On this day in 1985, Prince and the Revolution’s followup to the massively successful Purple Rain album was released with little fanfare. Prince had asked that Warner Brothers release Around The World In A Day with almost no announcement, no videos, and no singles. I can only imagine the shouting matches that must have taken place amongst the business execs at Warner. After all Prince was *the* top superstar at that moment. Purple Rain was the blockbuster that carried Prince to the masses. It has only been released eight months prior and was still going strong. Its fifth single, “Take Me With U” was still in the lower reaches of the charts. But on April 23rd (22nd in most of the rest of the world), this brightly colored album appeared. It was not what was expected.
But I had no idea this was happening. I was a week away from my eighth birthday. In fact, I had only just got the Purple Rain album roughly around February. I was still soaking it all in. For the latter half of the previous year, I had only started collecting 7″ singles. By that point, Prince was quickly becoming my favorite. I had “Let’s Go Crazy”, “Purple Rain”, then “When Doves Cry” after the fact, then “I Would Die 4 U”. At that time my family had very little money to go around. When I had convinced my dad to give me an allowance, it was only something like $2. Maybe $3. And I had no patience to save money (still don’t!). Every time I would go along with my mom to Target or Kmart, I’d flip through all of the records, wanting them all of course. But my mom usually shopped while I was at school. So I developed this system where I would send my money with her and a list, ranked most to least of how bad I wanted certain songs. I had no idea at the time that singles had a shelf life. So that particular day she had my list, but most of the songs were too old (Billy Squier’s “Rock Me Tonight”, Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock & Roll”, Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without a Face”). When I got home from school, waiting there for me was my first *album*… Prince and The Revolution’s Purple Rain. My eyes got so big! But.. we can’t afford *albums*… not unless they come from a garage sale or something. My mom, smiling says “well they didn’t have anything on your list, and that’s the one you wanted wasn’t it?”. She had put a couple bucks extra with my $3 and there it was. It was just so definitive to me. I mean yes, the artwork still stands as rather nice, but as a kid I just marveled at it. Over the next couple months I played those songs over and over. At that time I had no idea what some of the lyrics meant. I had no inkling what “Darling Nikki” was about. I assumed when he said she liked to grind he meant dance. But the music on that album transcended genres. It opened up my mind to the possibilities that music can have. Yes, I realize I was talking about Around The World In A Day. I’m getting to that. I didn’t share this story during the anniversary of Purple Rain. There were so many well-written articles that I just didn’t write mine. I figured it more appropriate to wait until the 30th anniversary of when I was actually experiencing Purple Rain.
So while I was memorizing every line of “Computer Blue”, and struggling to read the font on the sleeve for the lyrics to the album (it’s best I couldn’t at the time probably), out came this *new* album already. The first I knew about it was when “Raspberry Beret” was first being played on the radio. Guess that “no singles” thing didn’t last long! My memory tells me it was when it debuted on the American Top 40 that I first heard it, which I listened to most Sunday mornings. But it might have been before that. There was nothing in my young mind that said “this shouldn’t be Prince!”. Instead, I was wowed by the sounds on that song. It was new. It was different! It was complex and simple at the same time. It sounded so.. colorful. My next trip to the Target, I recall seeing the cassette and LP on their $5.99/$6.99 “what’s hot and on sale” wall. That artwork was so starkly different to everything else. The colors just popped off the cover! The cassette was one of the first I had seen that was on a see-thru cassette and with a see-thru case. Of course now we’ve seen so many of those, but at the time that just looked wild. I had only just received my first cassette player from a garage sale. It was one of those mono flat decks with the handle. That day I received that deck and a used copy of Michael Jackson’s *Thriller* as my one cassette. But I had not had a see-thru cassette. I studied the song titles. I wanted to hear it so bad! But I knew I didn’t have $5.99. So that weekend when I got my allowance, I settled for buying the “Raspberry Beret” 7″. Now what made Prince 45’s special was that he normally released a new song on the b-side that wasn’t on the album. Even then, this was interesting to me, as most people either put on an instrumental, or the most throwaway song from their album. So not only was I playing “Raspberry Beret” over and over, but also this other great song “She’s Always In my Hair”. It too sounded like nothing I’d heard before. And the label wasn’t that usual white Warner label, or the flowers label like the Purple Rain 45’s, but instead side one was colorful paisley swirls, and the b-side a beautiful blue sky. The artwork, the fonts, everything was so well thought out.
As the year progressed, I still wasn’t buying albums or cassettes, save for David Lee Roth’s Crazy From The Heat and U2’s Wide Awake In America, which were both cheap. I could save long enough to get a tape from Target’s $3.99 bin, but I usually didn’t and bought 45’s instead. When both “Pop Life” and “America” 45’s arrived on the racks, I bought each one immediately, as it trumped anything else that was coming out that week. I didn’t by the album. Instead that’s what I asked for that Christmas. Actually I had a long list of music, and asked everyone for cassettes for Christmas. I actually remember seeing the Christmas package and trying to carefully unwrap it to make sure that’s what it was, then rewrap. Yeah I wasn’t that good at it. Busted! But I still got it on Christmas.
