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So, there's this guy named Prince, you may have heard of him...Skinny motherfucker with the high voice, plays every instrument known to man, made some really catchy tunes, quite the Small Name, Big Ego sometimes, wrote nearly a thousand songs.
No, you didn't read that wrong. Prince is famous for being prolific when it comes to songwriting. This landed him in a bit of trouble with his record label in The Eighties - see, Warner Bros. Records wanted him to do the same write-record-release-tour grind as everybody, but he was crankin' out tunes so quickly that they just couldn't keep up with his ever-expanding vault. As a means to avoid this, Prince wrote numerous songs under pseudonyms or gave them to others - Prince's musical Production Posse, if you will.
Now, if you're not a devoted Prince fan, this is just going to be more Archive Panic for a man that already has a huge discography. But Prince had lots of talented musicians in his entourage back in The Eighties, and the records of his associates are mostly interesting, with the occasional stinker, and at best just as catchy and well-made as his own. Thanks to the lack of availability of these albums, one can even claim that these associates would Need More Love, although exactly who does is an exercise best left to the listener.
Prince's associates generally come in a few flavours depending on songwriting:
- People for whom Prince played every single instrument, wrote every single note (cleverly disguised with pseudonyms on the album credits) and sometimes even the lyrics. All they had to do was just add their vocals on top. For example: Vanity 6 and Apollonia 6.
- People for whom Prince composed and produced but they had their own input, including lyrics, co-writing credits and occasionally playing instruments. For example: Sheila E. and Ingrid Chavez.
- People for whom Prince sporadically contributed material but otherwise didn't do much. For example: Sheena Easton, Mavis Staples, Martika, and others.
- Actual bands with which Prince was involved. For example: Madhouse and 94 East.
- Formerly associated with him in some way but then broke away completely. Example: Wendy and Lisa, Dr. Fink, Brown Mark, Bobby Z., David Z., and so on.
- Stuff which fits into more than one category. For example: The Time and The Family. This will be duly noted.
Also a fun note: many of these releases ended up out of print because they appeared on Prince's record label Paisley Park Records, and that was shut down in 1994 by Warner Bros. due to severe mismanagement from his managers Bob Cavallo, Joe Ruffalo and Steve Fargnoli. Keep (mostly) Circulating The Tapes (you can go ahead and "lose" the ones for Vanity and Apollonia 6, for starters.) Also, keep in mind that this list is by no means complete: there are several projects that never saw any form of release outside of bootlegs (like The Rebels and M.C. Flash) and there are probably even more that we don't even know about, sitting in Prince's vault.
Just added vocals
Come on baby, drive me wild
Vanity 6, "Drive Me Wild"
Vanity 6 deserve a bit of a special mention since they were the first side-project Prince came up with on his own and produced an album for. So, basically the whole madness of Prince's empire of associates starts here.
Vanity 6 were a Girl Group formed by Prince sometime in 1981, supposedly after watching A Star Is Born and thinking "Oh hey, that's neat. I wanna do that!" He managed to gather together three of his female friends, Susan Moonsie, Brenda Bennett and Jamie Shoop. We can only presume how awkward the meeting was when Prince told them that they would be named "The Hookers", would perform in lingerie and sing about sex a lot. The sheer fact that he wasn't comically chased out of the room is amazing in itself.
Somehow, presumably through his immense charm, he managed to convince them to record a few demos. He then met nude model and B movie actress Denise Matthews, famous for her widely acclaimed roles in Terror Train and Tanya's Island. Also, a certain part of the body. An awestruck Prince kicked out Shoop and installed his new girlfriend Matthews as the frontwoman instead, giving her the Stage Name "Vanity". You Do NOT Want to Know one of the stories about its origin. But if you do: Prince wanted to name her "Vagina", clarifying that it would be pronounced "vag-EE-na", because that's how you pronounce it in Minnesota or something. She predictably went "dude, WTF?" and managed to bargain it down to "Vanity".
With the Vanity-Bennett-Moonsie lineup in place and a healthy supply of lingerie and Intercourse with You lyrics, Prince renamed the group Vanity 6. The "6" supposedly came from the amount of breasts in the group, thus making Vanity 6 the only band to have been named after a case of My Eyes Are Up Here.
The group released one album, Vanity 6 in 1982. Prince wrote and produced it almost completely (disguising this fact by crediting himself as "The Starr Company" and randomly assigning credits around), with Revolution guitarist Dez Dickerson managing to sneak in a credit for "He's So Dull", Jesse Johnson co-writing "Bite the Beat" and Terry Lewis co-writing "If a Girl Answers (Don't Hang Up)". The album itself represented a pretty generic example of Prince's Minneapolis sound, with two forays into synthy Power Pop ("He's So Dull" and "Bite the Beat") and lots of exaggerated, Narmy lyrics about Intercourse with You sung by three women with average vocal talent. Needless to say, it became a hit and spawned a big hit single with "Nasty Girl".
Vanity 6 broke up a year later in 1983 when Vanity suddenly dropped out of the Prince camp and gave up her role in Purple Rain. Undaunted, Prince replaced her with Patricia "Apollonia" Kotero and re-named them "Apollonia 6".
Vanity 6 provides examples of:
- Audio Erotica: Oh, man, they tried so hard to hit this and wound up missing wildly.
