21: How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore

1999 single (1982) / The Hits/The B-Sides (1993)
During one of the moon landings, an astronaut dropped a feather and a hammer to show they would hit the ground at the same time. They still lie on the lunar surface in the same place they landed 50 years ago.

In How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore Prince shares the same level of remote abandonment as that single falcon feather, 240,000 miles away from the nearest falcon. He too has been dropped into a cold deserted landscape, and lies discarded next to the only object connecting him to the world he once knew – in his case, the stubbornly silent phone. Nothing exists for him except heartbreak and the increasingly unlikely remedy.

Prince pours overwhelming loss into every corner of this classic B-side. He takes the chord progression from Heart and Soul and tears holes in it, twisting it up in knots. His voice, thrown through the wringer and broken in several places, runs the gamut from wistful remembrance to the tortured scream of a soul in purgatory. The only thing grounding the swelling vortex of pain and stopping it from swallowing everything in sight, is the sound of his foot stomping a rudimentary beat, and a finger-click during the first mention of the title that briefly snaps him out of his wallow.

In early performances, Prince ramped up the feeling of loss by opening up new chasms of silence. 1999 Super Deluxe included a DVD of an 1982 performance where he breaks off from the song and mutely lies down on his piano, pounding the top in impotent frustration. During both live recordings on this release, lyrics get abandoned mid-line and the piano drops out completely for half the song’s duration, leaving us with a sole tambourine metronome and an acapella chant of “how come u don’t call me”, while Prince whips up the crowd into a raw screaming mess. We’re beyond the orbit of entertainment at this point and entering the realm of scream therapy.

Later performances, although similarly structured, lose this searing build up and catharsis. The full band treatment on One Nite Alone… Live puts on a show but the spaces are filled with saxophone and panache, leaving no room for the churning ache of heartbreak. Some of the tricks remain – like when he screams into the mic and leaves the echo reverberating around the hall for an eternity, but when the band comes back in they add a capital G to the loss felt in the original. I’m sure it sounded incredible in the moment, but home alone, on headphones, it can’t touch the very first transmissions from Prince’s pit of despair. 

In 2019, the gods bestowed us with a second studio take. This unexpected gift actually has a proper ending instead of a fade out, offering a resolution its predecessor refuses to provide. It’s neither better nor worse, but its appearance was like discovering Da Vinci made another painting of Mona Lisa from a different angle. On rainy nights I keep a fire lit that a third take may one day walk through the door. That may seem greedy but my yearning has to be directed somewhere and the phone stopped calling with newly-recorded material many years ago.

25: Shockadelica

If I Was Your Girlfriend single (1987)
At first, Shockadelica seems to be the tale of a man-eating vamp that can control men’s minds with her hypnotising sexual allure. A common trope found in rock, especially during 1967’s Summer of Love where a glut of songs about bewitching women casting spells with their Strange Brew and Summer Wine inspired a parody in Bedazzled when Peter Cook bucks the trend by emotionlessly singing “you bore me” and “you fill me with inertia” to the siren-like dancers spinning around him.

Prince has been here before on Come Elektra Tuesday but is Shockadelica really another tale of a Black Magic Woman? In the 12” Long Version we’re twice told that the title describes a feeling of “lonely cold”. If Shockadelica is a feeling, then maybe the seductress is instead called Camille? Lyric sites tend to place punctuation or the chorus break in between the words Camille and Shockadelica, making the first mention of Prince’s alter-ego ambiguous. But in his handwritten notes there’s nothing separating them. Camille is Shockadelica and Shockadelica is a feeling of lonely cold. There is no girl, only a mirage of anthropomorphised loneliness that comes from sleeping alone with lustful thoughts. Prince portrayed these energy-sapping thoughts as a girl that wouldn’t let him play his guitar, revealing he viewed them as a threat to his creativity.

One reason why people want to separate Camille and Shockadelica is because of how the Camille character developed. They point to the Poem of Camille in the Lovesexy programme which explicitly states Camille is a boy, believing he can’t be the girl in Shockadelica. Others square this contradiction by pointing to Prince’s allusion in an online interview that Camille was named after a 19th Century ‘hermaphrodite’ and is instead intersex. But these are mere labels that miss the point. Camille is beyond gender. Supragender. Camille is pure id. A canvas for all the drives that make up Prince, untied by the social constructions of gender, race and class.

