…This is the Dawning of a New Spiritual Revolution
© Prince 1994
In 1993 no new Prince album was released. Warner Bros. wanted to release a compilation album, which was available by September of 1993. On June 7th, 1993, Prince changed his name to . The start of a long struggle about rights, contracts and music, which seemed incomprehensible to the general public.
The Hits 1, The Hits 2 en The Hits/The B-Sides
In 1993 Warner Bros. released the compilation albums The Hits 1 and The Hits 2. The content was made up of (the best of) Prince’s work dating back to For You up to the last Prince album released one year prior, O(+> (due to legal issues no songs from Batman were added to the compilations).
Prince delivered some songs to the project, of which 4 songs were released: a rather bland live version of Nothing Compares 2 U, the beautiful Pink Cashmere, the single Peach and the nice Pope.
A special version contained both discs and a third disc, The B-Sides, containing B-sides which had only been available on vinyl, along with another 2 previously unreleased songs. The live version of 4 The Tears In Your Eyes, which was aired at Live Aid on July 13th, 1985, and the truly phenomenal Power Fantastic, one of the most beautiful ballads Prince has ever recorded (number 18 in my top 50 Prince songs).
N.B.: At some point Prince expressed an interest to be more involved with the project. Because Warner Bros. was already behind on schedule Prince was paid (!) to back off. The amount of money is not known.
A lot happened in 1993 up to the release of the Come album. The list of events listed below doesn’t pretend to be complete (yet it does try to be).
On January 27th, 1993, the ballet Billbards by the Joffrey Ballet premiered in Iowa. The ballet used existing Prince music (Prince did deliver a special ten minute version of Thunder). Prince wasn’t involved with the ballet’s content, which was performed at various locations throughout 1993. The ballet consisted of 4 acts (Sometimes It Snows In April, Thunder, Slide, Willing & Able).
The performance was released on VHS video in February 1994.
Early 1993 Prince was working. He recorded a vast amount of new music, which (luckily) was different from the music (unworthy of Prince) he had released on the albums Diamonds And Pearls and O(+>. It was exciting, innovative and , most importantly, not following current trends. Songs for Prince by Prince without ulterior motives, like sales numbers. The titles to the songs he recorded all consisted of one word, like Come, Endorphinmachine, Space, Pheromone, Loose!, Papa, Dark and Poem.
In the beginning of March 1993 he created the configuration for a new album, which can be regarded as a precursor to Come:
Come as musical?
At the end of March Prince met with play writer David Henry Hwang in New York. Prince shared his idea for a musical, in which the songs mentioned above were to play a part. Hwang was interested and wrote a little story containing directional notes titled Come.
At Prince’s request Hwang had written a poem “about loss”, which he faxed to Paisley Park. A few days later Hwang received a cassette in the mail, containing the song Solo, which Prince had recorded using the lyrics of Hwang’s poem.
From March 8th to April 17th 1993 Prince toured the US, to promote his previous album O(+>. At times he played a piece of Loose. Particularly during aftershows he played several new songs in full, among which Come and Papa and Peach, which was recorded one year earlier.
In April 1993 MTV News announced that Prince considered releasing an EP on the day of his birthday, which was to contain:
Prince to retire?
On April 27th, Prince announced he would stop recording new music and would focus on “alternative media”, explicitly referencing the Joffrey ballet, and would rely on his 500+ song archive for future releases.
Click on the images to enlarge.
Letter to Controversy fanzine
On June 1st a letter by Mayte Garcia (at the time a dancer for Prince & The New Power Generation) was published in the Controversy fanzine, wherein some more new song titles are mentioned: Interactive, Peach, Pope, Solo and Race. All songs were to be part of a new configuration for the Come album.
Name change: Prince becomes
On June 7th Prince officially changed his name into . It all boiled down to Prince releasing ‘old’ material coming from the Paisley Park Vault and his ‘new’ music as . To read the full story, see the article Prince and the name change.
On June 14th, 1993, , drummer Michael B. and bass player Sonny Thompson recorded a rehearsal for an EP titled The Undertaker. The recordings were filmed as well, and, accompanied by additional scenes with Vanessa Marcil and Nona Gaye, was released as a (VHS) video on March 6th, 1995, accredited to Prince.
From July 26th to September 7th, 1993, Prince toured through Europe, using the title Act II. More and more new songs were played, among which Come, Endorphinmachine, Peach, Dark and the musical coda of Chaos And Disorder, which would be recorded later in the year. At aftershows and soundchecks Calhoun Square, Race, Pope, What’s My Name and Dolphin were played as well.
During the Act II tour a photographer snapped many pictures, many of them ending up in a book, Prince Presents The Sacrifice Of Victor, which would be published in 1994.
Glam Slam Ulysses
Probably inspired by the relative success of the Billboards ballet, concocted a musical (“interactive musical experience”) entitled Glam Slam Ulysses (initially Glam-O-Rama). The musical premiered on August 21st, 1993, at the Glam Slam club in Los Angeles and contained 13 songs, all of them accredited to :
- Strays Of The World
- What’s My Name
- Stays Of The World
The musical wasn’t successful and was staged only two weeks, however not before Variety magazine had seen it and had published a scathing review, of which the closing sentence says it all: “It makes one yearn for a return to ‘Controversy’-era Prince. A time when we not only knew what to call him, but had good reason to call him”.
Glam Slam Ulysses
With: Performers: Carmen Electra, Frank Williams.
When Prince played a surprise two-hour-plus concert at L.A.’s China Club three years ago, it seemed a sign that he was tiring of his musical deity-like status and was heading back to a more personal approach that would no longer alienate his audience but would still challenge his bored-genius ego. Wrong.
In the interim, Prince, who’d now like to be referred to by the androgynous symbol that graces his most recent Paisley Park/WB album cover, has continued to move away from both his audience and reality, replacing the latter with a humorless sense of absurdity that only serves to propel him further into Wackoville, a quaint, if removed hamlet governed by Mayor Michael Jackson.
So now, hot on the heels of the news that the name Prince will no longer do and that the man will no longer be recording any new material (he’ll rely on a massive collection of already-recorded songs for future albums), we get “Glam Slam Ulysses”.
It is a very loose music-theater adaptation of Homer’s “Odyssey”, complete with seminude dancers, pointless and silly sketches and enough phallic symbols and references to make even Heidi Fleiss blush. Homer-erotica, if you will.
The point of all of this is supposed to be to introduce the world, or in this evening’s case, a half-full club of L.A. industry types, to 13 new songs from old what’s-his-name.
Some of these tunes, like the sensual “Dark” and “Loose”, where he actually plays loud electric guitar (rare for him these days) and the almost-progressive rock “Endorphinemachine”, were solid if unspectacular pieces that provided suitable accompaniment to the spectacle taking place both on and around the club’s stage.
Storywise, “Ulysses” concerns itself with Penelope, a would-be other-world goddess, a character referred to as ‘the fan’, both played by Prince protege Carmen Electra, and our hero, Ulysses, an unlikely dancing god played by Frank Williams.
Quickly moving from one scene to another, the action, which is basically a bizarre, choreographed love triangle, takes place on the club’s main stage as well as different sets built around the venue and in fantasy scenes shown on a large video screen.
It is a lot to take in, but it all adds up to just so much eye and ear candy.
Which is the problem, not only with this naively boring production, but with the bulk of Prince’s recent releases.
In these cases, there is little, if any, substance. Seemingly more interested in opening clubs (he owns Glam Slam, among others), discovering a bevy of next-big-things (none of whom have gone on to make any lasting impression), and topping his previous public relations stunts, Prince has sacrificed his instinctive musical gifts in favor of disposable, multi-media excesses, like “Ulysses”.
It makes one yearn for a return to “Controversy”-era Prince. A time when we not only knew what to call him, but had good reason to call him.
© Troy J. Augusto, Variety magazine, August 24th, 1993
himself wasn’t present, as he was on tour in Europe, but the video images didn’t please him at all, and on September 4th, only 2 weeks after its first performance, the plug was pulled from the project.
The New Power Generation – Gold Nigga
On August 31st, 1993, the debut album Gold Nigga by The New Power Generation, was available for the first time at the merchandise stand in Paris. At the time I ordered it through The New Power Generation Store in Minneapolis. It was the first release by NPG Records.
