Prince in the house

Prince is known for his musicianship, his productivity and for his talent to master many different musical styles. Whether it’s disco, funk, new wave, soul, blues, rock, r&b, rap, ballads, orchestral music, rave or pop, he has done it all. Prince’s music is also about partying and in many of his songs the dancefloor is what he’s aiming for. There are some great “dance classics” in his work. 

To name a few in different ‘dance genres’: Disco: “I Wanna Be Your Lover”, electronic pop/funk: “1999”, pure funk: “Sexy M.F.”, sparse electro/funk: “Kiss” or “When Doves Cry”, techno feel: “Sign Of The Times”, electro: Vanity 6’s “Make Up”, r&b/hiphop feel: “Gett Off”, more poppy: “Girls & Boys”, rave: “Loose!”, “live feel”: “It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night”, rock: “U Got The Look”, hiphop: “Dead On It” and the list goes on and on…… Want more? Check out my Prince’s 80-ies funk mix, more than 2,5 hours of topnotch dancefloor material!

Because of my love for both the music of Prince and “house” music (i’m a deep/techhouse dj myself), I found it interesting to see where these worlds meet. During the 80-ies the disco’s of the 70-ies changed into clubs and the dj’s became more and more inventive with the records. People like Larry Levan in Paradise Garage or Ron Hardy in Muzikbox made dj-ing into an art. They were capable of giving new dimensions to the existing dance music. Disco or ‘groove’ records were re-created and edits were made to make the stuff even more danceable. The ‘pop’ world became aware of this trend and 12”s came into existence by people like Tom Moulton. Pop was stretched out and given a more of a dancefloor beat. With the revolution in samplers, synthesizers and drumming machines a whole new sound came about and the dj’s became producers as well.

The Warehouse in Chicago with ‘resident’ dj Frankie Knuckles was one of the first clubs to play this new music. When people went into the recordstore they asked about “house music” (as in: music played in The Warehouse). A new genre was born. Electronic bass oriented music with soul. In a later stage house music started to influence pop music and vice versa. Off course without funk, disco or pop there wouldn’t be house.

Prince used drum machines and synthesizers from early on and many of his songs have an ‘electronic’ feel. No doubt that Prince was an inspiration for some of the early house producers. But, as there are extended versions of his ‘dance’ tracks, it’s never house music. When in 1987 house music began it’s succes story and became a worldwide phenomenon (with hits as “Love Can’t Turn Around by Farley Jack Master Funk, “Move Your Body” by Marshall Jefferson or in Europe songs like “Pump Up The Volume” by M.A.R.R.S.), it’s also the start of Prince’s records being remixed or reworked by house or dance producers. 

We’ll meet Shep Pettibone, William Orbit & Mark Moore, David Morales, Frankie Knuckles, Junior Vasquez, Keith ‘KC’ Cohen en Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley. These were the people who were aloud to bring Prince’s music to the clubs. As said, those were the new heroes. It’s not sure how these records came into being. Did Prince himself respect the above mentioned producers or was it “just” a commercial step by his record company? Maybe one day we’ll find out.

As said, Prince himself probably never made a house record, but he was somewhat influenced by the ‘dance’ revolution. Some of his productions of 1988-1990 have a “club feel”, such as “Lovesexy”, “Dance On”, “The Future”, “Batdance”, “Get Off”, “Loveleft, Loveright”, “Thieves In The Temple” or Prince’s remix of “The Latest Fashion”. Maybe songs like these deserve their own mix, but for now we’ll settle for the “real” Prince “house” tracks.

You'll find the mix here.

1. Hot Thing (Shep Pettibone Remix) (Sign Of The Times, 1987)

Prince recorded “Hot Thing” in 1986 intended for the 3 double album “Crystal Ball”. This was a little to much for Warner Brothers and it ended up on the double album “Sign Of The Times”. “Hot Thing” was the first Prince song to be reworked by an ‘outside’ producer. Shep Pettibone (Robert E. Pettibone jr.) was already an ‘arrived’ record producer, remixer, songwriter and dj in 1987. He worked for New York City’s top urban radio station WRKS 98.7 Kiss-FM and as a remixer for Salsoul Records. With Arthur Baker (producer of New Order amongst others) he helped to popularize many aspects of dance and hip-hop culture. 

