To celebrate the incredibly prolific, influential and diverse body of work left behind by Prince, we will be exploring a different song of his each day for an entire year with the series 365 Prince Songs in a Year.
The seedy music club Prince pictures so vividly in 1990’s sultry "Joy in Repetition" probably isn’t real. Neither is the band the lyrics describe playing to the crowd of pimps, poets and part-time singers inside.
But "Soulpsychodelicide," the seemingly fictional song he name-checks in the lyrics, was actually real. In fact, Prince wrote two different versions of it – one in 1986 and another three years later.
"All the poets and the part time singers always hang inside. Live music from a band plays a song called 'Soulpsychodelicide.' The song's a year long and had been playing for months when he walked into the place ..."
While the first version of "Soulpsychodelicide" wasn't actually a year long – that's more than even the Flaming Lips would dare – you can hear Prince and the expanded, horn-charged Revolution working on the song for nearly an hour during a much-leaked rehearsal session which the Prince Vault says took place on July 22, 1986, five days after he recorded "Joy in Repetition."
It's fascinating to hear Prince coach the band while exploring different tempos and sculpting the song on the fly. He jokes about making "Soulpsychodelicide" three years and four months long, repeatedly yells "Ice cream!" as the cue for a big horn flourish, and gets particularly specific with drummer Bobby Z.: "Man, all them cymbals are breathing – choke that little one!"
Both "Soulpsychodelicide" and "Joy in Repetition" were set aside for several years. The latter was tentatively slated for the 1987 triple album Crystal Ball (which eventually morphed into the double-disc set Sign O' The Times), but instead wasn't released until 1990's Graffiti Bridge.
Around the same time as Prince was assembling that soundtrack, he began work on a completely new version of "Soulpsychodelicide." After adding overdubs, he turned the track over to funk legend George Clinton, again according to the Prince Vault. Clinton was then signed to Prince's Paisley Park label, appeared in Graffiti Bridge and collaborated with Prince on the song "We Can Funk" for the film's soundtrack.
A leaked version of the second, much glossier "Soulpsychodelicide" begins with a brief snippet of another rarity from Prince's fabled vaults, "Cloreen Bacon Skin." Clinton then takes over, demanding to know, "What is a booty and how will I know if I'm shaking it? What is the funk and how will I know if I'm faking it?" – a lyric that would turn up two years later on Del the Funky Homosapien's "What is a Booty?"
Snippets from other songs – including the guitar solo from "Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic," the chorus from "Graffiti Bridge" and lyrics from "Elephants and Flowers" – float in and out of the rather unremarkable eleven-minute track, possibly suggesting that it was conceived as an album-closer or a non-album companion piece (much like "2 Whom It May Concern" was for 1992's Love Symbol album.
To date, neither version of "Soulpsychodelicide" has been officially released, adding two more entries to the list of songs currently sitting in limbo as the battle over Prince's estate and back catalog slowly crawls ahead.