Prince is coming to Melbourne, and on Monday night I’ll be five rows from the stage with a iridescent smile on my face and the funk in my hips.
The last time Prince was in town, his jam on All The Critics Love You In New York during the encore was the highlight, even if only diehards such as myself would have known of the song. And that’s generally the problem for diehards attending the big shows of the big names: they will have already heard the hits done to death and could do with their own personal favourites getting a run rather than the same-old same-old.
So here’s my personal top ten selection of B-sides and album tracks that I very much doubt I’ll hear Monday night, but like All The Critics Love You In New York managed to do the last time around, perhaps one of them will sneak into the show.
1. Erotic City
Perhaps the greatest B-side ever put down on vinyl.
Erotic City was literally and figuratively on the flip side to Let’s Go Crazy. No doubt Prince delighted in the thought of unsuspecting kids turning over their newly purchased single of good time funking rock to discover a sinuous, spare, almost mechanical dance song that would revolutionise club music and shock the bejesus out of people who say “bejesus”.
The best that Prince can do at this stage of his career is a killer song on a mediocre album. But like so much of Prince’s best work, PFUnk didn’t even appear on an album.
PFUnk is Prince’s rather ungracious response to the rebuke he suffered after issuing legal notices to the relevant parties ordering any product or image of his to be taken down from the internet. Ironically enough, the song was an internet-only release. Happily enough, it was the best thing he’d done in years.
PFUnk is a huge, one-man Funkadelic jam — over seven minutes long; a hard rock chorus, skeletal space-age funk verses; multiple voices, multiple beats; killer solos, killer horn fills; false ending, latin-jazz outro. All that and it features a series of the hardest ones in the business throughout the chorus (the four is silenced every second bar so the one hits harder than a bomb).
3. The Ballad of Dorothy Parker
The Ballad of Dorothy Parker is Prince’s paean to Joni Mitchell, a feminine folk funk classic that’s the equivalent of a fresh summer kiss. And like When Doves Cry, Prince renders a full rhythmic symphony out of programmed drums that make the sparseness of the instrumentation noticeable only in retrospect.
Not content with too-fast corvettes as code for sexual frustration (is Little Red Corvette the only smash hit to have been about premature ejaculation?), Prince turned to tambourines that he dreamed being inside of.
One can only assume those dreams were heady stuff — they’re accompanied by manic drums, eastern melodies evoking harems and yet another demonstration of how well Prince can scream.
5. Lady Cab Driver
Prince usually celebrates sex. On Lady Cab Driver, not at all.
Prince brings the funk, but it’s a cold funk, mechanical, emotionless, like the sex he’s seeking. And when he finds it, the frustrations pour out with the climax.
6. New Position
It’s a throwaway song, probably something Prince laid down in an inspired hour or two of fun, and its infectious, slinky and sexy joy should have anyone heading to the boudoir to try out a new position.
7. Irresistible Bitch
Another ridiculously good and ridiculously explicit B-side. So spare that every little line is a memorable hook.
8. Feel U Up
As above, a signature B-side.
Some of the slinkiest synthesisers on record — a party starter.
10. 17 Days
Erotic City eclipses its A-side, Let’s Go Crazy. 17 Days can’t do the same against When Doves Cry, but it’s killer nonetheless.
Also continues Prince’s fine fascination with prime numbers: 1999, 7, “17-year-old boys and they’re idea of fun” in Sign O’ The Times, 3121, 1+1+1 is 3, “23 positions in a one-night stand” in Gett Off, 3 Chains Of Gold, 17 Days, “it’s been 7 hours and 13 days” in Nothing Compares to U, and 5 Women.
And for bonus joy, here’s Living Colour’s rendition:
And the honourable mentions: Housequake, Let’s Work, Adore, Sister, Forever in My Life, Girls and Boys, Hot Thing, I Love U in Me, Do U Lie?, Vibrator, G-Spot, 5 Women, Joy in Repetition, Crystal Ball, Eye No, Damn U, Feel U Up, Girl, La, La, La, He, He, He, A Love Bizarre, Scarlet Pussy, Crystal Ball, It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night, Sexy Dancer, Bambi, She’s Always in My Hair, Scarlet Pussy, Hello, 1+1+1 is 3, Party Up, How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?, Starfish and Coffee.