His “mastermixes” starting from 1982 were popular and his reworks of track like “Do It To The Music” (Raw Sweat), “You’re The One For Me” (D-Train) became ‘classics’. He also made a remix of First Choice’s “Let No Man Put Asunder”. In 1986 he started working with Pet Shop Boys, mixing nr. 1 singles “West End Girls” and “Heart”. In 1987 he made this remix for Prince’s “Hot Thing”. There’s extra bass, some keys are taken out, strings and some guitar parts are added. Eric Leeds’ saxophone solo is kept as are most of the vocals by Prince. Overall, it’s a nice remix and indeed better suited for the clubs than Prince’s original version.

Shep also worked with artists like Madonna (“True Blue”, “Causing A Commotion”, “Express Yourself”, “Vogue”, “Like A Prayer”), Janet Jackson (“Miss You Much”), George Michael and dozens of others.

2. Glam Slam (Shep Pettibone Remix) (Lovesexy, 1988)

After “Hot Thing” Shep Pettibone also got the job to make a remix for  “Glam Slam”, the second single of the “Lovesexy” album (the first single was “Alphabet St.”). “Glam Slam” by Prince is a little over produced. Guitars, vocals, keys and strings with a bit of a “classic” key/stringsolo at the end. Shep strips it down, but adds basslines. It’s more “clublike”, guitars are bent down, some percussion is added and at the end there’s a bit of staccato keyboard to distract from everything going on and keep focus on the dancefloor.

3. The Future (William Orbit & Mark Moore Remix) (Batman, 1989)

House music is often linked to drugs, especially ecstacy. Prince was always very much against any form of drugs, whether it was alcohol, nicotine, cocaine or marihuana. There’s plenty of lyrics in this direction and also his band members talk of his “anti” feel. However, it is known that he used ecstacy once, december 1st 1987. He was out in Minneapolis and encountered Ingrid Chavez, a singer-songwriter-poet. Back in Paisley Park Prince had his ecstasy experience. In his song “The Future” it says: “Yellow smiley offers me X, like it’s 7-up, I’d rather drink 6 razorblades, razorblades from a papercup.” This doesn’t sound like it was a fun experience, but the outcome of the evening is positive however. Prince was about to release “The Black Album” a hard and uncompromising funk/hiphop album with explicit sexual content (it was to be one of the first albums with the Parental Advisory stickers in the US) and a rather negative outlook on life. During his “trip” Prince realized this wasn’t what he wanted to be remembered for (“The Future” states: I can’t go out like a jerk). He thought “The Black Album” to be a work of hate, created by his “Spooky Electric”. He wanted something else: Lovesexy, the feeling you get when you fall in love, not with a girl or boy, but with the heavens above. So exit “The Black Album” (500.000 LP’s had already been pressed!) and hello “Lovesexy” and a more spiritual Prince.

Back to “The Future”. It’s a song from Prince's 1989 Batman soundtrack, and the final single released from the album. The single was not the album version, but a remixed version by William Orbit and Mark Moore from the UK. Orbit was an upcoming dance producer (who later on won a grammy as producer of Madonna’s “Ray Of Light”) and Moore was the man behind “Theme from S-Express”. Their remix of "The Future" was released as a single only in Europe. The remix of "The Future" is house-inspired, but it has more of an “ambient” or “techno” feel than a housefeel.

4. Batdance (William Orbit & Mark Moore Remix) (Batman, 1989)

This Batdance remix by Orbit and Moore is a special one, because they also had a take of the Prince song “Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic” at their disposal. This song wasn’t released at the time. Also they used vocals from the Batdance b-side “200 Balloons”. The Batmix" focuses on the chaotic "rock" section of "Batdance", and is supplemented with electronic distortion and sampling of voices and instruments. Just as “The Future”, the “Batmix” doesn’t have a real “house” feel, it lacks a certain depth. It’s more of a “progressive” or “ambient” sound with a bit of a “rave” feel in it.

