Prince Track by Track Presents Stevie Wonder Classics: End of Year Roundup

Prince Track by Track Presents Stevie Wonder Classics: End of Year Roundup

(Featured Image: Stevie Wonder and “Bird of Beauty” co-writer Sergio Mendes, circa 1974; photo stolen from Sergio Mendes’ Twitter.)

As I mentioned on Twitter last week, I’ve been having kind of a rough time this month on the health front; this, combined with a year-end crunch at my day job, is the reason why there was no new blog post last week. It’s also the reason why I haven’t gotten around to posting these links, my last two appearances on Darren Husted’s miniseries of track by track podcasts on Stevie Wonder’s “classic era”:

Prince Track by Track Presents Stevie Wonder Classics: “Bird of Beauty”
Prince Track by Track Presents Stevie Wonder Classics: “I Wish”

Doing this miniseries was a little bit of a leap of faith, as (and I’m afraid this is probably evident from the episodes) I’m definitely not as knowledgeable about Stevie Wonder as I am about Prince. I don’t think all of my appearances rank among my best work (though the “I Wish” episode is solid evidence of my ability to riff at great length on the ill-fated Will Smith vehicle Wild Wild West and its soundtrack), but I hope that each was at least worth a 20-minute or so listen.

In any case, as the Stevie Wonder miniseries is now nearing its end, this marks my last appearance on one of Darren’s podcasts for the foreseeable future. I want to thank him for having me on Prince: Track by Track so many times over the last couple of years. And now, I must return to my own solitary toil: I’m not going to promise any specific dates, but I’m still planning on getting you “Lady Cab Driver” and “1999” before the New Year. Until then!

I Don’t Wanna Leave You

I Don’t Wanna Leave You

(Featured Image: The Time’s Morris Day and his sparring partner, the Artist Formerly Known as Jamie Starr, circa 1982; photo by Allen Beaulieu.)

The Time’s second album, What Time is It?, was released on August 25, 1982–just two weeks after the self-titled debut by Vanity 6. It easily outperformed both Vanity 6 and the Time’s own debut, and effectively tied with Prince’s previous album Controversy: peaking at Number 26 on the Billboard 200 and Number 2 on the Black Albums (recently renamed from “Soul”) chart.

Despite their success–or, more likely, because of it–Prince was determined to keep the spinoff group in their place. Studio tech Don Batts recalled him showing up to one of the band’s rehearsals with a rough mix of the finished record: “He threw the cassette at [guitarist] Jesse [Johnson] and said, ‘Hey man, you play really good on your album,’” Batts told biographer Per Nilsen. “That kind of comment, it was like saying, ‘Hey puppets!’” (Nilsen 1999 108).

More than anything, though, Prince kept his grip on the Time’s strings by saving their best material for himself. It’s hard to hear What Time is It?’s underwhelming closing track, “I Don’t Wanna Leave You,” without imagining a stronger alternative in its place: something that would end the album with a bang, rather than a whimper. Something, that is, like “International Lover,” which Prince had originally conceived for his side project back in January before poaching it for the finale of his own forthcoming album

Continue reading “I Don’t Wanna Leave You”