So, there's this guy named Prince, you may have heard of him...Skinny motherfucker with the high voice, played every instrument known to man, made some really catchy tunes, wrote nearly a thousand songs.
Yes, Prince was so prolific a songwriter that it got him in a bit of trouble with his record label in The '80s; Warner (Bros.) Records wanted him to do the usual write-record-release-tour grind, but he was cranking out new tunes so fast they couldn't keep up with his growing vault. To get around that, Prince wrote many songs under pseudonyms or sold them off to others.
If you're not a devoted Prince fan, this is just going to be more Archive Panic for a man with an already huge discography. But Prince had lots of talented musicians in his entourage back in The '80s, and the records of his associates are mostly interesting, with the occasional stinker, and at best just as catchy and well-made as his own. Thanks to the lack of availability of these albums, one can even claim that these associates would need more love, although exactly who does is best left to the listener. Indeed, barely any of the artists listed below actually garnered their own fanbase to sell albums to; many only listen to them because of Prince's involvement with their careers.
Prince's associates generally come in a few flavors depending on songwriting:
- People for whom Prince played every single instrument, wrote every single note (cleverly disguised with pseudonyms on the album credits) and sometimes even the lyrics. All they had to do was just add their vocals on top. For example: Vanity 6 and Apollonia 6.
- People for whom Prince composed and produced but they had their own input, including lyrics, co-writing credits and occasionally playing instruments. For example: Sheila E., New Power Generation and Ingrid Chavez.
- People for whom Prince sporadically contributed material but otherwise didn't do much. For example: Sheena Easton, Mavis Staples, Martika, and others.
- Actual bands with which Prince was involved. For example: Madhouse and 94 East.
- Formerly associated with him in some way but then broke away completely. Example: Wendy and Lisa, Dr. Fink, Brown Mark, Bobby Z., David Z., and so on.
- Stuff which fits into more than one category. For example: The Time and The Family. This will be duly noted.
Also a fun note: many of these releases ended up out of print because they appeared on Prince's record label Paisley Park Records, and that was shut down in 1994 by Warner Bros. due to severe mismanagement from his managers Bob Cavallo, Joe Ruffalo and Steve Fargnolinote . Keep (mostly) Circulating The Tapes (you can go ahead and "lose" the ones for Vanity and Apollonia 6, for starters.) Also, keep in mind that this list is by no means complete: there are several projects that never saw any form of release outside of bootlegs (like The Rebels and M.C. Flash) and there are probably even more that we don't even know about, sitting in Prince's vault.
Just added vocals
Vanity 6 deserve a bit of a special mention since they were the first side-project Prince came up with on his own and produced an album for.note So, basically the whole madness of Prince's empire of associates starts here.
Vanity 6 were a Girl Group formed by Prince sometime in 1981, supposedly after watching A Star Is Born and thinking "Oh hey, that's neat. I wanna do that!" He managed to gather together three of his female friends, Susan Moonsie, Brenda Bennett and Jamie Shoop. We can only presume how awkward the meeting was when Prince told them that they would be named "The Hookers", would perform in lingerie and sing about sex a lot. The sheer fact that he wasn't comically chased out of the room is amazing in itself.
Somehow, presumably through his immense charm, he managed to convince them to record a few demos. He then met nude model and B movie actress Denise Matthews, famous for her widely acclaimed roles in Terror Train and Tanya's Island. Also, a certain part of the body. An awestruck Prince kicked out Shoop and installed his new girlfriend Matthews as the frontwoman instead, giving her the Stage Name "Vanity". You Do Not Want To Know one of the stories about its origin. But if you do: Prince wanted to name her "Vagina", clarifying that it would be pronounced "vag-EE-na", because that's how you pronounce it in Minnesota or something. She predictably went "dude, WTF?" and managed to bargain it down to "Vanity".note
With the Vanity-Bennett-Moonsie lineup in place and a healthy supply of lingerie and Intercourse with You lyrics, Prince renamed the group Vanity 6. The "6" supposedly came from the amount of breasts in the group, thus making Vanity 6 the only band to have been named after a case of My Eyes Are Up Here.
The group released one album, Vanity 6 in 1982. Prince wrote and produced it almost completely (disguising this fact by crediting himself as "The Starr Company" and randomly assigning credits around, with Revolution guitarist Dez Dickerson managing to sneak in a credit for "He's So Dull", Jesse Johnson co-writing "Bite the Beat" and Terry Lewis co-writing "If a Girl Answers (Don't Hang Up)".) The album itself represented a pretty generic example of Prince's Minneapolis sound, with two forays into synthy Power Pop ("He's So Dull" and "Bite the Beat") and lots of exaggerated, Narmy lyrics about Intercourse with You sung by three women with average vocal talent. Needless to say, it became a hit and spawned a big hit single with "Nasty Girl". "He's So Dull" also appeared in National Lampoon's Vacation.
Vanity 6 broke up a year later in 1983, when Vanity suddenly dropped out of the Prince camp and gave up her role in Purple Rain. Undaunted, Prince replaced her with Patricia "Apollonia" Kotero and re-named them "Apollonia 6". Vanity went on to release two albums on the Motown label, star in The Last Dragon, and dated Mötley Crüe's bass player, Nikki Sixx. She also started to abuse drugs, to the point where she was hospitalized and given a kidney transplant in 1994. From that point onward, Vanity reverted to her birthname and dedicated her life to God, becoming an evangelical minister in 1998. She died in 2016 at age 57.
Vanity 6 provides examples of:
- Call-and-Response Song: "If a Girl Answers (Don't Hang Up)".
- The Cameo: Prince himself plays the girl on the other end of the line in "If a Girl Answers (Don't Hang Up)". This was recorded well before he started speeding up his voice for female vocals and he already proved he could pull off a falsetto, so it's more like, "If a Guy Answers." In fact, Prince was trying to imitate Morris Day's voice.
- Prince also appears in the unreleased "Vibrator" as the shopkeep that sells Vanity batteries for her "body massager".
- Double Entendre: "Bite the Beat", which is more than likely about cunnilingus.
- Girl Group
- Good Bad Girl: All three members were boxed into a certain personality. Vanity became this by default.
- The Immodest Orgasm: The aforementioned "Vibrator".