The Hits / Peach
On September 14th, 1993, the compilation The Hits was released, with the release of the single Peach following on November 18th, 1993 (credited to Prince).
Because kept on recording new songs a new project was devised, which would co-exist with Come: Gold. The first project would be accredited to Prince and the second to .
Not much is known about the album project The Dawn which appeared at the end of 1993. It supposedly was a triple album project, containing songs from previous Come, The Undertaker and Gold configurations, supplemented with songs which would later be released on The Gold Experience, Chaos And Disorder and Crystal Ball. Other songs considered for The Dawn were Dance Of Desperation, Dream, Emotional Crucifixion, I Wanna Be Held 2 Night, It’s About That Walk, Laurianne, New World, The Rhythm Of Your ♥, Slave 2 The Funk and Strawberries.
The project was (unfortunately!) discarded, probably due to the realization that Warner Bros. would never consent to such a release. With the vanishing of The Dawn, the idea for the (simultaneous) release of Come and Gold was born.
Paisley Park Records / NPG Records
On February 1st, 1994, it was announced that Paisley Park Records would be shut down. The label cost more than it brought in. Almost simultaneously announced the name of his new label: NPG Records.
February 13th, 1994
One of the most important concerts of Prince/‘s career took place at Paisley Park Studios on February 13th, 1994. It was titled A Beautiful Experience, probably referencing the song The Most Beautiful Girl In The World. The performance was geared towards his new music and a couple of covers:
- Days Of Wild
- The Ride
- The Jam
- I Believe In You
- What’d I Say
- Peep The Technique
- Martial Law
- None Of Your Business
The recordings were sold to 4 radio stations in Europe and the film recordings were used for a TV movie. See below.
The Most Beautiful Girl In The World
was granted the right to one independent release. He was also permitted to release that one song on his own new label NPG Records. Warner Bros. was convinced the general public had grown tired of and that , as the logical extension to the assumption, would clearly see the wisdom of Warner Bros. once the adventure had miserably failed. Of course, it all turned out quite differently. On February 14th, 1994, the very first release by was available: the single The Most Beautiful Girl In The World. It turned into one of the biggest hits of Prince/‘s entire career! The consequence being that got even more convinced of his ideas and the belief, that he was better off doing things by himself, was confirmed.
Because Warner Bros. had clearly stated that was granted the right to one song, he made several remixes, using the moniker The Beautiful Experience. Some songs differed so greatly, that they could be regarded as new songs.
On March 6th, 1994, Dutch radio station Radio Veronica started broadcasting recordings of a concert and previously unreleased songs. The station had bought the recordings. At the time, I listened and was heavily, heavily impressed. The new music was really new, gone was the slick, commercial music on Diamonds And Pearls and O(+>. really sounded free and I gained a lot of admiration and understanding for his choice to change his name and his fight/plight, despite the humongous costs: the decline of his entire career and legacy.
Besides the songs of the February 13th Beautiful Experience show, the following (studio) songs were broadcast:
- Days Of Wild
- The Most Beautiful Girl In The World
- Acknowledge Me
Two of those songs, Now and Days Of Wild, are part of my all time favorites and are placed on position 14 and 11 in my Prince songs top 50 respectively.
The recordings were not only sold to the Dutch Radio Veronica, but also to the Dutch TROS, the Spanish Los 40 Principales and the Swiss DSR3.
Come offered to Warner Bros.
At the beginning of March 1994 a new configuration of Come was compiled, without the title song:
- Strays Of The World
On March 11th, 1994, Warner Bros. received the proposed album. According to Marylou Badeaux, who was Vice President at Warner Bros. at the time, everybody at the company was convinced it was a “piece of shit”. Warner Bros. refused the album. They requested Come (the song) and the big hit The Most Beautiful Girl In The World and some other strong songs.
The Beautiful Experience Movie
On April 3rd, 1994, the British Sky One TV broadcast The Beautiful Experience Movie, consisting of live recordings of the February 13th Beautiful Experience concert and video clips:
- Days of Wild
- Come *
- Race *
- Acknowledge Me *
- Pheromone *
- The Jam
- Loose! *
- Papa *
- The Most Beautiful Girl In the World *
- Beautiful *
* no live recording
Come and The Gold Album
On May 2nd, 1994, was in Europe and met with three reporters, one being Alan Light of Vibe magazine. He played them two new albums: Come by Prince and The Gold Album by . He reportedly told one of the reporters: “Now you have two albums from two different artists in your hands”.
The man who won’t be Prince speaks at last about his new name, his new attitude and a new body of work we may never get to hear. After a yearlong chase, Alan Light catches the elusive superstar under a cherry moon in Monaco.
May 2 1994
“SO HOW CAN WE DO AN INTERVIEW THAT’S not like an interview?” asks O(+> as he spoons a dollop of jam into his tea. We’re sitting in the Côte Jardin restaurant in Monte Carlo’s historic Hôtel de Paris, overlooking a small garden that overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. He is here to accept an award for Outstanding Contribution to the Pop Industry at the 1994 World Music Awards. I am here at his request, the final step in a full year of putting together his first lengthy conversation with a journalist since 1990.
Those 12 months have been an especially remarkable time for O(+> whom some call “the artist formerly known as Prince”, or any number of variations on that theme; others, of course, will always call him Prince, much to his dismay. The year has included-in addition to the controversial name-change that signaled the “retirement” of one of this era’s biggest pop stars and the songs that made him famous – a sales slump and the closing of his Paisley Park Records label. He went through four publicity firms in nine months. But this run of hard times was quickly followed by a triumphant rise with the single “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World”, his biggest hit in several years. And at the end of this particular peculiar period, O(+> has emerged with some of the best music he’s ever made – though whether the world will ever be able to hear it is another question, in the hands of managers and lawyers and Warner Bros. Records as they negotiate how or if all this music will be released.
Which, perhaps, is why he feels that now is the time to talk after a long silence. It seems to be part of a campaign to generally increase his visibility by appearing at events like the World Music Awards, for instance – exactly the kind of thing the reclusive Prince of old would have avoided like the plague. Or to introduce three new songs on Soul Train or publish a book – titled The Sacrifice of Victor – of photos from his last European tour that presents him much more up close and personal than he has been shown in the past.
Meanwhile, he continues to move forward, exploring new, alternative outlets for his music, like an innovative CD-ROM extravaganza, O(+> Interactive, that incorporates dozens of songs into a kind of video game/video jukebox – or the Joffrey Ballet’s wildly successful Billboards, set to his music, which may lead to his writing a full-length ballet score soon. And through it all, he has kept writing and recording new songs – or “experiences”, as he now likes to call them – and struggling to find a way to get as many of them as possible released to the public.
“I just want to be all that I can be”, O(+> says in his dressing room at the Monte Carlo Sporting Club, site of the World Music Awards. “Bo Jackson can play baseball and football – can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can? If they let me loose, I can wreck shit”.
April 10 1993
“CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET?”
These – I kid you not – are Prince’s first words to me. (And since the answer is yes, all I can tell you is that you really wouldn’t be all that interested.) This is back when things were simple, when Prince was still Prince, blasting through a lengthy international tour.
I receive a call in New York on Friday saying that Prince has read something I wrote about the tour’s opening shows. He wants to meet me in San Francisco on Saturday.
The driver who picks me up in San Francisco shows me the erotic valentine his girlfriend made for him, then tells me about the work he and his wife are doing for the Dalai Lama. It’s time to wonder, Is this whole thing a put-on? But no, I get to the arena and there is Prince, sitting alone in the house, watching his band, the New Power Generation, start sound check. He is fighting a cold, so we speak quietly back and forth for a while, and then he leads me onstage to continue the conversation while he straps on his guitar and rehearses the band.
Mostly, Prince talks about music – about Sly Stone and Earth, Wind & Fire. He leads me over to Tommy Barbarella’s keyboards to demonstrate how he’s utilizing samples onstage now (such as the female yelp in the new song “Peach”, which came courtesy of Kim Basinger, though she doesn’t know it yet). He sits down at the piano to play a new, unfinished song called “Dark” – a bitter, beautiful ballad.
