185: The Future

Batman (1989)
I always remember the Batman album being bleaker than it truly is, and that’s down to the tone set by the opening track. With the removal of Dance With the Devil, it’s up to The Future to tip the scales away from goofball comedy and love ballads, towards something more befitting of a Burton-esque gothic Gotham. It’s a somber aperitif. The salt added to cooking wine to stop chefs from polishing the bottle off. Prince, with his face lit from below, tells us he’d rather drink razor blades from a paper cup, while a choir of lost souls harmonise amid off-key and off-time Crystal Ball strings. Is this another tale from his long, dark, pilled-up night of the soul? Anna Stasia without the rapture? If so, it appears ecstasy’s side effects can include visions of a dystopian future and spiders-in-the-brain synths.

193: Electric Chair

Batman (1989)
The Joker goes all Minority Report by putting his thoughts on trial and finding himself guilty for future crimes. The result is industrial rock hewn from rough onyx. Other than a short section in Batdance, Electric Chair is the only time on the album Prince lets loose with the axe, making it his last rock song of the 80s. But the funk is still close to hand. While you’re left reeling from the one-two punch of staccato chorus and sledgehammer kick drum, the bass nips in to mop up the blood and massage your back. A William Orbit remix, released on The Future single the following year, largely dispenses with the guitars and could be left in 1990 as far as I’m concerned, but you should definitely search out the unreleased, instrumental remix which ups the kick drum voltage to lethal levels. As did Electric Chair’s live debut on Saturday Night Live.

199: Vicki Waiting

Batman (1989)
Before Mayte, there was Anna Garcia – a girl Prince groomed from the age of 15 and had move in at 17. He renamed her Anna Fantastic and for her 18th birthday she received a coat of Pink Cashmere and the song Anna Waiting which later, with her permission, he recycled to make Vicki Waiting. The lyrics now included Batman references but kept intact was the penis-size joke that’s more Al Bundy than Tim Burton. Also left in were the quite personal lyrics about how Prince worries about having children. These took on a new poignancy for me when I realised I was mishearing the line “a new copy made”. I thought he was singing about Coffee Mate. You’re in good company Prince, no-one deserves non-dairy whitener.

258: Partyman

Batman (1989)
For a long time, I found the Batman album synonymous with the two songs that shared the title between them: Batdance and Partyman. Initially, they were the only tracks that left any lasting impression. After a second listen the thin end of Electric Chair‘s wedge entered my skull, helped by the chorus’s cameo on Batdance. And it was a few more plays before the stark beauty of The Future presented itself. Vicky Waiting took longer still. And now as I feel the fruits of Scandalous ripen I sense the first harvest begin to wilt. Partyman has served me well. It performed the same role as Prettyman – keeping my enthusiasm high for an album that I didn’t automatically fawn over. But as I begin to say my farewells believing there’s only a finite number of plays, I come across the Purple Party mix. And the video – how have I never seen this before? And there’s a William Orbit mix? There’s life in the old dog yet. Gentlemen, lets broaden our minds…

292: Batdance

Batman (1989)
The first record I ever bought was Jive Bunny’s Swing the Mood, a child-friendly medley of jitterbug-era hits. This oft-ridiculed chart-topper imprinted in me a deep love of cut-and-paste culture and became the cartoon rabbit-hole that eventually led me into the underground world of Double Dee & Steinski, Coldcut and Cut Chemist. A world where eclectic sound-collages battled over a hip-hop beat. For a while I started to create my own cut-ups and one even made it onto national radio. They were my thing. Chicken soup for my restless soul. Batdance was released in the same month as Swing the Mood but until now I never considered it to be part of the cut-and-paste genre. In essence though that’s exactly what it is, only the samples are sourced a lot closer to home. Prince’s 1995 release Purple Medley follows all the rules of a standard megamix – a weaving together of the hits à la Jive Bunny – but Batdance is a cut-up masterpiece in the mould of Steinski; a shredded hodge-podge of film dialogue, previous songs and soundboard off-cuts. We Got The Power, The Future, Electric Chair, 200 Balloons and Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic get thrown into the potpourri of Gotham funk and for the only time on the album the guitars are let loose with impunity. Despite being left off compilations due to licensing issues, this three-part sampler symphony is one of Prince’s most well-known songs and possibly his most atypical; an impressive claim considering the diversity of his output. If Batman was fully soundtracked with this cinematic experimentation in place of recycled songs joking about the size of his “organ”, then the resulting album could have been a Burton-esque Lovesexy, instead of becoming a Shaun of the Dead punchline.

389: Scandalous

Batman (1989) / Scandalous Sex Suite (1989)
In the pantheon of Prince ballads Scandalous would be the Mercurial trickster god. As a pre-existing song it used Tim Burton’s Batman as a host, worming its way into the end credits and sections of Danny Elfman’s score, before ditching its Batman / Vicki Vale allusions and fleeing with its lead actress, to became the last Prince release of the eighties and the first of his run of maxi-singles – a 19 minute soft-porn tête-à-tête with Kim Basinger called Scandalous Sex Suite. Which, according to legend, was a recording session that got so out of hand that the engineer decided to leave them to it after a jar of honey got introduced. Not shy of cliche, the suite (consisting of three tracks called The Crime, The Passion and The Rapture, but all faithful variations of Scandalous) starts with a doorbell and Prince beckoning Kim in, and then plays out slow-motion like an underwater dream sequence. The cold space between the sparse Linn drum filled with enticing string vespers and late-night movie sax. The blue movie dialogue subsides for The Rapture, replaced with guitar (Prince) and groans (Kim), and after the climax, worried that the subtle innuendo may be lost, Prince follows it up with a song entitled simply Sex. The end result, besides a sticky mixing desk and a groan that would be sampled and looped on 1993’s Peach, was an exquisite, cinematic suite of audio erotica, a couple of age classifications removed from Batman’s PG-13.

439: Lemon Crush

Batman (1989)
The Batman album’s printed lyrics inform you which vocals are by which character and Lemon Crush (named after Anna Garcia’s favourite drink) is sung from Vicki Vale’s perspective, a stockholm syndrome fantasy about Batman who is at one point imagined as a masked “robba”. Tense and owing more than a passing resemblance to Thriller, the music is pounding and full of dark delirium but the sugary and citric taste of the title always seemed better suited to one of his lively ballads like Crucial or Shhh instead. If this song were to be any drink it would be a cocktail of sambuca, Red Rull and underground lake water although I’m sure the title was chosen more for its Gainsbourg-esque sexual connotations than for its beverage origin. As the song ends we’re treated to a few seconds of strummed gorgeousness wrapped in pulsing synth washes and it is a passing glimpse into an alternate remixed universe. I would have loved for it to have taken hold and spread over the song’s brackish remainder like Japanese knotweed.