Prince Kiss 45

PRINCE & THE REVOLUTION  “Kiss” b/w “Love Or Money” (Paisley Park/Warner Bros. Records #28751, March 1986)

Knowing what we know now, it’s no surprise that one of Prince’s biggest, best-loved and most-often-covered hits came from one of his least-loved, most-maligned and all-around most misunderstood albums.  Few artists have toyed so recklessly with (some would say sabotaged) their hard-earned fame the way our paisley friend has and lived to tell about it, much less maintained three decades worth of entertaining, if not always satisfying, moments.  Regardless of context, this single was, as everyone knows, a very satisfying high point.

Personally, my first exposure to Minneapolis’ sexiest midget came via the girls at music school, who clutched copies of his ’79 sophomore LP to their bosoms with the same fervor today’s jail-bait reserve for the latest Jonas Brothers ringtone.  Consider that other popular titles of the time included Cerrone IV: The Golden Touch and Peabo Bryson’s Crosswinds, and one can easily trace the trajectory of Prince’s projected path from R&B wunderkind to pop/rock hitmaker, mainstay and trailblazer.  However, at the time, upon first hearing “I Wanna Be Your Lover” on a little mono record player after theory class, my initial reaction was, “What the fuck??”.

Over the next few years, it was a treat watching Prince break the chains of R&B, and then the boundaries of pop, concocting one groundbreaking, erotic, dirty-minded, controversial masterpiece after another.  And then finally, when Prince’s creativity and commercialism collided, culminating in the veritable orgasm of over-the-top, super-hyped multiplexposure that was Purple Rain (the album and the movie), Tipper Gore reared her ugly privates and it all came crashing down.  For everyone but Prince, that is.

Watch the video for Kiss by Prince & The Revolution

When the going got tough, when lesser artists let their material just lay down exhausted, flat and wan by the roadside in those fiery early days of the PMRC, our purple friend got creative.  Substituting such ungodly and offensive terms as “masturbating” with delightfully wholesome (though not necessarily original), family-friendly phrases like “playing my tambourine,” Prince managed to subvert the powers trying to undo him, while sticking a big middle finger up at them through his Corvette’s rear-view mirror and never looking back.  And when the overdone Sgt. Pepper-esque psychedelia of Around The World In A Day wasn’t enough, Prince scaled it back to a minimalist electric-guitar-and-drum-machine funk so pure it made your scrotum skin tighten.  Even if you didn’t have a scrotum.

Prince Kiss 45 B-side Sleeve

I don’t know about you, but I never liked that video for “Kiss.”  I always thought it should’ve been a minimalist black-and-white kinda thing to marry the record sleeve and the music to the whole concept, especially after the trippiness of his “Raspberry Beret” clip.  Nevertheless, he did attempt a large exercise in black-and-white minimalism with Under The Cherry Moon, the strange retro-noir tragicomedy meant to follow up his Purple Rain success with classic matinee-idol flair.  It didn’t, and seven years after music school I once again found myself reacting to Prince with a “What the fuck??”.

Play Love Or Money by Prince & The Revolution

Anyway, I still found Parade, the LP of music from the motion picture (very little of which actually appeared in the motion picture), and the extra tracks used to pepper the B-sides, totally stunning.  One of the best tracks of this era appears on the flipside here, the wildly underrated “Love Or Money” [written on the sleeve, in true Prince fashion, as “(Heart) Or (Dollar Sign)”].  This is one of the earliest instances of Prince using the device of speeding up certain parts of the track, like vocal lines or guitar licks, in an attempt to distance himself from the performer, like an actor playing a role within a role.  Most recording artists still used analog tape back then, so he probably achieved the effect by slowing the tape down, recording a part, then playing it back at normal speed.  One day, just for fun, I tried playing this side at 33 1/3 RPM, and lo and behold, the track took on a whole new sound.  If you own a copy of this 45, try it.  Now THAT’s the kinda fun you can’t have with an MP3, am I right?  Of course I am.

I don’t need to tell you what kind of insane shenanigans our beloved Mr. Nelson pulled (or tried to pull) in the years following this single.  All I can say is that to this day, every time I pass the Stanley Theater, I expect to see his Rogersness out in front, handing out copies of The Watchtower and licking middle-aged ladies’ feet.  To which my reaction would probably be, “What the fuck??”.

NEXT WEEK: “Air France…kin ah he’p ya?”