On December 26th, 1984, Prince played the one and only Christmas song he ever released live for the first and last time ever: Another Lonely Christmas.
February 18th and 19th, 1984
The story of Another Lonely Christmas starts at February 18th, 1984, when Prince went to work at the Sunset Sound Studio with his first (and last) Christmas song he would ever release. He worked alone (assisted by engineer Peggy McCreary) on the song and left around 10 PM, surprisingly early.
The next day overdubs were done and the song was mixed. The mix is quite remarkable, because of its rather old-school sound. It seems to refer to 1960’s production techniques. The rhythm section (live drums and bass) are left in the mix, the other instruments are right. The vocals contain heavy echo effects.
It also seems to point towards the following album Around The World In A Day, which would be released in April 1985. The guitar, which sounds freaky at times, is somewhat buried in the mix. That applies to the closing (roaring) guitar solo as well.
Another Lonely Christmas was not a standard Christmas song. The main character is alone for Christmas:
Last night I spent another lonely Christmas
Darling, darling, U should’ve been there
Cuz all the ones I dream about
U are the one that makes my love shout
U see, U are the only one I care 4
Following memories about skinny dipping, playing games, the main character tells he happened to come across his lover’s sister:
Hey, I saw your sister skatin’ on the lake this afternoon
Good heaven, how she’s grown
She swoons the boy skaters cuz she’s so tall
But of all your father’s children
All your father’s children, baby
U know U are the finest of them all
U are brighter than the northern star and I…
Once again kicking in the chorus. The extended version of the song contains an extra verse about drinking “banana daiquiris” and the loss the main character experiences.
In the next verse the real issue is revealed:
My mama used 2 say always trust your lover
But now I guess that only applies 2 her
Cuz baby, U promised me
Baby, U promised me U’d never leave
Then U died on the 25th day of December
It has been 7 years already since his lover died and ever since he spends his Christmases all alone and the loss only seems to get worse. It’s not really a ‘holidays spirited’ subject, certainly not for a Christmas song. Prince clearly didn’t record it with the intention of creating an “evergreen”.
On November 17th, 1997, on the website Love 4 One Another, during the so-called ? of the week, the question “Is ‘Another Lonely Christmas’ based on a true experience? It sounds as if u put your soul into that song” was put to Prince (at the time known as ) to which he simply stated “That song is a work of fiction”.
Another Lonely Christmas was released on November 28th, 1984 as a single (two days earlier in Europe) as the B-side to the I Would Die 4 U single, which was part of the global phenomenon Purple Rain. The maxi-single was released on December 19th, which contained the extended version of Another Lonely Christmas.
The single version was released in 1993 as part of the compilation album The Hits / The B-Sides. Both versions were part of the Purple Rain Deluxe Expanded, which was released in 2017.
Prince and band played ‘at home’ from December 23rd to 28th, 1984, playing 5 sold-out shows at the St. Paul Civic Center in St. Paul, Minnesota (St. Paul and Minneapolis combined are called the Twin Cities). The day before Christmas Prince played a matinee show, because he understood people wanting to celebrate Christmas eve at home with their loved ones. Nonetheless, Prince was greeted by protesters. Susan Rogers: “We did an early show that day because Prince wanted to be respectful to people and their desire to be with their families on Christmas Eve. But when we pulled up, I remember seeing placards that read ‘Prince of Peace, not the Prince of Porn'”.
Prince didn’t celebrate Christmas eve. He briefly worked on two songs and that night compiled the Around The World In A Day album and cut the final configuration to that album.
At the first day of Christmas no concert was played and Prince spent the day alone at his house. On the second day of Christmas a show was staged. After the first encore Prince said “We’d like to give you a Christmas present right now. This is a new song. We’ve never played it before, but… from us to you.”, followed by the first and last live rendition of Another Lonely Christmas.
The Minnesota governor, Rudy Perpich, proclaimed the period Prince played St. Paul to be ‘Prince Days’. Much to the chagrin of the Zion Christian Center, which operated from St. Paul. This lovely bunch of concerned christians (who are oftentimes present when the rights of others can be smothered) were bothered by the content and image of Prince as the satanic porn star, who shamelessly played his ‘filth’ around the holidays.
During the shows protests against the Prince Of Perversion were organized by the group, which was notorious around the country, as it organized public burnings of rock albums as well.
Of course the protests were in vain. The concerts went along as planned, just as the ‘fooddrives’ Prince organized throughout the entire Purple Rain Tour, for collecting food for people who were less fortunate, including unemployed, elderly and people with low incomes. All in all, he showed a much more humane face than he was given credit for.
In the January 21st, 1985, issue of Jet the story What’s Behind Protest Of Prince in His Hometown? was published, an interesting contemporary piece about the way Prince is looked upon around that time: subversive, horny and dangerous (for America’s youth). The article also addresses (alleged) racism in white Minnesota. The article can be read below.
Prince didn’t record one of his happiest song with Another Lonely Christmas, but it was one that was emotionally convincing, which can also be played and listened to separate from the holidays. In its ultimate form it’s a song about loss and loneliness and the fact that the latter isn’t easily fixable.
This story contains an accompanying video. Click on the following link to see it: Video: Prince is alone for Christmas, Another Lonely Christmas. The A Pop Life playlist on Spotify has been updated as well.
Prince – Purple Rain Tour – Live image: cnn.com
Sunset Sound Recording Studio Logo image: fourplayjazz.com
Prince – Another Lonely Christmas image: thecurrent.org
Prince And The Revolution – I Would Die 4 U (single and maxi-single) image: genius.com/amazon.com
Prince – Purple Rain Tour – Fooddrive St Paul Minneapolis image: princevault.com
Prince – Christian protest in Minneapolis – The Sedalia Democrat 12/21/1984 image: prince.org
Prince Purple Rain Footer image: officialprincemusic.com