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Oct 27 2017

1999: Prince on his way to the top

Prince - 1999 vinyl (turntablelab.com)

Prince – 1999 vinyl

Don’t worry, I won’t hurt u, I only want u 2 have some fun

Preface

1982 (apoplife.nl)

1982 was the first year that generated a lot of released Prince material:

  • 03/19/1982: Ren Woods: Azz Izz (1 song)
  • 08/11/1982: Vanity 6: Vanity 6 (7 of 8 songs)
  • 08/25/1982: The Time: What Time Is It? (6 songs)
  • 09/24/1982: 1999 single with B-side How Come U Don’t call Me Anymore (1 song)
  • 10/27/1982: 1999 (11 songs)

This totals up to 26 songs within one year. The next 3 songs belong to the 1999 era as well:

  • 05/19/1983: Stevie Nicks: Stand Back
  • 08/17/1983: Delirious single B-side Horny Toad
  • 11/16/1983: Let’s Pretend We’re Married single B-side Irresistible Bitch

In the years to come, Prince would do nothing else except release lots and lots of music (besides touring and making movies). Also, see the article Prince is victorious (once again) with Sign O’ The Times.

Content

The 1999 era is made up of a couple of parts. The first two have been the subject of previously published articles: 

This article is divided into three major parts:

  1. 1999, the album
  2. 1999, the tour
  3. 1999, the consequences

Preceding

Prince - Contract 1978 (prince4life.nl)

Prince – Contract 1978

In 1978 the big Warner Bros. Records made a deal with the unknown Prince Rogers Nelson from Minneapolis for three albums. He had set (and was granted) conditions on producing his albums by himself. Unique for an unknown and young musician.

Warner Bros.’s confidence and trust in the new artist was huge. But, the things the young Prince brought to the table, were rather unique. He composed, arranged, performed and produced his music all by himself. The first album For You (1978) seems to have been made to prove just that. The album cover explicitly stated that Prince played all 26 (!) instruments himself. Also, the song Soft And Wet showed there was something special going on. It sounded different and was lyrically dicey.

The next album, Prince (1979), was a r&b record. The songs I Wanna Be Your Lover and Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad? were released as singles and became hits, although mainly on the r&b chart. But, once again, Prince proved there was more to him than met the eye. The song Bambi was hardrock. For the first time his guitarwork stood out. He was a more than average player.

Prince - Live 1980 (1xrun.com)

Prince – Live 1980

Based on the first two albums, Prince was marketed as the new Stevie Wonder. The shock was enormous when Prince started to alter his image during the Prince Tour. He performed in nothing but his underwear and legwarmers. He dressed feminine, but acted very (masculine) hypersexual. When he and his band (who became increasingly distinct, as characters and image-wise) started the new song Head and encouraged audiences to sing along, the shock was complete (Head as in ‘to give head’, meaning: oral sex). This was no Stevie Wonder!

Prince & Band - Dirty Mind (funkmysoul.gr)

Prince & Band – Dirty Mind

With the release of the new album, Dirty Mind (1980) it became clear that Prince was no flash in the pan. It was also abundantly clear that Prince had the potential to be much more than an interesting musician. Prince’s music was innovative, exciting, bold, funky, punky, direct and unique. The album was lauded by the critics. And rightfully so. A hybrid between funk, new wave and punk. It was the first perfect album by Prince. Many were to follow. Prince performed in Europe for the first time. Three shows were played, one of which in the Paradiso in Amsterdam in The Netherlands. A couple of hundred people witnessed Prince at the time. I was not one of them (I had never even heard of him).

The next album, Controversy (1981) was a musical continuation of Dirty Mind. Lyrically, some things were placed into context. Songs like Sexuality and, particularly, Ronnie, Talk To Russia gave way to Prince’s (political) convictions.

In the meantime, Prince had grown into a stellar live act. His shows were always exciting and different. However, white America was not ready for this black musician wearing make-up on high heels, who melted funk/new wave/punk and sang in a falsetto voice about risky subjects. When he was the opening act to The Rolling Stones on October 9th and 11th, 1981, things went sour very quickly. Many (homophobic) slurs were targeted at the stage. When the band kept on playing, all kinds of things were thrown towards the stage. Food, bottles, cans, cups: everything found its way to Prince and his band. The white rock audiences were not ready for Prince and his new music. A sobering experience.

That had to change. But only on Prince’s terms.

