On August 12th, 1994, the album Come was released. Initially Prince/ wanted to release The Gold Experience that very same day, but Warner Bros. refused. This is the story about the road to the release of the debut album of .
This article continues where the stories about Prince’s name change and the release of Come ended:
It’s highly recommended to read those stories first. This article uses two sub articles:
They will be referenced in this article as well.
After the release of Come
As stated in the article on Come, was extremely busy in the period following the release of the Prince compilations The Hits 1, The Hits 2 and The Hits/The B-Sides in 1993. The road to Come was paved with numerous projects, recording sessions and releases, among which:
- The Undertaker
- the musical Glam Slam Ulysses
- the debut album by The New Power Generation, Gold Nigga
- the start of the new label NPG Records
- the single The Most Beautiful Girl In The World
- the broadcast of the Beautiful Experience on a number of European radio stations and the British Sky One TV
- the book Prince Presents The Sacrifice Of Victor
- the CD-ROM Interactive
- The Love Experience tour of the US
- the release of the NPG Records compilation 1-800 New Funk
In the meantime worked relentlessly on his music. Many songs recorded for Come and The Gold Experience are performed by Prince/ himself or with the same group of musicians, making the choice for which song was by Prince and which by feels random at times.
The fact is that went through another one of his insanely prolific periods. The new music was and sounded different than he had ever done before. The 1993 compilations The Hits 1, The Hits 2 and The Hits/The B-Sides can really be regarded as the farewell to Prince. As he himself stated in his declaration on the name change from Prince to , it really seemed like it was a rebirth.
Following the release of Come, was always working. Unfortunately, the release of The Gold Experience would bring a lot of stress to , resulting in an even deeper rift between him and Warner Bros.
The Most Beautiful Girl In The World
The story of The Gold Experience essentially starts on February 9th, 1994, when the very first release saw the light of day. Warner Bros. had granted him permission to release The Most Beautiful Girl In The World on his own new label NPG Records. Warner Bros. was convinced the general public were no longer willing to accept all the output made and thought up, and that, following the inevitable failure, would come to his senses and accept Warner Bros.’ reasonable stance. It all played out very differently, The Most Beautiful Girl In The World was a worldwide smash. Of course, it convinced even more of his own way of thinking and his belief that it was best if he did it all by himself.
The Black Album
On November 22nd, 1994, 7 years after the official release was retracted under mysterious circumstances, The Black Album was finally released, using the title The Legendary Black Album – Limited Edition. Prince received $ 1,000,000 for it. The album was to be available for a limited amount of time: 2 months.
Funnily enough Warner Bros. offered “amnesty” to the owners of bootleg version(s) of The Black Album. The first 1,000 to return their “counterfeit” items, would receive the original CD or cassette for free: “To participate, send your contraband album to Amnesty Offer, Warner Bros. Records, Box 6868, Burbank, Calif. 91505”.
The album had very little to no impact. The hype surrounding everything Prince had quieted down a long time ago and the fans already owned the album, which they had bought using illegal (bootleg) channels. Just as used the success of The Most Beautiful Girl In The World to his own advantage, Warner Bros. did the same with the failure of The Black Album release: the general public didn’t want to buy anything anymore, because Prince material had flooded the market.
Phone call with Mo Ostin
To put what came next (Prince/‘s struggle) into the right perspective, the phone call between and Warner Bros. director Mo Ostin in early 1994 has to be mentioned. New Power Generation drummer Michael Bland said in 2018: “Prince had this conversation with Mo Ostin, the head of Warner Brothers Records, on the phone, after Prince had mentioned The Gold Experience in an interview. Prince told him that he hadn’t even begun work on it, and that it was just a concept, and my understanding is that Mo’s response was, “Well, whatever, it’s ours, anyway.” Prince got off the phone and was floored. He said, “This guy just told me that whatever ideas I have in my head are not mine. They belong to Warner Brothers.” And I think that everything really changed for him after that. His sense of being an artist was being toyed with from his point of view”.
It lighted a fire, that would culminate in losing touch with the general public, the end of the 17 year long contract with Warner Bros. and the growing fragmentation of releases during the 1990s, where Prince albums would be released containing subpar vault material, used to fulfill his contractual obligations towards Warner Bros. and albums which would contain recent material the artist backed and supported 100%.
On September 30th, 1994, the Dolphin video was premiered at the start of the European VH1 television station. At the time, the song was a stand-alone release, since it wasn’t part of Come, but was culled from the as yet unreleased The Gold Experience. It was the first time was shown with the, mirrored, word “Slave” on his face. More and more, the dispute with Warner Bros. became a public spectacle.
Release date: NEVER!
The N.P.G. Stores, which had opened in Minneapolis and London in 1993 and 1994, started handing out flyers to their customers, calling people to voice their displeasure of Warner Bros.’ refusal to release The Gold Experience. The tracklist on the flyer was identical to the eventual release in 1995, with one crucial exception. On the flyer Days Of Wild is still part of the album, yet wouldn’t be part of the official release.
