Friday, 22 April 2016

Purple Pain... our history with Prince

Urban Fox's entire back catalogue is steeped in Prince's influence so Thursday 21st April 2016 was a sad day indeed.  One of my first ever conversations with Urban Fox's chief lyricist, Doug, was about Prince.  It didn't go very well to my memory as I decided to sing 'Six O'Clock already I was just in the middle of a dream, Woke up this morning couldn't have sworn it was judgement day'.  However, we got over my little indiscretion and Doug made me a mix tape which had 'Little Red Corvette' on it. '1999' with it's heavy synths resonated with what I was into at the time (1982)  because I was all about Depeche Mode, ABC, Human League et al.  'LRC' was just out of sync with my music taste at the time.  When I heard it again on Doug's mix tape in 1987 it stirred something inside.

Little Red Corvette - Prince

I'd bought Alexander O'Neal's 'Hearsay' on the back of the single 'Criticise' which was the best thing I'd heard for ages.  On Doug's tape there was a song 'Saturday Love' by Alex and Cherrelle which led to me discovering more and more Minneapolis.  The 'Purple Rain' album, Alexander O'Neal's first album and eventually, after some prompting from Doug, Morris Day and the Time.

It wasn't until 1991 that we started writing songs together but in those initial sessions when we wrote 'Neon City' and 'Without you' it was clear Prince's influence, energy and ethos would be ingrained in Urban Fox's songwriting.  We recorded versions of The Time's 'Jerk out' and 'Blondie' with a Geordie version of 'Yount' for good measure.

Jerk Out (Live)

More Prince influenced Urban Fox songs followed with 'Midnight Rain' and 'Used, abused and confused' but the most outward reference to the the Purple genius was in 'Minneapolis Blue'.  It was written in September 1995 by Doug (Words and Music) and told of a failed romance set in Minnesota.  We re-recorded it in the form it was meant to exist in last year (click below to listen)

In 1996 I started listening to a lot more Prince, namely 'The Gold Experience', 'Sign o' the times' and 'Diamonds and Pearls'.  However, I went back to 'Purple Rain' which I listened to every day for about a month whilst I was writing the first few songs on our album 'Magic'.  It's where 'One more Sunrise' and 'When the rains come down' came from.  It was the song 'Gold' which grabbed me most around that time and made me stop trying to come up with deep involved music (which I almost always failed at) and start writing uplifting, simple but joyous and mood creating music.  It's one of those where you go 'How the hell did that only get to number 10' in the chart?

Gold - Prince

The album shaped the future of Urban Fox somewhat. We stopped being so introspective (the Citadel EP and 'Chiseaux' cases in point) and started to look at what was happening around us. I tried to bring more major scales into the music and the results were positive.  'World for our Children' was one of the best songs we'd ever written and came from a place of social awareness.  Prince said that the key to longevity was to learn as much about music as possible and although I'd been trapped in a Gary Numan loving synth bubble for a few years, I started to embrace the electric guitar and started producing songs like 'Chapter IV' and 'West End (my best friend)' with our bassist/guitarist Ian.

Loads more Prince-esque lyrics followed including 'Boy meets girl', 'Last bus blues' and 'Ghetto Hope'.  Thankfully we've only ever covered one Prince song, 'When Doves Cry', something that will never be repeated!  And to this day, he's still (indirectly) influencing what we're doing as there's a track on the new album called 'What would Morris do?'.

I'm going to sign off this blog by dedicating a song to him.  It was one we wrote in tribute to Luther Vandross but it just seems so appropriate right now.  The song is called 'Lost a Friend'.  Thank you so much Prince Rogers Nelson for everything - the songs, the music, the memories, the love, the everything.