In the handwritten lyrics to Shockadelica, the most reworked line is the one where Camille is introduced, suggesting an internal battle to exorcise this demon onto the page. The word Camille is written, then crossed out. Then the word Shockadelica gets the same treatment, followed by crossed-out lines telling us “I’m so in love” and “I want a baby all the time”. When he finally commits to the line “the reason is Camille Shockadelica” (baptised by tenderly dotting the final I with a heart) he’s writing in pencil now rather than pen – has time elapsed or is the name of his inner tormentor too dangerous to be written in indelible ink?

There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle now though. After a hard labour, his shadow self is screaming on the birthing table of consciousness and would become Prince’s muse for some of the funkiest material he would ever write. The new-born Camille wasn’t fully fleshed out yet. Prince had personified a feeling of lustful loneliness, and now he had that vessel he could begin to pour in all the repressed aspects of his psyche, developing the character over time. Camille is many sides of Prince – the lonely and lustful, but also the jealous, spiteful, needy and vulnerable. Fully-formed or not, all of those aspects of Prince can still be found in Shockadelica. He wrote it because he was jealous of Jesse Johnson coming up with the title for his album and wanted to spite him by hijacking the name. This along with the lyrics of lust and loneliness, and the need to silence his critics and reassert his independence in the ashes of the Revolution created the circumstances for Camille’s birth, thus kicking off a four-album psychodrama that would consume him for the rest of the decade.

Several more Camille songs were recorded over the next couple of months and a Camille album was planned for release that would bear no mention of Prince. This didn’t come to pass but Housequake, Strange Relationship and If I was Your Girlfriend all turn up on the Sign o’ the Times album, along with the Camille-credited U Got the Look. On this release (half of which was recorded before Shockadelica), Camille is used as one of many colours in Prince’s artistic palette but that changes on his next solo project.

The genesis of The Black Album is described in the aforementioned Poem of Camille as an attempt to stick “his long funk in competition’s face”. Here Camille is a vehicle to smite his critics in the same way that Housequake, recorded the morning after he officially disbanded the Revolution, was a declaration to the doubters of his Blackness. Prince was forging a new identity to reclaim his crown of funk. He had a point to prove. In the Lovesexy programme he writes “Camille mustered all the hate that he was able. Hate 4 the ones who ever doubted his game. Hate 4 the ones who ever doubted his name. ’Tis nobody funkier – let the Black Album fly.’”

Worried that the inspiration behind The Black Album was less than pure, he then recorded Lovesexy where Camille was recast as a naive, tricked fool, who had been led astray by another character, Spooky Electric. Camille had now become fully subsumed with Prince’s ego and any dark thoughts are instead attributed to his former shadow’s shadow self. This battle between the two characters is the theme running throughout Lovesexy and allowed Prince in concerts to indulge his dark muse in the first half, and then atone in the second by presenting his more spiritual material as Camille’s salvation.

Prince reconciled these two opposing sides more effectively on the Batman album where, after being given archetypal hero and villain characters to write from the perspective of, he identified with both and ended the battle by crafting another alter-ego that synthesised Camille and Spooky Electric into one split personality: Gemini. And this final fusion appears to be the conclusion of Camille’s character arc (he’ll later tell us in My Name is Prince he has “two sides and they’re both friends”). In the Graffiti Bridge film, the protagonist, who in early scripts was called Camille Blue, became The Kid from Purple Rain and Camille went into hibernation for the 90s, only resurfacing sporadically in the new millennium, most notably when Prince again wished to rub his critics’ faces in his spite-tastic F.U.N.K.

Despite Prince’s best rewrite attempts, to me Camille will always be the lust-crazed nymphomaniac of Feel U Up – the one Ween portray brilliantly in their sleazy Shockadelica cover, IWLYP. That’s because the true power of Camille, underneath the vocal effects and backstory, is the pure thrill of hearing Prince’s unrestrained id let loose in the studio, speaking to the repressed Camille that lurks down deep within all of us.