The Late Show With David Letterman
Deepening the confusion, appeared on The Late Show With David Letterman on December 13th, 1994. Both the albums that were released in 1994, Come and The Black Album, were ignored. Prince was there as . During the introduction Letterman said: “The song he will be doing for us tonight is from this CD right here, which is entitled The Gold Experience, and I’m told this particular CD will never be released. So it makes perfect sense that he is here promoting it tonight”, followed by playing Dolphin. At the end he performed a suicide-act, leaving an uncomfortable audience (and Letterman) behind.
The Sacrifice Of Victor en The Undertaker video’s
On March 6th, 1995, two Prince videos were released, The Sacrifice Of Victor and The Undertaker.
The Sacrifice Of Victor is an excerpt of the aftershow Prince And The New Power Generation played at Bagley’s Warehouse in London on September 8th, 1993.
The Undertaker was also accredited to Prince, while the accompanying album was supposed to be released as a album. Unfortunately, it has never been released.
Also on March 6th, 1995, the single Purple Medley was released. The song was released using the Prince moniker, and was recorded in late 1994. It’s a medley of Prince songs, all newly recorded. The songs used in the medley (in order of appearance, according to the online Prince encyclopedia princevault.com) are: Batdance (sample), When Doves Cry, Kiss, Erotic City, Darling Nikki, 1999, Baby I’m A Star, Diamonds And Pearls, Purple Rain, Let’s Go Crazy, Sexy Dancer, Let’s Work, Irresistible Bitch/Sexy M.F., I Wanna Be Your Lover/Kiss (coda), Alphabet St., Thieves In The Temple, 777-9311 (bass motif only), A Love Bizarre, If I Was Your Girlfriend, Raspberry Beret, Little Red Corvette, Peach/Cream (text only), It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night (instrumentation).
Unfortunately, it’s a horrendous single, one I wish(ed) to forget. A total blunder, to which the name Prince shouldn’t have been leant.
The Ultimate Live Experience
From March 3rd to 31st, 1995, toured Europe. The tour mainly focused on the United Kingdom, with concerts in England, Scotland and Ireland. On the continent only The Netherlands and Belgium were visited. The concerts were announced a month before they took place, also making clear that Prince was dead and buried, which also applied to his music. The shows would contain new music, mostly coming from The Gold Experience and the New Power Generation album Exodus (which was released in Europe on March 27th, 1995).
The concerts showed a hungry , who played his new music full of fire. The tour started off with a complete stage, which had supposedly cost around $ 250,000 to build, but was too big (and costly) to go along on tour. Just the first few shows were done with the complete stage, making the decor odd/ugly looking for the remainder of the shows. Many times the sound in the venues was subpar, because chose to mix the sound in the venue himself from the center of the stage. Asking for trouble, even though it has to be said that I personally don’t recall the sound being bad at both the Dutch shows I visited at the Brabanthallen in Den Bosch on March 24th and 25th, 1995.
did play some Prince songs during the tour, but none of the songs that were part of the regular Prince-canon. Four songs from the Come album, Pink Cashmere (only available on the The Hits compilation), I Love U In Me (B-side to the 1989 The Arms Of Orion single) and 7 were played and that was it. Despite the announcement, many visitors were (heavily) disappointed by ‘s performance, but the fans were ecstatic. A lot of new songs, in great basic versions played by a top notch band.
The Ultimate Live Experience Tour consisted of 20 concerts and no less than 8 aftershows, 2 of them taking place at the Paradiso in Amsterdam. I wasn’t there at the legendary 1988 concert at Paard van Troje, but this time I was going to be there, no matter what. And so it came to pass. Never before had I witnessed that close by, in a venue of that size. It was mind blowing!
On March 25th, 2020, Edward Gubbels published his story Prince 1995 Ultimate Live Experience in Holland here on A Pop Life (follow the link to read his view on the concerts and the tour).
New Power Generation – Exodus
On March 27th, 1995, the second album by the New Power Generation was released in Europe. The album was part of ‘s own NPG Records and was distributed by EDEL. On the album credits Prince/ isn’t mentioned, except in the “thank you” section: “This album is dedicated to the memory of His Royal Badness”. The New Power Generation did have a new member though: Tora Tora, a pseudonym. The album is meant to be a group effort, which it is performance wise, but, as usual, everything was written by (except Get Wild). Unfortunately, the flow of the album gets interrupted by a number of “segues”, but the songs are almost all first rate. I personally love the album, it has a relaxed mood, is extremely funky and has great production value.
More on the New Power Generation as a satellite act at a later time.
Talk and deals
On May 12th, 1995, a meeting took place between and the Warner Bros.’s management team (which had been completely replaced by that time). Differences were set aside and the new CEO, Danny Goldberg, agreed to releasing The Gold Experience and the American release of the New Power Generation’s Exodus. The deals were not very specific. assumed that the albums would be released in a matter of days and Goldberg assumed that would stop making Warner Bros. look bad in public.
