This is Prince’s 7th album and it sits midway in his incredible run of 8 albums in 8 years: Dirty Mind – Controversy – 1999 – Purple Rain – ATWIAD – Parade – Sign O The Times – Lovesexy. These albums (Controversy arguably excluded) are not only the crowning glories of his many achievements, but a pinnacle of pop music, period. I cannot think of (m)any other artists who hit both creative and commercial peaks with such consistency as Prince. Bowie? The Beatles? That’s it.
ATWIAD is interesting because unlike the others it wasn’t so successful commercially at the time. Its interesting because it shows just how daring Prince was. There was nothing else that sounded like this in 1985. How radical to start an album with a floaty flute line and soft cymbals; it must have been quite a shock to those expecting a similar guitar hero opening to Purple Rain or the sparse robo-funk of Dirty Mind. In fact the first three tracks on this album are whimsical to say the least. Its not until we get to Raspberry Beret that we have something which evens sounds like a conventional pop song.
Some of my favourites on this album are the non-single tracks, this is where he really lets his creativity fly. We have Condition of the Heart, which is really quite a beautiful and delicate piano ballad, Tamborine [sic] which is just mental but brilliant, about Prince “Falling in love with the face in a magazine” when he finds himself “All alone by myself /
Me and I play my tambourine.” Quite. Hearing this at the age of 14 or 15 certainly extended my knowledge of the sexual euphemism. Led Zeppelin had kicked that one off the year before with their “squeeze my lemon ‘til the juice runs down my leg.”
But I digress.
The Ladder on Side Two is a anthemic ballad that if life was fairer and people appreciated music properly could well have been as iconic as Purple Rain. It also features as the centrepiece of the psychedelic gatefold sleeve artwork. Maybe it didn’t help that it was hidden towards the end of the album, just before one of the purple imp’s most explicit and ridiculous sexual fantasy songs, Temptation. I loved this song SO much when I first played it on cassette, bought soon after my first Prince album Parade in 1986. Luckily my parents never really came into my teenage bedroom, as I dread to think what they would have thought of the lyrics, though they may have approved of him being told of by God at the end.
God, I miss him. I imagine She does too.
Best Bits: Temptation. In remembrance and nostalgia for my teenage sexual awakening.
Genre: Psychedelic Sex Pop
Like This, Try This: Temptation has an awesome guitar riff, but he never performed the song live. Instead here is Prince wiping the floor with Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty and Steve Winwood at the George Harrison Hall of Fame induction.