- An unreleased song, "Vibrator", has Vanity actually using a vibrator during the track. Thrice. Hilarity Ensues when her batteries die the second time and, through spoken word, she is forced to shop for more (Prince makes a cameo as an uncooperative store owner). The song ends with the third usage, acapella (this element was later recycled for Prince's song "Orgasm", whose album credits included "Vanity: she knows").
- Call-and-Response Song: "If a Girl Answers (Don't Hang Up)"
- The Cameo: Prince himself plays the girl on the other end of the line in "If a Girl Answers (Don't Hang Up)". This was recorded well before he sped up his voice for female vocals (and he already proved he could pull off a falsetto), so it's more like "If a Guy Answers".
- Prince also appears in the unreleased "Vibrator" as the shopkeep that sells Vanity batteries for her "body massager".
- Girl Group
- Good Bad Girl: All three members were boxed into a certain personality. Vanity became this by default..
- The Immodest Orgasm: The aforementioned "Vibrator".
- Intercourse with You + Bawdy Song: 99% of their catalogue, pretty much.
- The Ladette: Brenda chose the role of the cigarette-smoking tough chick. Probably the best straw she could draw.
- New Wave
- Power Pop: arguably "He's So Dull" and "Bite the Beat"
- Sex Sells
- Self-Titled Album
- Spoken Word in Music: "If a Girl Answers (Don't Hang Up)", and some other tunes.
- "I don't like this groove. Try and give me somethin' I can croon to- catch my drift?"
- "That's right, there'll be no more wet dreams for Brenda. At least not tonight."
- Stage Names: Vanity.
I'm a sex shooter, shooting love in your direction
I'm a sex shooter, come and play with my affection
Apollonia 6, "Sex Shooter"
Really, that's pretty much it. Vanity resigned from the band in 1983 for various reasons (some of them being Prince's jerkiness) and kind of disappeared - she's since been Hijacked by Jesus and repented for her extreme harlotry, but that's another story for another time. In the meantime, Prince found actress Patricia Kotero after a frantic casting call. Re-christened "Apollonia", she was installed as the new frontwoman and the band was very appropriately renamed "Apollonia 6".
Apollonia played Prince's girlfriend in Purple Rain and the entire band made a cameo. An album, Apollonia 6, followed in 1984 but by this point Prince lost interest in his Girl Group, which probably explains why he allowed more input from others - Apollonia 6 featured backing vocals from Wendy and Lisa and Jill Jones, but even this couldn't save the album from even weaker material than before and even more over-the-top "explicit" lyrics that stumbled bravely into Narmland, as seen by the hilariously stupid "Sex Shooter" and the also hilariously stupid Hot for Student song "Happy Birthday Mr. Christian". You know you're in a bad position when what's most notable about your album is what songs didn't make it - reportedly, Prince had considered "Manic Monday", "17 Days" and "The Glamorous Life" for inclusion before coming to his senses and giving them to The Bangles, himself and Sheila E. respectively.
The band broke up for good a year later. Brenda managed to snag herself backing vocals on "17 Days" but otherwise hasn't done anything, Apollonia continued with her acting/modeling career and Susan...er...we'll get back to you on that.
Fun side-note? The chorus of The Pixies' "Debaser" was originally "Shed, Apollonia!" before it mutated into "Un chien andalusia!", thus making Apollonia 6 the only Prince-associated band to get a Shout-Out in a Pixies song.
Apollonia 6 provides examples of:
- Girl Group
- Hot for Student: "Happy Birthday Mr. Christian"
- Intercourse with You + Bawdy Song: 99% of their catalogue, pretty much.
- New Wave
- Piss-Take Rap: "Ooh She She Wa Wa". Actually, Apollonia 6 is pretty much a Piss Take Album.
- Self-Titled Album
- Spoken Word in Music: "In a Spanish Villa".
- Stage Names: Apollonia.
(Later moved to no involvement)
Who the hell is Jill Jones?
Well, she was a backup singer for R&B star Teena Marie back at the start of The Eighties, and this is exactly how she met Prince during his 1980 Dirty Mind tour. She was quickly recruited as a backing singer for The Revolution itself, adding backing vocals to several songs on 1999 and appearing in the videos for "1999" and "Little Red Corvette". She had a bit part as a waitress in Purple Rain and a cameo in its shittier sequel Graffiti Bridge, in a scene where she takes off an undergarment to end a conflict with Prince. Squ- wait, WTF? Oh, wait, this is the guy who came up with the idea for Vanity 6. Nevermind.
Prince repaid her contributions to 1999 by producing her solo album, Jill Jones, which was released in 1987. Once again, he did everything and wrote all the songs and Jones merely had to put vocals on top. However, this album gained actual positive reviews from critics, mainly because Jones actually had vocal talent and could sing, as opposed to the competent vocals of Vanity and Apollonia, or the pleasant-but-bland vocals of Sheila E. and The Family.
After this, Jones did... well, nothing really. A second album got as far as the demo stage before being cancelled. She did tour with Chic in 1996 though. She finally emerged with a new, completely Prince-less pop-rock album in 2001.
