trash and booed off the stage. Still, he soldiered on and released Controversy, which was pretty much Dirty Mind again (general consensus has pretty much branded Controversy with the It's the Same, so It Sucks iron).By this time, Prince's backing band had crystallized into its most famous incarnation:
Brown Mark - bass guitar, vocals
Bobby Z. - drums
Lisa Coleman - keyboards, vocals (generally credited as "Wendy and Lisa")
Wendy Melvoin - guitar, vocals (generally credited as "Wendy and Lisa", replaced Dez Dickerson in 1983)
Doctor Fink - keyboards, vocals
Now christened "The Revolution", Prince made 1999, his breakthrough album into the US mainstream - mostly on the backs of the hit singles "1999" (a catchy funk tune about nuclear armageddon) and "Little Red Corvette" (an entire Dual Meaning Song using cars as a metaphor for a bad relationship).Prince's next project was a small film where he played a troubled musical prodigy who is trying to become a star despite his Jerk Ass behaviour threatening to drive away his bandmates. The Revolution and other associates all appeared using their real names, except Prince's character who was named "The Kid". You might have heard of the movie, it was named Purple Rain. 1984 thus turned out to be Prince's best year: the soundtrack album Purple Rain was a massive success, spending 6 consecutive months at #1 on the US charts, the film got nominated for Academy Awards and grossed over $80 million at the box office, and four of the singles drawn from it were smash hits: "When Doves Cry", "Let's Go Crazy", "Purple Rain" and "I Would Die 4 U". Purple Rain not only introduced Prince's Xtreme Kool Letterz spelling system but also showed a more theatrical yet still highly catchy variation on the Minneapolis sound, emphasising the pop and rock aspects and having louder guitars but still keeping the stylistic mishmash intact, making it a crossover success.In this period, Prince also got in trouble due to his explicit style. Then-Senator Al Gore's wife, Tipper, was outraged by hearing her 12-year old daughter listening to the explicit lyrics of "Darling Nikki" and founded the much-hated Parents Music Resource Center (yes, the inventors of the "Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics" sticker), instead of, oh we don't know, being more careful about buying albums in the future or something like that.Following a successful tour marred by occasional tension within the band, Prince & the Revolution released another successful album, Around the World in a Day, this time amplifying the psychedelic elements hinted at with Purple Rain to a vaguely Beatlesque sound. The resulting tour worsened intra-band tension due to Prince's recruitment of additional members (Susannah Melvoin, Eric Leeds, Atlanta Bliss, Jerome Benton, Wally Salford, Greg Brooks). He also began a new film project named Under the Cherry Moon. While Purple Rain had a lukewarm-but-positive reception, Cherry Moon was savaged by critics due to bad plot and acting, but the film's soundtrack album Parade did just as well on the charts.Since the intra-band tension had grown to severe levels by now, Prince disbanded The Revolution in 1986, firing almost everyone (Brown Mark quit by himself) besides Doctor Fink. A new lineup was assembled, including guitarist Miko Weaver, drummer Sheila E., Bliss and Leeds on horns, bassist Levi Seacer, Jr. and keyboardist Boni Boyer. Some of them appeared on Sign "☮" the Times, Prince's first solo effort after the disintegration of The Revolution. While this earned a much better reception critically and commercially, it marked the beginning of Prince's feud with Warner Bros. Records, after they scrapped his plan to originally release a triple album and forced him to reduce it to a double album - possibly a rare case of positive Executive Meddling. He then was tapped to create the soundtrack for the 1989 Tim BurtonBatman film (Michael Jackson had been in talks to do it, but it never panned out).After the rest of his old bandmates drifted away (Dr. Fink, Sheila E., Leeds, Bliss, and so on), Prince debuted a new backing band, The New Power Generation, in 1990. Its members have included:
Levi Seacer, Jr. - rhythm guitar (1991-1993)
Kat Dyson - rhythm guitar (1996-1997)
"Rev." Michael Scott - rhythm guitar (1997-2001, 2004, 2006)
