On this day in music history: October 14, 1981 – “Controversy”, the fourth album by Prince is released. Produced by Prince, it is recorded at Uptown Studio (Kiowa Trail Home Studio) in Chanhassen, MN, Sunset Sound and Hollywood Sound in Hollywood, CA from April – July 1981. Released one year to the week after of his previous album, the ribald and controversial “Dirty Mind”, the fourth release by Prince marks the beginning of major changes in the prolific musicians sound and songwriting. Much like his previous albums, it features Prince playing nearly all of the instruments and singing all of the vocals by himself. Much of the album is recorded in Prince’s home studio in Chanhassen, MN (aka “The Purple House”), upgrading the studio with an Ampex 24-track multi-track recorder and Soundcraft 3B console. The remaining songs, overdubbing and final mixing is completed at Sunset Sound and Hollywood Sound in Hollywood, CA. “Controversy” is the first album in which he uses his newly acquired Linn LM-1 drum machine, which becomes a cornerstone of Prince’s classic 80’s era work. The albums eight songs run a diverse gamut from fans and the media’s obsession with Prince’s private life, sexuality and personal beliefs (the title track), the musicians then unfettered obsession with sex (“Sexuality”, “Do Me Baby”, “Private Joy”,“Jack U Off”), to commentary about the then recent news stories like the Atlanta child murders, the Abscam Scandal, the assassination attempt on President Reagan, the murder of John Lennon (“Annie Christian”), and his concerns over the escalation of the Cold War between the United States and the then Soviet Union (“Ronnie Talk To Russia”). The title track “Controversy” (#3 R&B, #70 Pop) like “Uptown” from the previous album, touches upon the public and the media’s intense obsession with the enigmatic star’s personal life, race, religious beliefs and sexuality. It spins off three singles including “Let’s Work” (#9 R&B) and “Do Me Baby”. The track “Sexuality” is issued as a single outside of the US only, but the music video shot for the song is seen by American fans on various video shows. The original LP pressing also comes packaged with a poster of Prince standing in his shower clad in only black bikini underwear. The album is reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP in 2011 by Warner Bros/Rhino Records, making the title available on vinyl for the first time in nearly twenty years. It replicates the original album packaging including the poster. It is also reissued on cassette tape along with several other classic Prince albums in 2016. “Controversy” peaks at number three on the Billboard R&B album chart, number twenty one on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 13, 1992 – “The Love Symbol Album”, the fourteenth album by Prince is released. Produced by Prince, it is recorded at Paisley Park Studios in Minneapolis, MN from Late 1991 – Mid 1992. The second album credited to Prince & The New Power Generation, the albums title is actually an unpronounceable symbol that the artist changes his name to the following year. The album is originally conceived as a “fantasy rock soap opera” with spoken segues between tracks. However, when Prince adds the track “I Wanna Melt With U”, the segues are cut from the sequence of the album when the running time is too long to fit on one CD. The album is also the first to feature the artists’ “muse”, dancer and vocalist Mayte Garcia, who he is married to from 1996 – 1999. It spin off three singles including “Sexy MF” (#66 Pop, #76 R&B), “My Name Is Prince” (#36 Pop, #26 R&B), and “7” (#7 Pop, #61 R&B). The original press run of CD’s the love symbol glyph embossed on the jewel case in gold ink. Subsequent re-pressings have the symbol either printed on the CD booklet or not at all. Prince also released the direct to video film “3 Chains O’ Gold” (in September 1994) which featured several songs from the album. The single “Sexy MF” is also released as a VHS video single at the time of the albums release, featuring the extended version of the clip. The music video for “My Name Is Prince” which features a cameo appearance by actress Kirstie Alley (“Cheers”) as a news reporter, is parodied to humorous effect on “In Living Color, with comedian Jamie Foxx playing Prince. Originally released on vinyl only in Europe, the album was scheduled to be reissued by Rhino Records in December of 2016. As of this date, the reissue has been put on indefinite hold without a new release date being given. "The Love Symbol Album” peaks at number five on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 8, 1980 – “Dirty Mind”, the third album by Prince is released. Produced by Prince, it is recorded in Uptown (Wayzata Home Studio) in Wayzata, MN and Hollywood Sound Recorders in Hollywood, CA from May – June 1980. After having his first taste of mainstream success with his self-titled second album, Prince takes a stylistic left turn. The musician records an album of raw, stripped down funk and rock songs on a 16-track multi-track recorder set up in his home studio on Lake Minnetonka. Recording begins after Prince completes a tour, as the opening act for fellow R&B star Rick James. At first, Warner Bros Records are taken aback at the sexually explicit lyrics of tracks such as “Head” and “Sister”, but eventually agree to release the album after the raw tapes are remixed by Prince and engineer Mick Guzauski. The track “Partyup” is co-written by Prince and his friend and former high school band mate Morris Day, and is the catalyst for Prince putting together the band The Time around Day. Initial pressings of the album also carry a disclaimer sticker on the front, to advise those of its explicit content. Though sales wise it is much less successful than his previous release, the album and the