- Intercourse with You + Bawdy Song: 75% of their catalogue is this.
- Insistent Terminology: In "Vibrator", Vanity insists the titular item is a "body massager". No-one she talks to is fooled by this pretense.
- Lad Ette: Brenda chose the role of the cigarette-smoking tough chick. Probably the best straw she could draw.
- New Wave / Power Pop: arguably "He's So Dull" and "Bite the Beat".
- Sampling: Prince later sampled the orgasm in "Vibrator" a few times for his band Madhouse, and for his own song "Orgasm" off the album Come. Vanity is credited as "she knows" for the latter. The orgasm was also sampled in Lady Cab Driver from 1999.
- Sex Sells: Subverted, in that they didn't sell so well.
- Self-Titled Album
- Spoken Word in Music: "If a Girl Answers (Don't Hang Up)", which was mostly a rap song; and several other snippets throughout the album.
- from "Nasty Girl": "I don't like this groove. Try and give me somethin' I can croon to? Catch my drift?"from "Bite the Beat": ""That's right, there'll be no more wet dreams for Brenda. At least not tonight."
- Stage Names: Vanity.
- Unusual Euphemism: From "Wet Dream": "I know he could deliver a dam to the river anytime."
I'm a sex shooter, come and play with my affection."
Really, that's pretty much it. After Vanity resigned from the band in 1983, Prince found actress Patricia Kotero after a frantic casting call. Re-christened "Apollonia", she was installed as the new frontwoman and the band was very appropriately renamed "Apollonia 6".
Apollonia played Prince's girlfriend in Purple Rain and the entire band made an appearance. An album, Apollonia 6, followed in 1984 but by this point Prince lost interest in his Girl Group, since Apollonia told him that she was Only in It for the Money. While Apollonia 6 featured much better production values and backing vocals from Wendy & Lisa and Jill Jones, it suffered from even weaker material than before and even more over-the-top "explicit" lyrics that stumbled bravely into Narmland, as seen by the hilariously stupid "Sex Shooter" and the Hot for Student song "Happy Birthday Mr. Christian". You know you're in a bad position when what's most notable about your album is what songs didn't make it - reportedly, Prince had considered "Manic Monday", "17 Days", "The Glamorous Life" and his duet with Apollonia, "Take Me With U", for inclusion on Apollonia 6 before he geave them to The Bangles, himself, Sheila E. and himself again (on the Purple Rain soundtrack), respectively.
The band broke up for good a year later. Brenda managed to snag herself backing vocals on "17 Days", and release a country album in 2011, but otherwise hasn't done anything in the interim; Apollonia continued with her acting/modeling career and dropped a solo album in 1988; and Susan we'll get back to you on that.
Fun side-note? The chorus of The Pixies' "Debaser" was originally "Shed, Apollonia!" before it mutated into "Un chien andalusia!", thus making Apollonia 6 the only Prince-associated band to get a Shout-Out in a Pixies song.
Apollonia 6 provides examples of:
- Girl Group
- Gratuitous Spanish: Since Apollonia could speak it fluently, Prince used it to full effect on "In a Spanish Villa".
- Hot for Student: "Happy Birthday Mr. Christian".
- The Immodest Orgasm: Brenda fires one off at the end of "Some Kind of Lover". She's whispers, "I'm embarrassed", directly afterward.
- Intercourse with You + Bawdy Song: 85% of their catalogue, easily.
- New Wave
- Piss Take Rap: "Ooh She She Wa Wa". Actually, Apollonia 6 is pretty much a Piss Take Album.
- Self-Titled Album
- Spoken Word in Music: "In a Spanish Villa". Apollonia makes out with a man named Oliver in a Spanish villa for the duration of the song.
- "Ooh She She Wa Wa" opens with a lengthy spoken word section. "Some Kind of Lover" also includes some as well.
- Stage Names: Apollonia.
Jill Jones (later moved to "no involvement")
Jill Jones was a backup singer for R&B star Teena Marie back at the start of The '80s, and this is exactly how she met Prince during his 1980 Dirty Mind tour. She was quickly recruited as a backing singer for The Revolution itself, adding backing vocals to several songs on 1999 and appearing in the videos for "1999" and "Little Red Corvette". She had a bit part as a waitress in Purple Rain and a cameo in its sequel Graffiti Bridge.
Prince repaid her contributions to 1999 by producing her solo album, Jill Jones, which was released in 1987. Once again, he did everything and wrote all the songs and Jones merely had to put vocals on top. However, this album gained actual positive reviews from critics, mainly because Jones actually had vocal talent and could sing, as opposed to the competent vocals of Vanity and Apollonia, or the pleasant-but-bland vocals of Sheila E. and The Family.
After this, Jones did... well, nothing really. A second album got as far as the demo stage before being cancelled. She did tour with Chic in 1996 though. She finally emerged with a new, completely Prince-less pop-rock album in 2001.
- Jill Jones (1987)
- Two (2001)
- Living for the Weekend (2009)
Jill Jones provides examples of:
The Time (later moved to "actual band" and kinda embody "no involvement")
The most successful Prince associates, and Jay and Silent Bob's favorites. And probably the most famous too.
The members of The Time are as follows:
- Morris Day - vocals
- Jerome Benton - vocals, comic foil, percussion
- Jellybean Johnson - drums
- Jimmy Jam - keyboards
- Monte Moir - keyboards
- Terry Lewis - bass
- Jesse Johnson - guitar
The Time were a pop-funk-rock ensemble that relied heavily on Rule of Funny and very long jams. They were largely defined by frontman Morris Day's hilarious lyrics and Chivalrous Pervert-Handsome Lech persona, with Jerome Benton serving as his Foil. This dynamic was observed through their appearance in Purple Rain as Prince's rival band, and Day's humorous persona lead to many even commenting that he upstaged Prince's acting (not much of a compliment, admittedly... Prince's acting makes Keanu Reeves look like William Shatner).
