As we reflect on yet another sad loss for the music world in the elaborately purple-suited Prince, surely his soundtrack to Tim Burton's 1989 attempt to take Batman to the big screen deserves a good looking over?
Notable for being one of his final releases for the Warners label - 1993 seeing him enter into a dispute with his employers resulting in his famous symbol & the 'Slave' tattoo he would sport on his cheek for a time - it was recorded surprisingly quickly! Within six weeks it was complete, three songs from earlier projects in his own right added to embellish things, Electric Chair, Scandalous and Vicki Waiting the contributions in question complementing the remaining original compositions.
MTV's Ira Madison would retrospectively go so far as to claim that the man born Prince Rogers Nelson had an intuitive understanding of the one going by the name Bruce Wayne when not keeping the streets of Gotham City crime-free. Even director Burton was a fan, his preparations involving listening to Prince classics like “1999” and “Baby I’m a Star” as he reimagined Jack Nicholson’s Joker.
Could it be possible too that in soundtracking Master Wayne's adventures Prince was able to "hold a mirror up to Batman and see himself?" His career had somewhat stalled following the release of his prior studio album Lovesexy, itself a replacement in a sense for the cancelled Black Album, both artist & label presumably hoping his attempt at film scoring paid off.
Issued as a companion piece to Danny Elfman's official score, it would give "The Artist", as he would become known, a first taste of the top of the US Billboard chart since 1985's Around The World In A Day, his first attempt to incorporate psychedelia into a rapidly expanding palate, and his second recorded with famed backing group the Revolution...
Two members of the Revolution would later follow their esteemed bandleader into composing soundtracks, albeit on a smaller screen! The duo of Wendy & Lisa have worked extensively with Heroes creator Tim Kring, scoring both the original series & the current Reborn as well as Crossing Jordan.
They'd parted ways with Prince following Parade, the album providing the music for his Under The Cherry Moon film project. An earlier attempt to translate his music to celluloid had of course come with Purple Rain......
What exactly he meant by the title was revealed by the NME in a 20 Things You Never Knew About Purple Rain feature published soon after news broke of his death!
"When there’s blood in the sky - red and blue = purple.. purple rain pertains to the end of the world and being with the one you love and letting your faith/god guide you through the purple rain"Purple rain, purple rain...that's that cleared up then. While the film is hardly remembered as a classic, the Telegraph's film section hailed the music for it as a great advert for what its star was doing when not hamming it up on camera.
"The raw, seething versions of Computer Blue, The Beautiful Ones and Darling Nikki, which so horrified then-Second Lady Tipper Gore, that she founded the Parent’s Resource Music Center, requiring labels to issue ratings to music, caused mid-Eighties moviegoers to inadvertently slide off their seats."From Nikki to Vicki, when Batman came calling, mind. Vicki Waiting was in itself a rehash of Anna Waiting, written for then-girlfriend Anna Fantastic, real name Anna Garcia, whom he'd met when she was just sixteen at one of his concerts. She was also later credited as the inspiration for Lemon Crush, also featured on the Batman record.
Speaking to The Vinyl Factory, Dominic Apa of Is Tropical chose it as a prime example of the Purple One's genius, going against type.
"Now comes the dubious sounding part — take as the fulcrum of Prince’s Golden Era the amazing, underappreciated Batman soundtrack. The jewel in the crown. It’s got the varied influence, instrumentation and unique sound that Prince is known for.Interesting that Art Of Noise should be mentioned there, their cover of Kiss a chart hit just a year before Prince was let loose on the Batman album!
It sounds like Art of Noise’s wet dream. Only Prince could make an album which was ostensibly a rush-job for MTV indents and corporate sidelining into a musical masterpiece."
While a sideways step into composition for film could be seen to have in a sense restored Prince's creative mojo, it was so nearly a different story for Danny Elfman. As he told the New York Post,
"“Batman” was very stressful — almost nervous-breakdown stressful. All I had done up to then was quirky comedies. Nobody but Tim wanted me on the movie. I really had to prove myself. There was a desire to have me collaborate with Prince [who wrote additional music for the film], but I was not open to that."Hence two separate soundtrack albums - virtually unheard of even now. His near breakdown while working on the film was at least later revealed to have borne fruit in inspiring one of his later smaller screen students in the form of Doctor Who composer/musical director Murray Gold!
"I think in the first series [of Doctor Who], I still owed a lot to Danny Elfman and his score for the first Batman film. It has what a lot of people would casually refer to as a big movie sound; they call it the 'Korngold' sound in Hollywood.From the caped crusader & a purple-clad hero to one in a leather jacket. Life is just a party, and parties weren't meant to last, indeed...........
There was a lot of that in the first series, and lots of four-to-the-floor drum loops and sequences, because I didn't have an orchestra, and I had to create some excitement somehow. And sometimes, to get through the sheer amount of music that I needed to, I would hold down a chord longer than I would now, and use that as a shortcut.
I'd very quickly put eight chords down, two bars each, and then just draw controller information on them to put in some dynamics."