subsequent tour in support of it attracts the attention and universal praise from the rock press helping to widen his fan base beyond his core R&B audience. To promote the album, Prince plays a series of live shows in venues traditionally hosting rock acts, including now legendary performances at The Stone in San Francisco, and The Ritz in New York City. It spins off two singles including “Uptown” (#5 R&B, #101 Pop) and the title track. Initially selling around 300,000 copies at the time of its release. The album eventually reaches Gold status in the US less than one week before the release of “Purple Rain” (the soundtrack) in June of 1984. The album is reissued on 180 gram vinyl by Warner Bros’ Rhino Records reissue division in 2011. The vinyl release is remastered and reissued again in 2016 by NPG/Warner Bros, along with a cassette tape reissue of the classic title. "Dirty Mind" peaks at number seven on the Billboard R&B album chart, number forty five on the Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 21, 1990 – “Graffiti Bridge”, the twelfth album by Prince is released. Produced by Prince, it is recorded at Sunset Sound Recorders in Hollywood, CA, Lake Minnetonka Home Studio in Minnetonka, MN, and Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen, MN, circa 1983 – 1990. Issued as the soundtrack to Prince’s third film, the album features material written as far back as the “Controversy” recording sessions in 1981. Other tracks originate from various projects such as the abandoned “Dream Factory” album (which evolved into the “Sign O’ The Times” album), “Parade”, and “Crystal Ball”. Prince begins forming the concept for “Graffiti Bridge” in 1987, with the only songs written specifically for the film being “Thieves In The Temple”, “Round And Round” (recorded by Tevin Campbell), and “New Power Generation”. The completed album features songs performed by The Time, Mavis Staples and Tevin Campbell, along side Prince’s songs. The soundtrack album is much better received than the film which is widely panned upon its release, and is a box office disappointment. The album spins off five singles including “Thieves In The Temple” (#1 R&B, #6 Pop) and “Round And Round” (#3 R&B, #12 Pop). Also issued at the time as a limited double vinyl LP, the album quickly goes out of print in that format, and remains unavailable more than twenty five years later. “Graffiti Bridge” peaks at number six on the Billboard Top 200 and R&B album chart, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 17, 1983 – “Delirious” by Prince is released. Written and produced by Prince, it is thirteenth single release for the singer, songwriter and musician from Minneapolis, MN. Prince records the basic track (playing all of the instruments himself) for “Delirious” at Sunset Sound Recorders in Hollywood on May 9, 1982, with additional overdubs recorded at Prince’s home studio outside of Minneapolis, MN. The song is a substitution for “Turn It Up” which was recorded earlier during the “1999” sessions. Prince feels that “Delirious” is a much stronger track than “Turn it Up” which is bumped from the final running order of the album and to this day remains unofficially released, but has surfaced in bootleg form. The US pressing of the single is issued with a limited edition poster sleeve that unfolds into a calendar that becomes a collector’s item. The single also includes the non-LP B-side “Horny Toad”. Issued as the third single from the “1999” album, “Delirious” becomes Prince’s second top 10 pop single in the US, peaking at #8 on the Hot 100 on October 22, 1983 and #18 on the R&B singles chart. Originally clocking in at 3:56 on the album, the single is released with some pressings containing the album version, and another edited down by over one full minute to 2:36. In recent years, a significantly longer version of the master take running just over six minutes surfaces, circulating as a high quality bootleg among fans.
On this day in music history: August 5, 1989 – “Batdance” by Prince hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also topping the R&B singles chart for 1 week on August 12, 1989. Written and produced by Prince, it is the fourth #1 Pop and sixth R&B chart topper for the Minneapolis, MN born singer, songwriter and musician. Prince becomes involved in the “Batman” film project after being shown a rough cut of the film by director Tim Burton, who had been using “1999” and “Baby I’m A Star” as temporary music tracks while editing the film. Cancelling a scheduled vacation, Prince flies back home to Minneapolis and begins writing music for the film. Within a month, the artist composes eight new songs (only few make the final cut) for the film. The track “Batdance” is a song collage (featuring pieces of the songs “200 Balloons” (Batdance’s non-LP B-side), “The Future”, and “Electric Chair”) written and recorded overnight, using samples of dialogue from the film. Though it is not included in the film, the song is brilliantly utilized to market both the film and album. Released as a single on June 9, 1989, it is an immediate hit. Entering the Hot 100 at #53 on June 17, 1989, it rises to the top of the chart seven weeks later. The song is accompanied by an elaborately staged music video directed by Albert Magnoli (“Purple Rain”) and choreographed by Barry Lather (Janet Jackson, Tiffany). The clip features Prince in dual roles as himself and as a character called “Gemini”, half representing The Joker and the other half representing Batman, with the name being a nod to Prince’s own astrological sign. The music video earns an MTV Video Music Award nomination for Best Video From A Film in 1990. The single is also released as a 12" with extended remixes by Mark Moore of S-Express (Batmix) and William Orbit (Vicki Vale Mix). That 12" is reissued