30: She’s Always in my Hair

Raspberry Beret single (1985)
Please raise a glass to the under-appreciated and unheralded Jill Jones. Is there a better metaphor of her time with Prince than the image of her being hid behind the stage curtain while performing backing vocals for Vanity 6? She was a better singer than anybody he thrust into the limelight during the 80s, but he wanted her kept under wraps, scared that fame would take her away from him. It’s why he held off on releasing her solo lp for several years and why she’s the only one whose credit is cryptically initialised on the 1999 album despite being all over that record (including singing co-lead on the title track). Her story arc was cut out of Purple Rain and the same happened with Graffiti Bridge six years later with the added insult of her having to mime to Elisa Fiorillo on Love Machine (despite the song initially having her vocals). Nothing had changed by 2017, with Purple Rain Deluxe ignoring her completely – her song Wednesday, cut from early drafts of the film and album, notable by its absence on the bonus disc of vault material.

Because of this drawn veil over her input, Jill gets overlooked by the wider world in favour of more visible band members like Wendy and Lisa. Yet she was there at the start of the Revolution and her involvement outlasted them. Only Dr Fink and Jerome was part of his stable for longer. On the satellite act albums released between her uncredited appearances on Purple Rain and Sign o’ the Times, Jill features on almost all of them. She was everywhere. The Lady Cab Driver; the beautiful friend in Hello. The sparring partner on the extended version of Kiss. The Automatic dominatrix. She was always there. And what does she get for this loyalty? A song with a title suggesting her constant presence is irritating.

Prince wrote She’s Always in my Hair for Jill as an apology after a spat they had. It didn’t go down well. It wasn’t the title that wound her up, but the teasing “maybe I’ll marry her, maybe I won’t” line. On the whole, its lyrics are infinitely more affectionate than other songs he wrote that also portrayed her as his obsessive cheerleader – such as the suicidal Wednesday, or the starstruck Baby You’re a Trip. She may have identified with her character in those, after all Baby You’re a Trip was plagiarised from extracts from her diary. But singing a funhouse mirror exaggeration of yourself is different than being gifted a song by your first love that details their indifference. That had to hurt. And I’m not sure gaining the enviable accolade of being the muse for one of his greatest B-sides helped mitigate that pain.

After Jill, the next biggest inspiration for She’s Always in my Hair was a track he wrote earlier that year. Prince recreates the chugging effect he used on Apollonia 6’s Sex Shooter (created by putting a Linn drum snare through a flanger pedal) and he borrows the first four notes of its main riff to follow every “she’s always there” line. She’s Always in my Hair may wear the finger cymbals uniform of the Around the World era and have a Paisley badge slapped on its sleeve, but it was recorded deep into the Purple Rain sessions, pre-dating When Doves Cry and Take Me With U, and its stark driving rock sits better against a purple background than it does among its more opulent and rainbow-hued brethren.

It could have ended up even starker with an early yet-to-be-titled draft of its lyrics opening with the proto-Sign o’ the Times line: “a boy got killed at Disneyland today, some say he was trying to be Superman….” Sounds like it started life aimed in the wrong direction but luckily JJ was there, telling him how much she cared.

As an apology, She’s Always in my Hair sucked. But as a song it sits in the top tier of pop rock masterpieces and would be more widely viewed as such if he hadn’t kept it hidden, like its muse, behind the curtain of its more showy A-side.

45: Irresistible Bitch

Let’s Pretend We’re Married single (1983) / The Hits/The B-sides (1993)
Did Prince believe he invented rap with Irresistable Bitch? One of his recording engineers quoted him as saying so, but even if he never made this unfeasible claim about something written two years after Rapper’s Delight, he did namecheck the song in an interview to puff up his hip hop credentials. You can see his point. Irresistible Bitch shares territory with hip hop, not due to any bandwagon jumping, but as the result of a convergence of styles he was experimenting with at the time. The beat’s emphasis on bass and drums was a product of the Cloreen Bacon Skin improvisation that also birthed The Time track Tricky, and the half-spoken lyrics continued a style he used on All the Critics Love U in New York and Lady Cab Driver. He forged his own path there and the song later became part of rap history when it became his first to be sampled on a hip hop record. Admittedly, his next two singles were appropriated first – When Doves Cry and Erotic City inspired 1984’s When Doves Cry Rapp and Erotic Rapp, but to my knowledge the first actual sample (ie. not an interpolation) was Irresistible Bitch’s bell-like synth hit, that cropped up on electro records in 1985, before Rick Rubin used it later that year on LL Cool J’s Dangerous. Hip hop had started to embrace Prince and he returned the love with a genuine rap track: Holly Rock. It’s just a shame Irresistible Bitch’s contribution to the rap canon wasn’t more than a one second sample. Despite its misogynistic and agressive-sounding title, its lyrics are suprisingly submissive. Let’s Pretend We’re Married on the A-side is much more akin to the domineering, hyper-sexualised tide that hip hop would begin to be carried away by. Who knows what strange and beautiful terrain hip hop would be in today if Irresistible Bitch had indeed invented rap.

