Like many of the Vault tracks that ended up on 1999 Super Deluxe, “You’re All I Want” was known to collectors by name and reputation long before it was widely circulating. Former Sunset Sound engineer Peggy McCreary likes to tell the story behind the song’s recording on January 11, 1982–her birthday, as she recalled with some consternation to Pitchfork’s Sam Sodowsky: “I was like, God, couldn’t he give me my birthday off? Shit!” When Prince arrived at the studio that morning, McCreary said, “he was dressed totally different than I had ever seen him: black leather boots, jeans—which he never wore—white t-shirt, and a black leather jacket” (Sodowsky 2019). Perhaps inspired by his wardrobe, the track he worked on that day was a rockabilly song–a genre he’d been toying with in earnest since he caught a show by retro-rock revivalists the Stray Cats in London the previous spring.
Prince kept McCreary working through the day and into the night: the session ended around “11 or 12,” she recalled to Andrea Swensson for Minnesota Public Radio’s The Story of 1999 podcast, “and we had started early. And I thought, ‘OK, well now there’s [no] birthday for me today.’ So anyway, he starts to leave, and I always made him a cassette of the mix, and I handed him the cassette and I was just cleaning up and doing some patches and stuff like that… he walks to the door and he looks over at me and he smiles, and he tosses this cassette over his shoulder, and he says, ‘Happy birthday,’ and he walked out. And I just stood there with my mouth open. He didn’t even wait for a response, a thank you or anything. It was just that was my happy birthday song, so it’s coming out, and Warner Bros. is releasing it, so I can’t say I have an unreleased Prince song anymore. Bummer.”
As is often the case, “You’re All I Want” makes for a slightly better story than a song; it isn’t bad by any means, but it is among the lesser of Prince’s tunes from his brief but prolific rockabilly phase. Singing in his chirpiest falsetto, Prince bubbles over with enthusiasm for a lover–addressed, per convention, in the second person–who makes him feel “like a baby on Christmas day.” His guitar is front and center in the mix, making for a nice change of pace from the more keyboard-heavy “Delirious” and its B-side “Horny Toad.” In fact, despite apparently having been the product of over 12 hours in the studio, the song feels a bit like an unfinished basic track: the lead line, which you’d normally expect Prince to play on a synthesizer, is merely simulated with some McCartney-esque “doo doo doo”’s. Six months later, he’d reuse the line (this time with one of his trademark Oberheims) for “Horny Toad.”
Aside from its curious proto-”Horny Toad” status, what stands out most about “You’re All I Want” are the lighthearted, almost family-friendly lyrics. Where many of Prince’s rockabilly-influenced songs from the era subvert their retro musical stylings with pure lewdness–see, most notably, “Jack U Off” and “Horny Toad,” but also some of the saucier lines in “Delirious”–this one largely sticks to innuendo. Give or take the thinly-veiled reference to wet dreams (“The kind you don’t talk about”) and the pregnant pause when Prince sings, “Talking about the… good thing,” it’s practically enough to pass muster as a genuine tune from the late ‘50s–a little racy for Pat Boone, perhaps, but certainly not for Little Richard.
This relative tameness suggests Prince may have had a singer other than himself in mind for “You’re All I Want”–and, in fact, Prince Vault tells us he had his on-and-off girlfriend Kim Upsher overdub vocals after he returned to Minnesota. Whether he had Kim in mind for the Hookers or some other project remains unclear. “You’re All I Want” was also among the tracks offered to Eric Leeds for the unreleased third Madhouse album in 1989; Leeds eventually added saxophone overdubs in May 1991, and the song (now titled “U’re All I Want”) was submitted for copyright the following month, but it ultimately remained in the Vault. Finally, in 2000, the re-retitled “U’re All Eye Want” was among the 17 tracks chosen by fans to be included on Crystal Ball Volume II–which, of course, never came out. All in all, a pretty convoluted journey for one of Prince’s simplest and breeziest recordings of 1982.