- Jill Jones (1987)
- Two (2001)
- Living for the Weekend (2009)
Jill Jones provides examples of:
(Later moved to actual band and kinda embody no involvement)
What time is it?!
Morris Day's Catch Phrase.
The real party's across the street, featurin' da greatest band in da world... MORRIS DAY AN'A TIME!!!
Jay, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.
The most successful Prince associates, and Jay and Silent Bob's favourites. And probably the most famous too.
The members of The Time are as follows:
- Morris Day - vocals
- Jerome Benton - vocals, comic foil, percussion
- Jellybean Johnson - drums
- Jimmy Jam - keyboards
- Monte Moir - keyboards
- Terry Lewis - bass
- Jesse Johnson - guitar
The Time were a pop-funk-rock ensemble that relied heavily on Rule of Funny and very long jams. They were largely defined by frontman Morris Day's hilarious lyrics and Chivalrous Pervert-Handsome Lech persona, with Jerome Benton serving as his Foil. This dynamic was observed through their appearance in Purple Rain as Prince's rival band, and Day's humorous persona proved to be one of the few points that critics liked, with many even commenting that he upstaged Prince's acting (not much of a compliment, admittedly... Prince's acting makes Keanu Reeves look like William Shatner).
As befitting an associate band, for their initial period of 1981-1985, Prince played all instruments on The Time albums and simply overdubbed their vocals. However, Prince got Hoist by His Own Petard here as The Time ably played the same songs live and occasionally would show up Prince when opening for The Revolution to get back at him for lack of input and low payments.
Day left the band after an argument with Prince in 1985, focusing on a solo career. The Time disbanded right then, with its remaining members being amalgamated into The Family and Jam and Lewis going on to be famous Record Producers, mostly for their work with Janet Jackson. Jerome Benton also starred as Prince's sidekick in Under the Cherry Moon, and similarly managed to out-act Prince and be considered the one character reviewers liked. Jesse Johnson put out a solo album named Shockadelica in 1986, which drove Prince to write "Shockadelica" since he felt an album with that cool a title needed a title song, but Johnson had neglected to write one.
The band reunited in 1990, this time with almost no involvement from Prince and complete creative control. The resulting album, Pandemonium, spawned their highest selling single, "Jerk Out". They also appeared on the soundtrack to Graffiti Bridge, on the songs "Release It", "Shake!", "Love Machine" and "The Latest Fashion" (the last in collaboration with Prince).
They then kind of disappeared again, spawning two different touring acts; The Time (which included Jam and Lewis) and Morris Day & the Time (which included the other members.) In 2011, spurred by a performance at the 2008 Grammys, all seven original members reformed under the name The Original 7ven (as Prince refused to license the name "The Time" out to them) and are recording together again.
- The Time (1981)
- What Time Is It? (1982)
- Ice Cream Castle (1984)
- Pandemonium (1990)
- Condensate (2011)
The Time provides examples of:
- Blatant Lies: "777-9311" includes a moment when Morris shouts "Terry!" before the song's bass solo, even though the song was entirely recorded by Prince.
- Call-and-Response Song: A staple of their repetoire.
- Catch Phrase: "What time is it?" and "Somebody bring me a mirror (so I can look at X)"
- Chivalrous Pervert or Handsome Lech: Morris Day.
- Dance Sensation: parodied with "The Walk", played straight with "Jungle Love" and "The Bird".
- Epic Rocking: "Get It Up", "Cool", "The Stick", "Wild and Loose", "The Walk", "Ice Cream Castles", "The Bird", "Jerk Out", "Chocolate", "Skillet".
- Intercourse with You: The lengthy jams on their first album, "Get It Up" and "The Stick."
- Large Ham: Morris Day
- Self-Titled Album
- Stealth Parody: "Gigolos Get Lonely Too", "Onedayi'mgonnabesomebody" (okay, that one's more obvious...)
- Something Completely Different: the heavy rock of "Skillet".
- Spoken Word in Music: Most of their songs eschew ending in favour of repeating the backing track and adding dialogue that may or may not be all that funny. The song "Chili Sauce" is five straight minutes of seductive dialogue.
- Title by Number: "777-9311" was named after Dez Dickerson's phone number. He had to change it after receiving unwanted calls.
(Overlaps with actual band)
But nothing compares to you
The Family, "Nothing Compares 2 U"
Now, here's a bit of a trickier case. After The Time disintegrated for the first time in 1984, Prince restructured the band with a few new musicians and renamed it "The Family". Its members were as follows:
- Paul "St. Paul" Peterson - vocals, keyboards, bass
- Susannah Melvoin - vocals, keyboards
- Jerome Benton - vocals, comic foil, percussion
- Jellybean Johnson - drums
- Eric Leeds - saxophone, flute
But on the resulting album, The Family (1985), Prince decided to be a Control Freak and once again wrote nearly all songs ("River Run Dry", the sole exception, was written by The Revolution drummer Bobby Z.) and played everything on the album, simply overdubbing vocals by Peterson and Melvoin and Leeds' saxophone and flute.
The resulting album contained a mishmash of high-energy funk ("Mutiny"), soul ballads ("Desire"), jazz instrumentals ("Susannah's Pajamas" - this title should not be surprising if you've made it so far down the page...) and New Wave ("The Screams of Passion"). However, it did contain a small song called "Nothing Compares 2 U", which was Covered Up and turned into a massive hit single by Sinéad O'Connor in 1990.