124: Scarlet Pussy

I Wish U Heaven single (1988) / The Hits/The B-sides (1993)
With a name like a Bond girl and a tale like a La, La, La, He, He, Hee sequel, Scarlet Pussy has its tongue firmly planted in its whiskered cheek. It is the only track officially attributed to Camille (elsewhere it’s just a vocal credit) but while the character’s trademark high-pitched voice is in the mix, it takes a back seat to a pitched-down bow-wow-wow baritone. Scarlet Pussy was released four years after Erotic City, another George Clinton inspired b-side co-sung with Sheila E. This one doesn’t transcend the source material like the 1984 classic but if you ever needed a feline version of Atomic Dog this is it! Don’t however make the same assumption with Atomic Kitten. That sounds very, very different.

145: Rock ‘n’ Roll is Alive (and it Lives in Minneapolis)

Gold single (1995)
And lo, Sir Lenny of Kravitz did declare the Rockandroll beast slain. But the Purple Prince laughed and said nay. It lives, for I have found it lurking in the land of one thousand lakes. Rock and Roll may still be with us but this song from 1995 is an example of something that would soon be extinct: the Prince b-side. Technically two more would still arrive – 2001’s Staple Sisters cover When Will We B Paid? and 2005’s instrumental Brand New Orleans – but these were released as afterthoughts weeks after being offered digitally. Phantom echoes of a bygone age, like the meaningless “virtual b-side” tag which makes as much sense as pleather or vegetarian bacon. Rock ‘n’ Roll is Alive (and it Live in Minneapolis) is the last true, legit b-side – the end of a long, illustrious line which started with Gotta Stop (Messin Around) and included some of the best songs Prince ever wrote, like Erotic City, How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore? and 17 Days. It parties with the demob abandon of a season wrap-up, or an heirless lord trashing the family manor in one night of drunken decadence. Antique furniture flies through Edwardian windows as revellers dance around a pyre of heirlooms. Behold, I will show it to thee. The Prince removed a gold box from the folds of his cloak and at his command a magnificent dragon leapt to the heavens, showering the hall with fireworks. Everyone present stood agape but I fear the display took away something from the Prince that night. Never again would such a spectacle be forthcoming.

150: La, La, La, He, He, Hee

Sign O’ the Times single (1987) / The Hits/The B-sides (1993)
The Hits liner notes tell us Prince wrote La, La, La, He, He, Hee after Sheena Easton dared him he couldn’t compose a song around this simple refrain. A bread and butter request for somebody who had already turned his bandmate’s phone number into a hit so the story always sounded suspect. And in 2012 Sheena confirmed her contribution was indeed more than providing those six syllables. She revealed La, La, La, He, He, Hee started as a song she had written about a cat teasing a dog from a tree and the chorus was suggested by her as a joke. Prince, having sensed the Atomic Dog potential in her feline/canine tale, sprinkled on a bit of p-funk dust (something he did more overtly with Scarlet Pussy later that year) added a sax solo (courtesy of Eric Leeds) and a bass solo, and the result was an 11 minute Saturday morning cartoon. Not your modern CG strobe of noise and colour – something subversive and timeless, like Looney Tunes or The Pink Panther. Although you may want to cover your kids’ ears when the licking noises start.

201: God

Purple Rain single (1984) / The Hits/The B-sides (1993) / Purple Rain Deluxe (2017)
God is not a song but a sound experiment in otherworldly, resonant frequencies. Alvin Lucier’s soul sits in a realm – different from the one you are in now – recording a feedback loop of his aura in the presence of God, while Prince hums a hymn to Him over the top. And over-the-top it is. The original instrumental has grace and is many people’s preferred version (helped by being relatively obscure for several years). But the shorter vocal take has the histrionics. If the scream in The Beautiful Ones had its own religion, this would be its Lord’s Prayer.