The band sounds ferocious and will sound even better at the evening’s show. Prince works them unbelievably hard: A standard day on tour includes an hour-and-a-half sound check, a two-hour show, and an after-show at a club most nights. “The after-shows are where you get loose”, he says. “It’s that high-diving that gets you going”.
The NPG have gotten noticeably tighter from all this old-fashioned stage sweat, funkier than any of his previous groups. Watching him cue them, stop on a dime, introduce a new groove, veer off by triggering another sample, you can only think of James Brown burnishing his bands to razor-precision, fining them for missing a single note. “I love this band”, says Prince. “I just wish they were all girls”.
He is talkative, with that surprisingly low voice that loses its slightly robotic edge when he’s offstage. He is indeed tiny – what’s most striking isn’t his height but the delicate bones and fragile frame. He is also pretty cocky, whether out of shyness with a new person or the swagger needed to keep going through a tour. “You see how hard it is when you can play anything you want, anything you hear?” he asks underneath the onstage roar of the NPG. They play “I’ll Take You There” at sound check, and Prince and I talk about the Staple Singers and Mavis Staples, whose new album he is just completing.
He leads the way to his dressing room – a blur of hair products and Evian water, with off-white mats on the floor and paintings stuck on the walls – and plays some of the Mavis album, singing along with her roof-raising voice. “Jimmy Jam is going to hear this and throw all those computers away”, he says. “This is what we need now – these old kind of soul songs to just chill people out. The computers are as cold as the people are”.
“That’s what I went through with the Black Album. All this gangsta rap, I did that years ago. ‘Cause if you’re gonna do something, go all the way in. But there’s no place to go past the samples. You can only, y’know, unplug them!”.
There’s a knock on the door, and a bodyguard says that someone named Motormouth wants to see Prince. He laughs and waves the visitor in – turns out to be an old Minneapolis DJ, a neighbor for whom Prince used to baby-sit. The gentleman lives up to his name; Prince listens politely and giggles softly, as Motormouth talks about his ex-stripper wife and his daughter and the days back in Minnesota.
PRINCE DESPERATELY WANTS TO PLAY A club show after the San Francisco gig, but his throat is too sore. Instead, there’s a party at the DV8 club. He arrives with a phalanx of bodyguards, clears out half the room, and sits alone on a sofa. One of the security guys grabs me and sits me on the couch.
Prince hands me a banana-flavored lollipop. “I would have brought you a cigar, but I didn’t think you smoked”, he says. He pours us each a glass of port (“I learned about this from Arsenio”). Occasionally, acquaintances manage to make their way through the wall of security, but he is wary of touching them. “I don’t like shaking hands”, he says. “Brothers always feel like they got to give you that real firm handshake. Then you can’t play the piano the next day”.
We chat about the new contract he signed with Warner Bros., which was reported to be worth as much as $100 million. He says the deal is nothing like it is being reported, and though he wants most of the conversation to remain “just between us – I just wanted to talk about some of these things”, he makes a few mysterious comments that will prove crucial to the next stage of his continual metamorphosis.
“We have a new album finished”. he says conspiratorially, “but Warner Bros. doesn’t know it. From now on, Warner’s only gets old songs out of the vault. New songs we’ll play at shows. Music should be free, anyway”.
Before he heads off into the night, Prince lifts his glass of port and offers a toast.
Leaning closer, he whispers, “To Oz”.
June 7 1993
HAVING ANNOUNCED HIS RETIREMENT from studio recording on April 27, Prince takes the occasion of his 35th birthday to inform the world that he is changing his name to O(+>, a symbol that, in one form or another, has been part of his iconography in recent years. (After starting as a simple combination of the symbols for male and female, it sprouted another flourish when it became the title of his last album; he has also signed autographs with the symbol for some time.) He adds that he will no longer be performing any of his old songs, as they belong to the old name. The rumor floats that he wants to be called Victor (which, happily, proves untrue), while the media struggles with the whole idea; Warner Bros. sends out software allowing the new name to be printed, but many jokes and frequent references to “Symbol Man”, “the Glyph”, and “What’s-His-Symbol” start turning up in the press.
Some in the industry combine the two announcements and speculate that changing his name might be a way to finesse his way out of his Warner’s contract. With 500-plus finished songs in the vault, is Prince, or O(+>, or whoever, planning to use the name-change as a renegotiation strategy or some kind of scheme to get out of the Warner deal?
July 12 1993
PAST THE CHANHASSEN DINNER THEATRE, past the American Legion post where a Little League game is in progress, after miles of fields and open spaces lies the gleaming, towering Paisley Park, the studio and office complex that houses Paisley Park Enterprises. There are dozens of people on the Paisley staff – an entire industry built around one man in heels – working to keep the studio and the songs and, mostly, the person at the center of it all humming and creating at their maximum potential. There’s a lot that seems like star-tripping inside O(+>’s world, lots that can make you impatient – and multiple costume changes, even on off days, don’t help matters – but over time it becomes clear that the whole structure exists so that absolutely nothing gets in the way of the music, nothing touches O(+> that he doesn’t choose to address.
Tonight O(+>> will go through his final rehearsal for a greatest hits tour of Europe. Several hundred tickets have been sold to benefit local radio station KMOJ, and the mixed-race, well-to-do crowd mills around the Paisley Park soundstage in flowery prints and orange suits, waiting for Minneapolis’s favorite son.
The NPG and gospel singers the Steeles play brief opening sets. O(+> makes no reference to the name-change or the retirement when he ambles onstage to the opening chord of “Let’s Go Crazy”. In fact, he hardly talks at all through a loose 90-minute set. He closes the show with two new songs: a sexy shuffle called “Come” that he occasionally dropped into the U.S. concerts, and “Endorphinmachine”, a metallic rave-up that kicks and stomps like the Purple Rain hits that made him a household name exactly 10 years ago.
But as always, what it really seems to come down to is the music. Prince decided that it was time to close the book on one stage of his musical development and find a way to move on to the next. “Prince did retire”, says O(+> emphatically in the Cote Jardin, waving away the pastry delivered with his tea. “He stopped making records because he didn’t need to anymore”. Later, at the Sporting Club, he’ll add that “it’s fun to draw a line in the sand and say, ‘Things change here.’ I don’t mind if people are cynical or make jokes – that’s part of it, but this is what I choose to be called. You find out quickly who respects and who disrespects you. It took Muhammad Ali years before people stopped calling him Cassius Clay”.
He is, quite simply, fixated on one thing: He has too much music sitting around, and he wants people to hear it. As O(+> explains it, Warner Bros. says it can handle only one album per year from him, while he’s recording the equivalent of at least three or four every year. By the time an album makes its way through the corporate machine for release, he’s finished another one. By the time he goes on tour to promote the first album, he’s done with a third.
So what’s a O(+> to do? The plan he is devising works like this: He will fulfill his Warner’s contract – he still owes them five albums – with Prince material from the vaults at whatever rate they want (and, he adds, “the best Prince music still hasn’t been released”). Meanwhile, O(+> will work with a smaller label to put out new music under his new name.
From almost anyone else, the whole thing would seem like a scam; from someone with a legitimate claim to having wrested the Hardest-Working-Man-in-Show-Business title from James Brown, it starts to sound a little more reasonable. Reasonable, that is, to everyone but his bosses at Warner’s. “I knew there would come a phase in my life when I would want to get all this music out”, he says. “I just wish I had some magic words I could say to Warner’s so it would work out”.
O(+> emphasizes that he has no beef with Warner Bros. or chairman Mo Ostin, that he understands their concerns about this proposed plan and respects them for allowing him to try out this arrangement with Bellmark for “Beautiful Girl”. “I really think they would find a way to let me do this”, he says, “but they’re afraid of the ripple effect, that everybody would want to do it”. His problem, ultimately, is with the structure of the music industry.
“Did you see The Firm?” he asks. “I feel like the music business is like that – that they just won’t let you out once you’re in it. There’s just a few people with all the power. Like, I didn’t play the MTV Music Awards; suddenly, I can’t get a video on MTV, and you can’t get a hit without that. I’ve come to respect deeds and actions more than music – like Pearl Jam not making videos”.
What is seeking is the opportunity to get more involved in the presentation of the music, which is why an indie label like Bellmark appeals to him. He’s shot a video for a song called “Love Sign”, directed by Ice Cube, and he’s looking into possible outlets for its release. He wants to be able to sell records at concerts and in clubs – a logical move, especially for someone like George Clinton, best known for his tireless touring – but Warner Bros. feels, according to O(+>, that such a move would cause problems with retailers. He wants to use his music to raise money for charities, but “they don’t want to hear about giving music away”.
