I’m announcing the new Prince “wing” of my website today. I hope you enjoy it…I used this experiment to try out some of my macro writing skills to create an alphabetical list of Prince lyrics…and to post a tribute to my favorite musician. As you may already know, Prince is one of my primary musical influences. But what even you friends of mine may not know is that I first knew I wanted to be a musician while listening his 1999 album. I distinctly remember standing in my bedroom at the awkward age of 14 with my giant Radio Shack leather-padded headphones blasting, transfixed by the details of the subtle wah-wah guitars buried in the corners of the mix…by the carefully arranged electronic Linn drum patterns…by the layers of thick Oberheim synthesizers. I was engrossed…enthralled…excited…blown away—despite my dad’s banging on my bedroom door telling me for the last time it was time for dinner. Although I had already discovered Jimi Hendrix a year or so before…it was Prince that ultimately lit my musical fire, driving me to teach myself guitar as a stepping stone to my ultimate goal: writing songs… I saved my summer money and bought my first guitar soon after. Man, I just loved the sound of that 1999 record. Loved it! The grooves. The strange layers of machine-like and very human sounds. The dangerous sexuality mixed with apocalyptic carpe diem futurism. The band that mixed black and white, man and woman, dance and rock. The musical history of Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone, Little Richard, and James Brown all mixed together and shattered by something brand new. I loved the thick Minneapolis sound of the music even before I even bothered to examine the lyrics…and the videos! Man, that performance of “Little Red Corvette” is iconic to me. I watched that thing so many times, marveling at the staging, right down to Prince’s eye movements. To me, a skinny, 14-year old white kid from Kinston, NC…it was a world I could get lost in. And…at the center of it all was that strangely addicting, always fascinating music…the kind of music that means something different to you on the 10th listen than it did on the first.
The 1999 album made such a deep impression on me, I distinctly remember not wanting to see the Purple Rain movie a year or two later because I didn’t want it to be a let down. I didn’t see how Prince could get any better musically than 1999…little did I know…
Prince has continued to fascinate and frustrate me through the years…and I still pay attention to everything he releases…which is A LOT!! Now that I have a musical influences portion of my website, I wanted to make sure I included a section for Prince. I hope you find it useful. If you’re a musician, I hope you take some time to read through some of the lyrics…or use it to help you play a Prince song live. You will be surprised by what you find. If you’re a fan, I hope you find a track or two you don’t have. In case you want to buy some Prince music, I’ve actually included an Amazon link for each album on my Prince Discography page…and an iTunes link for each song on each song’s lyric page. In fact, I have a list of lyrics arranged by album, and a list of lyrics arranged alphabetically. I’ve worked hard to include every song lyric and every album, single, B-side, and remix. I don’t yet have all of his side projects listed, but if you like what I’ve done, let me know…and I may end up adding bands like The Time, The Family, Vanity 6, etc. later. It was actually a really interesting experiment putting this together…and I learned a few things in the process, including:
1. The volume of Prince’s work is staggering. I mean, I knew this before…but it was a HUGE job to merely put all this on the Web—and I can’t even imagine how much work it was to create these songs. Good thing I’m a Word macro wiz and didn’t have to do this all by hand. The sheer volume of his musical output is inescapable. I created an HTML file for each song lyric and there are HUNDREDS. There are more songs than there are in the Beatles catalog…and they have 4 guys who wrote. (Yes, I know I counted Ringo.) Every time Prince releases a single, he adds a couple of new tracks to it…usually in addition to adding remixes of the single itself. Prince even changed his name to an unpronounceable, untypable symbol in part because his record company would keep up with his songwriting output. Think about this…a few years ago, I figured out that Prince RELEASED on average a song every 2 weeks for over 20 years…I’m talking about recording, mixed, and released tracks…that’s on top of touring, movies, videos, directing side projects, marketing etc. And that doesn’t even include what he’s got still in his vaults. That’s about double what most professional Nashville staff songwriters are required to turn in each year…and that’s all they do…and only a few of those songs even get demo’d. Unbelievable!
2. Did I talk about the volume of work, yet??? I have to re-iterate this. Not only are there tons of songs, nearly early all of these songs are written solely by Prince. He co-writes on occasion, but mostly the songs are solo-writes. In addition, I was constantly reminded as I was reading album credits that he played virtually of the instruments on each track as well. For his first four or five albums, he played everything…and still mostly does. A lot of Prince’s albums just provide credits for the instruments he didn’t play…I guess it’s just easier to say “Prince: the rest” than it is to keep track of everything he played. I don’t know whether to think of this as genius, drive, or obsession…but my guess is it’s a heavy dose of all three. No one is even in the same league…I think when he burps a triple disc comes out.
3. There are different eras of his work which are reflected in his lyrics. I saw this before on an album-by-album basis…but mining through his entire body of work provided me with another level of insight. Read through some of the lyrics to see what I mean. Every few albums his band has completely changed…which he can do almost as fast as he changes hair styles…but on top of that, you can see himself Prince…the lyrics show him maturing as a person, exploring new ground as an artist, and growing spiritually.
4. The lyrics are a lot better than I thought. I used to think they were spotty with some being a lot better than others. Reading through them helps cut through the distraction of some of the funny vocal effects…and makes you pay more attention to what he’s talking about. I was really impressed with how each song holds together under intense scrutiny. My general impression before this is that Prince should spend a little more time crafting each song…that he seemed to put more focused in his early work…but after putting this together, I think that I’m being too hard on him. Maybe I should look instead at myself…maybe he’s doing great…and maybe I should give up my “Masterpiece myth”…and spend less time crafting each note and word in favor of creating music a little faster. Maybe all of us songwriters should.
Anyway, instead of holding your attention here any longer, I’ll stop blogging and let you check out my new Prince site. Please let me know what you think! And don’t forget to pick up a few tracks for yourself.