As befitting an associate band, for their initial period of 1981-1985, Prince played all instruments on The Time albums and simply overdubbed their vocals. However, Prince got Hoist by His Own Petard here as The Time ably played the same songs live and occasionally would show up Prince when opening for The Revolution to get back at him for lack of input and low payments (a live recording circulating from 1983 features Jellybean playing the complicated drum machine part from "777-9311" perfectly, and at a much faster tempo.) The band became notoriously displeased after having to also play as the backing band for Vanity 6 while live (as they were credited for those performances) during the Prince/Time/Vanity 6 "Triple Threat" Tour. Jam and Lewis were sacked by Prince after being snowed in and missing a flight to a concert and were replaced just in time for the film Purple Rain. The replacement soured the band's relationship with Prince, and caused tension between the remaining members.
Day left the band after an argument with Prince in 1985, focusing on a solo career. The Time disbanded right then, with its remaining members being amalgamated into The Family, and Jam and Lewis going on to be famous Record Producers, mostly for their work with Janet Jackson. Jerome Benton also starred as Prince's sidekick in Under the Cherry Moon, and similarly managed to out-act Prince and be considered the one character reviewers liked. Jesse Johnson put out a solo album named Shockadelica in 1986, which drove Prince to write a song called "Shockadelica" since he felt an album with that cool a title needed a title song, but Johnson had neglected to write one.
The band reunited in 1990, this time with limited involvement from Prince and much more creative control. The resulting album, Pandemonium, spawned their highest selling single, "Jerk Out". They also appeared on the soundtrack to Graffiti Bridge, on the songs "Release It", "Shake!", "Love Machine" and "The Latest Fashion" (the last in collaboration with Prince).
They then kind of disappeared again, spawning two different touring acts; The Time (which included Jam and Lewis) and Morris Day & the Time (which included the other members.) In 2011, spurred by a performance at the 2008 Grammys, all seven original members reformed under the name The Original 7ven (as Prince refused to license the name "The Time" out to them) and are recording together again.
- The Time (1981)
- What Time Is It? (1982)
- Ice Cream Castle (1984)
- Pandemonium (1990)
- Condensate (2011)
The Time provides examples of:
- Blatant Lies: Several early songs (notably "777-9311") include moments where Morris calls for band members by name, so that they can solo. In actuality, Prince played every note for them. Averted on 1990's "Jerk Out" and everything on "Pandemonium" past it: once Morris declares, "Cut 'em, Jesse", Jesse Johnson actually solos for himself. The version of "The Bird" heard on their album Ice Cream Castles is a live cut, and is also the only time the band is heard playing their own instruments.
- In an extension of this, The Time were credited with performing every note on Vanity 6's album, when it was actually all Prince again.
- From "Wild and Loose": "Don't worry baby, I can keep a secret for as long as snow is white / Hey Jesse, come here man, guess what I did last night?"
- Call-and-Response Song: A staple of their repetoire. Live performances transformed more of their catalogue into this type of song.
- Catch Phrase: "What time is it?", "Ain't nobody bad, like me", "Now I know that's right" and "Somebody bring me a mirror (so I can look at X)"note
- Chivalrous Pervert or Handsome Lech: Morris Day.
- Dance Sensation: Parodied with "The Walk". Played straight with "Jungle Love" and "The Bird".
- Early Installment Weirdness: Despite being The Casanova, Morris sang both a ballad about pining over a love that had moved on, and a new wave track about the end of high school, on the band's first album. These topics were never revisited.
- Epic Rocking: "Get It Up", "Cool", "The Stick", "Wild and Loose", "The Walk", "Ice Cream Castles", "The Bird", "Jerk Out", "Chocolate", "Skillet".
- Filler: "Dreamland" from Pandemonium is an extended dream sequence in which The Time reunite on stage. It is the first 2:30 on the album. The short skits "Yount" and "Pretty Little Women" also qualify, though "Yount" is actually kinda funny.
- Genre Savvy: In "Chili Sauce", Morris tells Jerome in an aside to prompt Morris to stop wooing on a girl by the number 17. He then fills the next 16 phrases (or loops of the backing track) with his bravado, stopping directly at the start of phrase 17. She falls for him.
- Intercourse with You: The lengthy jams on their first album, "Get It Up" and "The Stick."
- Large Ham: Morris Day.
- Self-Deprecation: The conversation in "Wild and Loose", as well as several moments in "Jerk Out".
- Self-Titled Album
- Stealth Parody: "After Hi School", "Onedayi'mgonnabesomebody" and "Gigolos Get Lonely Too".
- Something Completely Different: The heavy rock of "Skillet".
- Spoken Word in Music: Some of their songs eschew ending in favor of repeating the backing track and adding dialogue that may or may not be all that funny. The song "Chili Sauce" is five straight minutes of seductive dialogue, while "Wild and Loose" features two sets of dialogue at once: groupies who were happy to have met Morris in the left channel and the band in the right, culminating in Morris meeting the girls again in the center channel, unable to remember who they are.
- Throw It In!: Jerome Benton was acting as a roadie in various capacities for the band during their early rehearsal. When Morris sang the lyric "Somebody get me a mirror", Jerome grabbed a large brass mirror off the wall and held it up for Morris to primp with as a joke. Prince loved it so much he demanded they replicate it on stage and hired Jerome on the spot as a hype man.
- Title by Number: "777-9311" was named after Dez Dickerson's actual phone number (in-universe, the reporter in "Grace" lists it as her number.) Dickerson had to change it after receiving unwanted calls.
The Family (overlaps with "actual band")
Now, here's a bit of a trickier case. After The Time disintegrated for the first time in 1984, Prince restructured the band with a few new musicians and renamed it "The Family". Its members were as follows:
- Paul "St. Paul" Peterson - vocals, keyboards, bass
- Susannah Melvoin - vocals, keyboards
- Jerome Benton - vocals, comic foil, percussion
- Jellybean Johnson - drums
- Eric Leeds - saxophone, flute
But on the resulting album, The Family (1985), Prince decided to be a Control Freak and once again wrote nearly all songs ("River Run Dry", the sole exception, was written by The Revolution drummer Bobby Z.) and played everything on the album, simply overdubbing vocals by Peterson and Melvoin and Leeds' saxophone and flute.