The original version of “Batdance” by Prince consisted of at least 6 songs and had a great video, with Prince as Gemini (good and bad, Batman and Joker), directed by Albert Magnoli (also director of “Purple Rain”). “Batdance” was Prince’s fourth number 1 hit in the USA.

5. 101 – Sheena Easton (David Morales Remix)

The track “101”, written by Prince under the alias Joey Coco, reached number two on the Billboard Dance Chart in 1989. Although it initially reached criticism for not being radio friendly, people gradually began to appreciate Sheena Easton’s desire to expand herself artistically. David Morales went on to do a remix, arguably his first truly acclaimed remix, which further increased the track’s popularity. Morales provides a nice house bassline, with some percussion and typical house keyboard/piano playing.

Morales was ‘discovered’ by Larry Levan as a dj, and he started playing in The Loft, Paradise Garage and The Sound Factory in New York. He soon went over the world to clubs like Ministry of Sound in London or Pacha at Ibiza. Since 1986 he started remixing transforming pop music into clubhits. He made remixes for Michael Jackson, U2, Aretha Franklin, Spice Girls and many, many others. He became part of the Def Mix Collective and later on he became also a producer.

Morales is still performing as a dj. From an interview in 2012: Morales said the new instant-superstar-DJs simply can’t hang. “If you want to talk about the DJ culture,” he added “the new kids on the block, they don’t have a f**king clue at all. They don’t know how to spin. They can’t play more than two hours! When it comes to playing sets… where’s the foreplay? Where’s the peak? And where is the hugging afterward? Everyone wants to piggyback off each other,” said Morales. “But if you believe in what you’re doing, you don’t have to.” Adding unabashedly, “I’m like Prince. My longevity goes on. I’m a trendsetter not a trend follower. Would Prince make a record with someone just because they’re hot at the moment?”

6. Partyman (Prince & Femi Jiya Mix) (Batman, 1989)

As stated in the foreword, Prince himself didn’t produce a house record. However, he did some remixes of his own work and with a little goodwill two of those can be called “house” records. In the true spirit of house, let’s not be narrow minded, it ain’t about the ‘labelling’ of music. So, a Prince & Femi Jiya remix of “Partyman”. The track doesn’t really have a housebeat, it’s more of a live drum beat. However, it’s a continuous one and this track is designed for the clubs. Femi Jiya is an engineer working at the Paisley Park studios and has recorded many tracks with Prince. On this one, the track “Partyman” is changed into some sort of a “live perfomance” with Prince aka Partyman playing with an audience. The track starts with samples of “Head”, “Partyup”, “Let’s Work”, “1999”, “Raspberry Baret”, “Erotic City”, “Kiss”, “U Got The Look”, “Housequake” and “Alphabet St.”. Then ‘Partyman’ arrives to rock the party like nobody can. There’s singing and clapping. Note: the saxophone is by Candy Dulfer. Again there’s a sample on the “yellow smiley”. At the end of the performance ‘Partyman’ has to run for the police.

7. Yo Mister – Patti LaBelle (Frankie Knuckles Remix) (1989)

Frankie Knuckles….. The godfather of house music! Starting of as a dj (again, with Larry Levan) in the seventies, Frankie became a ‘resident’ dj at the Warehouse in Chicago from 1977-1982. Then he opened his own club: The Power Plant. Young people from all over the USA came to listen to the sounds of Frankie. He started producing records with legendary Jamie Principle, please take a listen to their “Baby Wants To Ride” or “Your Love”. “Baby Wants To Ride” sounds like Prince and that’s also because especially Jamie was a huge fan, hence the name Jamie Prince-iple (his real name is Byron Walton)! Frankie went to London, New York and began working as a remixer. He partnered with David Morales on Def Mix Productions. In 1989 he worked on the Prince track “Yo Mister”, a track he had written for Patti LaBelle, legendary soul/disco diva. It’s a deep track with a phat bassline and percussion. It’s more pop than house, but still it’s great to listen to three “giants” as Prince, Patti LaBelle and Frankie Knuckles in one production. Knuckles just carried on dj-ing and producing, he had a big hit with “The Whistle Song” in 1991 and won an Grammy in 1997. He worked with Diana Ross, Luther Vandross, Toni Braxton and Michael Jackson and also made solo recordings.