Christmas day, 1985. That’s when I finally heard Around The World In A Day in full. In fact I also got 1999 on LP (the tape was sold out). So. Much. To. Absorb. By this point I had a generic brand Walkman that I had bought at some point over the summer. So I sat in my room, started the tape and…
Flutes? What is this craziness? Prince was taking us through the jungle? The title track was so bizarre. The beat reminded me of a safari somehow. I mean I was literally picturing Prince, and the Revolution, all dressed up in safari gear, riding on an elephant, while singing this song. That was my first impression. And I loved it! “Paisley Park” followed, with echoey bounceback drums that sounded akin to what I had heard on “Pop Life”. The “1,2,3” count-off was like the hard rock version of the “Raspberry Beret” intro. The bicycle chimes/finger cymbals/ch-ching sounds. Oh my goodness this started his chime phase. So far, yes, definitely some psychedelic influence. Back then I didn’t *know* The Beatles yet. But knowing them now, I think all the reporters that mentioned the Beatles were way off. I hear a lot more Jimi Hendrix in the guitar. The song structures are more poppy but more like 60s bubblegum. But the drum sounds.. those were new. I do think “Paisley Park” was an odd choice for the first UK single. Then I got to the one I considered weird. “Condition of The Heart” was the one I would later skip a lot. Now I really love this song. That beautiful piano beginning, how it sets the mood for the sung portion. The lyrics I think are some of Prince’s most personal. It was an open heartbreak letter. Because my tape player was crappy, I thought there was a long silence after this song. Turns out later I’d realize it was a low frequency drum beating softly.
“Rapberry Beret” bursts in like a big ray of sunshine. I’d like to think this was one of Prince’s happy accidents. In fact, there’s really not outtakes that I’ve found out there of this song in the making. The lyrics are simple but creative and descriptive. The layers of melody are just astounding when you really listen. There’s all kinds of strings, guitar, keyboard all woven perfectly. When the video finally premiered a short while after the song was on the radio, the longer beginning made it even better. All of the cartoon imagery, Prince now with a short haircut and a cloud suit, the members of the band dressed similar to the characters on the album cover, it was all so fun and dreamlike. Even when I saw my first Prince concert, the Hit & Run your in Louisville this year, and was at the Hard Rock Cafe, when this video came on the screens, suddenly there was an upbeat change in the mood all around and smiles everywhere.
The song that follows, “Tamborine”… ah to be eight years old and not know much of double-entendres yet. I was just purplexed when he kept switching from saying “Tamborine” to what was clearly “Trampoline”. Did he forget what word he was using? Ahh so long ago. Side two dazzled me. I had already recently gotten addicted to “America”. I had no idea why this song wasn’t on the radio like all of Prince’s other songs. I mean come on! That cool record-stopping and starting intro. It was such an upbeat happy song. HA! happy. Again, no idea of the dark underside to lines like “she may not be in the black but she’s happy she ain’t in the red”. This was followed by the already classic in my mind “Pop Life”. Of course now, hearing it in stereo I got the full effect of the double tracked vocals. On my crappy little record player, I mainly heard the right speaker filtered through mono. So I only heard the on-beat vocal, not the offbeat one. Fun fact on this one – that intermission part with the crowd noises was Prince being booed offstage at an early opening slot for the Rolling Stones by a drunken unruly mob I’m sure. Some announcer person I’m assuming says “Throw that bum out!”. I wonder how that guy feels now.
Then we got to “The Ladder”. I found this one fascinating. Yes I realized by this point already that Prince loved him some God. Buried somewhere under all that.. well I didn’t even know what to call it yet. But this song stuck with me a long time. And it was one of the first really candid spiritual songs I had heard from him aside from the b-side “God”, which I still found creepy because of his ghostly “wooooohohohOH! wa-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-ay-OH!” vocals at the start and the weird screams. This had a beautiful arrangement, and I loved how his spoken part overlapped Lisa Coleman singing the verse underneath. Then the finale, “Temptation”! One of the most bizarre tracks in the Prince canon. And yet one of my favorites. The guitar intro was electrifying! The song just dripped with sleeziness. The solos on this were so top notch. But then it settles, or rather un-settles into Prince arguing with God. I still giggle at this part. “You don’t! Now die!” and Prince’s overdramatic sounds of what it must sound like if Prince were to die a slow and ad-libbed death. Until he explains his way out of it and says “I have to go now… I don’t know when I’ll return”. Oh really now? I have to admit this whole part played out hilariously in my head even as a kid. A weird ending to a really good album. Even with its goofy parts, I still always play this album start to finish. It’s such a portrait of Prince’s brain at that point. He didn’t want to create Purple Rain 2. He was sick of Purple Rain. Sick of playing the same songs every night. Sick of the outfits and the hair. Probably sick of everyone copying the outfits and the hair. He wanted to do something uncharted and new, that he believed his true fans would understand. Even if he didn’t know who his true fans were anymore. But all in all, I remember this album fondly, and it is still among my favorite Prince albums. Happy 30th anniversary!
And here is some alternate artwork. Prince supposedly had commissioned an artist named Jim Warren to do the art, with a list of things he wanted in the picture. At the end of the day, he changed his mind and went with artist Doug Henders for a different painting with the same idea.
Jim Warren’s version: