As you’ve no doubt realized, I failed in my self-appointed task to finish “When Doves Cry” by the end of the year; but I still wanted to check in one more time before we ring in 2023. This time around, I’m thinking out loud about my proposal for the #TripleThreat40 symposium in March (get excited!), as well as the next “chapter” of the blog on Around the World in a Day. Thank you again for your patience as I’ve teetered on the brink of burnout in my day job; I am hopeful that this holiday week will leave me well-rested and ready to dive back in!
Not a lot to talk about this month (no, I’m not weighing in on “scarfgate”), but I did take some time for a mini-review of the Walmart-exclusive Hits 2 white vinyl reissue (spoiler: it ain’t great!). The late-2022 Prince release doldrums continue, but at least we have a lot of new books to read, right? Also, look out for “When Doves Cry” in December, by hook or by crook! Our two-and-a-half-year journey through the Purple Rain album is finally coming to a close… thanks for your support, and happy holidays if that’s what you’re into!
The Purple Rain era marked a subtle, yet perceptible shift in Prince’s attitudes toward sex. On 1999 less than two years earlier, he’d reveled in his libertinish “Rude Boy” persona: promising to “fuck the taste out of your mouth” on “Let’s Pretend We’re Married,” then actually demonstrating his technique on “Lady Cab Driver.” But by the follow-up album, his pendulum was beginning to swing away from the raw mechanics of lust, toward something approaching more conventional romance. “The Beautiful Ones” found him not just pretending he’s married, but considering it as a real possibility; “When Doves Cry” and the title track earnestly grappled with the dissolution of a relationship. Even “Darling Nikki”–the closest the album came to vintage, “dirty” Prince–treated its sexual encounter as a quasi-Satanic temptation, before ending with a palate-cleansing gospel coda.
It’s easy to assume that this shift was motivated by commercial calculus: Purple Rain was designed to be Prince’s entrée into the mainstream, and heteronormative monogamy plays better to “mainstream” tastes than unfettered promiscuity. There is doubtless some truth to that interpretation; but there’s also ample evidence to suggest that he felt a genuine conflict between his spiritual convictions and his carnal appetites. A song like “Possessed” (written during the 1999 sessions, and revisited in multiple iterations for Purple Rain) depicts the repentant “Rude Boy” as an unwilling vessel for “demonic lust.” “Love and Sex,” recorded at Sunset Sound on February 27-28, takes a different approach: envisioning an afterlife where the spirit and the flesh could exist in harmony.
Last month I warned that October was going to be quiet, and I was true to my word; but there’s still some stuff to talk about this month, even if it isn’t the music releases the fanbase is clamoring for. Among other things, in this video I belatedly memorialize Wally Safford and talk about all the new and recent Prince books I need to catch up on. As always, thanks for your support; I’ll be back with another “real” post soon!
Prince remained holed up at Sunset Sound for almost the entirety of February of 1984. At some point, however–sessionographer Duane Tudahl estimates between Tuesday, February 21 and Sunday, February 26–he nipped back to Chanhassen, where he continued to work unabated at his Kiowa Trail home studio. The result of this brief homecoming was “Traffic Jam”: a slick instrumental with a title ironically more evocative of the Southern California sprawl he’d just left behind.