... and many others.Prince dropped into a Seasonal Rot during The Nineties. When his commercial success slipped, he feuded with Warner Brothers (at one point writing "Slave" across his face) until he got off the label and changed his name to the unpronounceable "love symbol," leading to the nickname "The Artist Formerly Known As Prince". Now having gained Protection From Editors, he proceeded to put out a string of albums, playing to a small but dedicated group of fans while the mainstream's attention moved elsewhere. Many don't feel it matches his material from the 80s.When his contract with Warner Bros expired in 2000, he made a statement that he was changing his name back to Prince, rather than the symbol he had adopted to detach himself from them. He entered the mainstream again, releasing his album Musicology on a major label and performing at the Grammy Awards. Since then, Prince has held a larger audience than during his off-label years in The Nineties but still not matching his peak popularity.Prince has written more than one thousand songs. Most have been released under his own name, some have been released under pseudonyms and pen names, while others have been recorded and released by other artists. Associates and "spinoff bands" of the latter have mostly involved others recording vocals over his own songs with his own lyrics (Vanity 6, Apollonia 6, Mazarati, Madhouse, The Family), with some such spinoff bands managing to win creative independence (Sheila E., The Time), or others not being involved with him at all (Wendy & Lisa - considering Prince's conflicts with them led to The Revolution breaking up, that's not at all surprising). We have a page for them over at Prince's Associates.Prince reportedly has hundreds of unreleased songs in his "vault". He has won seven Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe, and an Academy Award, and is one of the few people to have simultaneously managed a #1 movie, album and single in the same year. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the first year he was eligible in 2004. In that same year Rolling Stone ranked Prince #28 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.He's also apparently really good at basketball.
1993: The Hits/The B-Sides (the first Prince compilation to include some of his numerous B-sides; he was specifically paid by Warner Bros. to not be involved in its assembling)
1994: Untitled (recorded in 1987 as the follow-up to Sign; instead shelved, distributed as a bootleg and released legally in 1994. Commonly called The Black Album due to its creditless, all-black sleeve.)
1995: The Gold Experience
1996: Chaos and Disorder
1996: Emancipation (triple album)
1998: Crystal Ball (a quadruple album, with 3 CDs including edited/revised versions of previously bootlegged songs, remixes, and an acoustic album named The Truth. It was also shipped with a cassette of the 25-minute jam "The War" and another bonus disc filled with instrumentals, Kamasutra. Prince's overblown promises and legendarily poor handling of the release managed to alienate a sizeable portion of his fanbase (the YMMV page has more details under Hype Backlash.)
1999: Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic
2001: The Rainbow Children
2002: One Nite Alone...
2004: The Chocolate Invasion
2004: The Slaughterhouse
2007: Planet Earth
2009: LOtUSFLOW3R/MPLSound/Elixer (three albums packaged as one, with the first two by Prince and the last by his latest protegé, Bria Valente)
A Day in the Limelight: The song "Around the World in a Day" owes its existence to this. Long story short, Prince invited Lisa Coleman's brother David to their then-studio (an abandoned warehouse full of recording equipment on Flying Cloud Drive in Eden Prairie, Minnesota) for his birthday in June 1984 and allowed him two days of studio time as a present. Afterwards, Prince listened to what David had recorded and liked it so much he added his own input, and after a re-recording with The Revolution it became the title track and first song for his next album. (The finished track also arguably qualifies as a Sibling Team moment, since David Coleman [cello, oud, fingercymbals, darbuka and sings backing vocals] and Jonathan Melvoin [tambourine and backing vocals] share contributions with their sisters.)
Bawdy Song and Intercourse with You: The poster child of these tropes, what with the amount of colourful metaphors and outright requests for it in 90% of his back catalogue. He even wrote a call-and-response anthem for the act called "Sex", but when it comes to being explicit, the following pretty much take the cake: "Sister", "Let's Pretend We're Married" (with the charming declaration "I sincerely wanna fuck the taste out of your mouth. Can you relate?"), "Darling Nikki" (the song that spurned the PMRC hearings that ultimately gave us the Parental Advisory stickers), "Erotic City", "Le Grind" and "Cindy C."