The band itself was short-lived, lasting barely a year before Peterson left, sick of Prince's Control Freakism. Still, it marked the beginning of Prince'ss long-term collaboration with Eric Leeds, for what it's worth.
The Family provides examples of:
- Deliberately Monochrome: Their covers and promo pictures.
- Self-Titled Album: Either Prince's associates had to have self titled albums as part of their contract, or he saves the good titles for himself.
So please, don't step to the mic. In fact, please step away from it. Far, far away from it.
i-Mockery's hilarious review of Carmen Electra
Yes, Carmen Electra used to be a back-up dancer for Prince (in fact, he gave her the Stage Name "Carmen Electra") in the early nineties and had a self-titled album produced by him in 1993. The album's famous for being a complete shitburger. A really funny skewering of it, complete with some audio samples, is available on i-Mockery.
Carmen Electra provides examples of:
With their own input
(Overlaps with sporadic contributions)
She wants to lead the glamorous life
Without love, it ain't much
Sheila E., "The Glamorous Life"
Drumming runs pretty big in Sheila Escovedo's family: her father Pete is a famous percussionist, her uncle Alejandro drummed for various punk bands before starting a solo career, her other uncle Coke played with Santana, her other other uncle Javier founded the seminal punk band The Zeros, and Tito Puente was her godfather.
It's little surprise then that Sheila took up drumming and quickly became really good at it, playing with such luminaries as George Duke, Marvin Gaye, Alphonso Johnson, Herbie Hancock and Lionel Richie before her early twenties.
Prince first met Sheila when attending a concert where she was playing with her dad. He quickly brought her into her entourage, where she contributed drums and percussion in the studio and provided vocals to "Let's Go Crazy"'s famous B-side, "Erotic City" (and some other vocals here and there, like the "transmississippirap" on "It's Gonna Be a Beautiful Night"). She secured herself the position of drummer for Prince after The Revolution disbanded, but left Prince in 1989 due to a collapsed lung. This split has notably been free of the really bad blood that other splits engendered, and the two have collaborated occasionally to this day.
While Sheila did attract attention for her vocals on "Erotic City", she quickly proved she was not another Vanity: while Prince did produce her first two solo albums, she got some co-writing credits and added her drumming all over the place. Most notably, Sheila at first broke from the very explicit "personas" that had been assumed by Prince's previous Girl Groups: her lyrics were decidedly PG-rated, dealing with love (not Intercourse with You, at least not yet) and sung in a pleasant, girl-next-door voice. In fact, many of the funk-pop songs existed solely for the sake of lots and lots of percussion solos. Nobody seemed to mind though. These two albums, The Glamorous Life and Romance 1600, were well-received and spawned two really long hits, the super-catchy ditty about how materialism's, like, superficial, man, "The Glamorous Life" (9 minutes) and a duet with Prince entitled "A Love Bizarre" (12 minutes!). Prince was noticeably less involved with Sheila E., letting David Z. produce the album and writing only a few songs.
Sheila's solo albums after leaving Prince's organisation were New Sound Albums somewhat, introducing Latin and jazz influences into her upbeat pop-funk. She took a long break from her solo career after the horribly-titled Sex Cymbal, presumably out of embarassment that she put out an album titled Sex Cymbal, and played with various other musicians (including being part of three versions of Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band). She also reunites with Prince every once in a while for live concerts and contributed to his album 3121.
- The Glamorous Life (1984)
- Romance 1600 (1985)
- Sheila E. (1987)
- Sex Cymbal (1991)
- Writes of Passage (2000)
- Heaven (2001)
Sheila E. provides examples of:
- Epic Rocking: "The Glamorous Life", "Oliver's House", "A Love Bizarre", all of which fall squarely into Ear Worm territory.
- Foil: She played this role in the All-Starr Band concerts, especially during the solos where Ringo would comically fail to keep up with her.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: Sex Cymbal, so bad it hurts.
- Piss-Take Rap: Averted - her Motor Mouth reading of Edward Lear's "The Table and the Chair" on "It's Gonna Be a Beautiful Night" is actually good. (The liner notes credit it as "transmississippirap" since Prince recorded her doing it over the phone from, well, the other side of the Mississippi River.)
- Self-Titled Album: Interestingly, done for the third album.
- Spoken Word in Music: "Toy Box". It sounds like a normal funk song at first, and then right at the end Sheila blind-sides you with a long, shouty rant that makes you wonder who spiked her coffee and with what.
- Word Salad Lyrics: "Dear Michaelangelo", "Toy Box", "Romance 1600" and "Bedtime Story" have a special ability to make you scratch your head and go "huh?".
- Word Salad Title: "Merci for the Speed of a Mad Clown in the Summer"... what?
- You Make Me Sic: Michelangelo, not Michaelangelo.
Ingrid Chavez is Mexican-American and has been married to David Sylvian of the band Japan since 1992.
Chavez is one of those fringe figures in Prince's entourage. That's probably because she ain't an actual singer, but a poet instead. Prince was impressed by her poetry and quickly recruited her into his ever-expanding harem-cum-musical empire, first letting her contribute vocals to Lovesexy. Around this time, she cultivated a mysterious appearance and was nicknamed "The Spirit Child". OK, sure, whatever, at least Prince didn't try to rename her to "Clitoris" or something like that.
