My limited edition copy of Originals on white vinyl arrived on my front porch this week. I love my vinyl, but I was not about to wait for records to physically appear at my front door to hear something that’s been available online for nearly two months.
I’ve been listening to it since June 7 when Tidal made it available. In fact, if I’m being completely accurate, I’ve been listening since I was waiting eagerly with headphones on at 11:00 PM CST on June 6. I’m not a Tidal subscriber, but I was for the month of June so I could hear Originals for two weeks before my preferred streaming service – Apple Music – was able to offer it.
Before I get to the playlist let me lay the groundwork for people who aren’t familiar with Prince. This is likely a waste of time on a website dedicated to Prince, so I’ll attempt to be brief. With a few exceptions, Prince was good for a new album every single year for nearly 40 years, often double or triple albums. I believe the consensus is that peak Prince started with 1980’s Dirty Mind and ended with 1988’s Lovesexy. Here’s the album timeline:
Around the World in a Day
Parade (Under the Cherry Moon)
Sign O’ the Times
That’s already an unparalleled run of critically acclaimed albums that were adored by fans and sold millions. Who can match that run of quality and quantity in such a short amount of time? The Beatles? I think the list starts and ends there. The glaring question looking at that list is, “What happened in 1983?” Was he preparing his magnum opus, Purple Rain? Yes, but that’s not the reason. Was he just chilling after the success of 1999? Ha! Yeah, right. Prince just took a year off from writing and recording music. I don’t think so.
Who can match that run of quality and quantity in such a short amount of time? The Beatles? I think the list starts and ends there.
He was still writing and recording so much music that he couldn’t possibly release all of it. He began developing aliases to throw off the record company. Jamie Starr. Alexander Nevermind. Joey Coco. He started working with other artists as an outlet for his creativity that couldn’t be contained. The Time, Vanity 6, Sheena Easton, and Sheila E. to name a few. Originals is proof of this, not that we needed it. It begs the question: What would a 1983 Prince album have looked like if he hadn’t given all of that music away? It wouldn’t have been what you’re hearing on Originals for two reasons in my mind:
- Not everything on the album was written pre-1984. My extensive research shows that at least a couple of the monster hits on Originals – “Manic Monday” and “Nothing Compares 2 U” – were recorded in 1984. “Love, Thy Will Be Done” – a beautiful track that would’ve worked on any Prince album – was years later.
- This is a matter of preference, of course (isn’t all music?), but he had better tracks in the vault or already given to other artists that would’ve replaced a few of the weaker tracks on Originals. I could personally do without the Joey Coco/Kenny Rogers country joint and replace it with some of his other well-known tracks that never made it on to a Prince album.
With that in mind, I’ve attempted to create the ideal 1983 Prince album given what we know about when his music was written and recorded. Here are a few of the rules I tried to follow while compiling this list:
- If I’m digging into the songs on Originals, I’m going to assume that other songs (one specifically) that he wrote for others are eligible for this album.
- I tried my best to stick to songs that were recorded pre-1984. That, unfortunately, eliminates some of the Purple Rain B-side stuff like “Erotic City”.
- I kept the list to a tight 10 tracks and 45 minutes. With the exception of 1999, all of Prince’s early albums (until Sign O’ the Times) were in the 8-12 track, 35-45 minute range. I capped it at 10 tracks, which eliminated a few quality songs like “Moonbeam Levels”, “Cold Coffee & Cocaine”, and “Wonderful Ass”, among others. Those just simply didn’t make my cut.
My timeline may not be perfect and more-educated Prince heads could call some (or all) of this in to question, but this is the 1983 Prince masterpiece that never was:
Sorry, The Time, but in my Back to the Future II alternate timeline I’ve created here Prince takes this beast of a song back for himself. Don’t get me wrong, The Time’s version is fantastic. It peaked at #20 on the Billboard Hot 100, which I find shocking. How did “Jungle Love” peak at #20? I can’t imagine whatever was in front of it was better. We learned with Originals that Prince could match Morris Day’s over-the-top swag. Listening to it, I can’t help but think that he was doing a Morris Day impression while he was doing the vocals knowing that the song would be his someday. This song would’ve been a guaranteed hit for Prince and a perfect banger to kick off this album.
When I finally heard Prince’s version of this song at long last I was somewhat surprised that he went with falsetto on it. I would’ve loved to hear him take it down and octave and sing it with his deeper voice. I was hoping for a more masculine sounding take on the absurd lyrics. No matter. The drum programming on this track is phenomenal. He could’ve done literally anything over this beat and I’d love it.
The Glamorous Life
The Time’s catalogue isn’t the only one to suffer in this timeline. Sheila E loses a hit as well here. Her version didn’t appear for a couple years after Prince’s 1983 version was recorded. Another proven hit for someone else, this song certainly would’ve performed as well, if not better, with Prince’s name and vocals behind it. This song hit #6 on the Billboard charts and was nominated for two Grammys. I love the vocals on Prince’s version. He took it down an octave the way I assumed he would in “Sex Shooter”.
This fictional album blasted out of the gate with three uptempo tracks, so I had to mellow it out here. We can’t be cranked up to 11 on every track. This song was the B-side of “When Doves Cry” but it was also recorded in 1983. Simply put, it’s one of my favorite songs. It was a mistake worthy of imprisonment that this song never saw more than a B-side. Beautiful songwriting by Prince and a perfect melancholy vibe to accompany the heartbreaking lyrics.
