On Episode 30 of the Press Rewind – Prince Lyrics Podcast, author and blogger Laura Tiebert (lauratiebert.com) joins me to talk about the inspiration behind “Private Joy” as well as some of the quirkiness that can be found within the lyrics of this upbeat pop track from Prince’s Controversy album.
“Only I know, only I know, baby, what turns u on.”
“Private Joy” is the bubbly, upbeat track that kicks off Controversy’s second side with a Linn drum blast. In the episode, Laura and I speculate on what Prince referred to as his “private joy” as documented in Laura and Alex Hahn’s book The Rise of Prince 1958-1988. We spend much of the episode talking about the possible connection to this song’s lyrics about The Hookers/Vanity 6 member, Susan Moonsie. In 1981, this girl group that Prince was still working on fleshing out had not released any music yet, but it’s widely known that Prince had begun a relationship with Susan on the side.
Like any good Prince song, the inspiration for “Private Joy” could be perceived as other essential things in his life at the time. This song is widely known for Prince’s first use of his beloved Linn LM-1 drum machine that helped define the Minneapolis Sound throughout the ‘80s. As a direct connection to this “first” in Prince’s musical canon, the idea that his “private joy” could also be an inanimate object, i.e., his new Linn LM-1 drum machine, could be applied here. Read the following lines from the song while also imagining him talking about a new piece of technology he’s become smitten with.
“I could never let another play with my toy”
“I think I’m falling in love”
“Only I know, baby, what turns u on”
“I wanna turn it on, turn it on, turn it on every night”
“If anybody asks you. You belong to Prince”
It works, right? On the surface, the song’s lyrics indicate Prince is talking about a woman. It’s easy to see it, hear it, and read it if you have the transcribed lyrics in front of you while listening and have taken into account the biographies and speculation carried forth over the decades. But what’s the joy in just looking at a Prince song from only one angle?
If one wants to take the song down an even dirtier pathway, this could be Prince’s version of Cyndi Lauper’s “She Bop” (or, more accurately, the other way around since this came first). A song that might be talking about masturbation? Could these lyrics fit? Read the lines I’ve included earlier when I asked you to consider them while thinking of Prince singing about his new drum machine. Now, think of them as lines being sung by a male who had recently discovered the joys of self-pleasure? Yeah, it works with that in mind as well. Get your mind out of the gutter (or don’t) and just enjoy the glorious jam that it is. Good enough to even receive a cover from musical royalty, in this case, LaToya Jackson.
“Private Joy” is one of those fun songs that you can sing along to without really thinking about the lyrics too much, and that’s fine. The music encourages sing-alongs (“You’re my private jooooooooooy”), toe taps, and body movin’ as the catchy-poppy synth line gnaws away at your hardened exterior. This song is one of my private joys that never fails to make me smile.
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!