*Remember the part in the documentary “This is It” when it was revealed that Michael Jackson was driven creatively by a deep need to outdo Prince? Remember the tour’s creative director Kenny Ortega recalling his attempt to stop Michael from adding more and more expensive features to the tour, and Michael responding, “You don’t understand — if I’m not there to receive these ideas, God might give them to Prince?’”
It can be argued that the greatness of both musical solar flares – around which all other pop and R&B acts orbited during the 80s – was at least partly rooted in their motivation to out-write, out-tour, out-dance and out-chart the other.
On March 1, 1984, two days after Prince’s “International Lover” lost the “Best R&B Vocal Performance – Male” Grammy award to Jackson’s “Billie Jean” … at that 26th annual ceremony where Michael wore the dark blue military-style jacket, had Brooke Shields and Emmanuel Lewis as his dates and bulldozed all competition toward his armful of eight trophies, including Album and Record of the Year for “Thriller” and “Beat It” …
MORE NEWS ON EURWEB: Will Smith Praises ‘Mentor’ Denzel Washington After SAG Win for ‘King Richard’
…Just two days after all of that, Prince went into Sunset Sound recording studio in Hollywood for the next three days and recorded “When Doves Cry,” playing every instrument on the record himself.
Was he motivated by the Grammy “L”? Ultimately, Prince saw Michael’s 1983 “Thriller” dominance, and raised him a 1984 “Purple Rain” movie and soundtrack takeover, with “When Doves Cry” leading the way as the first single.
The song famously had no bass guitar, and this was a huge deal among fellow musicians of the time. He would later tell Bass Player magazine of its removal: “Sometimes your brain kind of splits in two – your ego tells you one thing, and the rest of you says something else. You have to go with what you know is right.”
Peggy McCreary, Prince’s engineer on “When Doves Cry,” has spoken about his confidence that the song would become a hit even without a bass line. She told Billboard: “He took the bass out and he said, ‘There’s nobody that’s going to have the guts to do this.’ And he was smiling from ear to ear. He felt this was the best and he knew he had a hit song… so he decided to do something really daring. That’s what Prince was all about.”
McCreary gives even more details about their recording session for “When Doves Cry” in a roundtable interview with Sunset Sound Recorders. Watch below, beginning at the 1:12 mark:
The LM-1 drum machine that Prince programmed and played himself for “When Doves Cry,” currently on display at Paisley Park, was introduced in 1980 by Roger Linn as the first that use samples of real drums.
See Prince’s LM-1 at Paisley Park below, beginning at the 9:41 mark (left side of the stage):
According to McCreary, Prince crafted the song’s unique drum sound by recording a cross-stick snare drum (where you hold the tip onto the drum head and slap the stick against the rim), then tuned it down an octave to give it more of a knocking sound, then ran it through a guitar processor.
Musician Dillio breaks down Prince’s use of the LM-1 and other instruments in this recreation of “When Doves Cry”:
With the song’s drum machine and lack of bass guitar, one would think that Revolution drummer Bobby Z and bassist Brown Mark had to ride the bench during live performances of the song. But Prince came up with a workaround, having a special interface designed for Bobby Z so he could play the drums live using the machine. It is likely the first instance of a Linn drum machine being used live in concert.
Brown Mark told the outlet Uncut that he always saw “When Doves Cry” as a Prince solo track. “He let me hear it because he and I had been bumping heads, and he didn’t want me to think he took the bass out as an insult,” Mark said. “He explained that when he was writing it, he put a bass line on but then took it out and liked the feel. I thought it was phenomenal.”
When The Revolution reunited after Prince’s death for a short tour, Brown Mark found a spot in the song for his bass, with Mint Condition’s Stokely Williams on lead vocals, and Wendy Melvoin doing justice to Prince’s guitar solo.
“When Doves Cry” ended up being the #1 song of 1984, having topped the charts for five weeks over the summer.