Controversy, 1981 Podcast

Podcast: 41 Years of Controversy – A Conversation with Harold Pride and De Angela Duff

Here we are again, my first podcast in more than a year, and I couldn’t have asked for better guests than Harold Pride and De Angela Duff to discuss Prince’s fourth and quite possibly most underrated album, 1981’s Controversy. If you’ve been listening to these deep-dive album retrospectives, Harold needs no introduction; and, since the Prince scholarly community is a pretty small one, De Angela may not need one either. Suffice to say that she’s the biggest advocate of Controversy I know, and she makes a convincing case that it’s not only a great album in its own right, but also the linchpin of Prince’s entire career.

One quick note: you will likely notice that there was a significant drop in audio quality this episode; this was due to a perfect storm of technical issues that, unfortunately, left the low-quality Skype call recording as the only usable audio source from our conversation. I think you’ll get used to it, but I will assure you anyway that I’m taking steps to make sure we sound better next time. And yes, speaking of “next time,” I do have plans for more episodes in the coming months–probably not in October, but maybe one more before the end of the year, and then more to come in early 2023. If you want to hear the episodes as soon as they drop, remember to subscribe on your podcast service of choice using the links above!

00:03:18 “The Second Coming” (“Live” at the Met Center, 1982)

00:07:20 De Angela on Prince’s Friend

00:19:58 Daphne A. Brooks’ review of Controversy in Pitchfork

00:21:08 Allen Beaulieu’s iconic cover art for Controversy

© Warner Bros.

00:22:05 Allen Beaulieu’s iconic cover art for Dirty Mind

© Warner Bros.

00:25:30 Controversy round table from the #1plus1plus1is3 symposium with Joan Morgan, Jason Orr, Tonya Pendleton, Scott Woods, and Arthur Turnbull

00:32:11 “Sexuality” (Live at the Warner Theatre, 1981)

00:32:51 Zach’s presentation from the #SexyMF30 symposium

00:33:20 Inklings of Prince as world builder: the back cover of Prince (1979)

Photo by Chris Callis, © Warner Bros.

00:42:36 “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?” (Live at the Warner Theatre, 1981)

00:46:57 Learn to play the “Let’s Work” bassline from Brown Mark himself!

00:54:25 “Controversy” (from Controversy, 1981)

01:03:40 Zach’s three-part post on “Controversy” (Parts 1, 2, and 3)

01:06:45 Morris Day’s 2019 memoir

01:10:50 Harold and KaNisa’s recent Twitter thread on Prince and electronic music/Detroit techno

01:11:34 Our podcast on The Time with more discussion on the Detroit/Minneapolis connection

01:15:25 Techno Rebels by Dan Sicko

01:23:28 Zach’s #1plus1plus1is3 presentation on the Controversy shower poster

01:30:00 Bruce Gowers’ “Controversy” music video

© Warner Bros.

01:36:55 KaNisa’s #1plus1plus1is3 presentation made connections between the Prince of Controversy and the Prince of The Rainbow Children

01:37:17 “Sexuality” (from Controversy)

01:45:25 Bruce Gowers’ “Sexuality” music video

© Warner Bros.

01:46:11 The very similar lighting in Michael Jackson’s “Rock with You” video (not incidentally, also directed by Gowers)

© Epic Records

01:53:25 “The Rainbow Children” (from The Rainbow Children, 2001)

01:59:50 “ShoYoAss” by the Coup (from Pick a Bigger Weapon, 2006)

02:02:25 The 2015 Washington Post article about Prince’s “apolitical purple wormhole”

02:03:08 Crystal Wise’s “(A)Political Prince: An Analysis of Prince’s Political Consciousness”

02:07:08 C. Liegh McInnis’ The Lyrics of Prince Rogers Nelson

02:07:37 “Do Me, Baby” (from Controversy)

02:18:13 Grown Folks Music’s podcast on the “Prince Flood” of 1987 with De Angela, Harold, and Zaheer Ali

02:19:48 “Do Me, Baby” (1979 Demo)

02:30:00 “Private Joy” (from Controversy)

