The amount of music that Prince made between 1980-1987 or so is simply shocking. Consider: he released an album a year every year during that period, except for 1983. He also produced, composed and performed three albums by The Time, 2 Sheila E. albums, Jill Jones’ album, The Family’s album, and two albums from the female trio he dubbed Vanity 6, then, as the lead singer left and had to be replaced, Apollonia 6. So, let’s recap here. Seven years, 16 albums. And not one of them is worse than average. Has any artist in any genre of music had such a ridiculously prolific run of creativity?
Of those albums, the two least discussed are probably the Jill Jones effort (which we may tackle in a later piece) and the sole album from Apollonia 6. Released in time to capitalize on “Purple Rain”-mania, the album had a promising start. The Vanity 6 album, released in 1982 around the same time as Prince’s pop breakthrough, 1999, eventually sold Gold behind the hit “Nasty Girl.” That saucy hybrid of new wave and disco became a club smash and peaked inside the Soul Top 10 despite lyrics that are risqué even by today’s standards. The trio contained Prince’s ex-girlfriend Susan Moonsie, Boston native Brenda Bennett (then married to a member of Prince’s road crew) and Denise “Vanity” Matthews, a Canadian singer/actress who was damn near Prince’s doppelganger. Vanity, however, was nursing a healthy ego as well as a drug problem, so she split the group in the midst of filming “Purple Rain” (in which she was to play Prince’s love interest.) Auditions were hastily assembled, and a busty Californian by the name of Patricia Kotero (who had a definite resemblance to her predecessor) was chosen to replace Vanity on screen and on record. Of course, a name change was to follow—although if Prince was as litigious then as he is now, he certainly wouldn’t have allowed Vanity to leave the fold without a lawsuit.
At any rate, Apollonia 6’s one and only album was recorded throughout 1983 and early 1984. Like most Prince productions at the time, there was very little input from the trio, even if the liner notes say otherwise. Prince wrote the songs, played most of the music, and you can even clearly hear him on background vocals on some tracks. Of course, it was simpler times back then, so plenty of music listeners were none the wiser. The 7-track set might have been Prince’s second-best musical work of 1984, as Sheila E.’s The Glamorous Life was a tad inconsistent, and I’m in a minority of Prince fans who thinks The Time’s Ice Cream Castle was actually a fairly shitty album. Certainly not up to the standard of the first two.
As you can tell, it’s fairly easy to digress when discussing all things Prince. Let’s try to focus on the album, at least for a little while. It’s interesting to note that after recording songs for the album, even Prince hedged his bets on the commercial viability of the group, pulling strong songs such as “17 Days” and “Manic Monday” (which eventually became The Bangles’ breakthrough hit in 1986) from the track listing. Perhaps that bet-hedging was due to the fact that Kotero wasn’t the world’s strongest vocalist. Actually, the album’s two best songs, the poppy “Blue Limousine,” and the funky workout “A Million Miles (I Love You)” feature Brenda on lead vocals. Considering Apollonia’s name defined the band, and she was ostensibly the frontwoman, she’s oddly absent from several of the songs. At any rate, the fact that an artist could basically release an album filled with C-list (or C-list in reference to the rest of his catalog) songs and have it still be enjoyable speaks highly to the talent of that artist, does it not?
Random observation: I just realized that “Blue Limousine” has a very similar melody to 1986’s “Sometimes It Snows In April,” which appears on the Prince album Parade.
…and there was actually a video for it! The things we uncover on the internet!
What there wasn’t (weren’t?) was album sales. Apollonia 6 stalled at #62 on the pop charts and #24 on the R&B charts, coming and going almost without a trace. It’s one of two Prince side projects never released on CD (The Family’s debut is the other) and the group was donezo by the beginning of 1985. Apparently, Apollonia informed Prince relatively quickly that she would not continue with the band beyond the one album, so the Purple One decided to disband the group. Not that it was any great loss–the musical fortunes of the group were based on the whims of someone that wasn’t a member-so as Prince went, the group went. And there was enough in the way of solid material to satiate fans without needing the cover of a female group.
Still-if you can find a used copy on vinyl, grab it!
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- susan moonsie