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May 07 2016

Prince, top 50, numbers 10 to 1

Prince-top-50-3

This is part 4 (of 5) of the memory of Prince, who passed away on April 21st 2016. This post contains part 3 of the top 50 Prince songs, numbers 10 to 1.

The first two parts of the top 50 Prince songs can be found at:

Joy In Repetition, sheet music

Joy In Repetition, sheet music

10. Joy In Repetition

(Graffiti Bridge, 1990)

Joy In Repetition was a Crystal Ball outtake from 1986 which was released unchanged. Prince even kept the original party-segue at the beginning of the song, which is also incorporated at the end of Eye No, segueing into Alphabet St. off the Lovesexy album. Initial recording took place in July 1986, five days prior to recording Soulpsychodelicide (a song that’s mentioned in Joy In Repetition). It was part of the configuration of triple-album Crystal Ball. When the album was cut back to double-album Sign O’ The Times, Joy In Repetition was removed. In 2002 a live version, recorded at an aftershow, was released (on live album One Nite Alone… The Aftershow: It Ain’t Over). Filled with fierce guitar playing, it’s a fine introduction to Prince the (heavily underrated) guitar player. The story of the song tells the tale of a visitor to a (night)club where a woman is performing a song (the already mentioned Soulpsychodelicide), which runs for a year; she’s been playing it for months now. At 01:10 minutes into the song the following lyrics are uttered: Up on the mic repeating 2 words, over and over again / was this woman he had never noticed before he lost himself in the articulated manner in which she said them / These 2 words, a little bit behind the beat / I mean just enough 2 turn u on / 4 everytime she said the words another one of his doubts were gone. The way in which these words are woven into the song, is pure genius. The woman keeps on repeating the two words, until the visitor can not take it anymore and leaves the club with the woman. The song ends with the conclusion that holding someone is truly believing there’s joy in repetition. The words that were on endless repeat? Love me. Stunning!

Housequake during Sign O' The Times tour premier, First Avenue, Minneapolis, 03/21/1987

Housequake during Sign O’ The Times tour premier, First Avenue, Minneapolis, 03/21/1987

9. Housequake

(Sign O’ The Times, 1987)

Shut up, already, damn! Enter Housequake, a Camille (one of Prince´s alter-ego´s) track. And it is funky: Come on y’all, we got 2 jam / Before the police come / A groove this funky is on the run. Housequake was part of the planned Camille album (consisting of just so-called Camille tracks) and, rightly so, was awarded a place on Sign O’ The Times. It’s a fantastic funk song and was a favorite at the live shows.

Controversy (maxi-single), 1981

Controversy (maxi-single), 1981

8. Controversy

(Controversy, 1981)

Title song to Prince’s fourth album. It deals with what/who Prince is: I just can’t believe / all the things people say / Controversy / Am I black or white / Am I straight or gay / Controversy / Do I believe in God / Do I believe in me / Controversy. Of course Prince doesn’t answer the questions. In the middle of the song Prince starts reciting The Lord’s Prayer (which led to people calling the song blasphemy). At the end People call me rude / I wish we all were nude / I wish there was no black and white / I wish there were no rules is chanted. It’s a straight up funk song with a pulsating ‘four-on-the-floor’ beat. The rhythm guitar is extremely funky. Classic Prince.

17 Days (B-side When Doves Cry maxi-single), 1984

17 Days (B-side When Doves Cry maxi-single), 1984

7. 17 Days

(B-side When Doves Cry, 1984)

This song is also part of the The Hits/The B-Sides compilation.

The complete title of the song is 17 Days (the rain will come down, then U will have 2 choose. If U believe, look 2 the dawn and U shall never lose) and was released as a B-side to When Doves Cry. This was the first item of Prince music I ever owned and I was immediately introduced to the fantastical world and way of thinking of Prince: B-sides. Songs not released on the regular albums, but exclusively on (vinyl)singles. The maxi-singles often contained the B-side in a remixed or extended version. The level of the B-sides was extremely high. 17 Days is that kind of B-side. Originally intended for the second Vanity 6 album, but re-recorded in 1984 together with Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman (who did backing vocals). The song’s about a man who was left by his girlfriend 17 days and 17 long nights ago. She has a new lover: You’ve been gone 17 days / 17 long nights / The main drag is knowing that / You’re holding someone else tight. The song swallows in its self-pity: So here I sit in my lonely room / Lookin’ for my Sunshine / But all I’ve got is two cigarettes / And this broken heart of mine // So let the rain come down / The rain come down / Let the rain come down, down. It works extremely well. It’s an insanely good song and has a perfect rhythm.