Chavez next played Prince's romantic interest in Graffiti Bridge. It was during the filming that she, Lenny Kravitz and Andre Betts co-wrote and recorded Madonna's famous hit "Justify My Love" - reportedly, Chavez came up with most of the lyrics and Kravitz thought sampling Public Enemy would be a nifty idea. A solo album followed, May 19, 1992 (released, oddly enough, in 1991), which combined Chavez's spoken-word poetry with atmospheric backing music composed by Prince and was favourably reviewed, one critic comparing it to "an entire album of 'Justify My Love's".
Chavez drifted out of Prince's
harem musical empire soon after. Since then, she's frequently recorded with her husband David Sylvian and with Ryuichi Sakamoto of Yellow Magic Orchestra.
Ingrid Chavez provides examples of:
Mayte first joined Prince's
harem entourage in 1990 as a dancer, later graduating to occasionally contributing vocals in Gratuitous Spanish. She then married Prince in 1996. They were due to become parents, but the baby died from a rare skull disease named Pfeiffer's syndrome a week after he was born. Predictably, the marriage disintegrated after this traumatic event and Prince and Mayte divorced in 2000. Mayte has since returned to dancing and choreography.
Prince produced and co-wrote one solo album for her in 1995 (possibly in his sleep; it's kind of what he does...), entitled Child of the Sun. Nobody really noticed its existence and it's since gone out of print. In fact, the most notable song it contained was a a gender-reversed version of the cheesiest, Tastes Like Diabetes-est song Prince ever wrote, "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World". Yeah, it's like that. And a cover of "Brick House" by The Commodores, which is at least not as corny.
The second disc of Prince's Emancipation was inspired by their marriage and her pregnancy. Yes, this means Mayte is partially responsible for Tastes Like Diabetes-fests like "Friend, Lover, Sister, Mother/Wife". We hope she enjoyed the gift, because we might have not.
Mayte provides examples of:
- Cover Version: besides the aforementioned Prince cover, she covered "Brick House" by The Commodores (renamed to "House of Brick" for Prince knows what reason).
- The Muse: One of the less fruitful cases? Depends.
- Shiny Midnight Black: The picture shown here is a definite example.
- The Cover Changes the Gender
One of the latest Princettes, Ashley Támar Davis sang backing vocals on Prince's album 3121 on the song "Beautiful, Loved and Blessed", and played a few live concerts in some small clubs.
Prince co-wrote and co-produced (yes, you guessed it!) an album for her named Milk & Honey. It was set to be released in August 2006, but got delayed and later cancelled. A few promotional copies have surfaced after being sold in Japan, and one of its songs, "Kept Woman", was re-recorded and handed off to Bria Valente.
Támar provides examples of:
A whole lotta people are gonna get pregnant off this!
Prince, describing Valente's album to the Los Angeles Times (clearly oblivious about his track record)
Another protege in the grand tradition of Vanity and Apollonia, Brenda "Bria Valente" Fuentes began her association with Prince in late 2006, contributing backing vocals to "The Song of the Heart" (from the movie Happy Feet) and his album Planet Earth.
Prince produced a solo album for her named Elixer, in 2009. He described it as "a quiet storm" album, raising the prospect that he still hasn't abandoned his search for Audio Erotica and would give the world another hilarious trip to Narmland. Elixer was bundled together with Prince's two solo albums LOtUSFLOW3R and MPLSound as a three-disc set, which debuted at #2 on the Billboard charts. Because we all know it would've been a huge hit by itself... It usually got singled out as the weakest album of the three-disc set by reviewers.
Sporadic contributions and one-offs
Something something something toy soldiers!
Martika, "Toy Soldiers".
Her first album, Martika, was released in 1988. It spawned a #1 hit single, "Toy Soldiers", which Eminem later Sampled Up for his own song "Like Toy Soldiers", and two other hits, "More Than You Know" and a cover of Carole King's "I Feel The Earth Move".
Her second album, Martika's Kitchen, was released in 1991. This album was produced and co-written by Prince, who combined Martika's pop music with elements from gospel, jazz, Funk, R&B and Cuban music and lyrically explored such Serious Business topics as crack babies, racism and homophobia. An interesting melange to be sure, which eventually kind of flunked on the charts. Thus endeth Martika's association with Prince.
- Martika (1988)
- Martika's Kitchen (1991)
- Violince (2004)
- Oppera (2006)
Martika provides examples of:
- Incredibly Lame Pun: Martika tries to out-lame Sheila with Violince. Close, but no cigar.
- Self-Titled Album: This wasn't Prince's fault for once.
Much like Martika, Mavis Staples had already had a career going before her association with Prince. And it wasn't too bad either, what with being famous for having a great voice, recording with her family as The Staple Singers and being a civil rights activist in The Sixties.
Staples collaborated with Prince for a few years, contributing the song "Melody Cool" to the Graffiti Bridge soundtrack and having two solo albums, Time Waits For No One (1989) and The Voice, co-written and produced by him. And that's... kind of it actually.