Almost immediately felt he was being played, because his music wasn’t released yet, so he truly was a “slave” to the system. The word would not leave his face.
The Versace Experience (Prelude 2 Gold)
From July 8th to 10th, 1995, fashion house Versace organized their fashion show in Paris. provided the soundtrack to the shows and made The Versace Experience (Prelude 2 Gold), which was handed out on cassettes during the fashion show. It contained a number of edits and remixes of The Gold Experience, previously unreleased Madhouse songs, New Power Generation “segues” and an instrumental from a planned Kamasutra release:
- Pussy Control (Club Mix) –
- Shhh (X-cerpt) –
- Get Wild In The House – The NPG
- Hate U (Remix) –
- 319 (X-cerpt) –
- Shy (X-cerpt) –
- Billy Jack Bitch –
- Sonny T. (X-cerpt) – Madhouse
- Rootie Kazootie (Edit) – Madhouse
- Chatounette Controle –
- Pussy Control (Control Tempo) (Edit) –
- Kamasutra Overture #5 – The NPG Orchestra
- Free The Music – The NPG
- Segue –
- Gold (X-cerpt) –
All songs written by , except Get Wild In The House by and Sonny T., Sonny T. and Rootie Kazootie by , Eric Leeds, Michael Bland, Sonny Thompson and Levi Seacer, Jr.
The Versace Experience (Prelude 2 Gold) was released on cassette on April 13th, 1993, as part of Record Store Day, followed by a worldwide CD release on September 13th, 2019.
In 1995 lots of overviews and interviews with or NPG-members were published in magazines and newspapers.
Many were initiated by himself, who was eager to tell the world all about his struggle against the music industry. He didn’t always come out on top (read: sane). His actions were misunderstood, oftentimes intentionally. Not that his story was very consistent, but his struggle and position were essentially just. Even more, without his struggle he would never have gained full control over his music during his lifetime. Nowadays, his struggle is recognized as groundbreaking and extremely important.
But the ‘venom’ mainly came from the overviews. was nothing more than Prince without success, good music and mystique. A weak infusion of everything Prince embodied during the ‘golden years’ in the 1980s. Prince/ was in danger of slipping into oblivion.
One article, donning the expressive title Purple Drain, in the (local) St. Paul Pioneer Press on January 15th, 1995, was particularly shocking. According to the piece, which consulted some past key players, Prince/‘s organization was almost bankrupt and actively helped ruin suppliers to Paisley Park due to nonpayment. Prince/ came across as otherworldly, who actually got/had to have everything that popped into his head. ‘It can’t be done/is impossible’, was not accepted. It seems to confirm the allegations made by filmmaker Kevin Smith in his monologue in the documentary An Evening with Kevin Smith (a dvd with Q&A sessions between Kevin Smith and several fans). Read more on that in the story about The Rainbow Children.
Please read the sub article Prince – The Gold Experience – Press & interviews for the full articles.
The Gold Experience
On September 25th, 22nd in Holland, 1995, the seventeenth Prince album, ‘s debut album, was released. At long last, the album was here, The Gold Experience. It is kinda strange that the album was released under the moniker of , for was part of the name change not caused by Warner Bros.? So why offer a album to those who thwarted his search for “freedom both artistically and emotionally”?
had already toured for the album in the beginning of 1995. Following the release of the album played a number of shows at his own Paisley Park billed as Love 4 One Another, where he played many songs off the album.
Both and Warner Bros. didn’t really do any more promotion after the album’s release.
Six singles were culled from the album:
- The Most Beautiful Girl In The World on February 9th, 1994
- Dolphin, a promo cassette release, summer 1995
- Pussy Control, a promo cd release, summer 1995 and P Control, a cassette release that was handed out among VIPs at the VH-1 Fashion and Music Awards on December 3rd, 1995
- Endorphinmachine, a promo CD release only available in Japan, summer 1995
- Hate U on September 12th, 1995
- Gold on November 30th, 1995. The single contained the B-side Rock ‘N’ Roll Is Alive! (And It Lives In Minneapolis)
All songs written by , except We March by and Nona Gaye, Billy Jack Bitch by and Michael B. Nelson. Most of the recordings took place at ‘s Paisley Park Studios.
On July 25th, 1994, Pussy Control was recorded by . That very same night the song was premiered at a show in his own Glam Slam club in Minneapolis. At the end of the first set the recording was played from a cd over the PA system.
From then on the song has always been part of the configuration for the album. It was also played live many times up to January 1996, after which it never returned on any setlist.
Somewhere around the fourth quarter of 1994 the song was renamed to P Control, probably to appease shop owners, so they wouldn’t censor the album the way they had done with Lovesexy (due to the cover).
In a 1996 interview claimed that the song is about women taking control over their sexuality.
Can I tell U what I’m thinkin’ that U already know?