“Shouldn’t it be up to the artist how the music comes out?” he asks, shaking his head and staring at the floor of the spartan Sporting Club dressing room. Several times, he points to George Michael’s lawsuit with Sony Music U.K. over “restraint of trade” as an example of how twisted things have gotten in the biz. “They’re just songs, just our thoughts. Nobody has a mortgage on your thoughts. We’ve got it all wrong, discouraging our artists. In America, we’re just not as free as we think. Look at George Clinton. They should be giving that man a government grant for being that funky!”.
“People think this is all some scheme. This isn’t a scheme, some master plan. I don’t have a master plan; maybe somebody does”. He shakes his head again. “I just wish I had some magic words”, he repeats. “It’s in God’s hands now”.
He has asked me to fly out for this show, but we never speak. After the performance, his publicist says that O(+> wants to know what I thought of the NPG’s set and how I liked the new songs.
What really happened tonight, though, was O(+>’s final appearance in this country as part of what is now a farewell tour. Which means that if he keeps to his word, this is the last time he will ever play such songs as “Purple Rain”, “Kiss”, and “Sign O’ the Times” in America.
ON SEPTEMBER 14 PRINCE RELEASES THE Hits/The B-Sides, which sells steadily, if unspectacularly for such a long-awaited retrospective. Two new singles, “Pink Cashmere” and “Peach” – the last he will issue under the name Prince – are released; “Cashmere” grazes the pop charts, “Peach” doesn’t even do that well. It is subsequently announced that his label, Paisley Park Records, is being dissolved, leaving Mavis Staples and George Clinton temporarily without a home and putting an album by former backup singer Rosie Gaines on permanent hold.
In the winter, ads turn up in several national magazines saying, “Eligible bachelor seeks the most beautiful girl in the world to spend the holidays with”, and asking that photos be sent to the Paisley Park address. On Valentine’s Day, O(+> drops his first single under the new name. It is a pleasant enough trifle, a Philly-soul-style ballad titled “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World”, and it is debuted at the Miss U.S.A. pageant. The video features some of the women who responded to the ads. “Beautiful Girl” is released not on Warner Bros. but on NPG/Bellmark Records. (Bellmark, whose president, Al Bell, was the pilot of the legendary Stax Records in the ’60s, stormed the charts last year with “Whoomp! (There It Is)” and “Dazzey Duks”.)
“Beautiful Girl” climbs to No. 3 on the U.S. pop charts, the biggest hit for O(+> under any name in several years (although 1994 also marks the 12th year in a row that he has landed a single in the Top 10). It is also, believe it or not, his first No. 1 ever in the U.K. And suddenly, the artist formerly known as Prince is a hot commodity again.
May 2 1994
So how do you pronounce it?
And is that ever a problem when people around you want to address you?
“No”. A very final, definite no.
But what becomes clear is that there are reasons for the name-change, and after sitting with O(+> for several hours, it even starts to make some kind of sense. “I followed the advice of my spirit”, is the short answer. But it is, first of all, about age-old questions of naming and identity.
The man born Prince Rogers Nelson goes on to explain, “I’m not the son of Nell. I don’t know who that is, ‘Nell’s son,’ and that’s my last name. I asked Gilbert Davison [ O(+>’s manager and closest friend, and president of NPG Records] if he knew who David was, and he didn’t even know what I was talking about. I started thinking about that, and I would wake up nights thinking, Who am I? What am I?”.
There are three DO NOT DISTURB signs on the door. A desk and a white upright Yamaha piano face the floor-to-ceiling windows with a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean Sea. A bowl of Tootsie Pops and assorted sweets sits on a coffee table. Tostitos, Sun Chips, and newspapers lie scattered in the corners. 7Up fills the bar, and various colored cloths are draped over all the furniture in the room.
O(+>’s room in the Hôtel de Paris is fancy, if not exactly elegant. It is here that he wants me to check out two albums that may or may not see the light of day: the next Prince album, Come, scheduled for an August release, and the first O(+> collection, titled The Gold Album, both pressed on CDs with hand-drawn cover art. This time I’m the one fighting a cold, and he expresses concern, keeping the tea flowing, pouring for us both when it arrives.
First comes the Prince album, which includes “Endorphinmachine” and “Come” and a fleshed-out version of “Dark”, complete with a slinky horn arrangement that completes the sketch I heard a year before. O(+> skips back and forth between tracks. It all sounds strong – first-rate, even – but he seems impatient with it, like it’s old news.
The Gold Album is another matter. He lets the songs run, playing air guitar or noodling along at the piano. The songs are stripped-down, taut, funky as hell, full of sex and bite. “Days of Wild” is a dense, “Atomic Dog”-style jam with multiple, interlocking bass lines. “Now” (which he debuted on Soul Train this same week) is a bouncing party romp; “319” is rocking, roaring, and dirty; and “RIPOPGODAZIPPA” is just dirty. This album is more experimental, more surprising structurally and sonically. Hearing the two albums back-to-back, it’s clear that the Prince album may be more commercial than O(+>’s, but it’s also more conventional – as conventional as he gets, anyway.
O(+> says that since the name-change, he’s writing more about freedom and the lack thereof, and that’s it exactly: The O(+> songs sound freer than he has in years. He sounds energized, excited, and also humbler and more focused than he did a year ago in San Francisco. His album covers used to include the phrase “May U live 2 see the dawn”. This album opens with the words “Welcome 2 the dawn”.
That night, the songs take on even more life at a late gig at a Monte Carlo “American blues and sports bar” called Star’s n Bars. The occasion is a private party for Monaco’s Prince Albert. Earlier in the evening, O(+> committed a faux pas that received international coverage when, dressed in see-through gold brocade and toting one of those lollipops, he left a royal reception before Albert did. To make up for his breach of protocol, O(+> is on especially good behavior at the show.
“MUCH PROPS TO PRINCE ALBERT FOR HAVING us in his beautiful country!” are his first words onstage, and he later refers to Albert as “the funkiest man in show business”. After the show, he autographs a tambourine for our host, inscribing inside, “You’re the real Prince!”.
The NPG are lean and in prime fighting shape, trimmed down to just Tommy Barbarella and newcomer Morris Hayes on keyboards, Sonny Thompson on bass, monster drummer Michael Bland, and dancer/visual foil Mayte. No more rappers, extra dancers, or percussionists. “This band is just beginning to play to its strength”, O(+> said earlier. “The Lovesexy band was about musicality, a willingness to take risks. Since then I’ve been thinking too much. This band is about funk, so I’ve learned to get out of the way and let that be the sound, the look, the style, everything. They’ve never played together like this before”.
They storm through 11 new songs, winding things up at 3 a.m., a pretty early night by O(+> standards. The next night, they’re back at Star’s n Bars, and even at sound check this time he’s really ready to rip. We talked earlier about the title track to The Gold Album, which members of his entourage were raving about but he didn’t play for me. He said then that he’s worried about playing some of the new songs because the bootleggers will have them out on the market before he will. Here in sound check, though, he lets it go, and it’s a stunner – a soaring anthem of “Purple Rain” scale, a gorgeous warning that “all that glitters ain’t gold”. (He recently quoted these lyrics as part of his speech at the Celebrate the Soul of American Music show, directing his comments toward the music industry.)
O(+> bounds off the club’s stage and strides over, greeting me with a big smile and even a handshake. He’s excited for tonight’s show because “tonight we’re playing for real people”.
Well, as real as people get in Monaco, anyway. Before the band starts, at around 1:30, talk of international finance and the restaurant business fills the air. You could choke on the Chanel in here, and the number of coats and ties makes it feel like a boardroom instead of a barroom. But let me tell you: People in Monaco are ready to party.
Soon they’re dancing three and four to a tabletop, screaming along chants, soul-clapping straight outta Uptown. “Days of Wild” goes on for 20 minutes, and an obviously impressed O(+> says from the stage, “I didn’t know I had to come all the way over here to get a crowd this funky!”.