1999, the album

Prince - 1999 - Warner Bros Promotion (lansuresmusicparapernalia.blogspot.com)

Prince – 1999 – Warner Bros Promotion

Introduction

Was Prince on my mind in 1982? No, my mind was occupied with new wave and punk. The Cure, The Clash, Joy Division, Bauhaus, Discharge, Crass, Conflict, etc, was where money was spent on. But, a change was gonna come. More melodic music entered my life. Simple Minds’ New Gold Dream and Japan’s Tin Drum, for instance, were added to my musical spectrum.

But dance music? No, that was a bridge too far in the heavily compartmentalized musical landscape at the time. You were a punk, skinhead, disco, hardrocker, etc., and stayed within the parameters of the group, particularly within the group’s taste. I was less bothered with that, but still. Prince was a no-go. Even though the song 1999 was very good indeed. The second song to stand out. A year before Controversy had caught my ear as well. But in Holland Prince was not an item. In contrast to the US, where 1999 meant the definitive breakthrough for Prince. A pure cross-over took place. The white audiences that booed him off stage only 1.5 years earlier, now came to his shows.

Recording

Prince home & homestudio Kioma Trail, Chanhassen, Minneapolis (pinterest.com)

Prince home & homestudio Kioma Trail, Chanhassen, Minneapolis

The album was recorded between January and the summer of 1982. Work was also done on the Vanity 6 and The Time projects. So, activity abound. Many of the recordings were done at the Kioma Trail Studio, which was part of Prince’s home. The studio was placed in a small bedroom that housed a 24 track recording console. Prince did many recordings there, among which the 1982 output.

Sunset Sound Recording Studio Logo (fourplayjazz.com)

Sunset Sound Recording Studio Logo

A part of the recordings were done at Sunset Sound Recording Studio in Los Angeles. his favorite studio, next to his homestudio and his (at that time still a future endeavor) own Paisley Park Studios.

All recordings are primarily performed, recorded, arranged and composed by Prince alone. Minimal outside input (mainly vocals) was needed.

Linn LM-1 and Oberheim OB-Xa

Linn LM-1 drum computer (pinterest.com)

Linn LM-1 drum computer

The album contains a lot of electronics. As stated in the article on Vanity 6, that album contained a lot of experimentation with, particularly, the Linn LM-1 drum computer.

Oberheim OB-Xa (analogsynthmuseum.free.fr)

Oberheim OB-Xa

For the album 1999 the Oberheim OB-Xa was added to the mix. Despite the pop-sense on the album, the album contains many long, experimental pieces of music, which turned out to be a blueprint to much of the 1980’s music, but was also enormously influential on (the development of) electro, house and techno.

The Minneapolis Sound is, for the greater part, based on the sound of 1999: electronics, pumping beats and synthesizers utilized as a horn-section.

The way in which Prince, who was also a skilled drummer, programmed and used the Linn LM-1 opened up a whole new world of rhythmic possibilities, which were used to their fullest.

The danger that resides in using all those electronics of course, is that the end result feels robotic, mechanical and cold, but Prince doesn’t fall into that trap by using a lot of (funky) guitars, rock guitars and live-percussion. On this album Prince starts using his voice in his natural register, instead of his falsetto.

Prince - 1999 (thefader.com)

Prince – 1999

1999

1999 is the fifth Prince album and his first double-album. In the US it established his breakthrough. 1999 is the first album on which Prince uses the color purple. Also, the trend that was casually introduced on Controversy gets the full treatment here: using letters/numbers in stead of words: u in stead of you, 4 in stead of for, 2 in stead of to, etc.

Initially, Warner Bros. reacted reluctantly to the release of a double-album. Manager Steve Fargnoli was able to persuade Warner Bros., although the album was also issued as a single album in Europe.

Review

And? Is this album worthy of all the praise? The same answer applies here as to the same question asked on Sign O’ The Times: Yes, and more! It’s a fantastically exciting and innovative album, with a large number of classic songs.

A review of Prince’s first double-album. After Dirty Mind and Controversy, masterpiece number 3 (out of 8 in total). Hereby the description, song by song.