- Mavis Staples (1969)
- Only for the Lonely (1970)
- A Piece of the Action (1977)
- Oh What a Feeling (1979
- Mavis Staples (1984)
- Don't Change Me Now (1988)
- Time Waits for No One (1989)
- The Voice (1993)
- Spirituals & Gospel: Dedicated to Mahalia Jackson with Lucky Peterson (1996)
- Have a Little Faith (2004)
- We'll Never Turn Back (2007)
My baby takes the morning trainTo find me waiting for him
He works from 9 'til 5 and then
He takes another home again
—Sheena Easton, "Morning Train (9 to 5)"
Sheena Easton was a Scottish singer back in The Eighties who scored a few hits occasionally, most notably with "Morning Train (9 to 5)" and "For Your Eyes Only", the theme for the James Bond movie of the same name. Her music was largely pop with bits of soft rock and New Wave floating around, with a pretty ordinary image.
Which obviously made her the perfect woman to collaborate with Prince. Prince produced her 1984 album A Private Heaven and predictably transformed her into another trying-too-hard-to-be-sexy siren. She did get two hit singles out of it, "Strut" and the Narmy "Sugar Walls", so it probably wasn't that bad of a deal. Easton sang on two other Prince songs, "U Got the Look" and "The Arms of Orion", and collaborated with him some more on The Lover in Me before parting ways with him.
- Take My Time (1980)
- You Could Have Been with Me (1981)
- Madness, Money & Music (1982)
- Best Kept Secret (1983)
- A Private Heaven (1984)
- Todo Me Recuerda a Ti (1984) - Spanish language release
- Do You (1985)
- No Sound But a Heart (1987)
- The Lover in Me (1988)
- What Comes Naturally (1991)
- No Strings (1993)
- My Cherie (1995)
- Freedom (1997)
- Home (1999)
- Fabulous (2000)
Sheena Easton provides examples of:
- Moral Guardians: "Sugar Walls" is best known for being one of the songs listed on the PMRC's "Filthy Fifteen" list.
Completely unrelated to this, former Revolution guitarist (and current one-half of Wendy & Lisa) Wendy Melvoin played guitar on the song "She's Not Me" from the album Hard Candy.
Prince is a fan of Kate Bush, and met her during the 1990 Nude Tour, discussing a collaboration. Bush sent him the song "Why Should I Love You?", asking for backing vocals. When she received it back, Prince had not only sung but also added his own sizeable instrumental overdubs. This baffled Bush and her engineer Del Palmer, who then spent two years working on and off on it to try and "turn it back into a Kate Bush song". It eventually came out on 1993's The Red Shoes.
Bush also made a cameo appearance on Emancipation, singing backing vocals on "My Computer", but good luck hearing her at all on that song.
Prince wrote their big hit "Manic Monday", for which he recycled the verse melody of "1999" (fun activity: when you hear "Manic Monday", sing the lyrics from "1999"). He also dated their frontwoman Susanna Hoffs for a while, and that was it.
Campbell contributed the song "Round and Round" to the Graffiti Bridge soundtrack and provided some additional vocals. Prince repaid him by writing and producing several songs on his 1993 album I'm Ready.
A Dutch smooth jazz saxophone player who has sporadically contributed to Prince's albums and has served as an on-and-off member of his backing bands. Prince contributed the song "Sunday Afternoon" to her album Sax-a-Go-Go.
She's rather famous for the brutally, Incredibly Lame Puns that masquerade as her album titles, such as Saxuality, Sax-a-Go-Go and Candy Store. Also, she's the daughter of Dutch saxophonist Hans Dulfer, if that rings a bell with anybody.
Yeah, thought so.
A backing singer on the Batman, Graffiti Bridge and Diamonds and Pearls albums. Fiorillo had one album named I Am co-produced by Prince and Levi Seacer, Jr. in 1990.
She also contributed a song to the soundtrack of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.
Mazarati were a funk/Minneapolis sound band formed by Prince and his bassist Brownmark, active between 1986-1989. Its members were:
- Casey Terry - vocals
- Jerome "Romeo" Cox - bass
- Craig "Screamer" Powell - guitar
- Tony Christian - guitar
- Mark Starr - keyboards
- Aaron Paul Keith - keyboards
- Kevin Patricks - drums (whenever it's not Mr. Linn LM-1...)
Its first album, Mazarati, was produced and co-written by Prince and spawned one hit single, the funk-rock "100 MPH".
Notably, Mazarati first received the demo of Prince's song "Kiss", back when it was a blues-styled song. They transformed it into a funk song. Prince was so impressed he added his vocals and guitars on top and released it as a single from Parade, quickly rocketing to #1 on the charts. Mazarati's backing vocals were kept on the song and they were credited for them. They were also initially given an outtake from The Time called "Jerk Out", but this was also later redone by The Time and turned into a #1 single. Mazarati's backing vocals were also kept on "Jerk Out".
Mazarati later moved away from Prince, signed with Motown Records and recorded another album, the New Jack Swing-styled Mazarati 2, before breaking up.
- Mazarati (1986)
- Mazarati 2 (1989)
Mazarati provides examples of:
- Rearrange the Song: "Kiss".
- Self-Titled Album
- Xtreme Kool Letterz: They're named after Prince's Maserati, obviously.