Bizarro Episode: The Black Album. Horrific atonal sounds, an entire verse in a rap song dedicated to licking knees ("What does that have to do with the funk? / Nothing / But who's paying the bills?"), an entire song dedicated to a man who, in a growling monologue, kills a woman and police in cold blood, and references to bondage, stalking, drugs and squirrel meat. Then there's the entirely sane and tender love ballad, "When 2 R in Love", dropped right in the center of it. To this day, nothing else in his catalogue (including bootlegged material from the vault) comes close to the level of insanity on this album.
Control Freak: Prince borders on this heavily. Even in his heyday with The Revolution, Purple Rain is the only album that features the full band performing for the majority of the record (six songs, compared to Around the World in a Day's three and Parade's two.) Very few artists got a decent level of respect for their own style and input out of him (Matt Fink, Sheila E. and Eric Leeds being among the few.)
Prince also had a habit of micro-managing every band he formulated. Albums by Vanity 6, Apollonia 6, Jill Jones, The Time, The Family, Sheila E. and more were written, recorded and performed entirely by him, rarely with contributions by the bands in question (in the case of the first four artists, only the singers contributed and even then, they followed Prince's guide vocal track to the letter and Prince was always involved on backup vocals.) The Time famously never got to play on their own albums until their fourth one. Only time will tell if his more recent projects, such as New Power Generation and Bria Valente, will reveal that they received the same treatment.
In one interview, Prince claimed that he was born epileptic and suffered from seizures in his childhood. Maybe that has something to do with it?
Concept Album: Love Symbol was supposed to be one, in which the "crown princess of Cairo" (played by then-girlfriend Mayte) is saved by Prince from her double-crossing bodyguards, who were after her "3 Chains o' Gold". Most of the story got cut out so Prince could fit one more song in, so all that's left on the album is Kirstie Alley trying to interview Prince.
Come is linked conceptually by a poem that appears in bits throughout the album.
The Rainbow Children is ostensibly about the Banished Ones taking over all of Earth save the haven of the titular Rainbow Children, which is covered in a "digital garden"; the Rainbow Children then go canvassing to collect enough people for a fight between them and the Banished Ones, cribbing a lot of Jehovah's Witnesses spirituality into a more Princian dialect along the way. Its real concept might as well be "Prince ranting about shit for an hour. Fauxlosophically."
Contemptible Cover: The covers of Prince (Prince naked shown from the torso up), Dirty Mind (Prince wearing a trenchcoat and a thong) and Lovesexy (Prince naked in a religious pose that just happens to cover his balls) qualify as this. Retailers famously refused to stock Lovesexy as it is, either selling it from behind the counter or wrapped in a brown paper bag, much like John Lennon's Two Virgins*
the album with him and Yoko Ono naked on the cover
Darker and Edgier: The cyberfunk moodiness of 1999 flew in the face of his last four records. The Black Album flew in the face of everything. Come was also pretty moody, as it was intended to showcase how bad Prince was and how awesome The Artist Formerly Known as Prince was. Warner Bros. chose not to release Come and The Gold Experience at the same time though, so that last one went unnoticed for a while.
Epic Rocking: "1999", "Let's Pretend We're Married", "D.M.S.R.", "Automatic", "All the Critics Love U in New York", "Purple Rain", "Temptation", "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man", the original version of "Computer Blue" (see below at What Could Have Been) etc. etc.
The 12'' single version of "America" runs 21 minutes long because Prince and the Revolution jammed away until they had no more room left on tape. This was covered by a quick fade-out. Many of Prince's other 12"s of the 80s, like "America", feature the original version of the song, while the album and 7" feature edited versions. One notable exception is the 12" version of "Kiss" and "I Wish U Heaven", which consist of separate sections.
The first CD issue of Lovesexy was indexed as one 45:07 track without any separation between songs, to force listeners to listen to it in its entirety.
Then there's his guitar work, from the blistering coda of "Let's Go Crazy" to his show-stealing solo from when he joined Tom Petty in performing "While My Guitar Gently Weeps".
Gratuitous Spanish: If somebody wanders into Prince's orbit and happens to speak Spanish, he will not hesitate to use that. This is most noticeable on some of his associates' albums, chiefly from Apollonia Kotero and Mayte Garcia, but he also indulged in it with "Te Amo Corazón" from 3121.