“U need a motherfucker that respects your name”
Now say it, Pussy Control
Before the album was officially available, P Control, using the initial title Pussy Control, had already been released as a promo single and in three different remixes on The Versace Experience (Prelude 2 Gold) (Chatounette Controle is the French translation of the song title). In December 1995 a cassette single was handed out to VIPs during the VH1 Fashion and Music Awards. In 1998 a remix, titled P. Control was released on the Crystal Ball three cd set.
Early January 1993 Prince went into the studio for a number of highly prolific and productive sessions. Endorphinmachine was one of the songs that came out of those sessions. It was a regular part of the live setlist and was also part of the Glam Slam Ulysses musical (see the story on Come).
The hint to Prince’s ‘death’ on the Come was subtle, when compared to the explicit reference at the end of Endorpinmachine:
Prince esta muerto
Prince esta muerto
Que viva para siempre el Poder de la Nueva Generacion
Which translates to “Prince is dead, Prince is dead, long live the New Power Generation”.
The released album version has overdubs the previous Glam Slam Ulysses version didn’t have, and therefore sounded more raw and urgent.
Shortly before the release of the album, Endorphinmachine was available as a promo single in Japan.
Shhh was recorded in 1992 and given to Tevin Campbell for his album I’m Ready, which was released in 1993. The song was written by Prince, using the pseudonym Paisley Park.
Early 1994 re-recorded the song with his band. The combination of Michael Bland’s energetic drumming and ’s impressive guitar playing makes the song a musical highlight.
The song is about a favorite subject, sex.
Shhh – break it down
I don’t want nobody else 2 hear the sounds
This love is a private affair
Interrupt the flow, they better not dare
Shhh – we gotta break it on down
Shhh was highly rated following the radio broadcast of The Beautiful Experience. It would probably have been an excellent choice for a single, but it was only released as a promo single in the US.
wrote a true protest song. The questions and themes delve into inequality, racism and misogyny. Lyrically beautiful, but musically rather bland. That’s unfortunate, because the lyrics are great and definitely deserve more. The dull drum programming (by Kirk Johnson) does the song a disservice, and sonically it doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the song.
If this is the same avenue my ancestors fought 2 liberate
How come I can’t buy a piece of it even if my credit’s straight?
If this is the same sister that U cannot stop calling a bitch
It will be the same one that will leave your broke ass in a ditch
If U can’t find a better reason 2 call this woman otherwise
Then don’t cry, U made the bed in which U lie
In 1999, during the so-called “? of the week” on the website Love4oneanother.com someone asked : “In creating the song, “We March,” did you have the then-upcoming Million Man March in mind? While at the march, I remember hearing several positive references to you and that song; in that it conveyed the spirit of the March.”
responded: “”We March” was indeed played at the Million Man March over the loudspeakers, but in fact was written b4 eye had heard about the event.”
The Million Man March was a political demonstration in Washington, D.C., to promote African American unity and family values, held on October 16th, 1995. The crowd size was estimated at more than 800,000.
In 2001 and 2005 a 1995 live version of We March was made available to the members of the NPG Music Club.
The Most Beautiful Girl In The World
A mellifluent ballad, that is convincing nonetheless. Especially vocally is in rare form. Towards the end he goes all the way using his falsetto, truly impressive.
The song is the very first release by and was released some 1.5 years prior to the The Gold Experience‘s release. Three months later The Beautiful Experience EP, containing several remxies of the song, was released.
The album version differed from the initial release. Some stop/start moments and sound effects were added.
In 1995 two Italian writers filed a lawsuit (in Italy) against Prince for plagiarism. They claimed The Most Beautiful Girl In The World was based on their 1983 song Takin’ Me To Paradise. In 2003 the claim was denied, but in 2007 they won after appealing the initial verdict. In 2015 the verdict was ratified. Even though it only applies to Italian territories, it’s the reason The Gold Experience‘s release on Spotify and other streaming services lacks The Most Beautiful Girl In The World.
At the end of 1993 Dolphin was part of a Come configuration. That version was more raw than the version on the album, where extra guitar, keyboards and sound effects were added to. A great song which lyrically goes beyond anything Prince/ has ever done before.
If I came back as a dolphin
Would U listen 2 me then?
Would U let me be your friend?
Would U let me in?
U can cut off all my fins
But 2 your ways I will not bend
I’ll die before I let U tell me how 2 swim
And I’ll come back again as a dolphin
On September 30th, 1994, almost a year before the album’s release, Dolphin was released as a video to VH-1 Europe. It was also part of The Undertaker video release.
Glorious thumping funk song. grows wilder and wilder vocally and by the end he screams his lungs out. Fantastic.
realizes that times have changed:
Welcome 2 The Dawn
U have just accessed the Now Experience
This experience is great 4 dancing and improving self-esteem
Other titles in this category include
Irresistible Bitch, Housequake and Sexy MF
But that was then, this is
The song is at position 14 in my Prince songs top 50.
Pounding drums, heavy riffs, falsetto. A combination that is not very common, but really works very well here. Great song.