on Record Store Day on April 22, 2017, replicating the original sleeve design. Due to Prince having to sign over his publishing rights to his “Batman” soundtrack music to DC Comics, the company that owns the Batman franchise, “Batdance” has not appeared on any other Prince albums or compilations since the release of the soundtrack album. After many years, clearances are finally obtained from DC, and the single edit of the song is included on the posthumous compilation “Prince 4Ever” in November of 2016. “Batdance” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 4, 1984 – “Purple Rain” by Prince & The Revolution hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 24 weeks, also topping the R&B album chart for 19 weeks on July 28, 1984. Produced by Prince, it is recorded at First Avenue in Minneapolis, MN, Sunset Sound in Hollywood, CA, The Record Plant in Los Angeles, CA, and The Warehouse in St. Louis Park, MN from August 1983 – March 1984. The recording of the soundtrack album to the highly successful film begins with the recording of the tracks “I Would Die 4 U”, “Baby I’m A Star” and the title track, which are all recorded at a live benefit performance at the First Avenue nightclub in Minneapolis, also marking guitarist Wendy Melvoin’s live debut appearance with the band. “Let’s Go Crazy” is cut in The Revolution’s rehearsal space after Prince asks engineer Susan Rogers to take his home recording studio equipment out of his private residence and install it at The Warehouse. The remaining tracks are recorded in regular studios over the next couple of months, with the live recordings receiving some overdubbing and sweetening. Like the film, the soundtrack album is an enormous success, spinning off five hit singles including “When Doves Cry” (#1 Pop and R&B), “Let’s Go Crazy” (#1 Pop and R&B) and the title track (#2 Pop, #4 R&B). It wins two Grammy Awards (Best Rock Vocal Performance By Duo Or Group and Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or TV Special), and an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score in 1985. The album is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2011, and into the National Recording Registry by The Library Of Congress in 2012. “Purple Rain” is certified 13x Platinum in the US by the RIAA, and receives a Diamond Certification.
On this day in music history: July 27, 1984 – “Purple Rain” opens in US movie theaters. It is the feature film debut of music icon Prince, co-starring Apollonia Kotero, Morris Day, Jerome Benton, Olga Karlatos and Clarence Williams III. The film directed by Albert Magnoli, and produced by Robert Cavallo, Stephen Fargnoli and Joseph Ruffalo (Prince’s management team), is the semi autobiographical account of musicians rise to fame. Prince develops ideas for the story prior to and during the “1999 Triple Threat” Tour" (circa 1982 – early 1983). He enlists the help of veteran television and film writer William Blinn (“Eight Is Enough”, “Roots”) and director Magnoli to craft his ideas into the final script. Filmed on a modest budget of only $7 million, it is shot on location in Minneapolis and Los Angeles, CA between November – December 1983. Released through Warner Bros, the film opens on 917 screens across the US. “Purple Rain” tops the box office chart in its first weekend of release, taking in $7,766,201 (knocking “Ghostbusters” from the number one spot), going on to gross more than $68 million domestically during its original theatrical run (more than $80 million currently). In an unprecedented move, Warner Bros announces that “Purple Rain” will be made available as a sell through home video release (on VHS, Beta, and Laserdisc) list priced at $29.95, rather than as a rental (normally list priced at $79.95), in time for the 1984 Christmas holiday season. The move proves to be a brilliant decision as the film sells in then record numbers for a home video title, becoming one of the best selling films in the history of Warner Home Video. The films soundtrack wins Prince an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score in March of 1985.
On this day in music history: July 10, 1985 – “Pop Life” by Prince & The Revolution is released. Written and produced by Prince, it is released as the second single issued from “Around The World In A Day”. With the “Purple Rain” film and soundtrack all but complete by early 1984, Prince does not rest on his laurels as he continues his prolific streak of writing and recording new material. “Pop Life” is written during this period, recording it at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, CA on February 19, 1984. The track features Prince playing most of the instruments with Sheila E. on drums, and Wendy and Lisa providing background vocals. The end of the song features a sample of a hostile audience yelling “throw the bum out” at Prince while opening for The Rolling Stones in 1981. The single is backed with the non LP B-side “Hello”, which is written in response to the criticism leveled at Prince due to him not participating in the recording of “We Are The World”, as well as the intrusiveness of the press in the wake of his huge mainstream success. The track is recorded at Sunset Sound Recorders on May 24, 1985. “Hello” also features background vocals by Jill Jones. Both “Pop Life” and “Hello” are released with significantly longer versions on a 12" single simultaneously with the 7". The US 12" of “Pop” features a remix of that track by Sheila E., with the UK release including a different and much longer remix. The US 12" mix makes its CD debut on the compilation “Ultimate Prince” in 2006. “Pop Life” peaks at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 on September 21, 1985, and #8 on the R&B singles chart on September 14, 1985.
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