Hey Its That Girl: Pearl, one of Prince's dancers from the "Diamonds And Pearls" tour and videos, is better known by her real name, Robia LaMorte, who played Jenny Calendar.
Hijacked By Jesus: While he did drop mentions and references to Christianity as far back as "Let's Pretend We're Married" (I'm in love with God/He's the only way/'Cause you and I know we're gonna die someday) and did write songs like "God" and "I Would Die 4 U", Prince converted to a Jehovah's Witness sometime in the early 2000s. Goodbye, explicit lyrics of yesteryear. He even went around self-censoring his past songs while performing live for a while*
For example: when playing at the University of Minnesota in 2000, fans started the "Play that motherfucking bass!" chant from "Days of Wild", only for Prince to scold them with "We don't do that no more!"
, or altering their lyrics in other ways*
That'd be "The Cross", which had its lyrics revised to "The Christ" since Prince now believed that Jesus died on an upright stake instead of a cross (this is related to the ambiguity of translating the Greek word "stauros")
. Fans weren't amused.
Even before his conversion, Prince famously recalled his black album weeks before release, so he could replace it with the spiritually uplifting Lovesexy. Prince really begun excising the freakiness out of his persona around this point.
Hypocritical Humour: He derided rappers as tone deaf on "Dead on It", then started incorporating it into his music on Lovesexy's "Alphabet St." and even moreso in The Nineties (cf. "Gett Off" and "My Name Is Prince").
He dedicates a verse of "We March" from The Gold Experience to lecturing his audience not to call women "bitches" (not to mention trashing Gangsta Rap for the same reason on "Days of Wild"), but only six songs later he blindsides them with a song called "Billy Jack Bitch" (which loops you-know-which exclamation from Fishbone's "Lyin' Ass Bitch").
I Am the Band: "Produced, Arranged, Composed and Performed by Prince." Considering how many instruments he plays, yeah, he kind of is. One wonders why he even bothered letting other musicians tag along in the first place.
Lampshaded and parodied on a season 10 Saturday Night Live cold opening where Prince (played by Billy Crystal) sings a "We Are the World" parody called "I Am Also the World" with his back-up dancers (played by Mary Gross and Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and any time another musician (in this case, Willie Nelson [played by Jim Belushi], Bruce Springsteen [played by Gary Kroeger], and Cyndi Lauper [played by Pamela Stephenson]) tries to duet with Prince, his bodyguards [played by episode hosts Mr. T and Hulk Hogan] would beat the snot out of them.
Lighter and Softer: In and intentional case of this trope, every aspect of "Lovesexy" was bubblegum and sunshine. And Jesus.
I Call Him "Mister Happy": Even with a song called "Mr. Happy", reportedly Prince named his penis Valentino. Have fun never hearing "Manic Monday" the same way again!
Instrumentals: Very very few early on - "Venus de Milo" and "2 Nigs United 4 West Compton" were the only ones to make it onto albums in The Eighties. There's more on Kamasutra, Xpectation, C-Note and N.E.W.S.
Insufferable Genius: Stories abound of Prince's Jerk Ass behaviour, which was also the source of The Revolution's breakup. He didn't exactly try to hide it in his films either. Dude's like the James Cameron of music or something.
For some inexplicable reason, most of his jerkassery seemed to be aimed at Wendy & Lisa. Instead of scrounging up the old Revolution stories, here's a more recent one: in 1998 he announced a Prince & the Revolution comeback album called Roadhouse Garden and tried to get the duo involved. They reasonably asked for some compensation, and said no when he didn't offer any. Then he went and blamed them for the album being shelved.
Elton John said of a meeting with Prince, "I went up to Prince and said, 'I'm a big fan of your stuff,' and he looked at me and just walked off... left me standing there like a twat. He's a prat, but he's a clever prat."
During the Nude Tour, Prince constantly picked on guitar Miko Weaver, something biographer Alex Hahn and other bandmates suggest was due to him feeling jealous that Weaver had a bigger Groupie Brigade and was generally more popular with the ladies. In a pre-tour rehearsal, Prince even challenged Weaver to "take this shit outside", to which Weaver snarked "Yeah, like I'm gonna come outside with you and your bodyguards" and walked out, but was eventually convinced to return for the tour.