The song can be heard in Paul Verhoeven’s 1995 movie Showgirls. According to Prince/ the song was inspired by Elizabeth Berkely, who played a part in the movie.
Recorded in October 1993, the song was a favorite amongst many reviewers. Not for me.
Billy Jack Bitch
Funk song, that contains a sample of Fishbone’s Lyin’ Ass Bitch. Also contains background vocals by Lenny Kravitz, who wasn’t credited, as he was under contract with a different record company.
Even though Prince later denied it, the song is an act of revenge against Minneapolis columnist Cheryl Johnson (C.J.), who regularly published negative articles about Prince/, whom she scathingly referred to as “Symbolina”.
What distortion could U let your pen forget 2day?
What misfortune left your heart so broken U only say
Words intended 2 belittle or dismay?
What if I say U lie?
Beautiful R&B ballad aimed at Carmen Electra, recorded at the end of their relationship. One of the reasons I think this song is so great is the way the guitar enters the song (at 05:26 minutes). It seems like struggles to restrain his guitar, only to play yet another killer guitar solo.
Did U do 2 your other man the same things that U did 2 me?
Right now I hate U so much I wanna make love until U see
That it’s killin’ me, baby, 2 be without U
Cuz all I ever wanted 2 do was 2 be with U … ow!
The song is placed at position 37 in my Prince songs top 50.
The closing song that has been given Purple Rain like proportions. Even though the song is great, it is a slow starter. It only gets irresistible (and moving) when the song is underway for some time. The closing guitar solo is intoxicating.
Everybody wants 2 sell what’s already been sold
Everybody wants 2 tell what’s already been told
What’s the use of money if U ain’t gonna break the mold?
Even at the center of fire there is cold
All that glitters ain’t gold
All vocals and instruments by , with help from:
- Mayte – background vocals and spoken word on P Control, Endorpinmachine and We March
- Michael B. – drums on Endorphinmachine, Shhh, Dolphin, 319, Billy Jack Bitch, Hate U and Gold
- Sonny T. – bass on Endorphinmachine, Shhh, Dolphin, 319, Billy Jack Bitch, Hate U and Gold; vocals on We March
- Tommy Barbarella – keyboards on Endorphinmachine, Shhh, Dolphin, 319, Billy Jack Bitch, Hate U and Gold
- Mr. Hayes – keyboards on Endorphinmachine, Shhh, Dolphin, 319, Billy Jack Bitch, Hate U and Gold
- Ricky P. – keyboards on We March, The Most Beautiful Girl In The World, 319, Hate U and Gold
- Nona Gaye – vocals on We March
- Kirk Johnson – drum programming for We March
- James Behringer – guitar on The Most Beautiful Girl In The World
- NPG Hornz – horns on Now, 319 and Billy Jack Bitch
- Lenny Kravitz – background vocals on Dolphin and Billy Jack Bitch
- Rain Ivana – ‘NPG Operator’ on NPG Operator segues, Billy Jack Bitch, Hate U and Gold
The original idea of album cover designer Steve Parke was to use actual gold leaf in the cd jewel-case, but Warner Bros. wasn’t having it: too expensive.
The accompanying booklet contains, next to photos of band members and the concert stage, called “The Endorphinmachine” (only used in London), an essay by music critic Jim Walsh. A passionate story about a period during which Prince transformed into and the music was fresh, new and exciting.
Read the essay below.
Early one morning in February of 1993, I walked out of Minneapolis Glam Slam, where Prince, as he was then known, and the New Power Generation had performed an impromptu concert. It was a three-set marathon; a greatest hits revue that included a version of “Purple Rain” that had the patrons on the floor waving their arms back and forth religiously. Just like in the movie. Just like in the past.
When it was over, I made my way across 5th Street, and as the Minnesota air freeze-dried the dance-sweat on my face, I turned up my collar to an entirely different kind of coldness: After establishing himself as one of the most fiercely innovative musical forces in American culture over the past decade, Prince, it seemed, had little left to offer but star power, showmanship, and fuzzy nostalgia.
And the truth is, since I’d seen it happen before, I can’t say I was all that disappointed. Instead, I took comfort in the fact that I’d borne witness to the little rocket’s ascent more than a dozen times in clubs: At First Avenue in 1980 the night before he went to Los Angeles to open for the Rolling Stones; in 1981 at an amazing free-form jam the night after the Controversy tour stopped at Met Center; in 1984 the week Purple Rain was released; in 1987 at a warm-up for the Sign ‘O’ The Times tour; at Glam Slam in 1990 working out material for Graffiti Bridge, and on and on and on.
But as I walked from the club to the parking ramp that night, I admit to feeling a certain smug sympathy for the nouveau Prince fans who’d just got done paying their respects in the court of His Royal Badness. Because more than anything, the Glam Slam gig reminded me of the times I’d seen Ray Charles and James Brown in dinner theaters. Entertaining shows, to be sure, but like all such experiences, the music was framed by the specter of pale imitation and a little voice that nagged, “You shoulda been there when….”