 

Fun fact: the complete title of 17 Days is the longest title of a B-side ever to get to number 1 in the Hot 100 of the USA (85 letters and/or digits).

Mountains (single), 1986

Mountains (single), 1986

6. Mountains

(Parade, 1986)

Favorite song off the Parade album: a real Prince and the Revolution song (the whole band actually plays on the song), written by Wendy & Lisa together with Prince. The 12-inch version (which lasts 10 minutes) starts with Prince encouraging the listener: Hey you, get out on this dance floor!. It’s a classic with lots of musical highlights. The song itself is is utterly positive and happy and makes optimal use of The Revolution: Love will conquer if u just believe.

Dirty Mind tour, Paradiso, Amsterdam, 1981

Dirty Mind tour, Paradiso, Amsterdam, 1981

5. Head

(Dirty Mind, 1980)

After the first two albums For You and Prince, Prince was considered a soul artist and was frequently likened to Stevie Wonder. Many were genuinely shocked when Prince started playing this song during the Prince tour. It tells the story of a woman on her way to the altar (to get married), but flees with Prince to have (mainly) oral sex. Stories about the concerts with Prince shouting Sing along! Head! and the astonishment/horror on the people’s faces, are legendary. Besides that, Head is a great funk song and a proto-type for the Minneapolis sound that would conquer the world a few years later. It was the introduction to the album Dirty Mind and the start of a very long period of ever improving, better, innovative and revolutionary music, concepts and concerts. Both the album and the song are indispensable links in the phenomenon that was Prince.

Erotic City (B-side Let's Go Crazy maxi-single), 1984

Erotic City (B-side Let’s Go Crazy maxi-single), 1984

4. Erotic City

(B-side Let’s Go Crazy, 1984)

This song is also part of the The Hits/The B-Sides compilation.

This is also a B-side and its title is longer too (just as is the case with 17 Days): Erotic City (“make love not war Erotic City come alive”). This song is a solo-recording, but the vocals are a duet between Prince and Sheila E (her first ever recording with Prince). Initial tracking took place at the end of December of 1983. Sheila E probably recorded her vocals around April of 1984, around the same time she and Prince were recording her debut-album. Despite the fact it’s a B-side, it was a massive hit in the clubs. It was even played on the radio, which was quite astonishing, given the fact that the word fuck is clearly audible, although, at the time, word was out that it really was funk. The lyrics in Prince’s handwriting leaves no room for debate.

At the time of compiling the (third) greatest hits package Ultimate Warner Bros. had placed Erotic City on the early configuration, but was deleted at Prince’s request, because of the explicit lyric.

Performing The Beautiful Ones in Purple Rain (the movie), 1984

Performing The Beautiful Ones in Purple Rain (the movie), 1984

3. The Beautiful Ones

(Purple Rain, 1984)

Early September 1983 The Beautiful Ones was recorded as a solo-effort (produced, arranged, composed, and performed by Prince) at Sunset Sound, Los Angeles. It’s a song about lust and unrequited love. It starts off as a slow ballad with Prince using his falsetto voice, accompanied by piano and synthesizer. Gradually the sound builds in volume and intensity, ending up with Prince screaming:

Do u want him / Or do u want me / Cause I want u / Said I want u
Tell me, babe / Do u want me/I gotta know, I gotta know / Do u want me
Baby, baby, baby / Listen 2 me
I may not know where I’m going (babe) / I said I may not know what I need
One thing, one thing’s 4 certain baby / I know what I want, yeah
and if it please u baby / please u, baby / I’m begging down on my knees
I want u / Yes I do / Baby, baby, baby, baby / I want you /Yes I do

The song ends quietly. It’s one of the most astonishing pieces of music ever recorded and one of Prince’s most prefect performances. Every time I hear the song it feels real, sincere and the passion bursts through the speakers. pure genius.

An even longer (not officially available) version exists, with a longer climax of the song (approximately 1 minute). The song replaced (the never released, also stunning) Electric Intercourse on the album and is said to be written for Susannah Melvoin in order to seduce her to leave her then boyfriend (which turned out to be quite successful). I once read that Prince was ecstatic after he finished this song. He knew it wasn’t just a little bit OK, but phenomenal.

On March 18th 2016 it was announced that Prince had started writing his memoirs, which were to be released during the Autumn of 2017. Its title: The Beautiful Ones.