The resulting album contained a mishmash of high-energy funk ("Mutiny"), soul ballads ("Desire"), jazz instrumentals ("Susannah's Pajamas" - this title, named after Wendy's sister, whom Prince was dating at the time, should not be surprising if you've made it this far down the page...) and New Wave ("The Screams of Passion"). However, it did contain a small song called "Nothing Compares 2 U", which was Covered Up and turned into a massive hit single by Sinéad O'Connor in 1990.
The band itself was short-lived, lasting barely a year before Peterson left, sick of Prince's Control Freakism. Still, it marked the beginning of Prince's long-term collaboration with Eric Leeds, for what it's worth.
The Family provides examples of:
Yes, Carmen Electra used to be a back-up dancer for Prince (in fact, he gave her the Stage Name "Carmen Electra") in the early nineties. She then became a rapper, contributing a rap to 'The Continental' on Prince's Love Symbol Album in 1992 and had a self-titled album produced by him in 1993 which was mostly written by Prince and the New power generation, though Carmen is credited with co-writing 7 of the 12 tracks. The album's famous for being less than well received. A really funny skewering of it, complete with some audio samples, is available on I-Mockery.. Prince podcast Peach and Black also examined it .
Carmen Electra provides examples of:
- Mood Whiplash: The entire album focuses on Carmen's hot body and "impressive" rhyming skills, until a news report on the Exxon Valdez oil spill is heard. The last song suddenly turns into an Earth awareness campaign.
- Piss Take Rap: Ms. Electra herself raps for the full duration of the album. And it is awful.
- Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Carmen's attempt at being street, especially when rapping about the Exxon Valdez spill.
- Product Placement: Prince used the second segue on this album to subtly advertise many other songs that he worked on, via pretending to dial through a radio: "Hit U in the Socket" by Rosie Gaines, "In a Word or 2" by Monie Love, "The Voice" by Mavis Staples, "Sexy M.F." by Prince and the New Power Generation, "With This Tear" by Celine Dion and "Goldnigga" by the New Power Generation. This serves absolutely no purpose in the context of the album.
- Sexophone: Painfully invoked on another segue, complete with crashing waves.
With their own input
Sheila E. (overlaps with "sporadic contributions")
Without love, it ain't much."
Drumming runs pretty big in Sheila Escovedo's family: her father Pete is a famous percussionist, her uncle Alejandro drummed for various punk bands before starting a solo career, her other uncle Coke played with Santana, her other other uncle Javier founded the seminal punk band The Zeros, and Tito Puente was her godfather.
It's little surprise then that Sheila took up drumming and quickly became really good at it, playing with such luminaries as George Duke, Marvin Gaye, Alphonso Johnson, Herbie Hancock and Lionel Richie before her early twenties.
Prince first met Sheila when attending a concert where she was playing with her dad. He quickly brought her into her entourage, where she contributed drums and percussion in the studio and provided vocals to "Let's Go Crazy"'s famous B-side, "Erotic City" (and some other vocals here and there, like the "transmississippirap" on "It's Gonna Be a Beautiful Night"). She secured herself the position of drummer for Prince after The Revolution disbanded, but left Prince in 1989 due to a collapsed lung. This split has notably been free of the really bad blood that other splits engendered, and the two have collaborated occasionally to this day.
While Sheila did attract attention for her vocals on "Erotic City", she quickly proved she was not another Vanity: while Prince did produce her first two solo albums, she got some co-writing credits and added her drumming all over the place. Most notably, Sheila at first broke from the very explicit "personas" that had been assumed by Prince's previous Girl Groups: her lyrics were decidedly PG-rated, dealing with love (not Intercourse with You, at least not yet) and sung in a pleasant, girl-next-door voice. In fact, many of the funk-pop songs existed solely for the sake of lots and lots of percussion solos. Nobody seemed to mind though. These two albums, The Glamorous Life and Romance 1600, were well-received and spawned two really long hits, the super-catchy ditty about how materialism's, like, superficial, man, "The Glamorous Life" (9 minutes) and a duet with Prince entitled "A Love Bizarre" (12 minutes!). Sheila also starred As Herself in Krush Groove (1985), a fictionalized retelling of the founding of Def Jam Recordings, in which she performed "A Love Bizarre" and "Holly Rock." Prince was noticeably less involved with the self-titled Sheila E., letting David Z. produce the album and writing only a few songs.
Sheila's solo albums after leaving Prince's organization were New Sound Albums somewhat, introducing Latin and jazz influences into her upbeat pop-funk. She took a long break from her solo career after the horribly-titled Sex Cymbal, presumably out of embarrassment that she put out an album titled Sex Cymbalnote , and played with various other musicians (including being part of three versions of Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band). She also reunites with Prince every once in a while for live concerts and contributed to his album 3121.
- The Glamorous Life (1984)
- Romance 1600 (1985)
- Sheila E. (1987)
- Sex Cymbal (1991)
- Writes of Passage (2000)
- Heaven (2001)
Sheila E. provides examples of:
- Foil: She played this role in Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band concerts, especially during the solos where Ringo would comically fail to keep up with her.
- Piss Take Rap: Averted - her Motor Mouth reading of Edward Lear's "The Table and the Chair" on "It's Gonna Be a Beautiful Night" is actually good. (The liner notes credit it as "transmississippirap" since Prince recorded her doing it over the phone from, well, the other side of the Mississippi River.)
- Pun-Based Title: Sex Cymbal, so bad it hurts.
- Self-Titled Album: Interestingly, done for the third album.
- Spoken Word in Music: "Toy Box". It sounds like a normal funk song at first, and then right at the end Sheila blind-sides you with a long, shouty rant that makes you wonder who spiked her coffee and with what.
- Word Salad Lyrics: "Dear Michaelangelo", "Toy Box", "Romance 1600" and "Bedtime Story" have a special ability to make you scratch your head and go "huh?".
- Word Salad Title: "Merci for the Speed of a Mad Clown in the Summer"... what?
- You Make Me Sic: Michelangelo, not Michaelangelo.note
Ingrid Chavez is one of those fringe figures in Prince's entourage. That's probably because she ain't an actual singer, but a poet instead. Prince was impressed by her poetry and quickly recruited her into his ever-expanding harem-cum-musical empire, first letting her contribute vocals to Lovesexy. Around this time, she cultivated a mysterious appearance and was nicknamed "The Spirit Child". OK, sure, whatever, at least Prince didn't try to rename her to "Clitoris" or something like that.
