2011 was a stellar year for Prince collectors. New bootleg releases surfaced containing a plethora of longed for and much sought after material, from crystal clear rehearsals to soundboard concerts, with a mind blowing, pro-shot DVD to top it all off. But it has not taken long for 2012 to get off to a rollicking start with this release. 4DaFunk have started the New Year off with a bang for sure with the release of "Parade Demos". Yes, these tracks have been in circulation for a long time, but you have never heard them like this.
These demos first made their appearance way back in 1987 on a vinyl bootleg called "Charade". It was the second bootleg I ever purchased, and the one that really opened my eyes to the world of unreleased Prince music. I was searching local record stores for a bootleg of the much talked about "Black Album" and finally came across one on vinyl at DJ Records, a tiny store in a strip mall that is, of course, long gone these days. As my hands shook holding this unreleased album I had been reading about and dying to hear, my eyes caught the "Charade" album sitting behind it in the bin. I had no idea what it was, I was a naive 16 year old in pre-Internet days, I just knew I had to have it as it was Prince and something I did not own.
As exciting as it was to finally hear "The Black Album", "Charade" was just as magical. Different versions of songs I knew and loved from "Parade", songs I did not even know existed like "Others Here With Us", and a song I had only read about in "Old Friends 4 Sale". I had no idea fans could get access to this kind of stuff at the time. The quality was damn good too, as it was when this bootleg eventually made its way to CD in later years. It was even recently 'remastered' in 2010, but even that release cannot touch 4DaFunk's "Parade Demos".
As it states on the cover, these tracks have never been shared before in this quality. They are sourced from a low-generation tape, not from any existing bootleg and sound amazing. A few of these songs are identical to what was released on "Parade", but thankfully they have been left intact here. This is the configuration of the actual tape, it should be left alone and, as on "Charade", they've done the right thing. "New Position", "Under The Cherry Moon", "Life Can Be So Nice" and "Sometimes It Snows In April" were released as is, so there are no difference,s but since some of these tracks segue into each other, keeping everything unedited is preferable.
Things start off here, as they do on "Parade", with the same four tracks all running into each other. But instead of "Christopher Tracy's Parade", the opening song was then known as "Wendy's Parade" with references to Prince's character in "Under The Cherry Moon" replaced by Revolution guitarist Wendy Melvoin, referred to as 'little girl Wendy' here. Besides the lyric change, the basic tracks were used on the released version, with Clare Fischer's orchestration added later. This then leads into "New Position" before an alternate version of "I Wonder U". This is missing any of Clare Fischer's orchestration, but more importantly on this recording, Prince shares the lead vocal with Wendy. Prince decided to drop his vocals from the released version, marking the first time Prince did not sing lead vocals on one of his released songs. "Under The Cherry Moon", same as released, then follows.
One of the strangest unreleased Prince songs circulating is next in "Others Here With Us". Opening with a looped sample of screams , the song is almost devoid of live instrumentation. There is a lone organ playing the melody and a lumbering drum beat, but the majority of the song is Prince's vocal over all kinds of looped screams, howls and other assorted off-putting, creepy sound effects. The lyrics match the dark mood, unquestionably one of the more disturbing songs Prince ever recorded, and I can see why he decided to put it back in the vault. I love the track, it just doesn't fit the ultimate, more light hearted air of "Parade". Apparently there also exists a version with Clare Fischer's orchestration added, but that is uncirculating amongst collectors. I'd be very interested to hear how the song changed once Fischer got a hold of it.
The true highlight of these demos is "Old Friends 4 Sale". I first read about this track in the 1985 interview Prince did with Rolling Stone so I was floored when I finally got to hear it. This is an incredibly personal song, with Prince addressing his life in the wake of the mania that was "Purple Rain". From changes in his band, to problems with associates, to people who left the Prince camp he felt had back-stabbed him, it is a revelation to hear Prince get this personal on record. He simply does not do it often enough. There are references to cocaine use, surely directed at Morris Day and his former bodyguard Big Chick Huntsberry. Huntsberry sold a story to the National Enquirer detailing a paranoid Prince, painting him as a recluse who was afraid to leave his house in the aftermath of his super-stardom. It deeply hurt his former boss, leading him to agree to the Rolling Stone interview to try to make himself look like a somewhat normal figure. But that pain is all unveiled in the lyric here. '4 someone who said they would die 4 me/sold some, they sold some more pictures and all my little memories/chump change is 2 unravel the mystery/But life is no fun, life is no fun without fantasy/Some things r better left unsaid/and some people r better left untrusted'.
Sadly, when Prince finally released "Old Friends 4 Sale" in 1999 on his "The Vault" compilation, he did what he usually does and used a re-recorded version from 1991 where he completely changed the lyrics to make them less personal, and in the process non-sensical. It's one of the worst bastardizations of a great lyric in his career, but thankfully the original version lives on in the bootleg world in near perfect quality now. There is also a version circulating from this period with Clare Fischer's orchestration added, but I have always preferred this original demo. It is a perfect song, the sad melody matching Prince's somber, emotional vocal performance.
"Old Friends 4 Sale" segues into another highlight, the still unreleased "All My Dreams". This over seven minute track is a tour de force for the experimentation that Prince was engaged in with The Revolution at this time. After opening with a light funk/pop groove, the middle section features a slowed down Prince vocal that was later partially re-used on the song "Acknowledge Me". It then goes into a jazzy instrumental showcase with Lisa Coleman soloing on the piano and the bass, presumably Prince, popping and running all over the place. The song then returns to its original structure. After not making the cut for "Parade", it was set to be the closing track on 1986's "Dream Factory" album, but Prince decided instead to disband The Revolution. That album, and this song, remain unreleased to this day.
The demo tape closes with two alternate versions. "Girls & Boys" is identical to the released version other than a brief intro of Wendy saying 'For God's sake' and the ending of the song which closes with drum claps. In its released version these claps were removed as the song segued right into "Life Can Be So Nice". "Love Or $" is the final track here and this is more like a rehearsal of the song than a full fledged studio version. There is a prevalent rhythm guitar part that was not used on the released song, and Prince gives a relaxed vocal, whereas his sped up Camille voice was used on the B-side to "Kiss", where this song eventually wound up.
Even if nothing else were to surface in 2012, the release of this highly upgraded version of the "Parade Demos" is a coup for Prince fans and collectors. It joins an ever growing list of absolutely essential Prince bootlegs. We're not likely to hear any better, clearer versions of these songs than here, as close to release quality as we'll see, and this is a revelatory release. A tremendous thanks, as always, to those responsible and to 4DaFunk for releasing it freely. Also, thanks to the fantastic Prince Vault website, where some of the details shared here about individual tracks originated. It's an invaluable site for Prince research and information.