During the same Nude Tour, Rosie Gaines complained that she was being mistreated by dancers Tony M., Kirky J. and Damon Dickson, but Prince simply moved her to Mavis Staples' tour bus instead of reprimanding them.
Kevin Smith can relate his Prince adventure better than I can. It's all over YouTube.
The Immodest Orgasm: The end of "International Lover", complete with one of Prince's famous screams.
Keep Circulating the Tapes: The Black Album was pulled just weeks before its intended release and was replaced by Lovesexy, causing it to become one of the most bootlegged albums of all time. The album garnered a limited official release in 1994, in an attempt to help close off his contract with Warner Bros. (It didn't work.) Some of his unreleased stuff tends to leak out once in a while on bootlegs, and several others were released on the Internet through the NPG Music Club. Good luck catching them all.
Last Note Nightmare: "Do Me, Baby" is pretty soothing for the most part, but the very end is pretty creepy and ominous sounding. "Gotta Broken Heart Again" is a simple ballad that ends with what sounds like a gunshot.
Lucky Charms Title: Sign "☮" the Times and "♥ or $" are good examples. Prince also started using an eye symbol in 1988 to replace the word "I"; since it appeared beside another song called "I Wish You Heaven", some fans romanize the symbol as "Eye" (as in "Eye Love U, but Eye Don't Trust U Anymore".) Prince took this even furtherwith the symbol later used for his name, which was first used as the title for his fourteenth album.
Misogyny Song: Some of his unreleased material goes here, like "It Takes 3" (ladies, Sonny T. doesn't want to know you unless you have friends for threesomes!) and "Extra Loveable" (where after a bunch of normal lyrics expressing attraction to an unnamed woman, Prince suddenly starts singing about how he's going to rape her).
Money, Dear Boy: Why the Black Album finally saw release. Prince also used this moment to unsuccessfully get out of his contract with Warner Bros.
New Sound Album: Dirty Mind (showing off the Minneapolis Sound), Purple Rain (adding psychedelic bits, pushing the rock and pop parts forward, showing off The Revolution), Around the World in a Day (dialing up the psychedelia), Sign ☮ the Times (first post-Revolution solo album, more stripped-down arrangements and production), The Black Album (pure funk with bits of Funk Metal), Lovesexy (poppy), Graffiti Bridge (better technology), Diamonds and Pearls (less New Wave, less rock/pop, more funk/R&B/soul).
Prince ran out of tape while recording the extended version of "America", so they added a fade out to hide it. Ditto for "I Would Die 4 U", only they trimmed 20 minutes off as well.
No Title: The album commonly referred to as The Black Album was intended to be released in an entirely black sleeve with the catalogue number being the only thing printed on it. The only credit to Prince is a hidden message at the start of the opening song: "So ,you found me. Good, I'm glad. This is Prince, the cool of cools…" When it was officially released in 1994, the packaging remained unchanged, albeit with a sticker on the shrinkwrap saying, "The legendary Black Album."
Non-Actor Vehicle: Purple Rain, Under the Cherry Moon and Graffiti Bridge. Only the first is considered in any way good - more specifically, So Bad, It's Good. Over the years UTCM has attained minor cult status among fans.
Unsurprisingly, his most acclaimed movies are the concert films Prince and the Revolution: Live (filmed on March 30, 1985 at Syracuse, New York) and Sign "☮" the Times (supposed to have used concert footage from Rotterdam and Antwerp, but those shots turned out grainy and unusable so most of the film, including the segues, was reshot at Paisley Park).
Noodle Incident: Why did Prince withdraw the Black Album? Er, hard to say. Stories circulate about how he became convinced it was evil, and some former associates claim that he came up with this idea after having a bad trip on ecstasy. Even when it was issued in 1994 to help complete his contract, his publicist stated he was still "spiritually against" it.
And considering the content of the vast majority of his songs, it's not all that hard to figure out.
Although, Purple Rain and Let's Go Crazy can both be seen as (and have been stated to be) religious metaphors.
Older Than They Look: Looking at Prince, it's hard to believe that he's in his early 50s and he still looks the same as he did in the 1980s.