203: ♥ or $

Kiss single (1986)
Not to be confused with Love nor $, ♥ or $ is the Under The Cherry Moon plot summed up in four characters. A seven minute (go full-length or go home) funk mantra where Prince says he could play for days and sounds like he does. Time begins to lose meaning. Somewhere along the way, Eric Leeds makes his debut (as do titular hieroglyphs) but underneath the sax flourishes and guitar overdubs lies a trance-inducing, hypnotic beat and incantation, a full year before techno started to twinkle in Derrick May’s eye. While you’re getting your joy in repetition on, Prince is speaking to your lizard brain and rewiring your neurons – who knows what secrets he’s engraving on your amygdala? There’s a reason it wasn’t included on 1993’s B-sides compilation and it wasn’t down to quality control.

204: Horny Pony

Gett Off single (1991)
Forget the Bird, the Walk and the Housequake, we have a new dance commercial and it’s called the Horny Pony. A cartoon sex dance for those who found Le Grind too subtle. The song was elbowed from Diamonds and Pearls to make room for Gett Off but its hoofmarks were left all over the album. It’s mentioned in Push, crossed out on the back cover tracklisting and Jughead is introduced as its second take. Horny Pony gets just as stoopid as its twinned brother-in-goof but being a b-side (and lacking Tony M) stops it from receiving Jughead’s same ire. You also can’t hate on a song that’s responsible for the careers of both Timbaland and Ginuwine (they debuted with a song about a horny pony five years later). Prince had a pony obsession in the few years leading up to 1990. Along with mentions in Alphabet St, Le Grind and The Future, it’s also the title of at least three vault tracks from around then and his Graffiti Bridge mane was surely inspired by the Hasbro My Little Pony toys. Maybe he was dropping hints for Santa? Somebody shoulda ran and told his mama about that!

212: Feel U Up

Unreleased (1981) / Partyman single (1989)
Ahh Camile. Feel U Up was a below-par outtake and if you hadn’t revived it with your patented brand of sleaze it would have remained a Controversy-era footnote, notable only for providing the horns for (I Like) Funky Music. Camille vocals improve any song. Fact. It’s no coincidence all but one song recorded for the Camille album found a home elsewhere when the project was abandoned. And the one that got away was Rebirth of the Flesh, his greatest unreleased track IMHO. Feel U Up has Irresistible Bitch drums (back in the day it was part of the same sequence) and it’s almost as perversely persuasive. But use responsibly. I’ve just listened to the long stroke version three times in a row – turned up extra loud to drown out a group of singing Santas on my train – and I think I may have irrevocably damaged a part of my brain. The human body isn’t designed to withstand hearing that amount of diseased desire.

244: Hello

Pop Life single (1985) / The Hits/The B sides (1993)
The story is well known: Prince refused to sing on the charity supergroup single We are the World, instead offering to play guitar and eventually contributing a song for the album. Shyness and illness were both claimed as excuses but Wendy later revealed the real reason was that he thought the Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie-penned song was lame and would tarnish his image. Prince’s non-attendance caused controversy, especially as later that night (a night he was advised to keep a low profile on to let the illness alibi stick) his bodyguard beat up a reporter who allegedly tried to get in Prince’s car. This whole episode is chronicled in the surprisingly outspoken Hello, a b-side more likeable for the music than the hastily-assembled damage control. The uptempo beat is underpinned by an urgent synth line, which sounds like a beeping alarm clock your sleeping mind has woven a narrative around instead of waking you to hit the snooze button. A fantasy world you’ve escaped into, to flee the cold morning accusations. Duvet solace. Hello may, like its magazine namesake, dress up stage-managed PR as a candid glimpse behind the celebrity curtain, but behind the words lie some prime peak-Prince pop that you could live and die in. The extended mix where he withers incoherently about shoes is even better.

298: I Love U in Me

The Arms of Orion single (1990) / The Hits/The B Sides (1993)
After civilisation collapses and we regress to feuding tribes in a post-fallout wasteland, the only music available to hear will be found in clockwork musicboxes. Revered fossils from the time when the benevolent demon of electricity could still be harnessed. These last pockets of captured sound will only be played at sacred consummation ceremonies; rituals where couples bless the scorched earth with coitus after reciting solemn vows of desire. In this Rite of Nuclear Spring, I Love U in Me will be hymn number 7.

