THE KIND YOU FIND IN A SECOND HAND STORE

Another thing which often causes surprise when I’m looking for some background on a song that I’m intending to feature on the blog is learning that it was either a much bigger chart hit than I ever recalled or, conversely, it was a comparative flop.

Prince really took off here in the UK in 1983/84, with a run of top ten singles lifted from the albums 1999 and Purple Rain. There was, inevitably and naturally, huge interest I what he was going to come up with next but very few were prepared for something as odd as this:-

mp3 : Prince & The Revolution – Raspberry Beret

By odd, I mean different. It was, unexpectedly, a pop tune, far lighter and less funky than many of the songs which had propelled him into the stratosphere. It was a happy, almost carefree song with a chorus that seemed not to be too far removed from a nursery rhyme. Prince had this reputation as a dangerous basdass mutha, with a raw sex on legs persona, who didn’t want to know what love is, but here he was writing and recording a song reflecting on the loss of innocence.

It was a tune that, more than anything else of the stuff I had heard up until now, convinced me that Prince was capable of living up to the hype. None of Little Red Corvette, Let’s Go Crazy, I Would Die 4 U and the afore-mentioned 1999 and Purple Rain had done anything for me and I wasn’t at all familiar with his back catalogue. The new single just oozed class and style right out of the radio with every play seeming to offer something new to the listening ears, such as the perfect interplay with the backing vocalists, the lush instrumentation that had a sort of world music feel to it or the fact that the lyric was, in places, just about as filthy as previous offerings – “They say the first time ‘aint the greatest / But I tell ya, if I had the chance to do it all again / I wouldn’t change a stroke.”

It’s a song written from the perspective of a hopeless romantic, with the sort of storyline that wouldn’t have been out-of-place on a Springsteen album. Puny little boy in dead-end job in a shop, with a boss who wasn’t fond of him, has his world turned upside down by the unexpected appearance one day of a confident female who is wearing an extremely bright and stylish hat….he knows immediately that she is trouble as she came into the shop through the out-door!

You can just picture the insecure and inexperienced boy cowering behind the counter as the girl in the raspberry beret makes a beeline for him – “Built like she was, she had the nerve to ask me / If I planned to do her any harm” – but his bravado leads him to call her out and the next thing you know, he’s got her on the back of his bicycle and he’s pedalling furiously to a barn on a nearby farm, trying hard to get there before the rain starts pouring down.

Next thing he knows, she has made a man out of him. And he’s fallen madly in love. He certainly will always remember his first time….with the overpowering image being the hat which doesn’t appear to have been removed throughout the tryst. It’s completely bonkers but at the same time completely brilliant.

For years, I only knew the 7” and radio version of the song. It was over on someone else’s blog (and apologies for nor recalling whose) that I was exposed to the 12” version in which the funk, and a nod to the blues, bookend the pop tune. It’s even more brilliant than the version with which we are most familiar.

mp3 : Prince & The Revolution – Raspberry Beret (12” mix)

Let me take you back to my opening gambit about the extent of chart success.

Raspberry Beret only got to #25 in the UK in August 1985. I wouldn’t have thought that.

JC

13 thoughts on “THE KIND YOU FIND IN A SECOND HAND STORE

  1. Around the World in a Day Is a gem of an album. I am by no stretch of the imagination a Prince fan but I am a fan of this album. He tinkered with pop-psychedelia and mastered it. Raspberry Beret is an incredible pop song. I give 10 out 10 for the song and 10 out of 10 for the single’s art work.

  2. I got on the Prince bus when I saw the video for “Dirty Mind” but didn’t start buying the wax until “Controversy” dropped in 1981. The “Controversy” title track was life-changing! Strangely enough, “Around The World In A Day” was where I sort of got off the bus. I didn’t buy any more Prince until I got the itch about 5 years ago to go back and investigate all that I had sat out as his output began increasing with time. It’s a fine pop tune, and the influence of the Paisley Underground bands [The Three O’Clock were doing much more interesting takes on neo-psychedelia for my ears] was unexpected, but “Take Me With U” was certainly an outlier from the previous album with its precious finger cymbals.

  3. I forgot to mention that Warren Zevon with R.E.M. [minus Stipe] backing him up as the Hindu Love Gods did a fine cover of this! I just finally go that album to finish off my Zevon collection.

  4. We had that Prince tune on the jukebox of a Cajun restaurant in the west village where I waited tables in 1985. Don’t know why–the only other song on there besides jazz standards was ‘Take This Job And Shove It’ by Johnny Paycheck. We used to call it ‘Red Hat’ and sing along when prepping the bar before we opened (it was too loud in there to hear anything when the crowd came in and we had live music anyway.) Red Hat. Hadn’t thought about it for years. I remember waiting on Big Audio Dynamite one evening–wonder what they would have made of our eclectic jukebox.

  5. So Prince built a persona round that badass Funkster with his first Dirty Mind and Controversy – albums 3 and 4. For the majority of the world these were really albums 1 and 2. This is where people’s assumptions began to run way behind where the artist really was.
    By the time Prince and The Revolution release 1999 (album 5 or 3 if you are following my line of thought), the Funk was already getting married with Pop. The Funk is more effect and the Pop tune in tracks like Little Red Corvette and Delirious shines through.
    So by the time we get to Purple Rain, Prince has put his purple hat, jacket, boots, motorcycle and guitar in the mainstream lane. Sure, he helped shift that mainstream lane off to the left, but Prince And The Revolution made one of the great Pop albums of the 80s with Purple Rain. Purple Rain also serves two other purposes. Obviously it is a soundtrack to an idea, a film by Prince, but it is also a greatest hits of sorts of Prince, the musician, to date – albeit with new songs.
    Having laid down this preamble, Around The World In A Day, and its lead off song Raspberry Beret makes complete sense to me. In fact, I have to agree with you here JC, there is a very Springsteen vibe to Raspberry Beret. There’s also an obvious, with no apologies, Sgt. Pepper’s feel to the song. But it’s just not possible to say that Raspberry Beret and its accompanying album are anything but from the mind of Prince. In 1985, Prince was closing in on 10 years of making music his own way and there was no way he was going to do anything more than once anymore.
    Having gotten off the Prince ride after Controversy, I found myself curious again with what has to be considered one of Prince’s purest, classic, Pop songs. He gained back a fan.

  6. Wow, if ever there was an opportunity to proof read before hitting POST COMMENT, it was with the above. Good example of my fingers lagging behind the speed of my thoughts. Editor – you are free to fix me above…

  7. I got on the bus with Dirty Mind, so album 3 then, picked up the first 2 for the sake of it, but he had me from my start with Dirty Mind. I consider myself a huge fan and I went along quite a while, we had a bit of disconnect for most of the 90’ies but picked things up again with Musicology 2004. Those who know me know my affection for Billy MacKenzie over most of everything else, but Prince is – darn, was – in my eyes the greatest musical genius we’ve seen to this date.
    Raspberry beret is pure pop perfection, the 12 inchers released from the album are all magic with great b-sides as well. The 20 something minutes jam of America firmly made it clear that Prince still had the funk while being able to make perfected pop and Beatles psychedelia. RIP little big man.

  8. Prince’s lyrics are sometimes accused of being just smut and innuendo (and there is lots of it on Raspberry Beret) but I’ve always loved the lines “seem’s that I was busy doing something close to nothing, but different from the day before…”.

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