One Letter Name: The symbol, used when he was referred to as "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince" Said symbol, while not a alphabetical letter, still had to be printed during this time and Warner Brothers had to send out floppy disks of a special font that included the symbol so that print media could print it.
Piss Take Rap: "Dead on It". "Now the rapper's problem usually stems from being tone deaf..."
Ping Pong Naïveté: In "Uptown", Prince is approached by a seemingly loose woman and mentions that he's taken aback by the request to party in Uptown. His internal monologue even calls her "a crazy little mixed up dame / she's a victim of society and all its games." Considering most of the rest of the Dirty Mind album consists of Prince sticking his dick in things, this can seem jarring.
Protest Song: Not what he's primarily known for, but "Partyup", "Ronnie Talk to Russia" (although he liked Ronald Reagan), "America", "Sign "☮" the Times", "Dance On", "We March" and "Dear Mr. Man" count. These tend to be a bit Anvilicious though.
"Tick, Tick, Bang" was originally recorded in the Controversy sessions as a Punk Rock song with frenzied drumming, monotone synth and Prince's multitracked vocals. The Graffiti Bridge version somehow grew to include a slower tempo, a beat sampled from Jimi Hendrix, a different synth melody and more samples.
"You" was originally recorded by Prince in 1979 as a rock-oriented side-project called "The Rebels", and it was (appropriately) a riff-driven Power Pop song with a droning synth sequence, not too far removed from what Devo ended up doing the next year with Freedom of Choice. By the time Prince pawned it off to Paula Abdul in 1991 with the Princebonics-ized title of "U", the rock part was absent, and it was now more of a dance song.
The other surviving Rebels song, "If I Love You Tonight", wasn't radically changed since it started as a ballad, but Mayte's version has a more obvious R&B influence, with drum machines replacing Bobby Z.'s drums, and Princebonics replacing the normal title.
"Alphabet St." and "Kiss" both started out as acoustic blues songs in 1987 and 1985, respectively, and their original demos can be found on bootlegs, the former in drastically shortened form.
"Strange Relationship" had originally been recorded in 1982, and reworked with Wendy and Lisa in 1985, gaining a noticeable Indian influence through their playing sitar and wood flute. By the time it came out on Sign ☮ the Times, The Revolution had disbanded, and Prince altered the mix to bury their contributions. (They weren't removed, but picking out the sitar and wood flute now requires some more careful listening.)
In fact, one of the chief complaints of fans against the Crystal Ball boxset, besides the predominance of material from The Nineties, is that the 1980s songs were presented in revised form.
Sampling: Many people have sampled his stuff (example: Public Enemy's "Brothers Gonna Work It Out" uses the squealy guitar solo from "Let's Go Crazy"), not really surprising there. Prince himself first dipped into this with the Batman soundtrack, which featured samples taken from a workprint of the movie, with no ADR or foley, and outright made a Stupid Statement Dance Mix with "Batdance". Starting in The Nineties he would use the occasional sample more frequently: "7" is based on the 1960s R&B song "Tramp" by Otis Redding and Carla Thomas, "Tick Tick Bang" yanks the drum beat from Jimi Hendrix's "Little Miss Lover", one version of the bootlegged "Dis Beat Disrupts" samples the famous "When the Levee Breaks" beat.
From "Now", a song released during his symbol phase: "Don't worry about my name, it's too long to remember / I could tell you now but we'd be here 'till next September."
The unreleased "Blues in C (If I Had a Harem)" pokes fun at his The Casanova reputation.
Self-Titled Album: His second album was this. The symbol that was the name of his fourteenth album was later used as his legal name.
Sexophone: Surprisingly this is rarely imployed, but finally saw use on 1989's three-part "The Scandalous Sex Suite", a 19-minute re-imagining of the song "Scandalous" from the Batman soundtrack. The woman in question being Kim Basinger, who converses with Prince throughout the song. This may have also been used in the infamous Underwear scene from the cinematic classic Graffiti Bridge.
Spoken Word In Music: Numerous examples exist throughout his career. The most famous examples would include the start of "Let's Go Crazy".*
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.