Not to be confused with the similarly-named Post Punk band led by Monica Richards or the similarly-titled Funk band led by Gary Cooper (if you're into either of those...), Madhouse was formed in 1987 and intended to be the successor to The Family. Its members were:
- Prince - everything
- Eric Leeds - saxophone, flute
- Levi Seacer, Jr. - bass
- Matt "Dr." Fink - keyboards
- Sheila E. - drums
Madhouse was a largely instrumental jazz-fusion band with a few funk influences, notable for its song and album titles: both released albums contain 8 songs and are named 8 and 16 respectively, with the songs on 8 being named "One", "Two", "Three", and so on up to "Eight", and the songs on 16 being named from "Nine" up to "Sixteen".
Madhouse released only two albums during their short existence, but at least two others were recorded and remain unreleased to this day. Some of their songs tended to show up during Prince's late eighties tours, "Twelve" in particular.
- 8 (1987)
- 16 (1987)
Madhouse provides examples of:
- Fake Band: In the few concerts they performed opening for Prince, Madhouse's musicians heavily disguised themselves with baggy clothes and sunglasses.
- Sampling: The only vocals on both albums are either samples from The Godfather or samples of Vanity simulating an orgasm.
- Shout-Out: 16 is subtitled "New Directions in Garage Music", in reference to "Directions in Music by Miles Davis" from one of his most important releases, Bitches Brew.
The first "real" band Prince ever played in, 94 East was a funk band that existed between 1975-1979. It was formed by Pepe Willie, the husband of Prince's cousin, and included Willie, Prince and André Cymone. Their stuff is hard to find and very likely isn't even worth looking for in the first place anyway.
Their recordings were predictably reissued a couple of times after Prince hit the big time, and the most common of these is the Minneapolis Genius album. This is technically Prince's first professional album, but he ignores its existence entirely, considering that he had no input into its recording.
94 East provide examples of:
Broke away completely
Wendy and Lisa
Is the water warm enough?
Shall we begin?
—Prince and the Revolution, "Computer Blue"
Take a ride on the honeymoon express—Wendy and Lisa, "Honeymoon Express"
Childhood friends Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman, much like Sheila E. above, had musical families: Wendy's father Mike and Lisa's father Gary (not to be confused with Gary Coleman the actor) were highly in-demand session musicians, and Wendy's brother Jonathan also went on to become a musician and served as touring keyboardist for The Smashing Pumpkins... until he died of a heroin overdose.
Lisa was the first to join The Revolution as a keyboardist in 1980, replacing Gayle Chapman. Once guitarist Dez Dickerson left in 1983, Lisa pulled the I Want You to Meet An Old Friend of Mine card and got Wendy into the band as a guitarist.
Wendy and Lisa (as they were always credited) were generally acknowledged by fans and critics as The Revolution's "secret weapon": their complex approach to melody and songwriting helped push Prince and the band to a whole different level musically, while their love of The Beatles was reflected in the Pop and Psychedelic Rock influences they added. Their backing vocals and contributions to Purple Rain, Around the World in a Day and Parade are held in very high regard. And their spoken introduction to "Computer Blue" (quoted above) has proven quite memorable, being referenced in Mystery Science Theater 3000 and other places.
Prince decided to repay their hard work by being a complete Jerkass towards them, turning each tour between 1984-1986 into a game of "How can I piss off Wendy and Lisa today?" (answer: giving Leeds Wendy's solos on "Purple Rain", expanding The Revolution with more musicians, antagonising Wendy by bringing her twin sister Susannah in the band and getting romantically involved with her, etc). Prince's asshole behaviour towards Wendy and Lisa in Purple Rain wasn't exactly acting. In fact, Prince's conflict with the two was one of the key intra-band conflicts that eventually led to Prince's disbanding of The Revolution in 1986.
In response, Wendy and Lisa recorded their first self-titled album in 1987. They co-produced the album with Revolution drummer Bobby Z, called up contributions from family members (namely Wendy's sister Susannah, Lisa's brother David and father Gary), played various instruments, wrote and sang all the songs. The result was a quirky, low-budget pop album filled with memorable melodies and possessing an overall ethereal character. The album received positive reviews, made a bit of headway in the USA and climbed up to a moderate position up in the UK.
For their follow-up album, Fruit at the Bottom, the two abandoned the low-key charms of their debut and tried to take a shot towards success, adding more synths and dance beats to their music. Unfortunately they came up short in the songwriting department, which was reflected in its sales: the USA pretty much ignored it completely, while the British again sent it up the charts.
Wendy and Lisa next signed with Virgin Records and released a new album, Eroica, a much more eclectic alternative-rock oriented work that didn't sacrifice the group's trademark ethereal atmosphere or memorable melodies. It met with strong reviews and became their biggest success... in the UK, natch.
The two took some time off from their solo career and found a second job out of soundtracks - they've since contributed soundtracks and incidental music for various films and TV shows such as Toys, Dangerous Minds, Heroes, Bionic Woman, Crossing Jordan, Something New and Nurse Jackie, the last of which they won an Emmy for. They also took up work as session musicians, appearing either together or alone on albums by Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Meshell Ndegeocello, Michael Penn, Liz Phair, Seal, Madonna and k.d. lang.
