The first album to feature rock band The Revolution, Prince's landmark release 1999 reinvented the wheel when it came out in 1982. A double studio album bursting with confidence, accompanied by bright, loud 80's party videos, Prince donned a gleaming purple trench coat and took the world by storm.
Joining Prince on his global conquest from the get-go was Revolution drummer Bobby Z, who recently sat down on The Rhino Podcast with hosts Rich Mahan and Dennis Scheyer to discuss the Super Deluxe re-issue of the breakthrough album and recall how Prince pioneered his own innovative mold, even when faced with backlash.
ON MEETING PRINCE FOR THE FIRST TIME:
"I sat down, kind of right next to [Prince] and he reacted like I was Dracula. But I won him over with a few jokes and then Chris [Moon] came in and said, 'This is Bobby, this is Prince.' And then we kind of instantly bonded."
"And then [Prince] said, 'Can you punch me in?' And I said, 'Sure.' So he went onto the drum kit and I hit record, and I'm looking at Chris going, 'What's going on?' And Chris is just, 'Just wait, just wait.'"
"Then Prince does the one thing that forever was etched in my mind, where he takes his right hand on the keyboard, left-hand on the guitar, sustain, and then sings the same run on all three halves of his brain. Crazy. And that was it."
ON THE FORMATION OF THE BAND THE REVOLUTION:
"In the beginning, there was the building blocks of just getting there. I had started really young and [Prince] had started really young and I knew that there was going to be steps, building blocks and, and I knew that he was extremely impatient."
"That's the trait the two of us had together. And that impatience, I think was the energy that helped me protect him. If you can follow that formula. By the time I met him, it was just Andre [Cymone] and Prince. And we were a trio for a long time. There's actually some amazing recordings as us as a trio. It was a bond. I'll never forget, these were my new best friends, and I felt that culturally I had to protect them from a very white, very judgmental Minneapolis."
"And I brought Matt Fink along in the last 11th hour. Again, I wanted to make sure everybody was going to get along. I was kind of a co-founder of The Revolution."
ON HOW PRINCE EXPERTLY NAVIGATED THE TIMES TO FIND HIS AUDIENCE:
"In historical perspective... I mean, the waning days of disco were happening, disco was despised by rock. And you know, there was kind of a war. They were burning disco records, literally [in Chicago.] There was some strange stuff going on with musical culture at that moment.
"Little Red Corvette" was for MTV and, and also to show off his choreography - the dance in the middle shot, this wasn't your normal kind of guy doing the splits and flipping around and stuff."
"He's splitting, he's dancing, he's jumping. It's insane. Right? So, so he mixed a rock song with performance with 1999.
The word party was a disco word. It's almost kind of risky at that moment in time. But he [knew] he [was] grabbing his entire R&B audience. And at that historical moment, [Prince] just kind of grabbed the decimated world of disco and he took it."
ON THE TIME PRINCE WAS BOOED OFF THE ROLLING STONES' STAGE IN 1981:
"It felt like incoming torpedoes. I'm so grateful now that I was in the drummer chair. [It was like] I was on board the spaceship going to Jupiter and, and we have this asteroid belt come and pelt us with rocks and chicken parts, as does raw chicken bags and paper cups.
A Jack Daniels bottle missed [Prince's] head by a quarter of an inch and crashed against the drum riser. I felt like I was a goalie. My cymbals were like a goalie protecting me from the shrapnel. It was devastating. I didn't know what, what he would do. There was a moment when I thought, 'Is this it or how do we, you know, recover from this?"
And he dug deep. He just dug deep and you know, his confidence level and himself, which was never an issue from moon sound on. It was the. Persona that he now perfect."
"After the Rolling Stones debacle is when 1999 was forged - he had all this newfound courage."
ON THE 35 NEW UNRELEASED TRACKS INCLUDED IN THE SUPER DELUXE REISSUE OF 1999:
"1999 was in the can basically, before the Controversy tour. This kind of never-ending recording. So let's do a math problem. 43 years - I met [Prince] in '77. Let's just say, wrote a song a day, for the sake of it. It could be more, between photo sessions and video shoots and you know, but recording a song a day."
"365 times 43... it gives you a number into the 14,000's. [Are] there that many songs? There could be. There really could be 10,000 songs or more. By the time they're done digging through all of it, and find every little scrap of melody and composition..."
"It's astounding. This is not normal. You know, maybe only Lennon and McCartney [could] be equal with the quality and the amount of songs that were put out in a period of time."
Listen to the rest of the podcast below: