Words & selections by Balearic Mike.
We had a bit of a COVID relapse here this week, so apologies for the long gap in posts …OK, so May 6th, 2022, was quite a big deal for me this year…
Prince – If I Was Your Girlfriend / Shockadelica – Paisley Park 1987
It was the first time that I`d performed / broadcast a live radio show in nearly 3 ½ years, it was the first time I’d DJ’d in any way since the 2020 lockdown, and it was the date that my good friend, Luke Una, had his first solo compilation LP released, by local, Brighton, label, Mr Bongo. It also marks the 35th anniversary of the release of this astonishing single. The fact that I own this record on 5 separate singles, as well as having 3 LP versions, and the CD, should give you some idea of how highly I regard this quite incredible song.
If I Was Your Girlfriend is so far ahead of its time, in respect of its gender politics, as well as the technological innovations involved in its recording, it is quite astonishingly futuristic. It’ll come as no surprise that part of the inspiration behind it was Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill. According to Prince’s producer on the session, Susan Rogers, “He played that record to death. He loved that Record… he was interested in that rolling drum track and the production elements, which were so different from what Prince normally did… It has a brilliant lyric that talks about a man and a woman changing places”.
Inside 5 minutes, Prince goes into quite explicit detail regarding how he would like his relationship to become so much more intimate than that of the average boyfriend / girlfriend. If only those traditional gender roles of boy / girl could be done away with. He tries to illustrate this wonderful idea by pitching his voice up so he sounds female, which combined with the accidental distortion – a fortuitous but happy mistake – only helps to add to the sense of longing that he has. Furthermore, he goes into graphic detail regarding how this female closeness might manifest in a way that would deepen the intimacy of the couple. It’s an incredibly modern and romantic take on what relationships could be. However, this is somewhat soured by what was the driving force behind it. Prince was engaged to, and living with Suzanne Melvoin, and this song is completely directed at her. The sentiment is in part inspired by his jealousy regarding the closeness between Suzanne’s and her twin sister – guitarist in The Revolution, and one of Prince’s must important musical collaborators – Wendy Melvoin. Furthermore, Prince felt a sense of jealousy regarding the closeness of female relationships in general, such as the friendship between Suzanne, Wendy and Lisa Coleman.
That Prince is jealous of these relationships isn’t so much a criticism of him as a person, rather it highlights the fragility of all his relationships – following the breakup of his parent’s marriage, and his subsequent search for complete independence, in order to protect himself from any future trauma. He’s totally incapable of surrendering himself to the level of intimacy he’s asking of his partner in this song. He’s also subtly acknowledging that he himself can often be the cause of the emotional pain. This is all carried along by one of Prince’s most sparse and progressive productions. Recorded in just one 14-hour session in November 1986 at Sunset Sound Studio 3 in L.A. The track comprises Linn LM1 drum machine, live bass, and synth parts from the Prophet VS and Fairlight, and not much else – the sound collage intro was apparently added later. The track was originally placed on the aborted album, Camille, and then on the rejected Crystal Ball triple LP set, before eventually finding a home on the incredible Sign ‘O’ The Times.
I haven’t even mentioned the B-side – the 10-minute psychedelic funk workout, Shockadelica. One of Prince’s finest flip-sides, this was inspired by the title of former Time member Jesse Johnson’s solo LP of the same name. Prince remarked that Jesse’s joint didn’t include a track with that title, and decided to put that right. He wasn’t wrong. It needs its own post though.
This pivotal record in the band`s catalogue was released 40 years ago this week…
New Order – Temptation – Factory Records 1982
Joy Division had bravely carried on after the tragic death of Ian Curtis, changing their name to New Order, and recruiting Gillian Gilbert. They’d released their first LP, the ‘difficult’, Movement, and a clutch of singles. I really like Movement, and the singles, particularly Everything’s Gone Green, but you can’t help feeling that this is a band trying to move on from its past and failing. They sound a lot like Joy Division, but without Ian singing. Then two important things happened.
Firstly, while playing some gigs in New York, all their gear got nicked from an un-insured van, despite manager Rob Gretton’s assurance that as he “used to work in insurance” it would all be fine. All the equipment they used as Joy Division – gone. When Factory Records gave them some money to buy new equipment, they spent it on drum machines, synths and sequencers, instead of guitars.
Secondly, they decided to record without producer, Martin Hannett. Hannett had taken the death of Ian Curtis very badly, and as a result his drug and alcohol addictions had spiralled out of control, making his behaviour increasingly erratic and at time downright hostile.
Bernard Sumner: “He wasn’t turning up messed up, but by the end of the sessions he was pretty messed up.”
Peter Hook: “… so Bernard and I made a decision, that we were just going to learn what he did and get rid of him. Which we did.”
With these clean breaks from the past and inspired by the music they’d heard in the nightclubs of New York, such as Danceteria and Paradise Garage, they entered Strawberry Studios in Stockport to record this single. The results that they emerged with mark a real turning point in the band`s musical direction. They start to sound like New Order.
Temptation is an electronic pop classic, that managed to creep into the lower reaches of the Top 30 – which for a small, independent label like Factory Records back then was the dizzy heights of success. They were on the road which lead to the chart-topping singles, Blue Monday and Confusion the following year.
“Oh you’ve got green eyes, oh you’ve got blue eyes, oh you’ve got grey eyes…”
After posting this piece on Facebook, my dear friend, Jimmy Z, or James Zeiter, to give him his full name, left a comment on the thread. James and I are former colleagues from Vinyl Exchange, and have known each other for over 30 years. He is now co-owner of Vinyl Exchange, makes mysterious and highly respected – and collectable – techno records, and knows A LOT about New Order.
James posted a link to a clip of New Order’s BBC Riverside TV Performance of Temptation, from 04/01/1982. It’s just brilliant. Go and watch it. He also mentioned that the track wasn’t recorded at Strawberry at all, but at a studio called Adivision in London. Mr. Z knows this because he has the master tapes in his possession. James knows so much about New Order that he’s been asked to work with their management and Warners on all their recent reissues. He compiled all the rare video and audio material. It was James who found the original master tape for these sessions, dated 05/01/1982. The band actually went into Adivision the day after the Riverside show and recorded the track. Remember, there will always be someone who knows more than you about music!
You can also check out the super silk screen prints of “Balearic Wife” over at @jo_lambert_print – personally I think they’d make damn fine record sleeves / disco bags.