Finally! It arrived in the mail today! I ordered it back at the end of the summer, but it is here. Now, everything in the world is right again. That’s right, folks, my remastered version of Prince’s second masterpiece, 1999, arrived today from his Estate. Oh, the vinyl packaging is beautiful, a four-LP set with a metallic cover. And, since I am such a Prince completist, I also got the super deluxe 5-CD/1-DVD box set with a metallic SILVER cover. You all do NOT realize how important this album was in my life.
Once again, let’s board Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine and set the date for November 22, 1982. That day was the twentieth anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, but that’s not why I wanted to go there. No, I chose that day because I was a stupid nineteen-year-old college sophomore, who had given up college athletics for an actual college life of intramural basketball, competitive cycling and the party life. Anyway, a couple of my high school buddies and I were back in town on Quarter Break around Thanksgiving and were going to a nearby mall to meet up with some college girls from Ball State to hang out for the day.
Since I was one to NEVER waste a moment when the opportunity knocked, I convinced everyone to go to the local record store for a visit. You see, back then even the most casual music listener loved to wander through a record store since they often carried much more than music. Oh, sure, I was there for the albums, not so much for the cassettes or 8-track tapes, nor was I there for the T-shirts and other rock-related merch. And, I wasn’t really interested in the drug paraphernalia that was sold there either. Nope, I was ready to do some bin diving. However, I never really got started. Because, there it was, on the wall, just begging me to purchase it and leave.
You see, there on the wall, in the prime position of “The Album of the Week” was Prince’s 1999, a double album for the low, low price of $9.99! Remember, single albums back then were normal around $8.99, and double albums were rung up for $12.99. So, I would have been LOSING money if I hadn’t picked up that album right there and there. The question was do I buy the album and cut my week’s beer money by two-thirds, or to I go for an album that could potentially be a gift that keeps on giving. Of course, I bought the album. This very day became notorious for being the ONLY time in my life when I was ready to leave a record store before everyone else. Nope, no one was dragging me out today! I was in and out in ten minutes! I think my friends were all giving a collective sigh of relief.
As you might guess, it was several hours before I got back to Mom’s house. I called it Mom’s house because it never felt like home again after I went to college. Much to Mom’s chagrin, I had lugged my Technics component stereo home for the week, because, to paraphrase LL Cool J, I can’t live without my stereo. Remember, I was NOT a Prince-newbie by any stretch of the imagination, as I had all of his LPs to that point. But, for me, 1999 represented a whole new level of musical brilliance. This was a milestone record, much like London Calling by The Clash had been in the Spring of 1980. Screw Thriller! 1999 was THE party record of 1982 AND 1983 for me.
From the moment the needle hit the groove on the first record, and I heard the infamous words, “Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you! I only want you to have some fun,” I knew this was a totally new trip. There might not be a better side of three songs than Side A of 1999 with the title song, “Little Red Corvette” and “Delirious.” “1999” represented exactly what every member of the early Gen X crew was thinking about what seemed to be an impending nuclear apocalypse: if it’s going to happen, we might as well party! That was segued into “Little Red Corvette,” perhaps the dirtiest covert song ever to become a Top 10 hit (“You had a pocket full of Trojans, horses, and some of them used.” Are you kidding me?!?!). And, that broke into “Delirious,” a neo-rockabilly/synth pop/dance amalgam. When that side ended I had to pick my jaw up off the ground. I knew when I got back to campus, that this album side would stuff people onto the dance floor.
But, I was NOT ready for Side B, arguably Prince’s finest moment. Remember, there are only two songs on this side, yet they are perfect! Neither was a hit, in the sense that radio would play them. But, you couldn’t edit either, sensor them for that matter, without ruining the urgency of their message. Seriously, if Side A was the pop/rock side, then Side B was the funk/dance side. The songs, which flow seamlessly into each other, were “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” and “D.M.S.R.”. Basically, if a DJ had Record 1 of 1999 and Thriller, you didn’t need much else to have a great night of dancing. So, when that first record ended, I thought that if Record 2 is just average, this is still a great album.
Record 2? Hell, Prince gave us six more classic R&B/dance songs. There is absolutely NO drop-off in the brilliance of his touch on 1999. Side C, much like Side A, is a three-song suite of minimalist funk and R&B brilliance that only Michael Jackson, James Brown, George Clinton, Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix could only partially dream of. “Automatic” bleeds into “Something in the Water (Does Not Compute)” slows down to the worldly political comment of “Free.” If I was unsure that I might be listening to my generation’s Sgt. Pepper, Side D convinced me that it might just be more than that.
That’s because Side D is nothing but dirty, lowdown, sexy funk. “Lady Cab Driver” is the dirty funk and dirty lyrics to boot. And, “All the Critics Love U in New York” introduced us all not only to Prince’s invention of text messaging spelling but of the slow-burn funk of a new wavish “Stairway to Heaven” epic that sounds as if Berlin met The Time and birthed this dance song. Finally, Prince shows that he is the Gen X loverboy on the final song, “International Lover.”
If nothing else, 1999 was the blueprint for Prince’s career, whether we knew it at the time or not. First, you can hear the groundwork that he laid for the careers of The Time and Vanity 6 on this album. Additionally, if you were really listening to this album at the time, then the so-called surprise sounds of Around the World in a Day, Parade and Sign ‘O’ the Times were not really that shocking. The skeletons were all there, just the increasing lushness of his subsequent sounds were awaiting to be added.
Now, as far as the Super Deluxe version is concerned, it’s made for the Prince fanatics like me. In addition to the remaster, you get a disc of all the radio edits of the hits, 12-inch remixes and all the great B-sides, two discs of songs from the famous Vault that are only for weirdos such as me, and a live recording of a concert from Detroit that has been bootlegged for years. To top things off, there’s a DVD of the December 29, 1982, concert in Houston, Texas, which is a great addition to the old Prince collection.
Now, remember that I am a fan of Tom Petty, Cheap Trick, Bruce Springsteen, R.E.M., Daryl Hall & John Oates and Queen, but all pale in my heart to Prince. The cynic in me wants to lash out at the Prince Estate for all of these seemingly cash-ins of vinyl releases of albums from the CD- and digital-eras and these remastered packages, but the true Prince-ophile in me truly appreciates it.
Hi! My name is Scott, and I am a Prince addict…