Prince, the Revolution, & the New Power Generation

Prince originally had a back-up band called the Revolution, then a band called the New Power Generation, then he just called himself “The Artist” and didn’t call his back-up band anything.

What happened to the Revolution and New Power Generation?

The core of the Revolution was with Prince for years. Bobby Z, Dr. Fink, and Lisa Coleman (guitarist and daughter of a Warner Brother’s executive) played on Controversy. Prince’s backup band for 1999 included Dez Dickerson on guitar and Wendy, but Lisa wasn’t credited. The Revolution’s first full-blown album was Purple Rain–Dez was out and Lisa was back (apparently the water was warm enough!), Dr. Fink (who allegedly wore a sugical mask and sunglasses because he was on the run from the law), and Bobby Z were the core of the group. For this rabid Prince fan’s money, this bunch brought out the best in Prince. Some of them had been around long enough to challenge him and call bullshit on some of his more self-indulgent detours, and Wendy and Lisa together added a layer of lushness and some great vocal harmonies that were sorely lacking later on.

The Revolution survived the huge '84 and '85 tours after Purple Rain and played on Around the World in a Day (where “Pop Life” and “Raspberry Beret” came from) and the severly underrated Parade, which was the soundtrack to the abominable Under the Cherry Moon and has been tarnished by association with one of the worst movies ever made. Prince’s masterpiece Sign O’ the Times was not credited to the Revolution, but Wendy and Lisa play on it and “It’s Gonna be a Beautiful Night” is a live jam in Paris by the classic Revolution lineup.

I must go and do some actual work now, but I’ll be back this afternoon with the story of the Revolution’s dramatic demise.

Prince originally was a one-man band, doing ALL the work himself on his first few albums. The band he hired to back him on tour was, in one iteration, the Revolution. Similar background to the New Power Generation.

Since none of the band members were permanent collaborators–though he worked with various of them numerous times–nothing “happened” to them, they just were never intended to be institutions.

In more recent Revolution news, Wendy and Lisa composed the theme for HBO’s Carnivale.

After Sign O’ the Times, Prince started recording what would become known as The Black Album. Shortly before it was scheduled to hit the stores, he suddenly decided that the songs were too negative and angry and announced that he wouldn’t release it. Legend has it that he was in a depressive funk (no pun intended) and threatened to destroy the tapes. Wendy and Lisa had heard the rough mixes of the album and thought it was some of the best work he had ever done, so they smuggled the tapes out of Paisley Park and took them to Europe where they were immediately bootlegged. Prince was furious and excommunicated Wendy and Lisa. Of the Revolution, only Dr. Fink played on Lovesexy, which was a totally different, and perhaps not a good, new direction.

Whether that story is true or not is the source of some controversy. It is also possible that the whole thing is a myth invented out of whole cloth by Prince to create a “lost masterpiece” in the Black Album. It’s not the best work he ever did, but it is a cool addendum to Sign o’ the Times if you’re a fan. And it actually has a song about Cindy Crawford rejecting Prince’s advances, which must have been quite a shock to His Purple Love Machine Highness.

Another frequent collaborator that was in and out of Prince’s orbit in the early years was Shelia E., who sang “Erotic City” with him and who played drums on the Times tour. Her father is a Latin jazz musician whose name escapes me (although her last name is “Escovedo”) and she’s the only one of the Prince women-of-the-month with real talent (unlike, say, Camen Electra).

The New Power Generation started with a lyric on the title track of Lovesexy where he called his music “New Power Soul”. The NPG fits lissner’s definition of hired guns better than the Revolution did, but they did coalesce during the 90’s and make some great music. “Sexy MF” is them at their best. I don’t really know much about the individual musicians except Micheal B., the drummer, who was a producer and who played drums with Paul Westerberg for a tour.