8. Jaguar – Mavis Staples (Frankie Knuckles Remix) (1989)

Mavis Staples, singer of The Staple Singers, a legendary gospel group that played an important part in the struggle for freedom of black people in the sixties. After years without success in the seventies and eighties, she got a record deal with Paisley Park, Prince’s label. He wrote her two albums (“Time Waits For No One” in 1989 and “The Voice” in 1993) and “Jaguar” was a single for the first album. So we have the gospel of Mavis Staples, the funk of Prince and the house of Frankie Knuckles. It’s a great remix with a real nice flow. It’s deep, funky and sexy in a way. Frankie put in a great bassline and some funky keys. It’s a shame Prince didn’t have his ecstasy experience on a dancefloor with Frankie playing this tune, maybe he musical future would have been different then..

9. Thieves In The Temple (Junior Vasquez Remix) (Graffiti Bridge, 1990)

This can be seen as the first true Prince “house” record, considering the Shep Pettibone remixes and the Orbit/Moore remixes aren’t really “house” and the other remixes weren’t songs for Prince himself. It’s a shame that house music didn’t evolve from earlier on, because Prince’ most prolific songs were made during 1980-1988. “Thieves In The Temple” isn’t really a great song. It was the first single of the soundtrack for the movie “Graffiti Bridge”, the so-called “spiritual” follow-up for “Purple Rain”. Again it’s a New York based dj with the honour to make a Prince recording into a “house record”: Junior Vasquez. Again, inspired by Larry Levan, Vasquez began to work with Shep Pettibone in the 80-ies and he made name for himself as live dj. He started producing under the name “Ellis D.”, including the seminal gay house track “Work This Pussy”. For “Thieves In The Temple” Junior Vasquez also used samples from other Prince tracks “Batdance” and “Eye No”. There’s a real “house” piano, but he gives it a “rave” feel by using a sample of “Dish & Tell” by House of Venus, a Dutch release. During the Nude Tour in 1990 (Graffiti Bridge was almost released), Prince visited the “Parkzicht” club in Rotterdam one night after his concert in “De Kuip”. Parkzicht was famous for it’s “house” music. Whether is was Chicago house, Detroit techno or more European styled “rave”, it was all thrown in the mix. Who knows Prince heard “Dish & Tell”?

10. Chocolate – The Time (Keith ‘KC’ Cohen Tootsie Roll Mix)(Pandemonium, 1990)

Keith “KC” Cohen is not a house dj or producer, but a sound engineer with remix skills. He also worked on Prince’s albums as an engineer. There is very little to be found on Keith ‘KC’ Cohen. He started making remixes in 1986 for acts like Jesse Johnson (former member of The Time), Alexander O’Neal, Philip Bailey, Chaka Kahn, Paula Abdul and others. In 1990 he started remixing for Paisley Park. It’s not really “house” we hear, but more of a “club” sound. Prince probably liked it, because Keith also made remixes of “Gett Off” (“Diamonds & Pearls”), “Sexy M.F.”, “My Name Is Prince” and “Do Your Dance” (“Symbol” album). These remixes aren’t real “club” or “house” remixes however, they are more “breakbeat”.