They don’t respond as much to the slower songs, though, not even to a drop-dead knockout version of “Dark”, a reminder that this man not only has the most emotionally complex falsetto since Al Green but plays the baddest guitar this side of Eddie Van Halen. But when he takes the tempo up, they can’t get enough. “Don’t you got to go to work tomorrow?” he asks. “Oh, I see. I’m in Monte Carlo – everybody just chills”.
Finally, at 3:30, he closes with “Peach” (“an old song”), and everyone puts their heels and sweat-stained blazers back on and calls it a night. He has played 14 songs, and – other than snippets of John Lee Hooker’s “I’m in the Mood” (a longtime jamming favorite) and Sly Stone’s “Babies Makin’ Babies” – no one had heard a note of them before. No one was calling out for “Little Red Corvette”. No one seemed to mind.
Earlier, I asked if the idea of never playing all those Prince songs again made him sad at all.
“I would be sad”, he replied, “if I didn’t know that I had such great shit to come with”.
At the Monte Carlo Sporting Club, O(+> is checking out the set for his performance at the Awards. The backdrop is a big, silver, fuzzy O(+> symbol. “They got my name looking like a float”, he whispers, more amused than annoyed.
But then, if your tolerance for tackiness is low, the World Music Awards is no place to be. The nominal point here is to honor the world’s best-selling artists by country or region, plus some lifetime-achievement types. The presenters and hosts – the most random aggregate of celebrities imaginable – seem to have been chosen based on who would accept a free trip to Monaco. Ursula Andress? Kylie Minogue? And in clear violation of some Geneva convention limit on cheesiness, Fabio and David Copperfield are both here to present awards.
Honorees include Ace of Base, smooth-sounding Japanese R&B crooners Chage & Aska, Kenny G (who annoys everyone backstage by wandering around tootling on that damn sax), and six-year-old French sensation Jordy (who runs offstage and kisses Prince Albert in mid-performance, which somehow does not create an international scandal). Whitney Houston wins her usual barrelful of trophies, and the whole thing is almost worth it to hear Ray Charles sit alone at the piano and sing “Till There Was You”. O(+> sits patiently through it all, not something he usually does (but again, this is royalty, you know). Before receiving his award from Placido Domingo (!), he puts as much as he can into “Beautiful Girl”, though the show is making him do something he hates: lip-synch.
“It’s cheating!” he says backstage, adding slyly, “Lip-synchers, you know who you are. See, if I would lip-synch, I’d be doing backflips, hanging from the rafters, but to cheat and be tired!” I ask if he thinks people feel too much pressure to live up to the production quality of their videos. “Concerts are concerts and videos are videos. But I’m guilty of it myself, so that’s going to change”.
“Concerts, that whole thing is old, anyway. To go and wait and the lights go down and then you scream, that’s played. Sound check is for lazy people; I want to open the doors earlier, let people hang out. Make it more like a fair”. In his room, he has a videotape of the stage set he’s having built for the next tour – a huge, sprawling thing, something like an arena-size tree house.
But still, the first thing O(+> does when he finishes “Beautiful Girl” at the Awards is ask for a videotape, wondering how one dance step looked, concerned that he has reversed two words and rendered the lip-synch imperfect. Even here, he is simply incapable of just walking through it.
And that’s what it always comes back to. There is only the music. Look at him, putting more into a sound check than most performers put into their biggest shows. Laugh at his ideas, his clothes, his name. But look at what he is doing: He’s 15 years into this career, a time when most stars are kicking back, going through the motions. But he is still rethinking the rules of performance, the idea of how music is released, the basic concepts about how we consume and listen to music, still challenging himself and his audience like an avant-garde artist, not a platinum-selling pop star. And we still haven’t talked about his plans for simulcasts and listening booths in his Glam Slam clubs in Minneapolis, L.A., and Miami, or about the 1-800-NEW-FUNK collection of other artists he’s working with for NPG Records, or his thoughts on music and on-line and CD-ROM systems, or the two new magazines he’s started….
Of course, from where it stands, Warner Bros.’ objections to his ambitious (some would say foolish) plans make conventional business sense: Would the increase in new music, coming from so many media, create a glut and cut into the sales of all the releases? Is it financially feasible? But these kinds of questions seem to be the furthest thing from O(+>’s mind. And okay, maybe the unpronounceable name is a little silly, and let’s not forget – he retired from performances once before, back in 1985, and how long did that last? But there’s no arguing with the effort, the seriousness, the intensity with which he is approaching this new era in his life.
“There’s no reason for me to be playing around now”, says O(+>, laughing. “Now we’re just doing things for the funk of it”.
© Alan Light, Vibe magazine, August 1994
Come, final version
In April the final version of Come was compiled. The recently recorded Letitgo was added to the configuration and Poem was divided into several parts and was partly placed as a segue to a couple of songs. The remaining part was renamed to Orgasm and added to the configuration. refused to place The Most Beautiful Girl In The World on the album, because it wasn’t a Prince, but a song.
Warner Bros. still wasn’t pleased and asked for Shhh, which was part of the The Beautiful Experience Movie, and got a lot of people excited. But the current configuration would not be altered again, this was it.
Simultaneously delivered the configuration to a second album: The Gold Experience, with the proposition to release Come as a Prince album and (a few weeks later?) The Gold Experience as a album. The one condition being that both albums were regarded as fulfilling a part of the required albums Prince/ was to deliver. Warner Bros. refused, Come was to be released and The Gold Experience had to wait.
Prince Presents The Sacrifice Of Victor
On June 1st, 1994, the book Prince Presents The Sacrifice Of Victor was published. It was the result of the journey photographer Terry Gydesen witnessed while on the Act II tour, that took place in the summer of 1993. All photos on the Come album stem from this book.
On June 7th, 1994, the CD-ROM Interactive was released. Besides the graphics, which were astoundingly beautiful for its time, and a journey through Paisley Park, the CD-ROM contained video and audio for Interactive and Endorphinmachine. It also contained two different versions of Race.
The Love Experience
From May 28th to July 26th, 1994, toured the US. He played a lot of (new) Prince songs, like Space, Papa, Race, Dark and Peach.
First Come single
On August 9th, 1994, Letitgo was released as a single. No video was produced.
1-800 New Funk
On August 11th, 1994, the compilation 1-800 New Funk was released. It was the first album to be released by the new NPG Records. Given the deal that Prince/ was allowed to release only one song independently, the compilation contains only songs by satellite acts. Six weeks earlier, the song Love Sign (a duet with Nona Gaye and ) was made public as a promo. Even though the single was accredited to Nona Gaye and , Warner Bros. stopped an official release.
The complete route to Come
Based on the data that’s available, the route to Come looks something like this:
Colored titles are released on an album, or moved to another project.
Different projects and configurations leading up to Come.
Unattached songs, not part of Come.
Songs still in the Paisley Park Vault.
A new album?
All the events obviously state a lot of new material was created. Also, a new album was underway. Would he really release two albums on one day? Unfortunately, no. The international release date had been established on August 15th, but in The Netherlands it was available 3 days earlier: the new (and last) Prince album: Come.
Come is Prince’s fifteenth studio album. Come would be the last Warner Bros. album for which new material was recorded (until 2014’s Plectrumelectrum and Art Official Age). Most of the songs were new, barring Race which was recorded in 1991. Letitgo is the most recent song: it was recorded in March 1994.
The album was credited to Prince: 1958–1993, conveying the message that Prince had died in 1993, implicitly stating that Prince was reborn as . To Prince/ the logical conclusion was that Prince albums contained old music and albums new.
With the exception of Solo and Letitgo, all songs on the album were used in Glam Slam Ulysses, which was accredited to , and were subsequently part of the The Beautiful Experience Movie, also accredited to . On the Come album all those songs were credited to Prince. The one song which was obviously written and recorded by , Letitgo, was accredited to Prince. To put it mildly, the logic is hard to see, because Prince/ did clearly state that songs like Interactive, Days Of Wild and Now were -songs, yet traveled down the same road as many the Prince-songs ending up on Come.
No tour was done, Prince/ stated in several interviews that the release was a contractual obligation, he tried to get out of by delivering sub-standard material. The fight between Warner Bros. and was played out in public. After Warner Bros. had run a teasing ad, Prince/ reacted with his own ad.