Again, in this timeline, we’re really screwing The Time. I realize that sentence is terribly confusing taken out of context, but I’m not changing it. Okayplayer posted a column two years ago referring to this song as Prince’s best. I’m not sure I would go that far. Not only is this song fantastic, it’s mind-boggling. What the hell is happening with that hi-hat? I pride myself on following things like beat and time signature with relative ease, but I must confess, this one still leaves me puzzled at times. I find myself playing it repeatedly trying to figure out how it all fits together. A perfect song to close out Side A.
Is it possible that one of my favorite Prince songs was never released? Sure, there was the version from HITnRun Phase 2 and it’s a cool song. I consider it the adult contemporary version. He took a track from the early-80’s, changed the spelling, and made it clean and shiny 30 years later. It’s funky no matter what. However, if you search the Internet hard enough you’ll find the 1983 version. A downright filthy, infectious, raw, unfiltered bit of Prince funk nastiness.
Prince Estate, if you’re reading this: I would pay a lot of money to hear a high-quality copy of the 1983 version of “Extraloveable” and I would bump that in my truck daily.
Prince Estate, if you’re reading this: I would pay a lot of money to hear a high-quality copy of the 1983 version of “Extraloveable” and I would bump that in my truck daily. In a career loaded with the best drum programming, anyone has ever done, this was a high point. Unfortunately, several minutes into the song (it’s hard to tell how many minutes because the versions out there are all slightly different tempos/pitches) he has some truly regrettable lyrics that are difficult to forgive. “I’m sorry, but I’m just gonna have to rape you,” is a revolting line. I know 1983 was a different time, but I have a hard time believing that was acceptable even then. It would be easy to put an edit of this song on my fictional album that still clocks in at over five minutes and contains all the funk without the cringe-worthy rape references that mar an otherwise brilliant song.
She’s Always in My Hair
Yes, this song appeared on the B-side of the “Raspberry Beret” single in 1985, but it was originally recorded in 1983. I like the addition of this song because it feels like a transition from early-80’s Prince to the work he was doing in the mid-80’s. It’s heavier on guitar and moves away from his signature drum programming sound of the 1999 and era. Prince had a cool habit of misleading song titles/lyrics that would make you believe a song was one thing when it was really another. “If I Was Your Girlfriend” is a good example. The title “She’s Always in My Hair” is similarly deceiving since it’s a song about a woman who “is always there telling me how much she cares.” She sounds more like a positive influence than a pain in the ass. Yet another song that deserved better than B-side relegation.
How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore
Another diamond in the B-side rough. This one was found on the other side of the “1999” single in 1982. It also deserved better. Alicia Keys proved nearly two decades later that it could be a hit. No doubt Prince’s version would’ve fared at least as well. This song is a departure from the linn drum and synth-funk of 1999 and would’ve fit perfectly in 1983 bridging the gap musically between Purple Rain and 1999. This song also begins the wind down in my 1983 album from uptempo funk to the slow songs that will close it out.
Gigolos Get Lonely Too
If you’re reading this and thinking I don’t love Morris Day because I’m stealing his music and giving it back to Prince, you’re wrong. He steals the show in Purple Rain. He might be the best shit talker who ever lived. He sings “Jungle Love” at least as well as Prince. His drumming on “Cloreen Bacon Skin” is legendary. I wore out my “Jerk Out” cassette single in 1990. He’s a great frontman for one of the baddest bands I’ve ever heard. Prince just bests him on “Gigolos Get Lonely Too”. No shame in that. It’s Prince for God’s sake. This song was one that snuck up on me on Originals. I’m familiar with The Time’s version from What Time is It?, but Prince just crushes it. From the first line of lyrics in the Prince version I said, “Oh damn, this is better…” It’s the song from Originals that I had no idea I needed in my life until I heard it.
Baby, You’re a Trip
I was not familiar with this song when Originals was released. I lived through the ’80s and while I was still quite young and limited to whatever my local pop music station was offering, I listened to music throughout the decade. I never heard this song. As deep as I’ve gone into everything Prince, I know of Jill Jones, but I’m not familiar with her music. I may be out of bounds and I mean no offence, but I struggle to believe she was worthy of this masterpiece. Unlike many of the other songs on Originals, Prince’s vocals on this song sound to me like he truly believed this was going to be his. His vocals feel mailed in on a few of the other songs…like he knew when he was recording it that he was doing it for someone else. He actually says “Sheila E’s my name” on “Holly Rock”. On “Baby You’re a Trip” the signature falsetto and screaming are there in full effect. The songwriting is top-notch. This recording should’ve been a hit for Prince. I believe it’s also the perfect way to close out the album.
So, there’s the 1983 Prince album that never was. Clearly, he didn’t just take the year off in 1983, and if anything, this was one of the most prolific, hit-generating periods of his career. If you want to check this album out on Apple Music, here’s a link. I still left a lot on the table, too. Prince heads could certainly name several other songs worthy of a collection like this, which once again proves my point. If anything, Prince was underrated. He made hits we still haven’t even heard yet. We didn’t need to hear Originals to know it, but it didn’t hurt the argument. Prince had more creative musical output in 1983 than most people have in a lifetime and it wasn’t even considered good enough for one of his albums. Just another reason why he’s the G.O.A.T.