Overnight then, it seemed as if Prince had prematurely signed on with this relic club, trading spontaneity for choreography, risks for hits, genius for just good enough – all of which is and always has been anathema to his legendary appetite for self-experimentation. At the time, the word on the street was that Prince was old news, that he’d been displaced by an army of new jacks who couldn’t run with him on a real instrument if their entire collection of vinyl samples depended on it.
Which is why, when the strains of “Purple Rain” finally faded that night and I watched Prince take his bows, I wondered if he suspected what I did. I wondered if he realized that the stuff was just this side of stale, and if he had it in him to challenge himself again. Nobody could blame him if he wanted to coast all these years, but as I watched him run through an admittedly mind-blowing litany of old hits, another, very distinct, impression took hold:
That he was bored out of his skull, and he was purging himself of his past.
Fast-forward exactly one year later. Prince is no longer Prince, but , and everyone, including me, thinks he’s gone of the deep end. Later, he’ll tell Alan Light from Vibe magazine that he knows people will make jokes about it – he even accepts that aspect of it – but that the name change is a way to draw a very clear line between him and the comfort of his past laurels. Weirdly, I get it. On a gut level, I understand his desire for his music to grow, his need to move on, and his thirst for personal growth. Maybe it’s because he and I are the same age and grew up in virtually the same neighborhood, but in my 36th year, I likewise discovered that true knowledge doesn’t come easy; it requires a process that the psychotherapist calls “hard work,” and that calls panning for “gold.”
Which is to say that , doesn’t represent the past, but possibility. In February of 1994, he emerged from an intense writing and recording seclusion and threw a party (“The Beautiful Experience”) at Paisley Park to commemorate the release of “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” single. That’s where I first heard much of the material you now hold in your hands – including the marvelous cartoon dance work–out “Now” and the Al Green–kissed “Most Beautiful Girl.” The 90–minute performance was a gritty, lean, and supremely nasty coming–out baptism that, unlike the Glam Slam gig a mere 12 months prior, revealed to be a past–jettisoning, forward–thinking world citizen capable of howling fines like “Hooker, bitch, ‘ho/I don’t think so,” and “A woman should he thanked every day” with genuine respect/regret, and then, with genuine bad–ass squirreliness, “Light us up and take a hit.”
Which, as a matter of fact, is exactly what I did. As often as possible. Last summer, an the NPG set up shop for a week in Erotic City, the small annex in Minneapolis Glam Slam’s upper deck. Typically, they’d start at about 2:00 a.m. and play until 3:00. All my cronies from the old days had long since given in to their skepticism and hailed from the purple magic bus, so my friend Theresa was the only one I could ever talk into going. One night we were joined by 150 people. The next, 400. One night, he laid on his back and played feathery blues guitar for 20 minutes; the next, lie bounced off the NPG horns like a tireless, tenacious Muscle Shoals band leader; the next, he led 300 people on a scavenger hunt out to Chanhassen for a full–fledged concert at Paisley Park.
It was exhilarating, and exhausting. Theresa and I would drive home from those gigs dazed and bemused, and go to sleep with the birds chirping and the sun coming up. The next day, we’d call each other up: Did you hear this? What was that lyric? What’s up with the spiritual vibe? I was floored by the band – bassist Sonny T., drummer Michael Bland, keyboardists Tommy Barbarella and Mr. Hayes – and the balance they struck between well–drilled professionalism and off the cuff jam-ability. After a July Glam Slam gig, Theresa said she thought “P Control was just another one of ‘s sexist throwaways; I thought that was too easy. I defended it as a lighthearted, if raunchy, take on the power of womanhood.
We bitched, wondered, and danced. Yeah, we were hooked, I suppose in the same way that any fan gets hooked, but because it was all new material and we were hearing it as works in progress unfettered by the usual cheese, it was more exciting than just superstar-gazing at a small club. It was, as we often said those nights in June and July, like discovering an underground band that nobody had ever heard of before.
In retrospect, it was exactly what I needed. At the time, I had grown somewhat pessimistic about the power of music, because too many labels were putting out records by acts who had no sense of focus or artistry. I’d spent much of the last year of my job at the St. Paul Pioneer Press covering the music of despair, and the landscape was riddled with ordinary players, say-nothing whiners, and tuneless navel-gazers, who aspired to little else but getting something off their chests when there was nothing interesting on their chests to begin with. Most of all, I was sick of everybody being so damned serious, and I wanted to have some fun. and the NPG did it; then made me laugh and think and twitch. And there was something else:
After spending the last few years cultivating personas of soft-rock balladeer, electrifying dancer, an public relations goof ball, returned to doing what he does better than anyone else on the planet: playing guitar. Upon first hearing Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze,” Bruce Gary wrote that “it was as if all the soul music and rock & roll I’d ever heard had become this raging flood.” That quote stuck in my head night after night as consistently nailed my jaw to the floor and swept me up in his own raging, gushing, flash flood.