It was his worst selling album since 1980’s Dirty Mind. In Europe the album did relatively well, it even entered at number 1 in the English album charts, but the sales couldn’t even remotely live up the numbers from three years earlier. Yet, given all the commotion, the album did better than was to be expected.
Years later his discography was placed on his own website and community NPG Music Club. Come was a part of it, but the cover was overlayed with the text “Contractual Obligation”.
To be fair, given the ad seen above, Warner Bros. also did very little to promote the album. Both ads were more harmful than helpful, for Warner Bros., the Come album and Prince/.
The photos of Prince on the cover were made by Terry Gydesen, which were part of the book Prince Presents The Sacrifice Of Victor, which was published in 1994. Rather grim photos were used for the cover, to drive the funeral image even harder home. Many photo’s were situated near the world renowned Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, in short Sagrada Família, in Barcelona, a design by Antoni Gaudí.
Two singles were culled from the album:
- Letitgo on August 9th, 1994
- Space op November 1st, 1994
In Germany a promo single was released entitled Come, containing only the song Poem (see the story on Orgasm below in this article).
All songs written by Prince, except Solo (music: Prince, lyrics: David Henry Hwang).
The song has several versions, including one for Glam Slam Ulysses and one for The Beautiful Experience Movie. The version on the Come album was recorded mid-April 1994.
When I suck U there
I don’t wanna hear U scream
Don’t talk or breathe
Don’t cough or sneeze
Oh, just dream, dream, dream
Baby, my tongue’s gonna do things that U never seen
Like a splendid, open ended
Celibate friend, pretending
Not 2 know it when I blow it
In your eyes
Like a strawberry, chocolate
Fender jazz, mashed potato, fuzztone
All over your thighs
© Prince 1994
One of the most sexually explicit songs Prince ever recorded, including licking sounds. It is a bit over the top, yet it somehow works. This version is more jazzy, when compared to the previous robotic feel of the song. The horn section works really well within this context.
The following words are repeated more than once (somewhat like a chorus):
U should do that baby
No more will U cry
The spirit is calling
Here’s a reason why
If U had a chance 2 see the future would U try?
If U will, so will I
© Prince 1994
Prince seems to use sex to gain a greater intimacy in order to connect to a (religious?) spiritual feeling/theme.
Even though I like the album version, many fans prefer the previous ones (The Beautiful Experience Movie version in particular), my ultimate version is the live version of April 12th, 1993, at San Fransisco’s DNA Lounge. Prince had a cold that day and his voice is a bit hoarse, but the song is great and really exciting. The ultra tight beat laid out by Michael B. is truly phenomenal and provide the song with an unequalled sex-feel.
The first recordings were done at the end of May 1993. On July 7th, 1993, a largely instrumental version was recorded by Madhouse, intended for release on their planned album , titled 24.
If u and I were just ten feet closer
Then I’d make u understand
That everything I wanna do 2 your body, baby
I would do 2 your head
Then u’d be hip 2 the deep rush
Deeper than the boom of the bass
With every other flick of the pink plush
The closer we get 2 the space
© Prince 1994
Sex related, this laid-back song has a gloriously relaxed vibe. Great song.
In April 1993 an instrumental version was used on BET’s Video LP show.
In 1999, during an on-line “? of the week” session love4oneanother.com, someone asked what had inspired the song. replied: “Carmen Electra and The Crazy Horse”.
Pheromone, rush over me like an ocean
Pheromone, controllin’ my every motion
Pheromone, I’m helpless as a pet
Pheromone, when your body’s wet
© Prince 1994
I love this song. The loud robotic beat pounds relentlessly throughout the entire song and the (minimal) instrumentation is just right. Recommended.
On earlier configurations the song was called Loose. The reason for adding the ! is not known (at least not by me). In 1995 a remix, (Lemme See Your Body) Get Loose! (accredited to the pseudonym Tora Tora) was placed on the NPG Records Sampler Experience. The complete remix, titled Get Loose, was part of the 3-cd set Crystal Ball, which was released independently in 1998 and was accredited to .
The song starts with Prince hysterically shouting: 1,2,3,4! 1,2,3,4!
Everybody wants 2 know what’s wrong with U
They see U actin’ like a crazy fool
When the music hits U don’t know what 2 do
Push your way up 2 the front and shake your motherfuckin’ ‘do
© Prince 1994
The dance-beat on the song is catchy, but not that innovative. A lot of people claim this was an outdated song (even at the time of its initial release), when compared to other music being created with the dance movement. I don’t see that, I really like it.
A song which explicitly deals with child abuse. The question whether or not this song is autobiographical is hard to answer (besides the fact if it’s really newsworthy to know those kinds of things). In the song the child (called baby) is locked in the closet by his father (“Please don’t lock me up again, without a reason why”), who then shoots himself in the head. The way the father takes his life is remarkable as the father of The Kid in Purple Rain does the same thing.
Still, it is assumed that the violence in the song bears no relationship with Prince/‘s real life, which was sad enough as it was.
Don’t abuse children, or else they turn out like me
Fair 2 partly crazy, deep down we’re all the same
Every single 1 of us knows some kind of pain
In the middle of all that’s crazy, this 1 fact still remains
If u love somebody, your life won’t be in vain
And there’s always a rainbow, at the end of every rain
© Prince 1994
A phenomenal song. The beautiful jazzy musical coda at the beginning is perfect and really sets the mood. The musical part after the declaration of “Don’t abuse children, or else they turn out like me” is hard and wild, ending the song on a positive note (lyrically as well).
The first recordings for this song took place on November 8th, 1991, during a session for the O(+> album. These recordings took place at The Record Plant studio in Hollywood, California. In 1993 the song was re-worked and additional recordings were made.
In 2001 a remix was part of the NPG Ahdio Show # 5, available through the NPG Music Club.
If the air is a little thick in this room 2nite
I reckon it’s the result of an onslaught of separatist rookies
Overcome by this colorful sight
Talkin’ so fast that even they
Don’t know what they mean
Of all the things that base a rhyme
How is it that U everytime
Regurgitate the racist lines that keep us apart?
Thank God this ain’t Monopoly
U’d make us all go back 2 start
© Prince 1994
A song in which Prince speaks up about racism, like he did before in Black M.F. In The House on The New Power Generation’s Gold Nigga. He talks/sings the song, its central theme being “cut me, cut you, both the blood is red”. A fine song with a great message.
Recorded early 1993. The song feels like it’s a live recording.
A remix of the song, titled So Dark, was part of the 3-cd set Crystal Ball, which was released independently in 1998 and was credited to .
On October 18th, 2012, a rehearsal recording of Dark, performed by Prince And The New Power Generation, was streamed on Andy Allo’s Facebook page. On January 7th, 2014, a live video of So Dark was published using the 3rdEyeGirl YouTube account.
Inside lookin’ out my window
I don’t see nothin’ but rain
Sun up in the sky just a shinin’
Still I’m lost in my shadow of pain
© Prince 1994
A great soul ballad, that I love to hear. Very good! The song seems a bit out of place sonically, particularly by the organic live feel.
The only physical result of the Come musical was a poem written by David Henry Hwang. When Hwang and Prince talked to each other about the musical and ideas, Prince requested Hwang to write a poem “about loss”, intending to use that as a spoken interlude in the musical. After faxing the text, Hwang received a cassette with Solo a couple of days later. When Solo was released on the album and as the B-side to the Letitgo single, Hwang was notified. He also released a golden reward for the Come album.
Many fans adore this song. I don’t, I really don’t like it, it doesn’t move me in any way. What the song proves though, is the incredible vocal reach Prince had. The song stands as a monument to his vocal ability.
On March 16th, 1994, five days after the initial delivery of Come to Warner Bros., began recordings for Letitgo.
Some remixes were made, which were released on the Letitgo maxi-single. The The Caviar Radio versions were made by Q.D. III, Quincy Jones’ son. Both Sherm Stick versions use samples of the Sign O’ The Times song The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker.
In 2001 a 1995 live version was released as part of the NPG Music Club Edition # 2.
