B: good evening, sir! Up for a little covers action tonight?
G: Hellz yeah.
B: You wanna get the festivities started or shall i initiate?
G: Go right ahead, sir. this was your pick
B: Okey doke. Well first in line…
G: mmmmm. Susannah Melvoin.
B: She was a minx…and still looks good!
G: I know! The Melvoin twins still fine!
B: You know, there was supposed to be a Family reunion (ha!) album like a year or two ago-never happened.
G: Au contraire. I happen to follow them on Facebook (of course) – they’re mixing the album right now, looking at a fall release.
B: Oh really?? Whats taking them so damn long?!?
G: Yeah. For some reason (I think a legal issue with WB) they changed their name. They’re now FDeluxe (lame).
B: Hey, i dont care what they call themselves as long as they put a record out!
G: But supposedly, wheels are in motion to get the album out and do some shows later this year. I’ve heard some clips. Definitely trying to recapture that mid-’80s Prince-penned sound in 2011 without any involvement from Prince.
B: If we get a Time album AND a Family album this year? DOPE
Can Vanity become un-saved?
G: OK. So I certainly didn’t know of this song (or the Family) in 1985. You?
B: I knew The Family. “The Screams of Passion” was a decent-sized hit. Had no idea this song existed.
G: “Screams” was the only real single, though I’ve found some random 12″ promos for other tracks.
B: Yeah, Prince started making “Under the Cherry Moon” and kinda bailed on the project.
G: Sounds typical of him.
B: Which sucks, because the album was pretty darn good.
G: Maybe it’s worth briefly mentioning their bio for the readers that may not be aware.
B: The Family was formed after The Time broke up, because a) Prince wanted another side project (as if he didn’t have enough) and b) he wanted some of that (in his alleged words) “Duran Duran money”.
B: So he kept St. Paul and Jerome from The Time.
G : and Jellybean
B: …and then added in Eric Leeds, who was a sax player, and Susannah, who was his girlfriend.
G: Susannah so fine.
Miko Weaver too, who would become Prince’s axeman after the Revolution breakup.
Back to your earlier comment, it is a great album. Certainly fits in with what Prince was doing at the time – catches the Parade vibe pretty well.
But as Prince geeks, we’re getting a little off track here.
As good as the album is, this is actually a low point for me.
B: Really? It’s definitely a change of pace, but i like the vibe of the song.
G: It’s a little too sparse, I think.
B: The sparseness fits the song, though. I don’t think it’s meant to be super-orchestrated.
G: There’s an alternate cut that I like a lot better. I think it might be on the massive Prince bootleg retrospective The Work.
B: There was a period of time in 1990 when it was completely impossible to avoid this song or video.
G: And (it was) her only real hit in the US.
B: Which is a shame, because Sinead is INSANELY talented…and also INSANELY insane!
G: …and probably too political for American audiences. God forbid artists express unpopular views!
B: I don’t think she was ever meant to be a Top 40 artist.
(random comment by Gonzo about finding the Dixie Chicks hot, at which point Blerd expresses mild disgust.)
B: This song also comes from a time when alternative rock radio played female artists.
B: Actually it lasted for a couple of years post-grunge…Alanis, Natalie Merchant, Paula Cole, Sarah McLachlan. Rock/rap changed all that.
G: Can we talk about this video for a minute? It’s absurdly simple, and I imagine pretty low budget. But so effective. We know it’s staged, but you get the sense that she’s feeling these emotions.
B: Oh yeah-proof that you don’t need a lot of money to make a great video.
G: The intensity of her “singing” – her facial expressions, gestures, etc., it works.
B: That single tear rolling down her cheek is one of the iconic music video images of all time.
G: The external shots also capture the sort of cold solitude that the lyrics convey. Those scenes also remind me a lot of INXS’ “Never Tear Us Apart.”…another achingly good, depressing song from around that era (a bit earlier though).
B: Was this the first time you’d ever heard Sinead O’ Connor?
In retrospect, it’s a little disturbing that her hair got more attention than anything else.
B: I’d actually seen her on the 1989 Grammy Awards. If i remember correctly, my first thought was “what the hell is a Sinead?” My second thought was “where’s her hair?” Although she did have a Public Enemy logo shaved into her head at the time, which was pretty badass.
Ever seen this?
G: What an unexpected collaboration! This is nuts.
Prime 120 Minutes material.
Can I throw one more atcha?
B: Absolutely, sir!
G: You saw this coming, I’m sure.
B: I did.
G: I had to complete the trilogy of released versions.
B: This is a great version-recorded live. Rosie Gaines tore shit up.
G: I wasn’t a Prince nut when I bought The Hits 1 and The Hits 2. I remember being shocked that he was behind so many songs popularized by others.
B: Oh yeah, the guy was one hell of a prolific songwriter…it’s amazing when you consider how much GOOD material he gave to others.
G: So this is definitely the most by-the-book soul version of the three. He also said around this time (1993) that he would never perform this song without Rosie Gaines, which, like the many proclamations of “I’m retiring my hits after this tour,” has proven to be patently false.
B: Oh, that crazy Prince!
G: Alright. Your take on these three versions of “Nothing Compares 2 U?”
B: All three versions are great. Sinead, however, wins by a country mile. One of the few occasions I can think of where an artist takes a song originally recorded by someone else and winds up performing the iconic version.
(of course, it helped that no one knew the original version)
G: Truth. And I concur.
As I said earlier, the emotion really comes through on Sinead’s version. It almost makes you want to crawl back to every lover you’ve ever had.
B: Almost, heh.
G: Sinead’s version also overcomes what I think are the shortcomings of The Family’s original.
The production on Sinead’s is still sparse, but a bit fuller. The orchestration is a bit more lush, and the drumbeat cements it all together.
B: Sadly for Prince, I’d put his own version third on the list.
G: I’d actually put Prince’s version second.
B: I feel as though maybe the Family’s version doesn’t work as well because of the vocalist, not the arrangement.
G: Also a valid point. St. Paul’s performance isn’t nearly as believable as Sinead’s.
B: It’s a little detached.
Prince’s version brings the gospel, but musically speaking I’m not feeling it as much as the other two. Plus it has a totally unnecessary ’80s sax solo…which sucks because it was recorded in the Nineties!
G: Sinead’s version also holds up in 2011 in ways that the others don’t.
It’s aged well.
B: Oh, totally agree.
So, I think this song is the reason Prince made his recent “all covers should be outlawed” comment. Which is interesting, considering how covers-intensive his shows have been the last few years.
G: Prince has never been one to shy from hypocrisy.
B: I was looking at the set list for his L.A. shows this past weekend, and he covered two Michael Jackson songs! So i guess the “no covers” rule doesn’t apply to him?
G: Do as I say, not as I do!
B: Yes, dad.
Blerd Decision: Sinead, by several hairlengths, followed by The Family and Prince.
Gonzo Decision: Sinead again, finishing many half-ripped Papal photos ahead of Prince, with The Family trailing behind.
Final Decision: No argument about Sinead, but was The Family’s original version or Prince’s remake of his own song the second best version???