They've also made two solo albums since, the Tchad Blake-produced Girl Bros. in 1998 and the entirely self-released White Flags of Winter Chimneys in 2008 (the latter's online release being similar to the ones for In Rainbows and Ghosts I-IV). No word yet on their sales in the UK.
Ironically, despite having absolutely nothing to do with Prince these days, they're probably the Prince associates that are worth checking out the most. Oh, and after bands and bands that pretty much embodied Erection Rejection, they're the only ones who managed to do Audio Erotica. Ain't life weird.
- Wendy and Lisa (1987)
- Fruit at the Botton (1989)
- Eroica (1990)
- Girl Bros. (1998)
- White Flags of Winter Chimneys (2008)
Wendy and Lisa provide examples of:
- Eighties Hair: They had this back in... well, the eighties.
- Fading Into the Next Song: On the self-titled debut, "Everything But You" and "Light".
- Grief Song: "Jonathan" deals with the death of Wendy's brother Jonathan after an overdose during a tour with The Smashing Pumpkins (the same incident resulted in Jimmy Chamberlain being fired from that band.) This topic was also explored in Sarah McLachlan's song "Angel", and Prince's own "The Love We Make" (judging by the hints left in the liner notes).
- Heterosexual Life Partners: Except for the "heterosexual" part, of course.
- Insistent Terminology: Their group name's either spelled "Wendy and Lisa" or "Wendy & Lisa". Nobody seems to agree on this, but the "&" seems to be the most widespread.
- Instrumentals: "White".
- In the Style Of: Given away right in the title of "Salt and Cherries (MC5)".
- Lighter and Softer: Fruit at the Bottom.
- Lyrical Dissonance: A common criticism of Fruit at the Bottom is that the dance beats clash badly with the lyrics.
- Almost Pop Star Composer
- Power Ballad: "Stay", "Song About".
- Rearrange the Song: "This Is the Life" was rearranged for the Dangerous Minds soundtrack.
- Something Blues: Played with a bit in the title "Blues Away".
- Start My Own
Matt "Doctor" Fink
Matt Fink was a member of The Revolution and the NPG, working with Prince between circa 1979-1991. He played keyboards and became known as "Dr. Fink" for always wearing surgical scrubs on stage. According to Fink, it was the only outlandish outfit that Prince felt looked good on him. According to somebody else, Fink initially wore a prison outfit but discovered during the joint Fire It Up tour in 1979 that one of Rick James' bandmates did that already, and "doctor's scrubs" was the first thing he could think of as a replacement.
Fink is the longest-lasting original member of The Revolution, surviving the band's axing in 1986 and staying on until 1991, when he left along with last remaining Revolutionite Miko Weaver after the fractious Nude Tour.
After he left the Prince camp, he built his own studio (named StarVu Studios), worked on some videogame soundtracks, created a sample library, put out a solo album named Ultrasound in 2001, and signed an exclusive management deal for Europe with the company Mozart & Friends. Presumably this will lead to his releases being actually distributed in Europe.
Dr. Fink provides examples of:
- Token White: Prince intentionally assembled the Revolution to be a multi-ethnic, multi-gender band like Sly & the Family Stone, and opted not to hire James Harris (later of The Time) because, while good, he did not contribute to the band's diversity. Fink was asked to audition instead and received the job, and while his talent and contribution to The Revolution is undeniable, the fact that he was a white keyboard player did represent a factor in him getting the job. He stopped being the Token White after Lisa Coleman, Wendy Melvoin and Eric Leeds became members.
David "Z." Rivkin, brother of original Revolution drummer Bobby Z. and former member of Lipps Inc., does play instruments but is mostly famous for his work as Record Producer and engineer who pretty much helped codify the whole Minneapolis sound.
After producing and engineering for Prince and his associates in The Eighties, he left the camp sometime around 1989. He's carried on working as a producer ever since, with credits including the Fine Young Cannibals (their second album The Raw and the Cooked), Billy Idol, Neneh Cherry, Terri Nunn, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and others.)
- ↑ How Egregious? They'd paid such exorbitant advances to signees (who were frequently signed behind Prince's back!) that Warner forced Prince to lend Paisley Park Studios to other bands in an attempt to recoup some of their losses
- ↑ Prince had formed a rock band in 1979 called The Rebels, but they only recorded a handful of songs that were shelved. Paula Abdul was later given their song "U" (heavily rearranged to not be rock), and "If I Love You Tonight" somehow made its way onto Mayte's album. And... uh, Prince pretends 94 East or Grand Central/Champagne never happened.
- ↑ Hey, we warned you.
- ↑ "(in a Voice That Sounds Suspiciously Like a Parody of Morris Day)"
- ↑ the X usually being a variation of "myself"
- ↑ we can't blame her for that
- ↑ Maybe it's actually about a guy named Michael Angelo?
- ↑ Judging by the success, turned out it was.
- ↑ And one on "Like a Prayer", but it was removed from the album version. It's on the maxi-single though.
- ↑ The final version also features backing vocals from Bush's friend Lenny Henry, a comedian known for his good Prince impersonation, as well as the obligatory Trio Bulgarka cameo.
- ↑ He was also previously in a band named Grand Central and then Champagne with André Cymone and Charles Smith, but they never recorded anything