23: Gett Off

Diamonds & Pearls (1991)
The songs Prince recorded in the 90s have been dwindling as we get to the business end of this list. And here we have the last one. 

Gett Off is a guaranteed floor-filler. A DJ super-weapon. It was one of five records I chose to DJ at my own wedding reception and the hilarious sight of elderly relatives getting down to Prince’s raunchiest single was the wedding gift I never knew I wanted.

Like on Kiss, Prince reaches into his James Brown bag of tricks for maximum dancefloor destruction. It starts with a Get Up Offa That Thing scream – a piercing stop-everything-and-listen fanfare that could be Prince, could be Rosie, could be a climaxing faun. Then The Payback beat kicks in (sampled via En Vogue) punctuated with saxophone kettle squeals from The Grunt to stop anybody’s hips getting too complacent. By the end of the fourth verse he’s mentioning James by name and launching into bars of Mother Popcorn.

It’s not all JB though. The chorus quotes Dyke and the Blazers, and the “Get Up” sample is taken from a JR Funk record, but the biggest interpolation on Gett Off is of Prince himself. He was like a chain smoker around this time, using the dying embers of previous songs to light the next. The more conventionally spelt Get Off from the New Power Generation EP lent its title, but whole verses were lifted verbatim from Glam Slam ’91, which itself was the progeny of Glam Slam, Love Machine, Twelve and Escape

It was a fertile time. Glam Slam begat Glam Slam ’91 begat Gett Off begat the trio of Violet The Organ Grinder, Gangster Glam, and Clockin’ The Jizz. There’s also whispers of a Gett Off’s Cousin hiding in the vault like the illegitimate offspring of a scandalous affair.

Gett Off was only ever meant to be a single. A club promo to generate hype for the forthcoming album. However, it did so well that it barged its way onto Diamonds and Pearls, delaying the release and making a mess of the rapped tracklist on Push. It replaced Horny Pony, a mere radio commercial compared with this real outpouring of unbridled animal lust. Lines like “It’s a sex dance, it’s the new dance, and it’s rockin’ from coast to coast” sound fist-gnawingly bad next to the louche “it’s hard for me to say what’s right when all I wanna do is wrong”.

Who wants Prince as a cheesy radio DJ when you can have him as a randy nature spirit drunk on lust? Throw in the VMAs performance with its Caligula backdrop and assless chaps and you have Prince at his Bacchanalian best. A totem to what one reviewer described as “rampant male sexuality, unfettered by the playful androgyny of the past”.

Eric Leeds’ flute further strengthens the image of Prince as a satyr. The alluring sound of ancient Arcadia harnessed to the testosterone howl of an electric guitar. Maybe then, the James Brown references are a distraction. Maybe the real thrust of Gett Off was Prince channeling his inner Pan, the horned god of male virility.

The pipes of Pan, last heard in rock during the ocarina solo on Wild Thing, still held an ancient command over mortal libidos. Prog rock threatened to forever neuter its power, demonising the instrument in the same way Pan’s cloven hooves and horns were appropriated by Christian artists in the Middle Ages to depict Satan. But Prince wrested the flute from the sexless grasp of Jethro Tull and turbo-charged it with a hard rock riff of pure sex fury.

I was 12 when I first heard this single. It’s sexual lyrics washed over me, like most song lyrics still do, but there was something monstruous in that riff. A glimpse of an adult world beyond comprehension. Around the same time, a friend and I accidentally discovered a stash of porn mags hidden in a hedge. Neither incident seemed particularly shocking at the time, but stay in my memory as the first rumblings of sexual awareness.

Is that why I chose to play it on my wedding day two decades later? I’m now questioning my motives. I thought it was because of its dancefloor appeal but maybe I wanted to complete the circle of my journey to adulthood. Get Off’s riff blows up dancefloors no question, but it also has the same affect on libidos and pre-teen innocence.