306: Loveleft, Loveright

New Power Generation single (1990)
A glut of Prince tracks from the early nineties fall between being remixes and brand new songs and Loveleft, Loveright is possibly the only one to surpass its source. It’s heard in the final bars of New Power Generation pt II, buried under an avalanche of inferior spin-offs but the full track is a different beast indeed. Admittedly on paper it doesn’t sound much. The barest amount of instrumentation clings to a thumping beat, as Prince enthuses about a ménage à trois. Yet the bass is a foot-thick sidewinder and the chorus is infectious enough you’ll be singing it until the sky turns purple. Also, the choppy guitar in the largely instrumental second-half is julienned to perfection. Loveleft, Loveright is easily lost amongst the iterative clutter of the maxi-single years but goes to show that even in the darkest bowels of his catalogue there’s ambergris to be found.

321: Girl

America single (1985) / The Hits/The B-sides (1993)
Once again Prince is singing that he wants “you in the worst way” but unlike the same line in Temptation there’s no love epiphany to follow, just “animal lust” from start to finish. There’s not much to Girl – just a heartbeat, seductive vocals, finger-snaps and astral synths but what’s there is is spellbinding. It’s the twinkling, naked beauty of I Love U in Me wrapped around a throbbing, pulsating drive to procreate. The 12″ version has hidden, reversed messages and lets the seduction play out with confessions and marriage proposals leading up to its inevitable, intimate conclusion. Please avert your ears.

346: Violet the Organ Grinder

Gett Off single (1992)
On this Gett Off refix Prince may sing “I’m the one that lives in your heart” but for a ten year period Violet the Organ Grinder lived in my brain. At least once a week the chorus would bubble up out of my subconscious and loop incessantly, choking inner monologue. Forget ear-worms, this refrain is an ear-anaconda and just hearing the word ‘violet’, ‘organ’ or ‘grind’ was enough to put me in its hold for days. The hook is so powerful that it’s served neat for the first eight bars of the song. Twenty seconds of pure, undiluted acapella which, barring the vocal workouts of Solo and An Honest Man, only the anthemic 7 has attempted to replicate and even then with a dash of finger cymbals. Other Prince intros that deploy the acapella ($ from Lotusflower, a handful of songs on Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic) usually manage no more than a couple of bars before the backing music clicks in like the dead-air trigger on radio stations. Violet the Organ Grinder stares you down daring you to interrupt. It’s a shame the track is buried on a maxi-single, lost in a sea of Gett Off iterations. The orchestral strings make up for its borrowed beat and it is one flute riff away from usurping the A-side. Maybe it’s too dangerous for mass consumption. Re-listening for the first time in years has resulted in the tourettes-like outbursts of “her name is Violet…” to return. The kraken has re-awoken and now taunting me with its mantra of “I’ll die, but I won’t go away”.

361: Another Lonely Christmas

I Would Die 4 U single (1984) / The Hits/The B Sides (1993)
This b-side is the only Christmas song Prince released although (barring the final few seconds on the extended mix) it certainly doesn’t sound festive. The sleigh bells on Come surprisingly make that R-rated cunnilingus ode a much better contender for a holiday mixtape than this drunken tearjerker. It unfolds darkly and much like The Pogues’ New York its wind goes right through you, it’s no place for the old. The increasingly out-of-control narrator may not have spent Christmas Eve in the drunk tank but we’re told Christmas Day was spent drinking “banana daiquiris till I’m blind”, as he has done every December 25th since his girlfriend died seven years ago. Cause of death: “your father said it was pneumonia, your mother said it was strep.” Winter Wonderland it definitely is not. What it is though is classic Prince storytelling, with the muffled screams of the guitars downwardly spiralling, perfectly mirroring the singer’s deteriorating state. Head to the extended mix to hear the superb lyricism in all its unedited, reverb-drenched glory with lines such as “I’d pay money just 2 see your laughin’ dancin’ silhouette upon the pier.” Boxing Day, when this song takes place, is often used to contrast with Christmas Day cheer. It’s the day George Michael had his heart given away and the day of Elvis Costello’s St Stephen’s Day Murders. Even Good King Wenceslas is full of cruel frost, freezing blood and winter’s rage. This is the soundtrack to that post-Christmas comedown. A day when the tinsel loses its glitter and you’re left hungover with a wilting, dead pine in your living room and the deferred sense of existential ennui returns. Merry Christmas!