 

1999

I was dreamin’ when I wrote this
Forgive me if it goes astray
But when I woke up this mornin’
Coulda sworn it was judgment day
The sky was all purple,
there were people runnin’ everywhere
Tryin’ 2 run from the destruction,
U know I didn’t even care

‘Cuz they say two thousand zero zero party over,
oops out of time
So tonight I’m gonna party like it’s 1999

Prince - 1999 video (hq-music-videos.com)

Prince – 1999 video

On September 24th, 1982, the single 1999 was released, over a month prior to the release of the album. It became a modest hit in the US. After the breakthrough success of the single Little red Corvette, the 1999 single was re-released 6 months later. The single contains the fabulous B-side How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore.

It’s a highly swinging song that talks about the apocalypse. Prince assumes the world will (soon?) perish. It almost feels like Prince can hardly wait for the event to happen. But before that event, the solution is to dance like it’s 1999 (the apocalyptic year?).

Prince - 1999 (single) (princevault.com)

Prince – 1999 (single), 1982

The lines to the verses are sung by Lisa Coleman, Dez Dickerson and Prince, followed by a fourth line sung in harmony by all three. It was originally intended to sing all of the lines together, but Prince decided against it. A good call.

1999 is a great achievement and proves once and for all that electronics and feel can go together. The song oozes warmth and the synthesizer riff gives goosebumps. Despite the lyrics, it’s an ultimate party song. One of the best-known Prince songs and a highlight in his career. Live this was always a party in its own, also because of:

We could all die any day
I don’t wanna die,
I’d rather dance my life away
Listen 2 what I’m tryin’ 2 say
Everybody, everybody say party

On December 16th, 1982, MTV started broadcasting the 1999 video. Prince and Michael Jackson were the first black artists, whose videos were played by MTV. It had an enormous impact on Prince’s popularity.

Part of my Prince song top 50 (number 36).

Little Red Corvette

Prince - Little Red Corvette (single), 1983 (princevault.com)

Prince – Little Red Corvette (single), 1983

The cross-over hit everyone was waiting for. The first top 10 hit in the pop charts of Billboard. The song follows the standards for a rock-hit. 3 chords, adding a fourth for the chorus. A classic ‘verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, verse, chorus, chorus’ composition and a subject the American (white) audiences could relate to: cars.

Of course the song isn’t about a car, but about a girl who “believes in makin’ out once. love ’em and leave ’em fast”. She has a lot of experience: “I felt a little ill when I saw all the pictures of the jockeys that were there before me”.

Prince even starts to feel inadequate:

Believe it or not
I started to worry
I wondered if I had enough class

Delirous

Prince - Delirious (single), 1983 (princevault.com)

Prince – Delirious (single), 1983

The third single off the album. A rock song with a blues-theme. A very catchy synthesizer riff and an uptempo drumbeat make the song irresistible. The single contains the B-side Horny Toad.

The second top 10 hit for Prince in the pop charts of Billboard.

This song also contains the car metaphor: “Girl U gotta take control ‘cuz I just can’t steer” en “I can’t stop I ain’t got no brakes”.

The closing lines are:

Girl U gotta take me 4 a little ride up and down
In and out and around your lake

Let’s Pretend We’re Married

Prince - Let's Pretend We're Married (single), 1983 (princevault.com)

Let’s Pretend We’re Married (single), 1983

The fourth single off the album. A pulsating beat and a thick synthesizer wall of sound. The single contains the contagious B-side Irresistible Bitch.

His girl left him “and she don’t care at all”. The only way to mend the pain he is feeling, is to find somebody new fast: “Let’s just pretend we’re married, tonight”.

The song contains a spoken outro, with some of the most explicit lyrics Prince ever put to tape (and didn’t print on the lyrics which were placed on the album’s innersleeves):

I wanna fuck U so bad it hurts, it hurts, it hurts

Look here Marsha, I’m not sayin’ this just 2 be nasty
I sincerely wanna fuck the taste out of your mouth
Can U relate?

The songs ends with a proclamation:

Whatever U heard about me is true
I change the rules and do what I wanna do
I’m in love with God, he’s the only way
‘Cuz U and I know we gotta die some day
If U think I’m crazy, you’re probably right
But I’m gonna have fun every motherfuckin’ night
If U like 2 fight, you’re a double-drag fool
I’m goin’ 2 another life, how ’bout U?

Sex and God together in one song: the early Prince philosophy in a nutshell. Isn’t God called upon the most during orgasms?

D.M.S.R.

Prince - D.M.S.R. (single), 1983 (princevault.com)

Prince – D.M.S.R. (single), 1983

Released as a promo single, so it has never been officially available. Funk anthem par excellence. The letters stand for:

Dance

Music

Sex

Romance

A big beat with catchy synthesizer riffs. Many call and response vocals. This song contains the most outside help of all the songs on the entire album.

