“I Got A Live One Here!” Prince And Batman

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Prince had a sweet deal with his Batman tie-in album – asked aboard the Gotham gravy train by director Tim Burton to contribute a couple of background numbers, he ended up releasing a “music from and inspired by” album of nine tracks, without having to do the heavy lifting of scoring the drama and action on screen (that was Danny Elfman’s job).

He cancelled his vacation to Paris and flew to London to meet with Burton, tour the Pinewood sets and view rushes, before composing in the evening. The process took six weeks. His Batman album has been derided as a camp (camp? Prince?!) footnote in the Funk Prince of Grindz  oeuvre. However, his publicly courted duality is an inspired choice for the schizoid sexual triptych of Keaton’s edgy Bruce Wayne / Batman, Jack Nicholson’s Joker, and Kim Basinger’s Vicki Vale.

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Prince adopts multiple roles on the album. Producer Jon Peters recalled, “One of the original ideas was for Prince to write music for the darker characters only. But as the film progressed, it was obvious from the texture and look of what Tim Burton was getting, that we needed a unified approach to the score.”

Burton had cut Nicholson’s grandiose theatrics to temp tracks of Prince’s 1999 and Baby I’m A Star. Instead of re-scoring those as was originally suggested, Prince wrote Partyman and Trust.

Partyman opens with a Nicholson voice over inviting us to “Broaden our minds,” before letting loose with the 1999-like  funk, and suggestive lyrics like “If it breaks when it bends/ You better not put it in.” . Trust breezily hints at the original inspiration, another dance track suitable for the Joker’s inflated ego.

Electric Chair was described by NME as, “a huge, crashing neo-hip-hop beat” that “underpins screaming Hendrix guitars as Prince chants a guilty lust song in empathy with the Joker.”

Vicki Waiting plays with innuendo as Prince / Bruce flirts sexily with Vicki on the phone:

I told her the joke about the woman/

Who asked her lover “Why is your organ so small?”/

He replied “I didn’t know I was playin’ in a cathedral/

Vicki didn’t laugh at all.

He also psychoanalysis himself as Bruce:

Talk of children still frightens me/

Is my character enough to be/

One that deserves a copy made/

This 1 day I hope 2 see..

 Sheena Easton duet Arms Of Orion is largely forgettable and redundant. Scandalous (co-written with his father John Nelson) is a scorching soul, sex ballad, prime Prince falsetto foreplay, as Batman lusts out.

The Future is a grim, heavy beat, stripped down to the bone essentials, invoking the oppressive architecture of Gotham. Lemon Crush is another lascivious sex tape to a stuttering dance beat. More frivolous funk.

That leaves Batdance, the grand guignol of all that came before. Batdance the video begins with a television shaped like the Batman symbol, screening static; the camera pans over some Batmen (women?) brooding in their purple capes. The camera settles on Prince himself hunched over a keyboard with thunder and lightning in the background. Soon the bat-shaped screen comes to life and Prince as the Joker appears and wags his tongue, while the non-costumed Prince watches and in response, turns on the music.

Nicholson’s Joker kick starts the action, as the Batmen awaken. Five Jokers come marching in to dance on the smoky floor. Prince-as-Joker rises from the smoke to reveal that he is actually a Batman/Joker hybrid (named “Gemini”). Multiple Vick Vales gyrate; one has a Batman tatoo on her thigh; another has the Joker on her rear shoulder. A dance off ensues, choreographed by Barry Lather.

Snatches of previous tracks like Electric Chair and The Future weave their way through the track; screaming guitar licks and dialogue samples create a free form funk fondue – cheese dialled to 11. “Get the funk up!” a “Did he say what I thought he said?” semi-audible wink and leer. Kim Basinger screams on a loop, Nicholson’s Joker calls for an enema for Gotham’s ills. Finally, Keaton’s Batman calls “Stop” to the Dante’s dance-a-thon.

Batdance went straight to number 1, Prince’s first since Kiss in 1986. The album sold 3 million copies in America alone. For a seemingly throwaway album , Prince gave it his all. Now, let’s stick the 7 inch in the computer…

 

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Originally posted 2014-06-27 12:47:16. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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