02:38:05 Zach’s ranking of the songs on Controversy

02:39:15 Alfonso Ribeiro demonstrates how to dance to “Private Joy”

02:41:52 “Private Joy” by the Revolution featuring Bilal (Live at First Avenue, 2016)

02:49:42 “Ronnie, Talk to Russia” (from Controversy)

02:57:17 “Let’s Work” (from Controversy)

03:02:00 “Let’s Work (Dance Remix)” (1982 single)

03:06:15 “Let’s Work” (Live on the VIBE show, 1998)

03:09:35 “Annie Christian” (from Controversy)

03:15:49 Zach’s post on “Annie Christian”

03:19:02 “Annie Christian” (Live at Saenger Performing Arts Center, 1982)

03:20:45 Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children

03:25:00 Allen Beaulieu captures “mad scientist” Prince for the 1999 inner sleeve

© Warner Bros.

03:30:36 “Jack U Off” (from Controversy)

03:35:07 “Jack U Off” (Live at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, 1981)

03:39:41 If for some reason you want to hear more thoughts from Zach on “Jack U Off” and “Ronnie, Talk to Russia,” here you go

03:40:41 “I Can Make You Say” by Twista (from Freestyle Week, 2009)

By Zachary Hoskins

Recovering academic. Music writing at Slant, Spectrum Culture, and elsewhere. I also do podcasts with my little sister as Dystopian Dance Party.

4 replies on “Podcast: 41 Years of Controversy – A Conversation with Harold Pride and De Angela Duff”

it’s probably me, but even after switching off all add-blockers, cookiefilters and other nefarious things noticers, I still cannot find a link to the podcast. Only the one in the teaser post… I don’t have to wait long anymore (I hope), but just thought I’d mention it.

It’s probably my screw-up, actually… I wanted to make sure this went up last week before I left for a short vacation, so I wasn’t able to troubleshoot the post on my PC. It is up now, I apologize for the inconvenience!

wow…. it’s a good thing that the extended America is probably the song of Prince I’ve listened to most! (meaning, I like long listens)

The discussion definitely makes me look at Controversy in a different light. It’s still not one of my favourite Prince albums (my least favourite from the 70s and 80s in fact, but that doesn’t say much), but I now see it as the first “Prince” album. Dirty Mind was used to get out of the “black” category for critics, looking at it in retrospect. He really started acting like a unique and singular superstar with this album (gone were the Mick Jagger moves). I believe a lot in this album is much more calculated than we think. The song Controversy doesn’t so much talk about what people were wondering about him as what he wanted them to wonder about him, for instance. Indeed, no more thrift store Prince as well. In a funny role reversal, David Bowie picked up Prince’s Controversy pants from the thrift shop for Let’s Dance, I think..

Controversy, in the end, is the start of the trilogy that would get him to the mountain top. Probably not thought of originally as a trilogy, but it’s where he confidently (wether acted or real) starts empire building with the Rebels, the Time and the Hookers, starts working the movie angle and so much more.

For interesting trivia, well, for Dutch people, I suppose, during his Dirty Mind tour, he played in Amsterdam in the Paradiso, a concert place that was formerly a church. It is a direct influence on the Controversy video. (see )

A lot of other remarks I have you all made yourselves eventually. That didn’t stop me from arguing with y’all while it was going, of course.

Anyway, thanks for this entirely too long for most mortals podcast. I thoroughly enjoyed it, audio issues and all. It made me listen to the album with new ears and a new perspective. And since I’ve been listening to this album for close to 40 years, that’s quite an accomplishment!

(and you didn’t mangle the pronunciation of my name too much… if you ever say it again though, just go with john cougar’s version.. it’s closer as well as easier for anglophonics!) 🙂

Thanks for listening (also, sorry your comment was held back by the spam filter… WordPress is supposed to automatically approve all comments by a user after the first is approved, but every once in a while it messes up).

Really interesting insight re: the Paradiso. Given the timing of his first show there and the period when he and Roy Bennett were likely planning the Controversy tour set, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if that was a direct inspiration.

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