Just two weeks after beginning “Take Me with U”–and a little less than three months after finishing “Sex Shooter”–Prince had nearly enough material for a full album by Apollonia 6; the only thing missing was a feature for the group’s third member, Susan Moonsie. According to Brenda Bennett, the oversight may have been deliberate: “Susan and Prince were fighting,” she told sessionographer Duane Tudahl (Tudahl 2018 255). So, never one to shy away from a passive-aggressive slight, on February 5, 1984, His Royal Badness dashed off “Ooo She She Wa Wa” with zero input from his protégée and on-and-off paramour.
Up to this point, most of the songs written for Apollonia 6 felt like a radical departure from those on Vanity 6. “Ooo” takes the opposite tack, reproducing the prior album’s “Drive Me Wild” with a fidelity that borders on cynicism, from the piston-pumping bass synth hook to the squiggly, quasi-Middle Eastern keyboard solo. Like the song on which it’s transparently modeled, “Ooo”’s murmured come-ons are a natural vehicle for Moonsie’s sexy-baby persona–here taken to its logical extreme with a literally preverbal title and chorus. By album number two, the Lolita schtick was (if you’ll pardon the turn of phrase) beginning to show its age; but push past the cringe factor, and there’s at least a chuckle or two to be had in lines like, “I gotta be home by ten / But I’ll be your bestest friend.”
So, yes, “Ooo” is cheap, exploitative trash; but, as in all things Vanity/Apollonia 6, that’s a feature, not a bug. I love the aforementioned (if all-too-familiar) synth line–especially when Susan calls out, “Slower!” and it crawls to three-quarters of its original BPM. I love the absolutely daft way she ends the first chorus with a high-pitched “Meow!”, apropos of nothing except, perhaps, her still-woefully unreleased version of “Velvet Kitty Cat.” Most of all, I love the pure, fuck-you energy with which she imbues what must be some of Prince’s dumbest-ever lyrics, up to and including the call-and-response breakdown featuring the immortal lines, “My name is Susan / And I’m-a oozin’… with desire, desire for you.” As Brenda tells it, the edge in Susan’s vocal performance is a direct result of the tension between her and Prince: “You can hear it in the song,” she said to Tudahl. “Susan didn’t really get loud when she got mad; you just knew it” (Tudahl 2018 255).
If Moonsie’s attitude got a rise out of her producer, though, he wasn’t letting on. According to Tudahl’s studio record, work on “Ooo” was finished quickly, leaving ample time to record the skits that pepper the second side of the album. The most substantial of these–in length, if not in content–would come before “Ooo” itself. We open on Apollonia saying her prayers, with blessings reserved for her pet rabbit (“Smokey”) and “all the people on Neptune.” Brenda shows up to drag her friend out of bed, and they both eavesdrop on Susan breaking up with a boyfriend over the phone: he thinks she’s “too young,” while she prefers the company of her teddy bear. After she hangs up, Apples puts on some clothes, Susan takes some off, and they all go “out to play.” The whole thing is a little tedious, even by album skit standards; Brenda certainly minced no words, calling it “stupid.” “[Prince] kept saying that he didn’t want any filler,” she recalled, “but the part with us playing and laughing was filler as far as I was concerned” (Tudahl 2018 255).
A better attempt at narrativizing the song, for my money at least, would come with the group’s unfinished longform music video, a rough cut of which was produced in early 1985 by the U.K. production company Limelight. In the “Ooo” sequence, the girls go to work washing dishes at a kitschy diner, though Susan seems more interested in flirting with the portly manager and cavorting with a posse of teddy bears who later transform into Village People-style beefcake archetypes. It’s stupid, obviously–that goes without saying–but if you have a taste for camp, it’s also pretty amazing.
Last but not least, I’d be remiss not to mention the excellent cover version recorded in 2004 by longtime friend of the blog Snax with electro-punk iconoclast Peaches. Their version is remarkably faithful to the original: a clear demonstration of the influence Vanity and Apollonia 6 have had on generations of electronic musicians–and yes, they even recreate the “put some clothes on”/“take some off” intro, to happily increasing returns. “Ooo” may not have been Prince’s most thoughtfully-conceived piece of work, but it remains guaranteed to please; and as a swan song for Susan Moonsie’s brief tenure in the music industry, there are a lot worse ways to bow out.
“Ooo She She Wa Wa”
(Snax featuring Peaches, 2004)