Prince #3: Around The World In A Day

Prince #3: Around The World In A Day

If you’re over 40, Around the World In A Day is the Prince album you bought and listened to once. It’s the most un-Purple Rain album Prince could possibly have released to follow up Purple Rain, and it functions as a neat dividing line between Real Prince Fans and everyone else. (A line Prince would keep drawing throughout his career, forever seeking new success, forever uncomfortable with fame.) In the 1980s, making a “psychedelic” album became a go-to career-killer for some of the industry’s biggest acts: Tears for Fears, Daryl Hall, Ric Ocasek. But as usual, Prince got there first.

Except it’s not all psychedelia. Sure, there are finger cymbals on literally every track. Sure, you have the swirly, colorful video for “Raspberry Beret.” But the album’s much deeper, and better, than that. Even the most obviously Beatles-inspired track, “Paisley Park,” still sounds like Prince. But then you have “Condition of the Heart,” the most (no pun) heartbreaking Prince track released, until he killed us dead the following year with “Sometimes It Snows In April.” Then you have the three-song pop rush of “Tamborine,” “America,” and “Pop Life,” before P-dog hangs a hard left turn with thirteen minutes of blues-based album closer in “The Ladder” and “Temptation.” (The latter of which features a Heaven-or-Hell section, eternal screams and all, that feels ripped right out of one of those fundamentalist “House of Horrors” installments where a pasty fella in a leather vest and markered-on tattoos throws “AIDS” on you.)

I first encountered Around the World like nearly everyone else: seeing the “Raspberry Beret” video on MTV. I thought it was a weird fucking song, but the video cemented in me a lifelong crush on Wendy Melvoin. (A crush that would certainly not be eased by the sight of her in a backless dress in the video for “Mountains,” but LET’S NOT DWELL ON THIS, SHALL WE?) I gave the album literally no other thought until the summer of 1991, when I was mowing my future wife’s lawn and asked to borrow a tape to listen to. Knowing I liked Purple Rain, she said, “Here,” and handed me a Walkman with Around The World In A Day in it. I put it on started mowing, and made it halfway through side one. It was the tinniest thing I’d ever heard, and also I did not care for this version of Prince, who I thought I knew from that one album.

Now, of course, it’s one of my favorites, and I think we can all agree cassette mastering was probably a factor in a lot of people not liking a lot of things. The two albums between Purple Rain and Sign O’ The Times are largely considered interesting messes — a critical consensus aided by the FLAT-OUT WRONG notion that Under The Cherry Moon is a bad film — but if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that most people don’t really know what they want. If Prince had released Purple Rain II, like a lot of people apparently wanted, it would have been fucking boring. Instead, he did what real artists do: he made what he thought was good, and he trusted the right people would get it. Which I finally did, 25 years after the last time I heard it.

Stray Observations:

  • Seriously, those finger cymbals show up on every track, often when you least expect them, and sometimes just once or twice.
  • When this album was released, Prince neglected to offer a single. Radio programmers had to just pick what they would play off the LP. Thus, the “Raspberry Beret” video was assembled fairly quickly, and only after the majority of programmers had decided it was the most hit-likely track on the album.
  • “Built like she was/She had the nerve to ask me/If I planned to do her any harm”: I always take this lyric to mean he’s dealing with a woman who could clearly beat the shit out of him if she wanted to, i.e., probably most women.
  • Then he says “She wasn’t too bright,” and now all I can picture is Prince with Adrian from Rocky.
  • I feel like “Overcast days never turned me on” is a lie. Guys, it’s Prince. Everything turned him on.

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