Dirty Mind
Prince
1980

Chapter 3 of the Prince Project. I really should’ve thought of a better name for this.

Here we are with Prince’s third release, Dirty Mind. In just three seconds short of 30 minutes, Prince creates an irresistible dance album and, by my guess, the first sexually explicit (yet still funny) mainstream album.

I never was the kind to make a fuss
When he was there
Sleepin’ in between the two of us

He played almost every note himself. And he was just 22!

Although Dirty Mind has more rock to it than his first two releases, it’s still a disco album – the best ever recorded. It’s as if Prince has mastered all the disco idioms and can now not only play them flawlessly, he can do whatever he wants with them.

“Dirty Mind,” “Uptown,” and “Partyup” are seamless, unstoppable, and oh-so-danceable. “Dirty Mind,” the opener, is guaranteed to pump up your jam. “Uptown” is everything The Trammps wanted to do with “Disco Inferno” but couldn’t because they were basically not very good. “Partyup,” the closer, is an anti-war dance number. The writing on this one isn’t exactly J.D. Salinger (“They got the draft/I just laugh/Fightin’ war is such a fuckin’ bore/party up”), but who expected this on a party record?

Prince doesn’t stay within the safety of the disco ball’s glittering glow, either. “Head,” the moving saga of a man who receives oral sex from a woman who is on the way to her own wedding (“I came on your wedding gown”), is R&B, while “Sister” shows that Prince had been listening closely to the Nick Lowe/Dave Edmonds roots-rock movement…though those guys never wrote about incest. “When You Were Mine” is a peppy number about the end of a ménage à trois that was covered most famously by Cindy Lauper on her debut and most obscurely by guys I vaguely remember from my first years in Seattle, Hi-Fi (on their 1983 release, Moods for Mallards).

Dirty Mind is the first Prince album that demands to be played loud. Now this is what I call sweatin’ to the oldies.

What I was doing at 22: The only thing I’m going to mention is that in the year I turned 22, I saw an amazing performance by Harlan Ellison. First he and his typewriter spent the afternoon in the window of the Avenue Victor Hugo bookstore on Boylston Street in Boston, writing a complete short story. That evening he gave a talk at MIT that lasted almost four hours (about the length of a Springsteen concert) and was never less than riveting. It went on so long that the buses stopped running and I had to walk four miles back to my apartment. I kept thinking, I could do that! I haven’t – but I’m still game to try.

Rolling Stone’s best albums of 1980:

Winner:
London Calling – The Clash

Runners-up:
The River – Bruce Springsteen
Remain in Light – Talking Heads
Doc At the Radar Station – Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band
Le Chat Bleu – Mink De Ville

Random Pick of the Day
Killing Joke, Wardance (1980)
This album scared me in 1980. It was murky and nihilistic. It made their cousins, Gang of Four, sound about as scary as the Partridge Family. Thirty-four years later, it seems clear and crisp. Killing Joke is in complete control. I’d buy Wardance just for one song, “Requiem.”

 

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