On Episode 26 of the Press Rewind – Prince Lyrics Podcast, author and blogger Laura Tiebert joins me to talk about “Partyup.” Laura provides some interesting back stories about the song that she uncovered while co-authoring the Prince biography, “The Rise of Prince: 1958-1988”. This funky protest song is the last track on Prince’s 3rd album, Dirty Mind.
“How you gonna make me kill somebody I don’t even know?”
Prince gives us a funky protest song, notably his first real political track, as the Dirty Mind album closer. “Partyup” has an interesting origin story, as the groove that made up the basis of the track was written by Morris Day and given to Prince in exchange for a project created with him in mind. Of course, this ended up being The Time, so I feel Morris definitely made the correct choice. My guest on this episode is Laura Tiebert, and she co-authored the book The Rise of Prince: 1958-1988, which covered this topic as well.
The song was possibly written as a response to President Carter’s reinstatement of the Selective Service registry, which was essentially a list of eligible young men that could be drafted into war. I remember distinctly having to do this when I turned 18 in 1993. At the ripe old age of 22, Prince was already too old to participate in this activity, but Prince was writing music for the younger generation.
With the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War had only ended five years prior, the idea that Prince’s generation, most too young to fight in the Vietnam War, would be called upon to fight in the next U.S. conflict, was met with a resounding “hell no.”
“That army bag, such a double drag, party up.” A couple of years before Prince would party in the face of nuclear annihilation; he was partying in the face of being drafted into war. A misleading title, the song has almost nothing to do with partying and everything about Prince making a political statement on an album that was mostly filled with sexual and relationship dramas. Thematically speaking, “Partyup” doesn’t fit in with the rest of the album. Still, as the last track on the Dirty Mind record, it leads us directly into the more political-themed Controversy.
While the song is notable for all the reasons listed above and in the podcast episode, “Partyup” was also the song that Prince and the band played in his very first Saturday Night Live appearance back on February 21, 1981 (Charlene Tilton of Dallas was the host that evening).
“You’re gonna have to fight your own damn war. ‘Cause we don’t wanna fight no more.”
The link below will take you to a FB post of the SNL performance, as long as it’s still up and hasn’t been removed.
The goal of each episode of Press Rewind is to:
- Take a track by track look at the lyrical content of Prince’s discography
- Discuss my own interpretation of each song’s lyrics along with any guest I may have
- If submitted, discuss listener’s interpretations of each song’s lyrics
Thank you for joining me on this journey through Prince’s catalog!