April 25 – Prince Was Positively Perturbed By The Times

It was the mid-’80s. A sign of that was that Prince had a major hit on the radio, as he seemed to for most of the middle few years of that decade. On this day in 1987, his “Sign O’ the Times” peaked at #3 in the U.S. It was the title track of his ninth album… in just 8 years. And it was no quickly-assembled throwaway effort either. Rather it was a 79 minute, double album to boot. Even those who weren’t big fans had to hand it to Prince for energy and ambition that seemed to outpace all his contemporaries.

Sign o’ the Times was recorded in L.A., which was a bit of a departure for the proud Minnesotan, but was issued on his own Paisley Park label, as were his previous two albums. What was a bit different was a return to his debut album in one way – Prince himself did the whole album, more or less bottom to top. While he’d had great success with his backing band The Revolution on some earlier albums including Purple Rain, on this album for the most part it was written, played, sung and produced by Prince with no outside help. Such was the case with the title track.

Sign o’ the Times” had Prince using a drum machine and a Fairlight synthesizer to make the music, and an “introspective” Sunday for him to pen the somewhat dark and blunt lyrics. The line “Sister killed her baby ‘cuz she couldn’t afford to feed it, yet we’re still sending people to the moon” points to the song’s beginnings.

It’s said that Prince was irritated, and confused after the Space Shuttle explosion in ’86 that the country planned to keep steaming ahead with NASA. He was “surprised that people would still be interested in space travel…especially when there were so many problems in the U.S.” As an aside, were Prince to be alive today, he’d get no argument at all here at A Sound Day about that. Among the problems he pointed to in the song were gang violence, urban poverty, and of course the big problem of the ’80s, AIDS, as in “skinny man died of a big disease with a little name.”

The bleakish single made #3 in the U.S., keeping his hot streak running. He’d had three #1 and two #2 hits in the previous three years, give or take. It topped the R&B charts and made it to #5 in Canada, #10 in the UK. The album itself got to #6 and went platinum in the States; it went 4X platinum in Canada making it one of only two of his records that did better elsewhere than his homeland. It was helped along by the next single, the more upbeat “U Got The Look,” a duet with Sheena Easton… a sign perhaps that no matter how dour the times, Prince was always up for a little bit of dancing and romancing!

12 thoughts on “April 25 – Prince Was Positively Perturbed By The Times

  1. Badfinger (Max)

    You know….he could have been a Slade fan with those spellings.
    This was a little too electronic for me… I liked Purple Rain, Around the World in a Day, and some of his earlier ones but this one left me cold.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. he did indeed have a lot of talent… seemed like he could play any instrument you threw at him. If he ever went to Edinburgh, I bet he could have been jamming along to ‘Mull Of Kintyre’ on the bagpipes if asked!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Prince was an incredibly talented musician and artist. While I like some of his songs, I never became a fan. I guess my sentiments were similar to Max (shocker!) that his music was a bit too electronic. I wish he would have done more songs like “Purple Rain”. That’s a killer tune!

    I also dig some of his funky songs like “1999” and “Kiss.” As for “Sign O’ the Times”, you can’t deny it’s got a cool groove.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To me, he was a great, almost unique talent in how well he played so many different instruments and he wrote some really good songs. But he might have done well with a bit more self-editing, not everything he put out to the public was all that extraordinary . ‘Purple Rain’ I believe he wrote either as a dare or a dare with himself , to write something Bob Seger-like …. don’t know that the song ended up Seger-like, but it was a departure from his usual sound.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The two above say it all- Yeah, Max, that’s you again, I say, unsurprised- I appreciate his ability to do everything and he was hugely talented but his ‘Raspberry Beret’ style oohs aahs and squeaks just detract from the whole damn song.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. …and yes, it’s kind of like Donna Summer had done the “oohs and ahhs” bit to the max years earlier. But that said, a lot of people really liked that touch he put on so many songs.

      Liked by 1 person

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