PRINCE Dirty Mind (Warner Bros.)
It’s amazing in retrospect that it took the relatively tame “Darling Nikki” to spur Tipper Gore into founding the PMRC when five years earlier Prince was grinding out the tightly-wound flagrant incitement of “Dirty Mind”, his third album. Barely dressed on the sleeve – well, actually sporting more in the way of visible clothing than on the cover of his previous album, but there’s arguably more blatant effrontery in confronting the viewer with black underpants and a belly button than the naked top-half-only shot on “Prince” –the artist sings in a provocative falsetto throughout.
The subject matter of songs such as the title track, “Head” and “Sister” probably need no further elucidation in a family publication such as this one. Yet when his mind rises above the level of his (or somebody else’s) groin Prince delivers the pop nous of “When You Were Mine”, later covered by Cyndi Lauper among many unlikely others (Iain Matthews? Mitch Ryder?!) and the socially conscious hedonism anthems “Uptown” and “Partyup”.
The music is, if possible, even more remarkable than the lyrical content. Tearing asunder the soft focus soul and funk of his previous work, here Prince reveals the filthy, lascivious core sweating beneath. He strips back “Saturday Night Fever” to its rhythmic essentials and covers them in Kraftwerk-style throbbing synths, arguably accidentally germinating electroclash as he goes. A refinement or two along the road would lead him to “1999” and planet-straddling ubiquity, but herein lie the roots of pretty much everything that made Prince great…including the Marvin-style bundle of contradictions that finds God receiving the first of the album’s many “special thanks”.
Warners’ shiny new vinyl reissue surely presents the album in its best possible light (and without a Parental Advisory sticker!), although it’s difficult to imagine any copy of “Dirty Mind” sounding bad, in all honesty. They’ve wisely recruited feted mastering engineer Bernie Grundman, who worked on the original issue, and it must be hoped that he’s still on the team should this reissue series reach Prince’s masterpiece “Sign ‘O’ The Times”; it’s almost sickening to think how much potential such a record might have.