The most infamous example would probably be the intro to "Computer Blue":
Additional examples include the talk with God at the end of "Temptation", the entirety of "Bob George", the monologue/sermon that comprises the first half of "One Song" and the aformentioned "Scandalous Sex Suite". Smaller examples include the intro to "Eye No" and the skits in between a couple of the songs on the Love Symbol album (Prince eventually cut several minutes of skits out of that album to fit one more song in.) The cake-taker is "The War", a 25-minute live jam with Fauxlosophic Narration making up the lyrics.
Subliminal Seduction: Inverted entirely with "Darling Nikki". The song itself is about a "sex fiend" who has her full way with Prince, leaving him a wreck that begs for more. The backward message that concludes the song? "Hello, how are you? I'm fine, 'cause I know that the Lord is coming soon." During live performances on tour, that section would be played forwards, because there was no way to properly reproduce it live.
Stupid Statement Dance Mix: "Batdance", which is Frankenstein'd together out of samples from Batman, quotes from unreleased Prince songs floating around that time (as well as the 1966 Batman theme), simplistic drum machines and a typically Princetastic guitar solo. Somehow, this was a #1 single.
Take That: He's recorded quite a few songs bashing on Warner Bros. Records, like "Dolphin", "Face Down" and "White Mansion".
The unreleased song "Extra Loveable" zings departed Revolution guitarist Dez Dickerson with "Hey Dez, don't you like my band?".
Take That, Critics!: "All the Critics Love U in New York". The title says it all. Additionally, "Bob George" is rumoured to be a reference to Nelson George, a Billboard and Village Voice music critic who gave some of his albums bad reviews.*
The "Bob" is supposedly from Robert Cavallo, who managed him in his early days along with Joseph Ruffalo and Stephen Fargnoli, a/k/a "The Spaghetti Brothers". This was the team responsible for mismanaging Paisley Park Records to the point that Warner Bros. forced Prince to lend his Paisley Park studios to other acts just to try and recoup some of their investments, and eventually shut it down entirely.
The b-side "Hello" is a big take that to all of his critics, specifically those who criticized his absence in "We Are the World".
Talking to Himself: Prince distorts his voice electronically to have a dialogue between himself and God in "Temptation". He also sped up his voice on several occasions; many excursions into the upper range were intended to sound like a female alter ego named Camille.
The Quiet One: Prince and The Revolution ended up interviewed on MTV when the "America" single was released, an interview during which Prince refused to speak and instead let his bandmates answer all the questions.
Their First Time: From "Adore": "You made love to me like you were afraid… Was you afraid of me? Was I the first? Was I your every fantasy?"
Some production accidents even found their way into the completed songs. For instance, engineer Susan Rogers accidentally caused some words to be distorted while recording the vocals to "If I Was Your Girlfriend" through a technical error, and recounted to Alex Hahn that she thought Prince "was going to rip my head off!". Upon listening, Prince loved the effect and kept it in.
Similarly, "The Ballad of Dorothy Parker" quite noticeably lacks low-end and sounds somewhat thin and muddy. This was also the result of a technical error at his Chanhassen home studio. The Prince Vault has the details, but for TLDR: Prince was recording through a console with two separate power supplies, and did not test it beforehand. During the "Dorothy Parker" session, the house was affected by a power cut, and lost one of the power supplies. Susan Rogers noticed that the music sounded flat, but she didn't want to interrupt recording to point it out, and only discovered the problem after the song had been finished. Prince liked the recording, and did not attempt to re-do the song with the fixed console.
Xtreme Kool Letterz: Prince was one of the first to use this to write his song titles and lyrics, to the point that the system was nicknamed "Princebonics" (and reading it is the easiest way to send your inner Grammar Nazi into fits of fury). Starting in 1981, "to" = "2", "for" = "4", "you" = "U", "I" = an eye symbol (geddit?), "are" = "R", and so on. Prince fans usually romanize the eye symbol as "Eye" instead of "I", as the album Lovesexy featured two songs named "Eye No" and "I Wish U Heaven". This system reached its apex with the 1986 song "♥ or $", pronounced "Love or Money".
Very obvious, and to some annoying, in his interview with Ebony magazine in June 2010 in which all of his responses are typed like this.
Could it be argued that Prince invented text messaging? Yes.