All my life I’ve kept my feelings deep inside
Never was a reason 2 let somebody know
Lover here, lover there – Who cried? Who cared? Foolish pride
Never was a good seat at any of this man’s shows
I’m ready 4 the real
Give me something I can feel
4teen years and tears I’ve longed 2 sing my song
But a horse couldn’t drag your ass 2 put me on
But now I’ve got an army and we’re three million strong
This song will ring in your ears when we are gone
© Prince 1994
A personal favorite. Many fans disagree on this one as the song is oftentimes interpreted as a bland generic &B song, but I really like the song with its great rhythm and simple melodies. The lyrics are clearly about Prince’s view on his relationship with Warner Bros., which was getting worse with every passing day.
The ‘song’ Poem stems from early 1993 and contains a sampled guitar solo lifted from the song Private Joy off 1981’s Controversy album, samples from the unreleased Vanity 6 song Vibrator (in which Vanity reaches an orgasm), multiple quotes from the book Song Of Songs from the Old Testament in the Bible, supplemented with ocean noises.
For this version of the Come album, Poem was divided into several parts. Four parts were used as a segue to the songs Pheromone, Race, Dark and Letitgo. The remainder of Poem was renamed to Orgasm.
I Love U
© Prince 1994
The ‘song’ is a rather uncomfortable listening experience. Vanity’s masturbation noises work really well in Vibrator, because it’s delivered in a kind of tongue-in-cheek way and the sounds of her vibrator remind a vacuum cleaner gone awol. That humor is missing here, making this the ultimate skip moment. Perhaps understandable as a ‘fuck you’ statement to Warner Bros., but to do this to the record buying public is pushing it.
All voices and instruments by Prince, with help from:
- Michael B. – drums & Sonny T. – bass on Space, Papa, Dark
- Tommy Barbarella & Mr. Hayes – keyboards on Space, Dark
- New Power Generation Hornz (Brian Gallagher & Kathy J. – saxophone, Joseph Robinson & Steve Strand & Dave Jensen- trumpet, Michael B. Nelson – trombone) on Come, Race, Dark, Letitgo
- Ricky Peterson – keyboards on Letitgo
- Eric Leeds – flute on Letitgo
- Mayte – background vocals on Race
- Kathleen Bradford – background vocals on Letitgo
- Jearlyn Steele Battle – Face the music sample on Race
- Vanity – orgasm on Orgasm, accredited to ‘she knows’
All recordings done at Paisley Park Studios in Minneapolis, The Record Plant and Larrabee Sound Studios, both in Los Angeles.
After re-reading the Dutch reviews, it really stands out is that the album was rather well received in The Netherlands. Particularly the promise of more from the Paisley Park Vault was met with great anticipation.
(The Dutch article displays the reviews in full.)
The most important remarks are shown below:
It is unknown whether thingy himself regards these songs as inferior left-overs from that era [Diamonds And Pearls and O(+>]. More importantly, they don’t sound that way – not inferior, not a left-over. They are certainly not less than the work he filled those albums with.
(de Volkskrant, 08/12/1994)
…, Come is filled with such masterpieces and once again proves Prince is equal to funk-legends like James Brown, Sly Stone and George Clinton. A mouth-watering legacy. May Prince rest in peace.
(Het Parool, 08/12/1994)
The cd nearly bursts due to all the instruments, weird noises and samples, and, weirdly enough, is till able to steer away from over the top grandeur and is the epitomy of clarity. … Come builds up quite an appetite, and luckily that’s coming, probably in large quantities.
(NRC Handelsblad, 08/15/1994)
Prince still is a musical pervert, but it is one you keep looking for.
(Limburgs Dagblad, 09/01/1994)
Come is a pleasantly easy and swinging album. There has to be many more great stuff over there in Minneapolis.
(Het Parool, 09/08/1994)
The US reviews are remarkable as well. Much more hostile and negative towards everything surrounding Prince/, the explicit sex and the music. The American press seems to have had it with the musical genius from Minneapolis. Rolling Stone magazine is one of those examples. Texts like “Come documents Prince at a surprisingly mediocre point” And the closing “Maybe someone who has contributed so much, whose ideas have broadened the very canvas on which everyone else works, deserves to trash everything while waiting for the next inspiration to arrive. That doesn’t mean we have to suffer patiently beside him” really say it all.
Rolling Stone review
Hmm… let’s see. Tombstone on the cover proclaiming 1993 as the year of Prince’s death. A dramatic recollection from an abused child, complete with a scarifying warning: “Don’t abuse children, or else they’ll turn out like me”. Vague talk about change, cosmic and otherwise. Could this be the major career announcement that has been pending since Prince, with a wave of his press agent’s wand, became .
Not so fast. Turns out that not much has changed except the name. The former Prince is still playing Artist Knows Best: When Warner Bros. shut down Paisley Park Records and cautioned him about flooding the market, what did this royal pain do? He set up another label, arranged independent distribution for his overflow goods and promptly scored a told-you-so hit with the puzzlingly Princelike “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World”. Then he announced that he would fulfill his contract with Warner Bros. by issuing material from the countless reels of studio tape he made as Prince. Come, whose songs carry a 1994 publishing registration, is the first such archive collection. Naturally this “old” material is not to be confused with the music and worldview of the new, unpronounceable .
Whatever you do, appreciate these latest moves as part of what has become the most spectacular slow-motion career derailment in the history of popular music. Ordinary artists just make duds; this guy specializes in public-relations catastrophes that confuse his loyal following and erode his stature as the major genre-busting innovator of the last decade. Ordinary artists tear up albums and start again; he’s tearing up his entire identity and starting again.
So far, however, this grand makeover-in-progress feels like another layer of pancake plastered onto the face of a tired actor. might not be Prince anymore, but he still has the same toolbox. There’s nothing on the uneven Come or the 1-800 New Funk compilation, which was written and produced entirely by (The Symbol), that will change anybody’s impression of this artist. He’s still horny. Still adventurous. He can’t escape his sonic signatures, which derive not only from his Jekyll-and-Hyde voice and its gymnastic falsetto but also from his rhythmic exactitude, ability to imply different harmonies and rare gift for insinuating melody. Nobody builds a vamp the way he does. No other guitar crackles with that dry, tart tang.
In the past, as he balanced these elements with the agility of a master orchestrator, Prince never left his imagination behind. He recognized that the interpretation had to sell the goods: He could give the raunchiest idea a sense of righteous grandeur and make a high-minded spiritual quest sound like an illicit affair. Not this time. Come features the most blatant soft-porn pillow talk Prince has ever released. At one point the lazy pulse of the title track becomes a forum for Prince to discourse on his (surprisingly ordinary) oral-sex techniques, and the closing “Orgasm” comes off as a you-are-there live remote recording of a sexual encounter.
Following a pattern established albums ago, Prince all but abandons the convoluted spiritual concerns he voiced on “7” and other tracks from “(The Symbol)” (1992). He’s back to earth – talking Slylike and direct about “Race”, moaning about being done wrong in the taut gospel ballad “Dark”, returning to the relatively innocent seduction strategies of “Soft and Wet” on the blazing, funky chant “Pheromone”.
But that stuff always was easy for Prince. Indeed, portions of Come, including “Space” and “Loose!”, exhibit so little creativity, you wonder whether they were born during studio catnaps. Ever since “Alphabet St.”, his challenge has been to broaden the music and allow it to address real issues, to move away from the cartoon image that dogged him after Purple Rain and Under the Cherry Moon. It’s possible to interpret the gospel-tinged “The Sacrifice of Victor”, from ““, as part of that campaign – an account of Prince’s childhood that was, for an artist who is obsessively secretive, a major step.
With the graphically violent “Papa”, which chronicles the disciplining of a 4-year-old, Prince elaborates on the hints in “Victor” that he has been abused. “Papa” probably won’t make the box set, but its coda is a fiery eruption worthy of the subject matter, and its candor is clear evidence that Prince wishes to be less restrained.
The same sense of forthright introspection marks the sauntering strut “Letitgo”, which many will read as an apologia for the excesses of the Prince era. In a regretful tone, it offers a past-tense acknowledgement that Prince, that notorious workaholic, wasn’t always the most pleasant creature. An indictment of his self-absorption, the song suggests that whatever comes next will represent a change in attitude: “Lover here, lover there/Who cried, who cared/Foolish pride/Never was a good seat at any of this man’s shows/Until now, all I wanted 2 do was/Do do do what I do…. But now I’ve got 2 let it go”.