410: Horny Toad

Delirious single (1983) / The Hits/The B Sides (1993)
Cut in the same mould as Delirious and Jack U Off, this lascivious rockabilly anthem is 120 seconds of jovial, jitterbug synths capped off with some downright nasty lyrics. A UV blacklight revealing the semen stains on early rock’n’roll dancing metaphors. The title is a play on ‘horned toad’ and immediately gives you a feeling of revulsion, much more than a Horny Pony would. It’s definitely not a song to run and tell your mother about but for two minutes you can channel Bill Haley’s inner Pan and pretend you’re a lusty amphibian. Try doing that with Rock Around the Clock!

413: 200 Balloons

Batdance single (1989) / The Hits/The B Sides (1993)
Outnumbering Nena’s balloons by 101 and intended to be just as destructive, 200 Balloons was written for the parade scene in Tim Burton’s Batman where the float-riding Joker throws handfuls of cash to the Gotham crowd before the planned release of the poisonous gas filled orbs. As an aside, have you ever paid attention to the translated lyrics of 99 Red Balloons? They’re completely batshit crazy! This is no sane fish itself though and gave birth to the even more bonkers Batdance, which began life as a 200 Balloons remix but ended up usurping its place on the album. Relegated to B-side status, this buoyant pop song channels the Joker beautifully, with a maniacally upbeat attitude which gradually unravels into fragmented lunacy. Like Prince sings: his “funk is multilayered” and there’s samples of Mavis Staples singing “get your house in order” and Rave Unto The Joy Fantastic chants also thrown into the mix. Ultimately his Baby I’m a Star cheap knock-off Trust was used in the film instead, matching the director’s original vision but making the accompanying soundtrack album weaker as a result.

415: Gotta Stop (Messin’ About)

Single (1981) / The Hits/The B Sides (1993)
The first non-album track in Prince’s discography and a regular catch with record collectors, rearing its head on the A-side of a couple of UK releases and on the flip of Let’s Work in North America. Despite being paired with songs from Prince and Controversy it’s Dirty Mind through and through. A new wave, keyboard-driven appeal to an unrequited love who’s “messin’ about” with everybody but him, causing him to play with his “toy” so much he’s going to go blind. Gotta Stop (Messin’ About) is as sparse as its Dirty Mind compatriots but feels stiffer and more like the clenched posture of the jealous lover “sittin’ outside your door” on a stake-out. However there’s enough lo-fi fuzz, reverb and synth sweeps to loosen its hard edges. Piet Mondrian colouring outside the lines in sexual frustration.

423: Escape

Glam Slam single (1988) / The Hits/The B sides (1993)
The full title of this B side is Escape (Free Yo Mind From This Rat Race) and it almost didn’t chart in this top 500 due to it edging close to Glam Slam remix territory. There’s not a lot to the song but what there is works hard and eclipses many of Prince’s more intricate and over-thought arrangements, including over two thirds of the meticulously produced Emancipation album. When a beat’s this good, who needs window dressing? Escape starts with a dawn raid hammering followed by Prince conducting the snare drum into a funky ass groove. Then you’re hit with a bassline so heavy you could rest a round of beers on it. Sprinkle with crowd-noise and repeat until dancing. The version on 1993’s The B Sides compilation fades out halfway through so you’re denied the pleasure of hearing Eric Leeds’ saxophone stretch its legs and Prince’s final “crucifixion goin’ down, down, down…” pay-off. If the edit’s the only version you own, ditch it in search of the full length. You can thank me later.

500: Venus de Milo

Parade (1986)
This list’s only purely instrumental track (apologies Madhouse fans) mostly makes the cut by being imbued by the aura of Parade. It’s the cooling zephyr at the end of side 1 after you’ve been pummelled by mind-altering, percussive bad-assery for 18 minutes. A decompression chamber filled with all the notes Miles didn’t play. A respite before you’re plunged straight back into the pulverising, new funk of Mountains on the reverse. It’s hard to keep in your mind – very much like the film it featured in – but when experienced in its album’s habitat it can feel like that scene in Trainspotting when Renton dives into the lavatorial, blue azure.