As the summer wore on, started showing up for more impromptu gigs at Glam Slams in Miami and Los Angeles, and the grapevine reported that he was performing this brilliant new material along with covers by Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone, and Salt-N-Pepa. He’s never made a secret of his passion for musical history, and you can clearly hear the bridging of those three generations folded into these grooves. It’s there in the anthemic utopian vision-meets-celebrity vulnerability of “Gold,” in the hard-won hubris of “We March,” and in the intoxicating noise that is “Now.” Pissed off and playful all at once, it also contains a genuine bitterness and unabashed pettiness that cuts through on “Billy Jack Bitch.”
As that track illustrates, “The Gold Experience” is, if nothing else, raw and real. And in case you haven’t been paying attention, that’s big news. One of my main complaints about so much modern R&B is that everything sounds so unremittingly chipper; even supposedly sad torch songs are rendered with a glossy detachment, an anti-feeling. No such problem here: “Shhh” is a melancholy blues-gospel jam built on a tangible bed of longing, while “ Hate U” is a messy, anguish filled kiss-off that stems from a paradox (desire vs. spite) that more polite art usually avoids.
Above all, wants it known that this is a record about the fight for freedom – personal, artistic, political – but anyone with half an ear can suss that much out. During the making of it, he was enamored with Betty Eadie’s book Embraced By The Light, a first-person narrative on near-death experience, and that theme also peppers the record, most explicitly in the reincarnation dream “Dolphin.” It is also implicit on several other tracks that ponder birth, life, death, and rebirth, and one man’s own expectations and perceptions of himself.
It might sound hokey, but to me, The Gold Experience is about processes. The kind of processes that don’t happen overnight, or to overnight sensations. It is about panning for gold and coming up with mud, and, getting back down on your hands and knees and panning some more. It is about, if you will, “hard work.”
Psycho babble and pure groovability aside, the most fascinating aspect about these 12 songs is that they come from a human being who, like you and me, struggles day in and day out, but unlike you and me, does so in a very public forum. And that public flailing makes the music – which too often gets obscured by the flailing itself – somehow resonate even deeper, and transcend the confines of good beats and hit-making. It is the sound of an artist at odds with himself, his world, his past, present, and future. Who would’ve guessed that such a sound could be this big, bad, and joyful?
More than anything, throughout my own “Gold” experience, I heard a unique, and uniquely potent, mix of purpose, celebration, and fear. There is a palpable sense of urgency here, as if knows that time is running out for all of us to make connections with ourselves and the outside world. Don’t believe me? Listen to the scream in the middle of “Endorphinmachine” or the guitar solo on “Gold” that concludes the album. The two things they share are desperation and liberation. Listen. Cue ’em up, back to back. Hear it? He isn’t showing off; he’s searching. Again. And like never before.
Jim Walsh, Pop Music Critic, St. Paul Pioneer Press
Reactions to The Gold Experience were mixed, although it has to be said that the American reviewers were more positive than the European reviewers. It was either called characterized as a ‘return to form’ or as an ‘old routine’. However, there was widespread consensus on the fact that experimentation and innovation were no longer part of Prince/‘s music.
The main remarks in the reviews are listed below.
“The Gold Experience” is a proficient album, not a startling one; most of its songs are variations and retreads of previous Prince efforts.
(New York Times, 09/17/1995)
The Gold Experience has no weak links. Slave or no slave, he has freed himself musically.
(Oor 19, 09/23/1995)
… the result being his most effective and meaningful album since 1990’s “Graffiti Bridge”.
(Los Angeles Times, 09/24/1995)
“The Gold Experience” fully redeems 0(+> as the ruler of his wildly imaginative, funky, sexy kingdom.
(St. Paul Pioneer Press, 09/24/1995)
… it’s a veritable pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
(Philadelphia Daily News, 09/26/1995)
When he says, on the openingtrack, “I need another piece of your ear,” give it up. This timeold-what’s-his-name has earned it.
(Philadelphia Inquirer, 09/26/1995)
It may not be the way it used to be, the man, who used to be called Prince, still has more class in his pinky than most musicians have in their entire being.
(Algemeen Dagblad, 09/27/1995)
This is a buoyant, raucous effort, imbued with enough funk, passion, and playfulness to make it more akin to a party – rather than concept – album.
(Entertainment Weekly, 09/29/1995)
Where Prince was able to astonish time and again in the 1980s with revolutionary arrangements and production techniques, he nowadays seems to suffer from lack of ideas.
(de Volkskrant, 09/29/1995)
It is good, for sure, but nobody gets really excited anymore.
(Het Parool, 10/05/1995)
With this LP, our former Prince turns in his most effortlessly eclectic set since 1987’s Sign o’ the Times.
(Rolling Stone, 11/02/1995)
That the artistic blossoming of His Royal Badness are in the past tense, is in full display on THE GOLD EXPERIENCE.