If I Was Your Girlfriend (single), 1987

If I Was Your Girlfriend (single), 1987

2. If I Was Your Girlfriend

(Sign O’ The Times, 1987)

One of the most daring single-releases by Prince: If I Was Your Girlfriend. The song is performed by a (androgynous) man for a woman. Prince scans the possibilities to a more intimate relationship, as if he was a platonic girlfriend to the woman. It is assumed that the song is about Prince’s jealousy of the strong, intimate connection his (at the time) fiancee Susannah Melvoin had with her twin-sister Wendy. It’s an astonishing piece of work. The lyrics are truly beautiful and thoughtful, with some beautiful lines:

If I was your one and only friend / Would U run 2 me if somebody hurt U
Even if that somebody was me / Sometimes I trip on how happy we could be

and

Sugar do U know what I’m saying 2 U this evening
Maybe U think I’m being / a little self-centered
But I, I said I want 2 be / all of the things U are 2 me
Surely, surely U can see

The music is toned down, but highly effective. The vocals in particular are very impressive, with all kinds of tricks being used (speeding up, slowing down). Everything done just by himself: fantastic!

Ad for When Doves Cry, 1984

Ad for When Doves Cry, 1984

1. When Doves Cry

(Purple Rain, 1984)

Well, what is there left to say? After Prince’s passing it amused me to learn that this song was the starting point for a lot of people, and a lot of them could, just like me, remember exactly where they were when they heard it for the very first time. And rightly so. This song is nothing short of amazing. It has everything and is (still) completely unique. Another song played and sung by Prince alone, recorded after all songs for Purple Rain were done. The most remarkable thing about the song is the absence of the bass, which was recorded by Prince, but ended up removing it, because it fit the song better. The song was more or less written at the request of the director of the movie Purple Rain. The movie needed a song to a certain piece of film which went into problems with-between parents and a love affair. The next morning Prince had written two songs. One of them was When Doves Cry. The song starts of with some kind of guitar/solo and the famous Linn LM-1 drum machine, followed by some ‘throaty’ sound. The song ends with a (much longer) guitar and synthesizer solo. The lyrics have become classic:

How can u just leave me standing / Alone in a world that’s so cold
Maybe I’m just 2 demanding / Maybe I’m just like my father 2 bold
Maybe you’re just like my mother / She’s never satisfied
Why do we scream at each other / This is what it sounds like
When doves cry

Prince’s genius shines throughout this masterpiece. Nothing will ever beat this one.

 

10 comments

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  1. Brian W

    Thank you for compiling your Top 50 list. It was a very good read. Well informed, logical and inspiring. They will provide a great introduction for many as a ‘Prince 101’ to get them started in appreciation of truly wonderful music.

    1. A Pop Life (Erwin Barendregt)

      Thank you, I really appreciate your comment. By the way, you’re more than welcome!

  2. Freek Claassen

    a great list! wonderful to see Now, Lovesexy and Breakdown mentioned! a few of your choices baffle me, especially Right Back Here In My Arms, I’ll listen to it again with fresh ears to hear if it is better than the standard bland Emancipation production.

    1. A Pop Life (Erwin Barendregt)

      Ha, ha, I can understand. I really don’t like Emancipation that much, but the two mentioned songs are great. Particularly the background singing on Right Back Here In My Arms is awesome!

  3. Derrick Whitehead

    Arduous task putting a Top 50 list for Prince. Would not give anyone that task. Anytime you can omit Private Joy, Uptown, Dirty Mind, Soft & Wet, I Wanna Be Your Lover, Bambi, Sexy Dancer, Lady Cab Driver, Little Red Corvette, Do Me Baby, Insatiable, Scandalous, Why You Want To Treat Me So Bad, Pink Cashmere, Bob George, and a cast of others show that anyone attempting to do this list again should start at 100.

    1. A Pop Life (Erwin Barendregt)

      It is hard, but do-able 🙂
      I cheated a bit, since in The closing I listed the ‘other’ 50 songs 🙂
      On the other hand, discarding such great songs only further demonstrates the impressive body of work Prince created….

  4. Gahlen Fuller

    Nice list. However, I would have had Joy and repetition at number 2. To me, that is the best song I have ever heard when Prince performed it live. The guitar solo is simply incredible.

    1. A Pop Life (Erwin Barendregt)

      I can live with that 😉
      When Doves Cry also at number 1 then?

      1. Gahlen Fuller

        You can never go wrong with When Doves Cry being your number 1. 🙂

        1. A Pop Life (Erwin Barendregt)

          Ha, ha, no arguments there!

Compliments/remarks? I´d love to hear them!