Chavez next played Prince's romantic interest in Graffiti Bridge. It was during the filming that she, Lenny Kravitz and Andre Betts co-wrote and recorded Madonna's famous hit "Justify My Love" - reportedly, Chavez came up with most of the lyrics and Kravitz thought sampling Public Enemy would be a nifty idea.note A solo album followed, May 19, 1992 (released, oddly enough, in 1991), which combined Chavez's spoken-word poetry with atmospheric backing music composed by Prince and was favorably reviewed, one critic comparing it to "an entire album of 'Justify My Love's".
Chavez drifted out of Prince's
harem musical empire soon after. Since then, she married David Sylvian of the band Japan in 1992, and she's frequently recorded with Sylvian and with Ryuichi Sakamoto of Yellow Magic Orchestra.
Ingrid Chavez provides examples of:
New Power Generation (overlaps with "actual band")
Here's another interesting case. In 1990, Prince started forming a new backing band for himself, after the Revolution imploded in 1986 and his newer, untitled backing band was starting to wear thin. He christened them the New Power Generation and their members were:
- Levi Seacer, Jr. - rhythm guitar (1991-1993)
- Kat Dyson - rhythm guitar (1996-1997)
- "Rev." Michael Scott - rhythm guitar (1997-2001, 2004, 2006)
- Sonny T. - bass (1991-1996)
- Rhonda Smith - bass (1996-2004)
- Tommy Barbarella - keyboards (1991-1996)
- Michael Bland - drums (1991-1996)
- Kirk Johnson - percussion, backing vocals, drums, drum machine programming (1993-2000)
- Tony M. - rapping (1991-1993)
- Mayte Garcia - backing vocals (1992-1996)
Of course, there are plenty more members, but these are the ones that appeared on the albums accredited solely to them. Prince, like The Time, wrote nearly all of their music, but the band actually played their own instruments. Prince deliberately introduced the NPG's work as a separate entity by releasing his own song "Pink Cashmere" the same day that NPG's debut album Goldnigga came out. However, Prince being Prince, he took up the name Tora Tora so he could contribute to the NPG's second album, Exodus. The band was ultimately dismantled in 1996, where Prince retained the name but hired entirely new musicians. For this second iteration, he included himself in the NPG and took over for lead vocal duties. His likeness appearing on the cover of Newpower Soul cemented this notion. While the band has not recorded any further albums, they remained Prince's backing band until 2012, contributing a lot musically to his live show.
- Goldnigga (1993)
- Exodus (1995)
- Newpower Soul (1998)
- "The War" single (1998)
- "Peace" and "The Daisy Chain" singles (2001)
New Power Generation provides examples of:
- And You Were There: Invoked by Sonny in the closing minute of Exodus.
- Concept Album: Goldnigga loosely based itself around phone calls between members. For example, in one segue it's mentioned that "the record company" wants a song with a positive message, and another band member responds by saying he's got a new song to try out. Cue said song. Exodus goes into full blown concept with 12 of its 21 tracks containing Spoken Word in Music. On this album, the band show up at a nightclub only for them to be playing "ladies night" fare. After the band kicks out the DJ and plays their own music, the DJ gets back at the instigator Sonny by introducing him to two women who will poison him later via a bowl of soup. The soup makes him dream he and the band are in the future taking over a spaceship from a guy who wants to use his "endorphinmachine" to take over the world. Then Sonny wakes up.
- Epic Rocking: "Johnny" and "The Exodus Has Begun", amongst others.
- N-Word Privileges: Goldnigga.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Prince calling himself Tora Tora in order to sing lead vocals on Exodus. It didn't fool anyone.
- Revolving Door Band: The list above provides only half of the people who have been part of the NPG.
- Spoken Word in Music: Some on Goldnigga and tons on Exodus. The latter features additional skits unrelated to the shoestring plot in which Sonny watches television; the show he's watching is a skit within a skit by Prince and each one goes on for three minutes a piece (but are surprisingly funny.) Meanwhile, the single "The War" is 26 minutes of Fauxlosophic Narration.
Mayte first joined Prince's
harem entourage in 1990 as a dancer, later graduating to occasionally contributing vocals in Gratuitous Spanish. She then married Prince in 1996. They were due to become parents, but the baby died from a rare skull disease named Pfeiffer's syndrome a week after he was born. The marriage disintegrated after this traumatic event and Prince and Mayte divorced in 2000. Mayte has since returned to dancing and choreography. In 2017 she published a memoir about her time with Prince called The Most Beautiful.
Prince produced and co-wrote one solo album for her in 1995 (possibly in his sleep; it's kind of what he does...), entitled Child of the Sun. Nobody really noticed its existence and it's since gone out of print. In fact, the most notable song it contained was a a gender-reversed version of arguably the Tastes Like Diabetes-est song, "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World". Yeah, it's like that. And a cover of "Brick House" by The Commodores, which is at least not as corny.
The second disc of Prince's Emancipation was inspired by their marriage and her pregnancy. Yes, this means Mayte is partially responsible for Tastes Like Diabetes-fests like "Friend, Lover, Sister, Mother/Wife". We hope she enjoyed the gift, because we might have not.
Mayte Garcia provides examples of:
One of the latest Princettes, Ashley Támar Davis sang backing vocals on Prince's album 3121 on the song "Beautiful, Loved and Blessed", and played a few live concerts in some small clubs.
Prince co-wrote and co-produced (yes, you guessed it!) an album for her named Milk & Honey. It was set to be released in August 2006, but got delayed and later cancelled. A few promotional copies have surfaced after being sold in Japan, and one of its songs, "Kept Woman", was re-recorded and handed off to Bria Valente.
Another protege in the grand tradition of Vanity and Apollonia, Brenda "Bria Valente" Fuentes began her association with Prince in late 2006, contributing backing vocals to "The Song of the Heart" (from the movie Happy Feet) and his album Planet Earth.
Prince produced a solo album for her named Elixer, in 2009. He described it as "a quiet storm" album, raising the prospect that he still hasn't abandoned his search for erotic sounds and would give the world another hilarious trip to Narmland. Elixer was bundled together with Prince's two solo albums LOtUSFLOW3R and MPLSound as a three-disc set, which debuted at #2 on the Billboard charts. Because we all know it would've been a huge hit by itself... It usually got singled out as the weakest album of the three-disc set by reviewers.
