Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Desert Island Disc(s): Prince - Sign “☮” the Times (1987)

Ever had one of those pivotal landmark albums that has changed your world, coloured how you listened to music and been crucial to your very musical DNA?

It is a well known fact that Prince was one of the mega forces which shaped music in the 80s, right up there with Michael Jackson and Madonna.  His reign since Purple Rain (couldn't resist) has been nothing but phenomenal for the dimunitive imp of pop, with each album eagerly anticipated and offering a new direction and a new look.

It was also a very different time.

We did not have the internet then.  Fans stuck by an artist and there were actual physical fan clubs.  It was exciting finding someone who liked the same artist you did.
You didn't just log on.

Recording companies were a different animal too; they had to nuture and invest more in their artists and took more risks.  Lenny Waronker from Warner Brothers looked after a roster of artists, amongst them Prince.

Sign 'O' the Times was a very bold move in many ways.  Initially planned as a triple album, it was whittled down to a double album to help boost sales.  A double LP then meant a statement of confidence in an artist by the recording company.   Prince was amongst esteemed artists like Bob Dylan, The Beatles and Pink Floyd.  It was also his first solo effort since disbanding The Revolution.

Lead single of the same name caused enough controversy when people thought Cat Glover was Prince in drag.  Lyrically, it was snapshot of the times addressing AIDS, gang violence and drugs, poverty and even has a cursory reference to the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986.  The music video was also in stark contrast to trends; with only the lyrics running through bringing focus to the words.

Prince laments the lack of intimacy between a man and a woman on second single If I Was Your Girlfriend, siting "we could go to a movie and cry together" - Not a subject matter easily broached by a rocker hung up on their machismo.

Third single U Got the Look had Scottish lass Sheena Easton do a cameo and hit US #2 while last single I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man peaked at #10.

The album was deemed too musically diverse by some.   In turns serious, playful, funky, devout, soulful, eccentric, intimate, romantic and lustful .  It was produced, arranged, caomposed and performed by him.  1987 was the height of his prolific output and probably his perosnal life.
Still it wasn't till I saw the concert movie that my socks were blown right off.

The schizophenic masterpiece of a true genius.

Happy Birthay, Prince. ☮.

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