Prince’s musical legacy has a lot to do with his prolific level of recording. He was a very private man who didn’t make a lot of public appearances. And was known to have spent a good deal of his time recording new music. The end result of this is a now legendary vault of songs on his Paisley Park estate,containing thousands of unreleased songs. Of course there were many times when some of these songs not intended for albums were so strong,Prince just had to get them out there. The result was him being an artist known for some extremely high quality B-sides.
In the days of 45 RPM vinyl,I was one of those people who used to love turning the record over to see what song was on the other side. Some B-sides,for Prince included,were actually album tracks that had never been hits. Prince for his part seemed to delight in putting these new grooves that inspired him onto the B-sides of his hits. During the extensive recording sessions for Purple Rain,Prince recorded one such song that ended up as such a flip side to his big single from that album called “Let’s Go Crazy”. The name of this song was “Erotic City”.
Prince starts the track by pulling an electric guitar string high up on the neck-producing a quavering theremin-like tone before the Linn drum machine kicks into gear with it’s hollow,open snare accents. The main rhythm of the song is built around this,along with a high pitched,bleeping synthesizer playing a 5 note blues riff call and response with a chunky chicken scratch rhythm guitar. The round bass line pays the melodic changes as the chorus add a fairly low,minor chorded synthesizer orchestration while Prince trades off vocal leads with Sheila E.
The bridge of the song comes in with a lot of attitude. The bleeping synthesizer becomes more hollow and plays more of a two note pattern. Meanwhile Prince really gets going with the wah wah rhythm guitar. On the next choral parts,Prince accompanies he and Sheila’s vocals with that sped down/sped up “chipmunk” vocal that he’d later bring out further with his Camille persona. On the final part of the song,Prince really lets go again on that chicken scratch rhythm guitar-eventually pulling that string high up on the neck until the instrumentation simply falls apart as it fades.
Prince said at Parliament-Funkadelic into the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame that he recorded “Erotic city” after seeing a P-Funk show at LA’s Beverley Theater. And it really does show on this song. In addition to holding down the stripped down Minneapolis sound,this song also integrates the quirky vocal styling’s and unexpected instrumental tones that defined George Clinton’s P-Funk crew. It’s one of Prince’s finest B-sides,and surely among his funkiness. In addition to Prince’s musical proteges,this is dedicated to Henrique Hopkins-with whom I share a mutual admiration for this strong 1984 naked funk classic.