#1074: 1987, Prince, Sign ‘☮’ The Times

by Charlie_East_West on April 25, 2016

Prince RIP.

Prince was quite possibly the most difficult artist to pigeonhole. Throughout his incredible career, he was a musical magpie hopping around rock, pop, R&B, funk, soul, jazz, blues, disco and gospel. Personally, like most people, I love his imperial phase through the 1980s – where he produced some of the best albums of the decade. Sadly, his genius ran out of gas from the 1990’s onwards – but with the occasional flourish – as shown in the fantastic Baltimore released within his final album HITNRUN Phase Two

My top five Prince albums are as follows:
1. Sign ‘☮’ The Times
2. Dirty Mind
3. Purple Rain
4. Parade
5. 1999

These are a glorious run of albums that are worthy of a place within anyone’s music collection.

I am currently listening to a lot of Prince’s lesser known work. He was always willing to experiment – with mixed results, but when he was good, he was very very good – expecially within his golden era throughout the 1980s.

Price stood out from the crowd. In an era where so many musicians all look the same, all play the same and write about the same narcissistic things, Prince was a refreshing antedote to blandness. His flamboyancy should always be seen as celebration of genius rather than a threat to masculinity – as conveyed in a rather Luddite way by Eamonn Holmes.

Sign ‘☮’ The Times is however, his ultimate work of genius. I listened to it for the first time in years yesterday, and immediately felt like I had bumped into an old friend. It features songs of love, loss and with a deep political theme flowing through the album. This is reflected within the title track:-

Oh yeah!
In France, a skinny man died of a big disease with a little name
By chance his girlfriend came across a needle and soon she did the same
At home there are seventeen-year-old boys and their idea of fun
Is being in a gang called ‘The Disciples’
High on crack and totin’ a machine gun


Hurricane Annie ripped the ceiling of a church and killed everyone inside
You turn on the telly and every other story is tellin’ you somebody died
A sister killed her baby ’cause she couldn’t afford to feed it
And yet we’re sending people to the moon
In September, my cousin tried reefer for the very first time
Now he’s doing horse – it’s June,


It’s silly, no?
When a rocket ship explodes and everybody still wants to fly
But some say a man ain’t happy unless a man truly dies
Oh why?
Baby make a speech, Star Wars fly
Neighbors just shine it on
But if a night falls and a bomb falls
Will anybody see the dawn?


Is it silly, no?
When a rocket blows and, and everybody still wants to fly
Some say man ain’t happy truly until a man truly dies
Oh why, oh why?
Sign o’ the times


Sign o’ the times mess with your mind
Hurry before it’s too late
Let’s fall in love, get married, have a baby
We’ll call him Nate
If it’s a boy


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