Prince’s time spent at the Bernadette Anderson (Andre’s mother) home after he permanently left his father’s house was fruitful from a musical creativity perspective. He was playing with his high school band, Grand Central / Shampayne, and writing music on his own while staying in his best friend’s basement. After graduating high school early, Prince spent this extra time in early 1976 creating some remarkable home demos. None of the songs he wrote and recorded during this time wound up on any official release, although one of them, “I Spend My Time Loving You,” was considered, if only briefly, by Prince as a candidate for his debut, For You.
The reality is that while these songs showcase a growing talent, they are rough around the edges. I’m not just talking about the quality of the recording, either. All of the songs flash equal assured brilliance and immature choices.
Don’t You Wanna Ride? – This track is a bluesy, sexy, playful number that epitomizes the sly sexuality that Prince was experimenting with in his music. One of the first things you’ll notice when listening is the multi-tracked vocals. It would have been easier for Prince to record the song with one vocal track, but that’s not what he was going for. For You includes many multi-layered vocal tracks, and it seems unlikely that Prince figured out how to do this the first time he stepped foot inside Record Plant studios to record his debut. The Anderson basement may be where he figured out the technique needed to layer his vocals over each other. As for the lyrical content, it’s a pure sexual fantasy where the young Prince fucks a New Orleans prostitute so good she doesn’t make him pay. She also dubs him the Golden Lover, a nickname that thankfully didn’t stick.
I Spend My Time Loving You – A lengthy (seven-plus minute) ballad with beautifully melodic guitar playing and more multi-tracked vocals. Prince’s falsetto and lyrics highlight this demo as he plumbs the depth of his youthful emotional abilities. He seems to be expressing how this love he’s singing about has made him braver, stronger, and more confident. He used to be a thoughtful and artistic young man, but now he’s got more important things to spend his time doing than painting and contemplating the world. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I’m not sure it matters; all we know is that the song’s subject has no interest in anything else.
Leaving For New York – Prince with his piano (side note, I’d like to know what piano he used – did the Anderson family own a piano?) singing a gorgeously layered ballad about saying goodbye to love while saying hello to a new life. The intriguing aspect here is the title and what it means for Prince at this time in his life. He would eventually leave for New York in the fall of 1976 to shop his MoonSound Studio’s demo and attempt to catch the ear of some important A&R types. Leaving Minneapolis for New York meant pursuing his dreams of a music career while leaving behind loved ones, friends, and bandmates. The song’s theme is one that only a young man could write. A man that has never left Minneapolis. A man that has never breathed the New York air. A man that who’s destiny was still to be determined.
Nightingale – A delicate ballad that could have been an album track with a suitable polish. The imagery is as abstract as the song’s themes. There appear to be plenty of metaphors here for examination. Does the titular nightingale represent a loved one, a lover, a beacon of hope for a lonely man? Is the song’s subject singing from an actual prison or metaphorical prison? Is his prison his loneliness? So many questions, so few answers. This confounding song is pretty cool, though. More multi-tracked vocals here to boost Prince’s lyrics; however, I don’t think the song needs all the extra vocal layers. A simple, single voice and guitar could have been more effective.
Rock Me, Lover – This upbeat funk-rock groove has a bluesy low-end bass sound that accompanies Prince’s superior falsetto. The subject matter has Prince returning to sex as he did on “Don’t You Wanna Ride?” although he is looking to be rocked instead of the one doing the rocking here. Prince would take on both roles (dominant/submissive) in his music throughout his career, but even more effectively as a young man when the bravado that comes with fame wasn’t yet a songwriting factor.
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!