The song contains clues on (the identity of) Jamie Starr, The Time en Vanity 6, all pseudonyms for Prince:

Jamie Starr’s a thief
It’s time 2 fix your clock
Vanity 6 is so sweet
Now U can all take a bite of my purple rock, can we stop?

Automatic

Prince - Automatic (single), 1983 (princevault.com)

Prince – Automatic (single), 1983

Released as a single, only in Australia.

An irresistible song. Glorious rhythm, beautiful synthesizer lines. With 9:28 minutes the longest song on the album. The verse is sung/spoken, after which: “A-U-T-O-matic, just tell me what 2 do / A-U-T-O-matic, I’m so in love with U”.

Great line: “They say nothing’s perfect, but they don’t know U”.

The song ends with a S&M scene, in which Prince, accompanied by orgasmic guitar sounds, is the ‘victim’: “I can hear U, I’m going 2 have 2 torture U now”. A video was shot for the song, but was refused by MTV at the time, because of the controversial images of Prince being tied up to a bed.

Something In the Water (Does Not Compute)

Prince - 1999 contour 1

A nervous beat, with futuristic sounds. An experimental song with funny lyrics. The opening lines are “Some people tell me I got great legs / Can’t figure out why U make me beg”. He can’t quite figure out what the problem is, so it “Must be something in the water they drink / ‘Cuz why else would a woman wanna treat a man so bad?”.

Genius song.

Free

Prince - 1999 contour 2

A traditional ballad. By far the weakest song on the album. Undoubtedly, it is made with the right intentions and with great sincerity, but it doesn’t work for me (at all).

The most acoustic song on the album.

Lady Cab Driver

Prince - Lady Cab Driver lettering

Prince – Lady Cab Driver lettering

An absolutely top funk song. Drumcomputer, supplemented with analogue snare-drums and guitar. At about two-third into the song the funk-feel changes into rock, containing gloriously heavy guitar.

The lady cab driver has to get Prince away from wherever he is at that moment in time: “mass confusion in my head”.

Half way through the song all kinds of ‘accusations’ are made to the lady cab driver. The moaning and groaning in the background (once again) suggests S&M role playing:

This is 4 why I wasn’t born like my brother, handsome and tall
This is 4 politicians who r bored and believe in war
This is 4 discrimination and egotists who think supreme
And this is 4 whoever taught U how 2 kiss in designer jeans
This 1’s 4 the rich, not all of ’em, just the greedy —
The ones that don’t know how 2 give
This is 4 the women, so beautifully complex
This 1’s 4 love without sex
This is 4 the wind that blows no matter how fast or slow
Not knowing where I’m going
This galaxy’s better than not having a place 2 go
And now I know

All The Critics Love U In New York

Prince - All The Critics Love U In New York (audiopreservationfund.org)

Prince – All The Critics Love U In New York

A monotonous swinging beat with a great bas riff, funky guitars and funny lyrics, that contain a list of things you can get away with, as long as the critics dig you.

U can dance if U want 2 — All the critics love U in New York
U don’t have 2 keep the beat, they’ll still think it’s neat — in New York
U can wear what U want 2, it doesn’t matter — in New York
U could cut off all your hair, I don’t think they’d care — in New York

All the critics love U in New York

Why U can play what U want 2 — All the critics love U in New York
They won’t say that u’re naive if U play what U believe — in New York
Purple love-amour is all u’re headed 4 — but don’t show it
The reason that you’re cool
is ‘cuz you’re from the old school, and they know it

Whaddayou lookin’ at, punk’
Look out all U hippies, U ain’t as sharp as me
It ain’t about the trippin’, but the sexuality — turn it up

Great song.

International Lover

Prince - 1999 photo outtake (blueiskewl.blogspot.com)

Prince – 1999 photo outtake

The closing ballad is very good. Prince uses his falsetto in the song. The lyrics are funny:

Baby, I know it’s hard 2 believe
But this body here is free tonight

A seduction song, that went down great in a live setting.