Prince's final backing band, 3RDEYEGiRL was a three-piece rock and blues outfit. Not much is known about them presently, but they've proven in concerts and television appearances that they were a very solid and promising band. Prince placed the call to each member between 2010 and 2012, and created the band name himself he didn't tell the girls the name, instead letting them find out when Jimmy Fallon called them by it during a live television appearance. Unfortunately, Prince being Prince, he had to screw them out of solo success by releasing his own album ART OFFICIAL AGE on the same day as their album.
- Donna Grantis - guitar
- Ida Nielsen - bass
- Hannah Ford Welton - drums
- PLECTRUMELECTRUM (2014)
Sporadic contributions and one-offs
Her first album, Martika, was released in 1988. It spawned a #1 hit single, "Toy Soldiers", which Eminem later Sampled Up for his own song "Like Toy Soldiers", and two other hits, "More Than You Know" and a cover of Carole King's "I Feel The Earth Move".
Her second album, Martika's Kitchen, was released in 1991. This album was produced and co-written by Prince, who combined Martika's pop music with elements from gospel, jazz, Funk, R&B and Cuban music and lyrically explored such Serious Business topics as crack babies, racism and homophobia. An interesting melange to be sure, which eventually kind of flunked on the charts. Thus endeth Martika's association with Prince.
- Martika (1988)
- Martika's Kitchen (1991)
- Violince (2004)
- Oppera (2006)
Martika provides examples of:
Much like Martika, Mavis Staples had already had a career going before her association with Prince. And it wasn't too bad either, what with being famous for having a great voice, recording with her family as The Staple Singers and being a civil rights activist in The '60s.
Staples collaborated with Prince for a few years, contributing the song "Melody Cool" to the Graffiti Bridge soundtrack and having two solo albums, Time Waits For No One (1989) and The Voice, co-written and produced by him. And that's... kind of it actually. Prince was a a huge fan of Staples, and wanted to help her mount a comeback to the music industry, which he more or less succeeded at.
- Mavis Staples (1969)
- Only for the Lonely (1970)
- A Piece of the Action (1977)
- Oh What a Feeling (1979)
- Mavis Staples (1984)
- Don't Change Me Now (1988)
- Time Waits for No One (1989)
- The Voice (1993)
- Spirituals & Gospel: Dedicated to Mahalia Jackson with Lucky Peterson (1996)
- Have a Little Faith (2004)
- We'll Never Turn Back (2007)
He works from 9 'til 5 and then
He takes another home again
To find me waiting for him."
Sheena Easton was a Scottish singer back in The '80s who scored a few hits occasionally, most notably with "Morning Train (9 to 5)" and "For Your Eyes Only", the theme for the James Bond movie of the same name. Her music was largely pop with bits of soft rock and New Wave floating around, with a pretty ordinary image.
Which obviously made her the perfect woman to collaborate with Prince. Prince produced her 1984 album A Private Heaven and predictably transformed her into another trying-too-hard-to-be-sexy siren. She did get two hit singles out of it, "Strut" and the Narmy "Sugar Walls", so it probably wasn't that bad of a deal. Easton sang on two other Prince songs, "U Got the Look" and "The Arms of Orion", and collaborated with him some more on The Lover in Me before parting ways with him.
As a bit of trivia, she has contributed twice to Phineas and Ferb, guest starring and singing (in a duet with Dr. Doofenschmirtz) "Happy Evil Love Song" in the episode "Chez Platypus" and singing "When Will He Call Me?" in "Backyard Aquarium". Which means that she has the distinction of being the second artist on this list both to have had a career before Prince and to have been on a children's television show.
- Take My Time (1980)
- You Could Have Been with Me (1981)
- Madness, Money & Music (1982)
- Best Kept Secret (1983)
- A Private Heaven (1984)
- Todo Me Recuerda a Ti (1984) - Spanish language release
- Do You (1985)
- No Sound But a Heart (1987)
- The Lover in Me (1988)
- What Comes Naturally (1991)
- No Strings (1993)
- My Cherie (1995)
- Freedom (1997)
- Home (1999)
- Fabulous (2000)
Sheena Easton provides examples of:
- Moral Guardians: "Sugar Walls" is best known for being one of the songs listed on the PMRC's "Filthy Fifteen" list.
Prince wrote and produced "Love Song" on Madonna's album Like a Prayer. He also played the guitar solos on "Act of Contrition" and "Keep It Together".note
Completely unrelated to this, former Revolution guitarist (and current one-half of Wendy & Lisa) Wendy Melvoin played guitar on the song "She's Not Me" from the album Hard Candy.
Prince is a fan of Kate Bush, and met her during the 1990 Nude Tour, discussing a collaboration. Bush sent him the song "Why Should I Love You?", asking for backing vocals. When she received it back, Prince had not only sung but also added his own sizeable instrumental overdubs. This baffled Bush and her engineer Del Palmer, who then spent two years working on and off on it to try and "turn it back into a Kate Bush song". It eventually came out on 1993's The Red Shoes.note
Bush also made a cameo appearance on Emancipation, singing backing vocals on "My Computer", but good luck hearing her at all on that song.
Prince wrote their big hit "Manic Monday", for which he recycled the verse melody of "1999" (fun activity: when you hear "Manic Monday", sing the lyrics from "1999"). He also dated their frontwoman Susanna Hoffs for a while, and that was it.
The Three O'Clock
Prince signed L.A. Power Pop band The Three O'Clock to his Paisley Park label in 1988, which released their album Vermillion later that year. The album's lead single, "Neon Telephone" was written by Prince himself. Prince was a huge fan of the band, who were figureheads of the "Paisley Underground" scene which also included bands like the aforementioned Bangles, Game Theory, The Rain Parade, Opal (which would later evolve into Mazzy Star) and Dream Syndicate. Prince loved the Paisley Underground bands, and their neo-psychedelic, jangly sound heavily inspired his Around the World in a Day album, and especially his hit "Raspberry Beret".
