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How Prince did the song "1999"


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I always thought the verse melody was a little odd (in a cool way), and now I know why.

 

Originally, he recorded the entire verse as three-part harmony the whole way through, but then when it came time to mix, he wasn't digging it. Instead of throwing out the harmonies, he pulled them out individually to make a whole other melody.

 

And when you listen, it makes perfect sense.

 

High harmony: I was dreaming when I wrote this. Forgive me if it goes astray.

 

Low harmony: But when I woke up this morning, could have sworn it was judgement day.

 

Middle harmony (Prince): The sky was all purple, there were people running everywhere.

 

ALL TOGETHER: Trying to run from the destruction. You know I didn't even care.

 

That's cool. :thu:

 

- Jeff

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Originally posted by Jeff Da Weasel:

I always thought the verse melody was a little odd (in a cool way), and now I know why.

 

Originally, he recorded the entire verse as three-part harmony the whole way through, but then when it came time to mix, he wasn't digging it. Instead of throwing out the harmonies, he pulled them out individually to make a whole other melody.

 

And when you listen, it makes perfect sense.

 

High harmony: I was dreaming when I wrote this. Forgive me if it goes astray.

 

Low harmony: But when I woke up this morning, could have sworn it was judgement day.

 

Middle harmony (Prince): The sky was all purple, there were people running everywhere.

 

ALL TOGETHER: Trying to run from the destruction. You know I didn't even care.

 

That's cool. :thu:

 

- Jeff

I don't get what you're talking about. When I saw him do it live, some girls did the first line, his guitar palyer did the second, and then Prince. Kcbass

 "Let It Be!"

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Originally posted by Kcbass:

Originally posted by Jeff Da Weasel:

I always thought the verse melody was a little odd (in a cool way), and now I know why.

 

Originally, he recorded the entire verse as three-part harmony the whole way through, but then when it came time to mix, he wasn't digging it. Instead of throwing out the harmonies, he pulled them out individually to make a whole other melody.

 

And when you listen, it makes perfect sense.

 

High harmony: I was dreaming when I wrote this. Forgive me if it goes astray.

 

Low harmony: But when I woke up this morning, could have sworn it was judgement day.

 

Middle harmony (Prince): The sky was all purple, there were people running everywhere.

 

ALL TOGETHER: Trying to run from the destruction. You know I didn't even care.

 

That's cool. :thu:

 

- Jeff

I don't get what you're talking about. When I saw him do it live, some girls did the first line, his guitar palyer did the second, and then Prince. Kcbass
P.S. That same guitar player is leading a band in the movie Purple Rain.

 "Let It Be!"

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Right. That's how it came out... not how it was recorded or originally intended.

 

Originally, all three of them sang all the parts in harmony. But when Prince was mixing, he took away the parts in their repsective sections so it was a single-part melody for the verses.

 

Make sense?

 

By the way, that guy was Dez Dickerson, and I always thought he was great back then.

 

- Jeff

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When you think about the "genius" "prodigy" threads of the last few days here - this is a pretty good example of coming to terms with his gift. He had incredible speed and facility and really became creative when he started to parse and reduce.

 

"When Doves Cry" and the missing bass is probably the key to understanding his process in his earlier work.

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That's a plausible idea...but it's also perhaps just a case of imitating the multi-lead voice approach of groups like the Temptations & early Parliament, where differnt vocalists would naturally sing in different registers.

 

Anywhat, did you ever notice that the chord progression he used is a direct cop from the Band's song "Chest Fever"?

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Originally posted by Jeff Da Weasel:

Right. That's how it came out... not how it was recorded or originally intended.

 

Originally, all three of them sang all the parts in harmony. But when Prince was mixing, he took away the parts in their repsective sections so it was a single-part melody for the verses.

 

Make sense?

 

By the way, that guy was Dez Dickerson, and I always thought he was great back then.

 

- Jeff

Lima Charlie. Not doubting your sage wisdom, but how do you know this? A radio station here is Seattle used to play a rough mix of Purple Rain. You could clearly here his Purpleness giving the band directions, like " up a third", "back to one",etc. I offered 'em my first son for a copy but they wouldn't part with it. Kcbass

 "Let It Be!"

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Originally posted by Mark Zeger:

Did figure out that deconstructed harmony thing yourself, Jeff?

That would be impossible since if nothing were known about how Prince arrived at this through "subtractive mixing," you'd have to assume that he composed it the usual way, and simply decided to begin the different lines at the fifth,the third, and the root.

 

Cool story from the weasel!

Dooby Dooby Doo
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Yeah... no, I couldn't have figured it out myself. I always was intrigued by the skipping around of the melodic line, and when I recently read Prince talk about how this was done, I just nodded my head. It all makes sense.

 

I've often "overrecorded", then pared down during a mix. Rarely, though, have I used sections of parts... I either use 'em all or discard them entirely.

 

Of course, I'm not Prince. :)

 

- Jeff

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BTW, has anyone else ever heard PM Dawn's cover of 1999? It is part of a suite on their "Jesus Wept" cd (which is great and overlooked) called Fantasia's Confidential Ghetto.

 

They do Prince's 1999, Talking Heads' Once In A Lifetime and that song "you take the Lime and the Coconut".

 

The version of 1999 is acoustic guita and piano, and played downtempo.

 

Very good...

There is no substitute.
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