That admonishment aside, Come documents Prince at a surprisingly mediocre point – still able to pop out thumping, genuinely new grooves but unwilling to leave them alone, cluttering them with banal lyrics and overwritten horn parts and missing wildly with indulgent experiments like “Solo”, one adventure in reverb best left in the vault.
So it’s tempting to look to the compilation 1-800 New Funk as the true start of the era. If “Letitgo” serves as a preview of the attitude change that accompanies the name change, then this collection might be seen as its first reel. It’s odd that he would choose a compilation: Back when he was Prince, one of the thorns in his side was the inability to use his own success to generate interest in other artists. Paisley Park Records – despite the presence of Mavis Staples and George Clinton – never really established anybody. Yet the Purple One is still a magnet for talent, and this collection shows off his skills as writer and as a producer even when the artists turn out to be wretched – does it really come as a surprise that kinetic dancer Mayte, of the New Power Generation, isn’t much of a singer? Prince-philes will already be aware of the Clinton (“Hollywood”) and Staples (“You Will Be Moved”) tracks, which appear on their most recent albums. There’s a rousing performance by the Steeles (“Color”), the return of the instrumental funk terrorists Madhouse (“17”) and “Love Sign”, a duet between and Nona Gaye that is appropriately twitchy. The biggest surprise comes from Minneapolis native Margie Cox, whose “Standing at the Altar” is a buoyant single that finds paying affectionate homage to the Motown hit machine.
Still, no big meaning on this set. Maybe it’s a mistake to expect such things from an artist whose focus is drifting from his art and who is increasingly settling on semantic games about what he should be called. Maybe someone who has contributed so much, whose ideas have broadened the very canvas on which everyone else works, deserves to trash everything while waiting for the next inspiration to arrive. That doesn’t mean we have to suffer patiently beside him.
© Tom Moon, Rolling Stone magazine, September 8th, 1994
As stated above, Come sold poorly in the US. Still the album was certified gold, because it crossed the 500,000 copy barrier (barely). The album sold considerably less in the rest of the world also. The last album that had had low sales rankings was 1988’s Lovesexy, but that album outsold Come three times, which even sold less than 1980’s Dirty Mind. Out of all of Prince/‘s albums released at that time, only his debut album For You sold less.
Even though there are people that assume there’s a correlation between the number of albums sold and the (musical) quality of an album, obviously sales numbers don’t speak to the actual artistic value of a certain piece of work. Come is hardly the pinnacle of genius, but still, it’s a very good album. Does it contain many Prince classics? No. Do I personally play it a lot? No. Does it meet my criterion for what constitutes Prince-genius? No. It does meet my criterion for Prince outstanding. The album needs to grow on you, and keeps on getting better and better with each time it’s being played.
If you skip the songs Solo and Orgasm, you’re left with a truly magnificent album, that is essential to any Prince collection. Does that mean it’s essential for the casual listener? Let me put it this way: I wouldn’t recommend Come to anyone unfamiliar with Prince. The album’s great strength resides in its atmosphere, which defines it. Songs like Come, Space, Papa and Letitgo are all top notch, which do show a different Prince than before.
But the mirror message on the album’s inner sleeve, “…This is the Dawning of a New Spiritual Revolution”, is not recognizable. Obviously the album covers a lot more ground than just sex. Calling it a ‘sex-album’ is a great disservice to Come, but to paint this out to be the start of a spiritual turnover, is taking it way too far. I don’t see it.
Also, the discussion, started by Prince/ himself, what constitutes Prince music and/or music, is rather messy. Prince uses and changes definitions at will. I can’t seem to find any true consistency anyway.
All in all I rate this album:
A rather high score for an album that’s by and large ignored by the general public. An album that deserves a lot more attention and appreciation than it is bestowed upon today, within as well as outside of Prince/‘s body of work. I sincerely hope a great release will be announced containing all of the music he wrote and recorded over the two years 1993 and 1994. Some release that would be, containing so much stunning music!
N.B.: On August 20th, 1999, I was on holiday in Turkey, visiting family in the heart of Anatolia at the city of Kayseri. On that day I bought a Turkish pressing of Come. To me, it’s a funny little detail, because I don’t care for different pressings from different countries, at all.
N.B.2: See the story Prince, the closing for my definitions of prince-genius and outstanding.
The 1993/1994 era is an extremely interesting and crucial period in Prince/‘s career. Regardless of the name change he created a lot of new music. More importantly, to me, was that the downward sprial that started with the release of Batman and culminated with the release of Diamonds And Pearls and O(+>, was turned upwards. The new music was different, smart and didn’t follow trends. Songs like Days Of Wild, Now, Come and Pheromone sounded fresh and ignited excitement.
But what about Prince/‘s promise to bring his music directly to the fans and try alternative methods to match his release schedule to his creativity? It turned out really well indeed. Fans reaped the rewards, particularly in 1994. By selling recordings of the Beautiful Experience concert, accompanied by studio recordings, the release of The Beautiful Experience Movie, the Interactive CD-ROM and the release of Come and 1-800 New Funk, Prince/ more than made good on his promises. It were thrilling, great times for fans, given the access to new music.
Most of the time. the quality of what was offered was extremely high. In 1993/1994 there was a constant buzz going on, two tours, two movies, multiple album projects and constant writing and recording. Based on what we now know more than 78 (!) songs were recorded from 1993 until the moment of the release of Come, of which, until this day, 29 have never (officially) seen the light of day.
But what Prince/ will be remembered most for will obviously be his name change and the row with Warner Bros. Even though later on his ‘struggle’ was proven to be very legit and all his predictions, including the way people would consume music in the future, turned out to be justified and his early forays into independence through own (internet) sales channels are now common ground, the general public will remember this period as Prince/‘s ‘crazy’ period. More and more, he lost touch with the general public. It would last until 2004 before he would be accepted as a supernatural talent and genius again, with the release of Musicology.
One last observation before this article comes to an end: I find that the years ending in a ‘4’ all were defining years in Prince/‘s career:
- 1984: the release of his best sold album, Purple Rain
- 1994: his first independent release (The Most Beautiful Girl In The World), the start of NPG Records and the first release in the post-Prince era
- 2004: the comeback year with Musicology
- 2014: the double release of Plectrumelectrum and Art Official Age and the return to Warner Bros.
I was and am very happy with Come. How was/is that for you? Also happy or was it the other way around? Let me know!
A part of the information about earlier configurations and radio broadcasts, I initially read on thé on-line Prince source princevault.com and the largest and longest running on-line Prince forum prince.org. Should you want more background information, follow the links.
This story contains an accompanying video. Click on the following link to see it: Video: Prince releases the fine album Come (and nobody seems to care). The A Pop Life playlist on Spotify has been updated as well.
Prince – The Hits/The B-Sides, Act I Tour, Act II Tour, – The Love Experience, Prince – Come – The singles images: princevault.com
The Joffrey Ballet – Billboards, Prince presents The Sacrifice Of Victor images: amazon.com
Paisley Park Studios – Studio A image: factmag.com
MTV News logo image: mtv.com
Prince – Billboard magazine 05/08/1993, Prince – Gold (bootleg cover), – The Dawn (bootleg), – Glam Slam Ulysses poster, Warner Bros. versus , Prince – Come – Ad images: prince.org
Fax pagina’s Controversy fanzine images:Controversy fanzine
Registered trademark O(+> image: unknown
Prince – The Undertaker image: guitarplayer.com
New Power Generation – Gold Nigga, Prince – Peach – Single, Prince – Love Simple’s Interactive Night (bootleg), Prince – Come – Original Test Pressing (bootleg), Prince – Come – CD booklet backside, – Interactive CD-ROM, Prince – Letitgo, 1-800 New Funk, Prince – Come, Prince – Come – Back cover, Prince – Come CD, Prince – Come inner sleeve images: discogs.com
– The Beautiful Experience – Ticket image: unused-prince-tickets.com
– The Most Beautiful Girl In The World image: bol.com
– The Beautiful Experience – Signed vinyl image: rootsvinylguide.com
– The Beautiful Experience Movie image: goldiesparade.co.uk
Vibe Magazine – August 1994 image: pinterest.com
Prince – Come inner sleeve image: lordashbury.com
All images from the book Prince Presents The Sacrifice Of Victor: icollector.com & medium.com, © Paisley Park Enterprises 1994