The Three O'Clock are a rarity among Paisley Park signings in that Prince neither discovered them (they'd already released three albums), nor mentored them (again, he was their fan), nor created them from whole cloth. Sadly, Vermillion was a flop and didn't take off with either the band's existing college rock fanbase or the pop audience they were now trying to attract; They imploded on themselves shortly after its release. Frontman Michael Quercio eventually reformed the group in 2013.
Campbell contributed the song "Round and Round" to the Graffiti Bridge soundtrack and provided some additional vocals. Prince repaid him by writing and producing several songs on his 1993 album I'm Ready.
A Dutch smooth jazz saxophone player who has sporadically contributed to Prince's albums and has served as an on-and-off member of his backing bands. Prince contributed the song "Sunday Afternoon" to her album Sax-a-Go-Go.
She's rather famous for the brutally Pun-Based Titles that masquerade as her album titles, such as Saxuality, Sax-a-Go-Go and Candy Store. Also, she's the daughter of Dutch saxophonist Hans Dulfer.
A backing singer on the Batman, Graffiti Bridge and Diamonds and Pearls albums. Fiorillo had one album named I Am co-produced by Prince and Levi Seacer, Jr. in 1990.
She also contributed a song to the soundtrack of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.
Mazarati were a funk/Minneapolis sound band formed by Prince and his bassist Brownmark, active between 1986-1989. Its members were:
- Casey Terry - vocals
- Jerome "Romeo" Cox - bass
- Craig "Screamer" Powell - guitar
- Tony Christian - guitar
- Mark Starr - keyboards
- Aaron Paul Keith - keyboards
- Kevin Patricks - drums (whenever it's not Mr. Linn LM-1...)
Its first album, Mazarati, was produced and co-written by Prince and spawned one hit single, the funk-rock "100 MPH".
Notably, Mazarati first received the demo of Prince's song "Kiss", back when it was a blues-styled song. They transformed it into a funk song. Prince was so impressed he added his vocals and guitars on top and released it as a single from Parade, quickly rocketing to #1 on the charts. Mazarati's backing vocals were kept on the song and they were credited for them. They were also initially given an outtake from The Time called "Jerk Out", but this was also later redone by The Time and turned into a #1 single. Mazarati's backing vocals were also kept on "Jerk Out".
Mazarati later moved away from Prince, signed with Motown Records and recorded another album, the New Jack Swing-styled Mazarati 2, before breaking up.
- Mazarati (1986)
- Mazarati 2 (1989)
Mazarati provides examples of:
Not to be confused with the similarly-named Post-Punk band led by Monica Richards or the similarly-titled Funk band led by Gary Cooper (if you're into either of those...), Madhouse was formed in 1987 and intended to be the successor to The Family. Its members were:
- Prince - everything
- Eric Leeds - saxophone, flute
- Levi Seacer, Jr. - bass
- Matt "Dr." Fink - keyboards
- Sheila E. - drums
Madhouse was a largely instrumental jazz-fusion band with a few funk influences, notable for its song and album titles: both released albums contain 8 songs and are named 8 and 16 respectively, with the songs on 8 being named "One", "Two", "Three", and so on up to "Eight", and the songs on 16 being named from "Nine" up to "Sixteen".
Despite only releasing only two albums during their short existence, a third one was recorded (24), but Prince didn't like so it was redone as a completely-different album (26), which got released as a solo Eric Leeds album in 1991 (Times Squared) and Prince offered all of 24 (except "The Dopamine Rush", which was released in a heavily-edited form on Times Squared) to Miles Davis for his Doo-Bop project, but didn't include them. However, the original album got bootlegged.
In 1994, the band reformed and recorded a proper third album, 24 (notable for giving most of the pieces proper titles) which remains unreleased, although all of the content has been bootlegged and some were officially released in some form.
- 8 (1987)
- 16 (1987)
- 24 (1989, unreleased)
- Times Squared (1991, credited to Eric Leeds)
- 24 (1994, unreleased)
Madhouse provides examples of:
- Cover Version: A cover of "Got To Give It Up" by Marvin Gaye, featuring vocals from Nova Gaye was recorded for the 1994 version 24.
- Fake Band: In the few concerts they performed opening for Prince, Madhouse's musicians heavily disguised themselves with baggy clothes and sunglasses.
- Sampling: The only vocals on both (officially-released) albums are either samples from The Godfather or samples of Vanity simulating an orgasm.
- Shout-Out: 16 is subtitled "New Directions in Garage Music", in reference to "Directions in Music by Miles Davis" from one of his most important releases, Bitches Brew.
The first "real" band Prince ever played in,note 94 East was a funk band that existed between 1975-1979. It was formed by Pepe Willie, the husband of Prince's cousin, and included Willie, Prince and André Cymone. Their stuff is hard to find and very likely isn't even worth looking for in the first place anyway.
Their recordings were predictably reissued a couple of times after Prince hit the big time, and the most common of these is the Minneapolis Genius album. This is technically Prince's first professional album, but he ignores its existence entirely, considering that he had no input into its recording.
94 East provide examples of:
- Canon Discontinuity: From Prince's oeuvre. He's personally made sure of it.
Broke away completely
Wendy and Lisa
Is the water warm enough?
Shall we begin?
Childhood friends Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman, much like Sheila E. above, had musical families: Wendy's father Mike and Lisa's father Gary (not to be confused with Gary Coleman the actor) were highly in-demand session musicians, and Wendy's brother Jonathan also went on to become a musician and served as touring keyboardist for The Smashing Pumpkins... until he died of a heroin overdose.
Lisa was the first to join The Revolution as a keyboardist in 1980, replacing Gayle Chapman. Once guitarist Dez Dickerson left in 1983, Lisa pulled the I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine card and got Wendy into the band as a guitarist.
Wendy and Lisa (as they were always credited) were generally acknowledged by fans and critics as The Revolution's "secret weapon": their complex approach to melody and songwriting helped push Prince and the band to a whole different level musically, while their love of The Beatles was reflected in the Pop and Psychedelic Rock influences they added. Their backing vocals and contributions to Purple Rain, Around the World in a Day and Parade are held in very high regard. And their spoken introduction to "Computer Blue" (quoted above) has proven quite memorable, being referenced in Mystery Science Theater 3000 and other places.