Welcome 2 Satisfaction
Please remain awake until the aircraft has come 2 a complete stop
Thank U 4 flying Prince International
Remember, next time U fly, fly the International Lover

Prince - Automatic - Video (vevo.com)

Prince – Automatic – Video

Contributions by others

Everything on the album is played and performed by Prince, with the following exceptions:

Prince - 1999 Thank you notes (pinterest.com)

Prince – 1999 Thank you notes

  • Lisa Coleman – background vocals on 1999, Little Red Corvette, Delirious, D.M.S.R., Automatic and Free
  • Dez Dickerson – co-lead vocals on 1999, background vocals and guitar solo’s on Little Red Corvette
  • J.J. (Jill Jones) – co-lead vocals on 1999, background vocals on Automatic, Free and Lady Cab Driver
  • Brown Mark, Jamie (Shoop), Carol (McGovney), Peggy (McCreary), Poochie & The Count: background vocals and handclaps on D.M.S.R.
  • Wendy (Melvoin): background vocals on Free

Extra songs

The singles 1999, Delirious and Let’s Pretend We’re Married came with B-sides, which were not available on any other format. All B-sides are played and sung by Prince alone, and containing analogue instruments. Irresistible Bitch contains background vocals by Wendy & Lisa.

How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore

Prince - How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore - Sheetmusic (onlinesheetmusic.com)

Prince – How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore – Sheetmusic

A great song (number 29 in my Prince song top 50). A beautiful ballad. It is about a man (Prince?) who is left by his lover. She doesn’t call him anymore and he feels lonely and abandoned.

In contrast to the album, this song is completely acoustic, consisting of a bassdrum, piano and vocals.

Fun lyrics too:

Sometimes it feels like I’m gonna die
If U don’t call me mama, girl U gotta try
Down on my knees, beggin’ U please, please, oh
Why can’t U call me sometime, baby?
It’s just one lousy dime, baby…
Why can’t U call me sometime?

Prince yells, screams and begs. A (very) impressive feat. Prince genuinely comes across as a vulnerable, hurt man.

Horny Toad

B-side to the single Delirious (in England to the single Little Red Corvette). A rockabilly song. Okay song, nothing more.

Irresistible Bitch

B-side to the single Let’s Pretend We’re Married. Originally recorded in 1981. The released version was re-recorded on September 15th, 1983. No electronics: live-drums, bass, etc. Once again a fabulous song (number 45 in my Prince song top 50). A funk song. Prince is addicted to a woman who is “irresistible”. Great lyrics:

Hell if I know why I let u drive my car
Don’t I know that walking won’t get me very far?
Sure I know that crying over u is just in vain
But all the things I lose don’t add up to all the things I gain

 

Albumcover

At first glance, the purple cover, which contains just Pr1nce 1999, isn’t too interesting. But, the numbers and letters contain some references to future and previous work. Letters and numbers that stand out, are:

Prince - 1999 cover close-ups (apoplife.nl)

  • The letter i (of Prince), is changed into the number 1. The middle part contains the mirror image of the text; and the revolution. The next album would be released under the moniker Prince and the Revolution
  • The number 1 (of 1999) is shaped as a penis
  • The first number 9 contains the androgyny sign, the male and female symbol as one: O(+>. In the years to come this would continue to be a much used symbol. From 1993 to 2000 it would, re-styled, even become Prince’s new name
  • The second number 9 contains the Rude Boy button, which he wore on his two previous albums

Press and reception

The press were beyond themselves with praise for the album. 1999 pointed towards the future. It was yet again proof that Prince was really extraordinary. Musically once again a step forward. Even more innovative, even more experimental, more genius. The accompanying letter to the critics is a nice feat to read.

Some reviews remarked on the (relatively) subdued sexually explicit nature of the lyrics. Completely incomprehensible, given some of the texts that pass by, as well as the S&M references. In (one of the few) interviews surrounding the release of 1999, Prince told that he refused to tone down when it came to sex, because it was an honest reflection of his creativity. It was not concocted to sell more records:

“Sex is something we can all understand. It´s limitless. But I try to make the songs so they can be viewed on different ways. I know some people will go right through these message elements in a song, but there are some who won´t. If you make it too easy, you lose the point. Most music today is too easy.”

Interview Los Angeles Times, Robert Hillburn, 1982

Different releases

Prince - 1999 1LP (princevault.com)

Prince – 1999 1LP

As a result of the growing success a single LP-version of the album was released in March of 1983:

Side A   1999
    Little Red Corvette
    Delirious
    Free
Side B   Let’s Pretend We’re Married
    Something In The Water (Does Not Compute_)
    Lady Cab Driver

This was available around the world, with the exception of the US. At the same time a cassette was released, which contained two extra songs: How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore, the B-side to the 1999 single, was added to Side AD.M.S.R. to Side B. The cover featured a photo of Prince.

