35 years ago today recording, on a song commenced that would change my musical life forever: Prince started working on When Doves Cry, all by himself.
Two sources have been invaluable for this little article: princevault.com (the online guide to everything Prince) and Duane Tudahl’s book Prince and the Purple Rain era studio sessions 1983 and 1984 (the ultimate Purple Rain book).
March 1st, 1984 (Thursday)
Prince was in Los Angles in his beloved Sunset Sound studios. His favorite studio was number three (which was sublet to Prince 7 to 8 months every year in 1984, 1985 and 1986). On March 1st, 1984, the studio was used for 2 hours (from 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM) by Prince. He didn’t record anything, but was probably working on drum programming and sounds.
March 2nd, 1984 (Friday)
The most important recording sessions of Prince’s career? Perhaps so. To me personally, it is the most defining one, because in a period of 16 hours of hard work When Doves Cry was recorded. Prince wrote, produced, arranged and performed everything by himself. The only other person present, was engineer Peggy McCreary. The session lasted from 3:30 PM to 7:30 AM the next day.
Prince had the entire song worked out in his head and now it had to get out. He worked frantically at the song and got ever more enthused by it. He knew he had something special at hand. He worked though his ‘normal’ routine: drums, bass, guitar, keyboards and synthesizer. The tape machine was slowed down when it came to recording the synthesizer solo, enabling Prince to play the solo he head in his head.
At about 11 or 12 hours into the session Prince asked McCreary to make a cassette copy of the song, so he could listen to it in his car. Something he regularly did to get a feel for the song and whether it worked. This time he drove over to a couple of band members (Wendy and Lisa) and friends (Jill Jones), arriving in the middle of the night to let them hear his latest creation.
March 3rd, 1984 (Saturday)
More work was done on When Doves Cry. From 4:30 PM to 11:30 PM mixing was done. Prince wasn’t completely satisfied. During mixing, Prince suddenly muted the entire bass part. A masterstroke, because it made the song complete, but also unique. A bold move. Many in his direct circle needed time to adjust to the song and its sound.
March 4th and 5th, 1984 (Sunday and Monday)
The edits were cut. Probably, Prince wasn’t present, but did leave instructions. A single-edit was cut and the album edit was done. After 4 hours the work was done. During the month of March the song was added to the Purple Rain movie.
May 16th, 1984
The first single to be released from the upcoming album Purple Rain was When Doves Cry. The Purple Rain album was accredited to Prince and the Revolution, even though a lot of the material was done by Prince all by himself. The single was released some 5 weeks prior to the album’s release. The fantastic song 17 Days was used as a B-side. It made the release the best single of all time. Both songs belong to my personal Prince top 10 songs.
It was Prince’s first number 1 single in the US, the fastest selling single in the history of Warner Bros. up to then, and was marked as ‘#1 single of 1984’ by Billboard.
When Doves Cry was awarded platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.
To me When Doves Cry was the start of a lifelong fascination of everything Prince. More on that at a later time.
What do you think of When Doves Cry? Let me know!
This story contains an accompanying video. Click on the following link to see it: Video: The birth of the best song of all time: When Doves Cry. The A Pop Life playlist on Spotify has been updated as well.
Sunset Sound Recording Studio Logo image: fourplayjazz.com
Prince – When Doves Cry – Handwritten lyrics image: twitter.com/princemuseum
Prince – When Doves Cry – Platinum award image: julienslive.com