Prince decided to repay their hard work by being a complete Jerkass towards them, turning each tour between 1984-1986 into a game of "How can I piss off Wendy and Lisa today?" (answer: giving Leeds Wendy's solos on "Purple Rain", expanding The Revolution with more musicians, antagonizing Wendy by bringing her twin sister Susannah in the band and getting romantically involved with her, etc). Prince's asshole behavior towards Wendy and Lisa in Purple Rain wasn't exactly acting. In fact, Prince's conflict with the two was one of the key intra-band conflicts that eventually led to Prince's disbanding of The Revolution in 1986.
In response, Wendy and Lisa recorded their first self-titled album in 1987. They co-produced the album with Revolution drummer Bobby Z, called up contributions from family members (namely Wendy's sister Susannah, Lisa's brother David and father Gary), played various instruments, wrote and sang all the songs. The result was a quirky, low-budget pop album filled with memorable melodies and possessing an overall ethereal character. The album received positive reviews, made a bit of headway in the USA and climbed up to a moderate position up in the UK.
For their follow-up album, Fruit at the Bottom, the two abandoned the low-key charms of their debut and tried to take a shot towards success, adding more synths and dance beats to their music. Unfortunately they came up short in the songwriting department, which was reflected in its sales: the USA pretty much ignored it completely, while the British again sent it up the charts. Prince did a remix of the track 'Lolly Lolly' for the single release which is the only instance of Prince contributing to Wendy & Lisa's 'solo' work.
Wendy and Lisa next signed with Virgin Records and released a new album, Eroica, a much more eclectic alternative-rock oriented work that didn't sacrifice the group's trademark ethereal atmosphere or memorable melodies. It met with strong reviews and became their biggest success... in the UK, natch.
The two took some time off from their solo career and found a second job out of soundtracks - they've since contributed soundtracks and incidental music for various films and TV shows such as Toys, Dangerous Minds, Heroes, Bionic Woman, Crossing Jordan, Something New and Nurse Jackie, the last of which they won an Emmy for. They also took up work as session musicians, appearing either together or alone on albums by Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Meshell Ndegeocello, Michael Penn, Liz Phair, Seal, Madonna and k.d. lang.
They've also made two solo albums since, the Tchad Blake-produced Girl Bros. in 1998 and the entirely self-released White Flags of Winter Chimneys in 2008 (the latter's online release being similar to the ones for Radiohead's In Rainbows and Nine Inch Nails' Ghosts I-IV). No word yet on their sales in the UK.
- Wendy and Lisa (1987)
- Fruit at the Bottom (1989)
- Eroica (1990)
- Girl Bros. (1998)
- White Flags of Winter Chimneys (2008)
Wendy and Lisa provide examples of:
- '80s Hair: They had this back in... well, the eighties. See for yourself.
- Fading into the Next Song: On the self-titled debut, "Everything But You" and "Light".
- Grief Song: "Jonathan" deals with the death of Wendy's brother Jonathan after an overdose during a tour with The Smashing Pumpkins (the same incident resulted in Jimmy Chamberlain being fired from that band.) This topic was also explored in Sarah McLachlan's song "Angel", and Prince's own "The Love We Make" (judging by the hints left in the liner notes).
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: It was believed for a long time that they were this, and they were, in fact, childhood friends, but in a 2009 interview with Out magazine they revealed that they had a past romantic relationship with each other, so the "heterosexual" part now is void.
- Insistent Terminology: Their group name's either spelled "Wendy and Lisa" or "Wendy & Lisa". Nobody seems to agree on this, but the "&" seems to be the most widespread.
- Instrumentals: "White".
- In the Style of...: Given away right in the title of "Salt and Cherries (MC5)".
- Lighter and Softer: Fruit at the Bottom.
- Lyrical Dissonance: A common criticism of Fruit at the Bottom is that the dance beats clash badly with the lyrics.
- Pop-Star Composer
- Power Ballad: "Stay", "Song About".
- Rearrange the Song: "This Is the Life" was rearranged for the Dangerous Minds soundtrack.
- Something Blues: Played with a bit in the title "Blues Away".
- Start My Own
Matt "Doctor" Fink
Matt Fink was a member of The Revolution and the NPG, working with Prince between circa 1979-1991. He played keyboards and became known as "Dr. Fink" for always wearing surgical scrubs on stage. According to Fink, it was the only outlandish outfit that Prince felt looked good on him. According to somebody else, Fink initially wore a prison outfit but discovered during the joint Fire It Up tour in 1979 that one of Rick James' bandmates did that already, and "doctor's scrubs" was the first thing he could think of as a replacement.
His first appearance on record was on "Head" from Dirty Mind, to which he contributed a noisy, atonal synthesizer solo.
Fink is the longest-lasting original member of The Revolution, surviving the band's axing in 1986 and staying on until 1991, when he left along with last remaining Revolutionite Miko Weaver after the fractious Nude Tour.
After he left the Prince camp, he built his own studio (named StarVu Studios), worked on some video-game soundtracks, created a sample library, put out a solo album named Ultrasound in 2001, and signed an exclusive management deal for Europe with the company Mozart & Friends. Presumably this will lead to his releases being actually distributed in Europe.
Dr. Fink provides examples of:
- Token White: Prince intentionally assembled the Revolution to be a multi-ethnic, multi-gender band like Sly and the Family Stone, and opted not to hire James Harris (later of The Time) because, while good, he did not contribute to the band's diversity. Fink was asked to audition instead and received the job, and while his talent and contribution to The Revolution is undeniable, the fact that he was a white keyboard player did represent a factor in him getting the job. He stopped being the Token White after Lisa Coleman, Wendy Melvoin and Eric Leeds became members.
David "Z." Rivkin, brother of original Revolution drummer Bobby Z. and former member of Lipps Inc., does play instruments but is mostly famous for his work as Record Producer and engineer who pretty much helped codify the whole Minneapolis sound.
After producing and engineering for Prince and his associates in The '80s, he left the camp sometime around 1989. He's carried on working as a producer ever since, with credits including the Fine Young Cannibals (their second album The Raw and the Cooked), Billy Idol, Neneh Cherry, Terri Nunn, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and others.)