Prince (Sort Of) Introduces the New Power Generation With ‘Daddy Pop': 365 Prince Songs in a Year
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.
Five years after disbanding the Revolution – the culturally and gender-diverse band who helped him rise to super-stardom with albums such as Purple Rain – Prince introduced the world to a brand-new and very different backing group, the New Power Generation.
It doesn’t appear that the band – guitarist Levi Seacer, Jr, bassist Sonny T., keyboardist Tommy Bararella, singer / keyboardist Rosie Gaines, drummer Michael B., rapper Tony M and dancers / backup singers Damon Dickson and Kirk Johnson – had any fears about the large shoes they were stepping into.
“We were really something unique,” Barbarella recently recalled to Mpls-St. Paul magazine. “We actualized his ideas. That band was arguably [his] best musicians, we could play anything he wanted, which I think is what he really liked. He wrote some crazy stuff… anything he thought of, we could do.”
Or, as Tony M. bluntly (and without any real explanation) declared in a 1991 interview with Spin, “The New Power Generation is a band Prince doesn’t have to babysit.”
For his part, their new boss professed his loyalty by telling USA Today how offended he was at the idea of sharing his new band with another superstar. “When Jon Bon Jovi asked me if he could do a song with my band, I went, ‘What? No!’ It was like he wanted to make love to my woman.”
This wasn’t an entirely new group – Seacer, Jr. had been performing with Prince since 1986, Bland since 1989, and Gaines since 1990. Futhermore, Seacer, Jr. moved from his previous job on bass over to guitar to make room for a blast from the past: Sonny T., a Minneapolis-based musician Prince had recorded with as early as 1976.
But the manner in which Prince presented himself as less of a leader, and more a part of a unified team certainly showed how serious he was about establishing the NPG as a creative entity.
Of course there was still no question who was in charge: Prince abbreviated – or in Tommy (Thomas Elm) Barbarella’s case flat-out changed – many of his bandmates’ names, and dressed them all in a style influenced equally by the films The Godfather III and Barbarella.
And of course, Prince’s multi-instrumentalist skills brought its own pressures. “You got to learn your part,” Seacer Jr. explained. Because if not, “Prince can always come over and play your part.”
Another big change displayed on the NPG’s first record with Prince, 1991’s Diamonds and Pearls, was the warm, organic sound, dominated by Michael B.’s powerful and clearly not at all technology-assisted drumming. “Everybody else went out and got drum machines and computers, so I threw mine away,” Prince explained to Spin.
The collaborative relationship between Prince and the NPG was strongly emphasized during the promotional campaign for Diamonds and Pearls, and they did make significant performance and even songwriting contributions on many other tracks. However, in typically perverse style all of the vocals and instruments on the album’s lead-off song “Thunder” were performed entirely by Prince, as was most of the second track, “Daddy Pop.”
Despite Gaines’ strong showing on supporting vocals and the joyous “hey look, meet the band!” vibe put forth by both the music and Tony M’s rap, “Daddy Pop” is actually largely a solo performance by Prince. According to the Prince Vault, part of an NPG rehearsal performance of 1989’s “Partyman” was added to the end of a track, where it served as the first recorded demonstration of the band’s abilities.
Lyrically, things weren’t quite so sunny. As Prince explained to Spin in a very thinly veiled attack on music critics, “This song is about people who talk s—.”
“I would never criticize someone else who gave me something for my head,” he explained to Details around the same time. “I remember what happened to Stevie Wonder when he did the Secret Life of Plants record. Stevie was our friend and we’d gone through so many things, and then we turned our back on him. The critics said it was no good. But we can’t say that if he’s our friend, and if we do say that, he won’t be our friend anymore, and he doesn’t want to play music for us.”
As it turns out, Prince didn’t have to fear the response to Diamonds and Pearls, which was roundly acclaimed critically, spawned four hit singles and sold over two million copies in the U.S. alone. But the New Power Generation’s days were already numbered.
After being featured so prominently on Diamonds and Pearls’ smash hit title track, Gaines left the group after the tour in support of the album to resume her solo career. Prince’s soon-to-be wife Mayte Garcia took her place for 1992’s “Love Symbol” album, the last “proper” studio release under the Prince and the New Power Generation banner.
As Prince’s focus shifted to an extended legal battle with Warner Brothers, the NPG was pushed to the background. Seacer, Jr., Tony M. and the dancers departed in 1994, and the remaining original NPG band members were dismissed in 1996 – although several continued to work with him sporadically in the following years.
Throughout the rest of his career, Prince continued to use the New Power Generation moniker for bands featuring a revolving cast of characters and configurations. However, much like the Revolution, a full-fledged reunion between Prince and the original New Power Generation did not take place before his untimely 2016 death.
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