At the beginning of 1984, Prince had a lot of proverbial balls in the air: not only his big-screen debut and accompanying album, but also spinoff projects by the Time, Apollonia 6, Jill Jones, and, soon, Sheila E. Most artists would consider this more than enough to juggle; Prince, however, was not most artists. On January 20, the day after completing the Time’s Ice Cream Castle, he was already at work on a new song for yet another protégée, Scots pop-rock belter Sheena Easton.
Can you believe that the last time we had a proper album roundup it was for 1999, way back in March of 2020? On second thought, don’t answer that. I know my snail’s pace as a writer is a recurring theme in these updates, and at this point, I’m not even apologizing for it; you know what you signed up for. Still, it feels good to have another milestone in the rearview mirror, even if there’s still an awful lot of road ahead of us.
It may or may not have been evident from my individual posts, but Ice Cream Castle is an album I’m pretty ambivalent about; it has some undeniably classic tracks, to be sure, but it’s a clear step down from the highs of What Time is It? (though, to be fair, what isn’t?). With this in mind, to the Time diehards who will likely quibble with the song rankings below, I apologize in advance:
6. “Chili Sauce” I mean, no surprises here. Contrary to whatever reputation I might have acquired, I actually have a pretty high tolerance for Morris Day’s schtick; but this track pushes that tolerance to the limits, spreading an amusing monologue from the Purple Rain movie impossibly thin over damn near six minutes. Throw in Prince’s Mickey Rooney-caliber “Chinese waiter” voice, and you’ve got a strong contender for the worst Time track ever. But you know what? I still don’t skip this song when I play the album; I guess Novi Novog’s viola solo is just that bewitching.
5. “My Drawers” Now here’s where I might catch some flack. This isn’t a bad song by any means; after the two movie numbers, it’s arguably the album’s strongest contender for a “classic” Time track. But the formula is starting to get stale, and who wants stale drawers?
4. “Ice Cream Castles” The definition of “points for effort.” I would never try to argue that “Ice Cream Castles” is a more quintessential Time song than “My Drawers”; but three albums in and with half of the original lineup scattered to the four winds, I guess I’m more intrigued by their missed potential for experimentation. Imagine a whole album of the Time trying to sound like the Fixx; it may not have been great, but it would have been a hell of a lot more interesting than “The Oak Tree”!
3. “The Bird” Speaking of “The Oak Tree,” here’s Morris and company making it preemptively obsolete, and almost blowing the Revolution off the stage to boot. As iconic as this performance is, however, the main thing it does for me is remind me what a drag it is that we never got an official Time live album. Even on their last legs as a group, with permanently crippled morale, they still tear the roof off the sucker; but there are probably 10 other songs I’d rather have heard them play while they were at the peak of their powers.
2. “If the Kid Can’t Make You Come” My obligatory dark horse pick. We all know how I feel about Time ballads not called “Gigolos Get Lonely Too,” but this one took me by surprise with the sheer pleasure of hearing Prince and Jesse groove together on the instrumental. If we didn’t also have to hear Morris simulating orgasm, this may have even ended up as my favorite cut on the album… but, well, you can’t always get what you want.
1. “Jungle Love” Look, I can’t always be an iconoclast. I’m a simple man at heart, which means that when this comes on in the grocery store, I’m doing the dance in my spirit if not in my body. The Time may have been on life support when they put out “Jungle Love”; but what better way to go out?
A little quick math, before we go: I averaged 1,703 words per song on my Ice Cream Castle posts, which means at the very least that I had more to say about this album than either What Time is It? (1,377 words average) or The Time (a mere 833 words average). Will I break this record with Pandemonium? We’ll find out, eventually; but for now, it’s back to the Purple Rain-era ephemera with a track I, at least, have been looking forward to for a while. Yes, I’m obviously talking about “Sugar Walls.” Until then, adieu!
After the completion of “My Drawers” on January 12, 1984, the Time had five new songs in the can–enough to form the core of their third album. But they were still missing the pièce de résistance. For this, Prince turned once again to a half-finished song by Jesse Johnson: a funky jam called “Old and Ignant” which the guitarist had demoed with singer Morris Day. “Prince kept telling me[,] ‘It’s so cool how you played the bass on the AND instead of the 1,’” Johnson shared on Facebook in 2014. “[G]reat compliment[,] even though at that time I didn’t know what he was talking about” (Johnson March 21).
Hey, everyone! I’m still toiling away at my next post on the Time’s “Ice Cream Castles”; it’s almost ready, just needs some finishing touches. Meanwhile, a little bird told me that my presentation from last month’s #SexyMF30 virtual symposium is now up on YouTube, so I thought I’d share that just to make sure you all know I’m not dead. As always, I had a blast at the symposium; shoutout to my co-panelists, Steven G. Fullwood, Robert Loss, and Edgar Kruize, as well as moderator Monroe France, all of whose work pushed me to continue raising the bar in my annual cosplay as a pop culture scholar. You can see all of us in action in the panel discussion below:
As usual, I’d also like to share a few of my favorite presentations from throughout the symposium. It should be noted that this is by no means an exhaustive list; each and every presentation I was able to see was well worth my time, and I recommend every reader peruse De Angela Duff’s YouTube channel and see what catches your eye. Just take the recommendations below as a few good places to start.
Also on the fashion tip (and someone with whom I already have recorded a podcast!) was Karen Turman, who did a fabulous presentation on the aesthetics of the “Sexy MF” song and music video. Of particular note for me: she cited Rena Clamen’s fantastic article on Prince and consent, which to my knowledge was only ever published in the now-out-of-print magazine my sister and I released back in 2018. If you’re interested, I posted a Twitter thread about this blast from the past and how much it meant to me.
Much of my favorite material around the “Love Symbol Album” is the extramusical material (hence my own presentation’s focus on transmedia storytelling), so I’d be remiss not to mention the 3 Chains o’ Gold movie roundtable featuring Kamilah Cummings, Rhonda Nicole, Tonya Pendleton, Casey Rain, and one of my faves, Melay Araya, moderated by Eloy Lasanta:
All in all, it was another great weekend, and just what the doctor ordered during a time when it can be difficult to stay motivated due to [gestures at the entire world]. Thanks as always to De Angela for putting together such an incredible event and an even better community. Count me in for the Triple Threat symposium later this year–and every other one, for that matter!
If you’ve noticed things have been a little quiet lately, here’s at least one reason why: I’ve been preparing my presentation for De Angela Duff’s #SexyMF30 virtual symposium next week, celebrating 30 years of Prince and the New Power Generation’s “Love Symbol Album.” Last year’s #1plus1plus1is3 event was an absolute blast, and I feel confident in predicting the same this time around. I’ll be presenting on “Love Symbol” and the 3 Chains O’ Gold movie and comic in the context of transmedia storytelling on Saturday evening, alongside papers by Steven G. Fullwood, Robert Loss, and Edgar Kruize. It is, as always, an honor to be sharing a (digital) space with these brilliant folks. You can check out my abstract here, and remember to register for the event using the link below:
As always, the two-day event is free, though you should consider donating to the PRN Alumni Foundation in lieu of a ticket price. I hope to see some of you there!