11. Gett Off (Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley Houstyle Remix) (Diamonds & Pearls, 1991)

With the “Diamonds & Pearls” album in 1991 Prince declared he had ‘thrown out’ his drumming machines and synthesizers and that he was looking for a “live” sound again. In come The New Power Generation, his first band after The Revolution to be credited on an album. As “house” or electronic music took off, Prince headed another way. Off course he’d always been an artist with many musical styles and the ‘electronic’ sound just didn’t work for him anymore. “Diamonds & Pearls” is an album with more focus on pop/rock, but also on funk and some (terrible) hiphop. The album sold well with hits like “Cream”, “Diamonds & Pearls” and “Money Don’t Matter Tonight”. First single was “Gett Off”, a funk/hiphop workout with sexual content: “23 positions in a 1-night stand”.. Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley was asked to make a house remix of Gett Off and he did well. Steve also is a Chicago house pioneer with top 10 hits from 1985 as J.M. Silk, for example “I Can’t Turn Around”, “Jack Your Body” and “Work It Out”. He started out as a dj for WBMX in Chicago and was known for his ‘hiphop skills’ such as scratching, cutting, drop outs and beat juggling. He has done remixes for En Vogue, Black Box, CeCe Peniston and many others. He was nominated for a Grammy as remixer of the year in 1998 and 1999. He also produced music for other artists.

12. Housebangers (Junior Vasquez Remix) (1992)

“Housebangers” is to be found on the “Cream” maxi cd (“Diamonds & Pearls album”). “Do Your Dance” by Keith ‘KC’ Cohen and “Cream” are the ‘foundations’ of this track by Prince and the NPG. Junior Vasquez had additional production and remixed the song.

13. Elephant Box – Ingrid Chavez (Junior Vasquez Remix) (May 19 1992, 1992)

Ingrid Chavez met Prince in a pub in late 1987, having written to him. Impressed by Chavez's voice and poetry, Prince took Chavez under his wing. She was known as The Spirit Child on his 1988 “Lovesexy” album. Prince encouraged Chavez to write poems with the promise that they would make a poetry album together. When she finished her poems, she and Prince went into the studio. Prince sat at a keyboard and played while Chavez read through her poems. Together with other songs, some of these sessions ended up on the album “May 19 1992”.  One of the tracks is “Elephant Box” and Junior Vasquez made this house track of the song.

14. Hippy Blood – Ingrid Chavez (Paisley Park Funky House Dub) (1992)

It has been said that Prince himself hasn’t made a real “house” record. He’s known as a songwriter, producer, musician, arranger but he has made some remixes also. The alias “Paisley Park” is used for a remix of “Gimme Your Love” by James Brown and Aretha Franklin in 1989 and it’s almost certain a Prince job. So.. is the alias “Paisley Park” Prince himself? It’s not for sure. But if so, this remix of “Hippy Blood” by Ingrid Chavez/Prince could be his one and only “house record”, the Paisley Park Funky House Dub. The bass at the end of song sure sounds like Prince. Chances are that engineer Michael Koppelman is involved to, but it’s nice to believe there’s at least one ‘real’ Prince “house record” out there!  

What about Prince and “house” or “dance” music later on? Well, it’s a bit of sad story to be honest. His struggle with record company Warner Brothers led to less focused work by Prince, probably his ‘momentum’ was in the 80-ies. In the 90-ies Prince made some “dance” tracks with a “rave” like feel like “New World”, “The Human Body” (on “Emancipation”) or “I Wanna Melt With U” (“Symbol” album), but there’s nothing really worthwhile. 

As for the remixers of Prince’s music, there have been some, but mostly for his r&b output. However, there’s a nice deephouse version with Rosie Gaines and Doug E. Fresh of “1999” on the “1999, the new master” EP (in 1999) and that’s about it.

From his more recent work “Dance 4 Me” from MPLSoUND (2009) and “Rock & Roll Love Affair” (single on iTunes, 2012) there are remixes by Jamie Lewis. A bit commercial for my taste, but maybe Prince is opening up for ‘house’ or ‘dance’ again? Thereby it’s good to tell some of todays dj’s and producers have made really good  (bootleg) (tech)house remakes of some of Prince’s best work, for example Eddie Thoneick’s “When The Doves Cry”.