Prince - 1999 Initial CD release (thetargetcdcollection.com)

Prince – 1999 Initial CD release

When the album was first released on cd, not all the album’s music (70:51 minutes) fit on the disc. At that time the data capacity for a compact disc was more limited than it is nowadays. To be able to release the album as a single disc, Warner Bros. decided to sacrifice the song D.M.S.R.. Around 1990 the cd was re-released, completely this time.

Conclusion

What did I think of the album when I heard it for the first time? I heard it first in 1985, at a girlfriend’s house. She had had the album for quite some time. After When Doves Cry I had some major catching up to do. I bought 1999 in 1986 on cd. Because of the catching up and the new albums (Parade!), 1999 initially fell through the cracks.

Prince - 1999 platinum award (gottahaverockandroll.com)

Prince – 1999 platinum award

But that turned itself around. I love the experimental nature of the album. It contains some truly bold music. Prince tried many different things and angles and it all worked out brilliantly. The album is a crucial link in the development of Prince, his music and his career. Without 1999 no Purple Rain, it’s as simple as that. The now common phrase Minneapolis Sound is primarily based on this album. Prince was done with the sound after the album and tour. But, in the meantime, this album grew out to be a blueprint for much of the music of the 1980’s.

The album is part of my list of must-have albums (see the article Prince, the closing). 5 of its songs are part of my Prince top 100 songs: 1999, D.M.S.R., Lady Cab Driver and the B-sides How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore and Irresistible Bitch.

If I were to grade this album I would award it a 9.0 (Little Red Corvette and Free both don’t get a 100% rating…).

1999 Tour (princevault.com)

1999 Tour

1999, the tour

To promote the new album a tour was organized. From November 11th to December 31st of 1982, Prince staged 40 shows in the US. The tour was known as the “Triple Treat Tour”, because an average show had two support acts: Vanity 6 and The Time, both Prince satellite acts. In between sets songs of Joni Mitchell’s album Court And Spark were played.

The show started with half an hour Vanity 6, followed by three quarters of The Time. The main event, Prince’s show, lasted little over one hour. Thus, every night contained 2 to 2.5 hours of Prince music. Prince’s show was the most elaborate until then. The stage and the set of the Controversy Tour were used and expanded (with, among other things, a bed). 

Setlist

An average setlist was made up of the following songs:

Prince - Live 1999 Tour (prince.org)

Prince – Live 1999 Tour

  • Controversy
  • Let’s Work
  • Do Me, Baby
  • D.M.S.R.
  • Lisa Coleman keyboard interlude
  • With You
  • How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore
  • Lady Cab Driver
  • Automatic
  • International Lover
  • 1999

At some shows older songs like Head and Uptown were added to the set.

Europe

Concerts were planned for Europe. Including a show in Amsterdam (The Netherlands) at the Jaap Eden Hal. However, the concerts were canceled at the last minute.

Second part 1999 Tour

Prince - Live 1999 Tour (metro.co.uk)

Prince – Live 1999 Tour

Due to the sudden success of the Little Red Corvette single, the American tour was rebooted in February of 1983. Another 47 shows were booked. Given the success of the single, the venues, in which the concerts were staged, became larger.

Something else stood out too. Until then Prince was a black artist with a predominantly black audience. During the second leg of the 1999 Tour it became clear that Prince could turn into a real cross-over artist. The audience composition changed. An increasing percentage of white became part of the make-up of the audience. At the end of the tour the mix between black and white had turned into 50/50 (by some accounts even 40/60).

In the second leg of the tour The Time were regularly deleted from the bill, as Prince feared being upstaged by The Time. The Time was eventually scrapped from the bill indefinitely for the last shows of the tour.

Setlist

An average setlist, during the second leg of the tour, was made up of the following songs:

Prince - 1999 Tour - Ad (theundefeated.com)

Prince – 1999 Tour – Ad

  • Controversy
  • Let’s Work
  • Do Me, Baby
  • D.M.S.R.
  • Lisa Coleman keyboard interlude
  • With You
  • Still Waiting
  • How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore
  • Lady Cab Driver
  • Little Red Corvette
  • Dirty Mind
  • International Lover
  • 1999

At some shows I Wanna Be Your Lover was played.