Prince may be dead and buried, but ankh-symbol-guy truly lives.
(MTV Online, 10-1995)
Others would be glad to make Gold Experience but you just know that if water-treading were to become an Olympic event Prince would be first to don the star-spangled Speedos.
This is 0(+>’s best complete record since 1987’s Sign ‘O’ the Times – his best effort since the ’90s almost happened without him.
For the full reviews, see sub article Prince – The Gold Experience – The reviews.
It seemed impossible at the time, but the sales for The Gold Experience are equal to those of Come, which was the worst selling album of Prince/‘s career since his 1978 debut For You. At first, The Gold Experience sold even worse, just barely reaching the 500,000 sales mark in the US to make it a golden record. Remarkable, as the album does contain the world wide smash The Most Beautiful Girl In The World, even though the releases of the single and album are 1.5 years apart.
The general public couldn’t care less and ignored the album, Prince/‘s career was in desperate need of renewal.
At the time I was completely in love with the album. had delivered an album that surely could stand the test of time and secure his unique position in the world of music as well. Was it? Is it still?
No, my rating has changed, downwards. I have developed a strong dislike for the “segues”, a typical 1990s error, and the songs We March and Shy. I just can’t listen to them anymore. Also, the reworking of The Most Beautiful Girl In The World hasn’t done the song any good. The song’s production seems ‘thinner’ (for lack of a better word). But the biggest downfall still is: where has Days Of Wild gone? At the time Mayte said that had other plans for the song, maybe even be part of the American release of the New Power Generation album Exodus. It never happened. An unbelievable decision, one I don’t understand to this very day.
Days Of Wild is placed on position 11 in my Prince songs top 50.
The rest is all very good to great. Songs like Endorphinmachine, Shhh, Dolphin, Now and Hate U are exquisite! P Control, 319 and Billy Jack Bitch sound just like old friends and are fine. Gold possesses a Purple Rain like grandeur, but is a slow starter.
All in all I now rate The Gold Experience at:
One point lower than I rated it at the time. I rate it (slightly) lower than Come. That album may be darker and heavier, but it’s also more consistent. If The Gold Experience had been released with Interactive and Days Of Wild instead of We March and Shy and with the original The Most Beautiful Girl In The World and without the “segues” it would have been a 5 star album. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case.
See the story Prince, the closing for my definitions of Prince-genius and outstanding.
Even though The Gold Experience has aged somewhat (for me personally anyway), the album does contain more than enough great music, to urge anyone to listen to it. It is not a ‘must-have’ Prince/ album, but for (starting) Prince adepts it comes highly recommended.
After The Gold Experience
For the project The Gold Experience was already over by the time it was (finally) released. had already toured for it and had also done interviews to promote it. It was old news. He had already moved on to the next project: he was finally able to release a triple album (which he was denied in 1987), and this time under his own conditions and terms as well. En route to Emancipation.
But first another hurdle had to be taken. At the end of December 1995 it was announced that and Warner Bros. had parted ways. was free to do whatever he wanted. Warner Bros. would receive two more albums that would be released under the moniker Prince: Chaos And Disorder and The Vault: Old Friends 4 Sale.
The promise on the American release of the New Power Generation album Exodus was revoked when spoke of his new project Emancipation, for which he had already recorded some 50 songs, in Esquire Gentleman.
In the years to come, Prince and releases would compete with each other. Prince was of no interest to anybody anymore and retreated and made music only for himself and kept close contact with his fanbase. It would take until 2004, before Prince would be majorly successful again.
What is your opinion on The Gold Experience? Let me know!
This story contains an accompanying video. Click on the following link to see it: Video: At long last Prince’s The Gold Experience is released!. The A Pop Life playlist on Spotify has been updated as well.
live 1995 image: pitchfork.com
In Paisley Park 1994-1995, 1994 Paisley Park soundstage, & The New Power Generation 1994, & The New Power Generation 1995, 1995 images: wmagazine.com
– The Most Beautiful Girl In The World image: bol.com
– Dolphin video, – The Late Show With David Letterman – 12/13/1994, New Power Generation – Exodus images: youtube.com
– The Gold Experience – Flyer image: ameblo.jp
Prince – The Sacrifice Of Victor & The Undertaker – Videos image: videocollector.co.uk
Prince – Purple Medley image: music-bazaar.com
Ultimate Live Experience Tour image: princevault.com
– Paradiso 1995 First concert image: pinterest.com
– Statement 10/13/1994 image: prince.org
– The Versace Experience (Prelude 2 Gold) image: mediamarkt.nl
– The Gold Experience image: prince.com
– The Gold Experience – Singles image: princevault.com/genius.com/discogs.com
– The Gold Experience – CD, – The Gold Experience – Jim Walsh essay, – Endorphinmachine stage images: discogs.com
– The Gold Experience – Gold record image: icollector.com
– The Gold Experience – Japan ad image: onbekend
, Brabanthallen, Den Bosch, Holland, 1995 image: nme.com