Prince and The Revolution
1984 Warner Bros. Records – 9 20246-0 A
A Let’s Go Crazy (Special Dance Mix) 7:35
B Erotic City (“Make Love Not War Erotic City Come Alive”) 7:24
Matrix / Runout (Side A): [SRC logo] 0-20246-A-SRI I-2
Matrix / Runout (Side B): [SRC logo] 0-20246-B SR2
Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE with Audio Tecnica AT440-MLa cartridge; Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 96khz; clicks and pops removed with Click Repair (Let’s Go Crazy only, manually auditioned) and individually with Adobe Audition 3.0; resampled using iZotope RX 2 Advanced SRC and dithered with MBIT+ for 16-bit. Converted to FLAC in either Trader’s Little Helper or dBPoweramp. Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.
On days like this, I sometimes post here just to keep busy.
This is really an iconic extended single for Prince. On the first side, you have the rousing anthem that persuaded rock fans like my brother that His Royal Badness was a force to be reckoned with, while on the flip side you had pure and nasty electro funk.
“Let’s Go Crazy” is celebrated for good reasons. By 1984, popular songs based around guitar riffs which were also danceable were few and far between in the almost thoroughly segregated music scene of the US, yet here was a manic message of elevators and purple banana peels urging everyone to let go and shake what the good Lord gave them. It’s Little Richard backed by Ike Turner & The Kings of Rhythm with a Juno synth and a Linn drum machine. One of the many things I like about this song is a detail that is easy to forget when I haven’t heard it for a while: the way the guitar solo in the middle is mixed lower than nearly everything else going on around it. It’s a brilliant strategy of psychological rock-warfare that must have led billions of listeners to reach for the volume knob at just the right moment. This extended mix throws in a different pentatonic minor progression with a discordant piano plonking away and a portion of the opening spoken prologue repeated, then suddenly dropping into a groove that sounds like… Minneapolis soca? There is some almost-Caribbean percussion going on in the left channel (Sheila, is that you?) that makes me imagine people celebrating más in their winter coats outside First Avenue. And as he did for most of his career, Prince manages to cover all this ground while sounding completely natural rather than self-consciously eclectic, to the point where we aren’t even surprised when we flip the record over and have our minds blown by the non-album track “Erotic City.” That’s not to say he didn’t know he was pushing all kinds of boundaries – not just by testing the limits of Reagan-era prudish hypocrisy, but musically. We have to assume the the club owner in Purple Rain wasn’t the only person who must have told Prince, after one fashion or another, “Your music makes no sense to nobody but yourself.” Well eventually even he “gets” it in the end.
“Erotic City” is noteworthy for lots of things. It is the first recorded Prince track to feature Sheila E. (unless she did in fact play the percussion on Side A but I don’t think there she is credited). Although I have not been able to bring myself to watch it yet, she apparently brought down the house at the BET awards this past weekend in a medley that opened with ‘Housequake’ and ended with this track. I plan to watch it, I just have to work myself up to it. I don’t “do” award shows, and plan to avoid some of the tribute material if possible, so I’m hoping to find just the clips of Eryka Badu, Bilal, and this medley if I can find them out there without having to suffer through the rest.
In the version that was unleashed on the world in 1984, she sings the second vocal part. She has insisted that she is actually singing “funk” and not “fuck”.. Maybe some of the time, but I find it doubtful, and that’s definitely not what Prince is singing. Anyway it didn’t stop the track from getting some airplay on R&B stations and becoming a legendary weapon in many a club DJ’s arsenal. When Prince inducted Parliament-Funkadelic into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a few years ago, he claimed he went home and wrote this tune immediately after seeing them play a show in the early 80s. I can believe that. The electro bass groove drives things for well over a minute before any vocals come in. The guitar on this song was recorded with the tape at half-speed to give it a sped-up, hyper-space sound (if you played the 45 rpm disc at 33 and 1/3, the guitar would almost sound normal). There is additional vocal overdubbing done at half speed too, and for brief moments the mix is suddenly filled with feral, over-sexed chipmunks. This was a favorite encore number for Prince and I’m glad to be able to share it here. But don’t forget to visit the Fun With Vinyl blog where there are still a couple days left of Paisley June. DJ Ritchie there has all the extended singles you will ever want, and there are lots of them, so go have a listen!