The band

Next to Prince, the band consisted of the same bandmembers that were part of the Controversy Tour: Dez Dickerson (guitar), Dr. (Matt) Fink en Lisa Coleman (keyboards), Brown Mark (bass) & Bobby Z. (drums). The band was supplemented by Jill Jones, who provided background vocals.

Prince - 1999 Tour (pinterest.com)

Prince – 1999 Tour

Reviews

The press raved about the tour. The only complaint was that Prince’s set was too short. Many American reviewers proclaimed the 1999 Tour to be the best tour of the year. Obviously, Prince’s star was on the rise. White audiences had found him now and he was no longer forced to play small clubs.

Luckily, many recordings of the tour are available. The eagerness stands out; there’s no hiding from it. The show’s highlight, as far as I’m concerned, is How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore. Prince screams, yells, whispers and pours his soul out. The song has a lot of audience participation and beautiful additional musical coda’s.

1999, the consequences

Prince door Richard Avedon (Richard Avedon)

Prince door Richard Avedon

Early on, Prince had realized that the music industry was changing. It wasn’t about the music alone anymore. Presentation became important as well. His videos connected with the new times really well.

Admiration

Many Of Prince’s colleagues praised his music. David Bowie played many 1999 songs prior to his concerts during his Serious Moonlight Tour. John Cougar Mellencamp was so impressed with Little Red Corvette, that he advertised it at his shows. At one particular show he even stopped the show, just to play the song from cassette into a microphone. Eddie Murphy, at the time a young rising comedian, wanted, should he be a musician, only to trade with Prince.

Stevie Nicks recorded the song Stand Back, inspired by Little Red Corvette. When Prince happened to be around, he played synthesizer on the track. Nicks was so grateful that she gave Prince co-writing credits to the song.

Internal affairs

Prince & Chick Huntsberry (printerest.com)

Prince & Chick Huntsberry

But, in Prince’s camp things were running less smoothly. The arguments with The Time escalated. Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis and Monte Moir quit. Vanity left the Prince camp to start her own solo-career. Even in Prince’s band things became messy. Dez Dickerson had become a born again christian and felt increasing discomfort playing the sexually charged songs every night. He started to act like, using his own words, a jerk.

Prince distanced himself from his own band. He had his own tour bus and talked many hours to his manager Steve Fargnoli. His bodyguard Chick Huntsberry (a giant of a man) was always with Prince (by the way, Prince sincerely adored Huntsberry).

Summarization

Anyway, at the end of the tour 1999 had been sold nearly 1 million times and Prince had his first platinum album. The album and the tour were commercial and artistic triumphs.

Prince on the cover of Soul Teen magazine (terapeak.com)

Prince on the cover of Soul Teen magazine

The press were unanimous in their praise (in 1982 journalists of the influential music magazine Rolling Stone named him artist of the year) and among colleagues he had gained a lot of respect for his innovations, guts and vision. Covers of his songs started to appear.

In the article Prince Scores Platinum Double (June 11th, 1983), Billboard commented that Prince’s achievement stood out. Especially being a black artist, as the last black artists that had had that amount of success with a double-album were Donna Summer (Bad Girls) in 1979 and Stevie Wonder (Songs In The Key Of Life) in 1976.

1999 was an important link in Prince’s career. From a cult figure he turned into a big star (particularly in the US) with the potential to reach global heights, because he appealed to black and white audiences alike. And all that on his own terms.

What to do next? A movie maybe? Something with purple, rain and The Revolution?

In closing

In 1998 Prince re-recorded the song 1999 using the name The New Master. It was not a success, despite the advertising campaign.

What do you think of 1999? Also a classic Prince album? Let me know!

 

 

4 comments

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  1. Damein

    Brilliant article .. learnt heaps more

    1. A Pop Life (Erwin Barendregt)

      Thank you so much! Greatly appreciated!

      1. Damein

        when i was at secondary college in Portland Australia, i would run the school radio at the age of 13 and play the album from 1999, Little Red Corvette, Delirious and LPWM where lunchtime would come to an end just as ‘I wanna f…’ would slice through the limited airwaves .. it was about 4 weeks before the teachers ‘raided’ the small radio studio .. ‘what do you mean he is swearing?’ LOL .. he made us all rebels and thank goodness for that 💜

        1. A Pop Life (Erwin Barendregt)

          Ha ha, he sure did. Great story!

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