Prince Creates His Own Revolution-Style Groove on ‘Life Can Be So Nice': 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.
As Prince’s career-making collaborations with the Revolution entered their final phase, he’d gotten to the point where he could re-create their layered synthesis without any outside help. “Life Can Be So Nice,” from Parade, the third and final album to be co-credited to the Revolution, makes the point.
A wildly complex, post-apocalyptic party track, “Life Can Be So Nice” reaches this series of stuttering turning points yet somehow retains its relentless groove – illustrating once again that Prince’s musical vision simply had no periphery. It also felt like the surest sign yet that he was ready to strike out on his own again.
Wendy and Lisa added background vocals, and Sheila E. some insistent cowbell, but “Life Can Be So Nice” is really a Revolution song in name only. Prince fashioned the rest of this thunderous track alone, in sessions that began in April 1985 at Sunset Sound in Hollywood – just before Around the World in a Day arrived on store shelves.
This groove was such that it provided one of the most memorable moments in the otherwise widely panned companion film Under a Cherry Moon, as Prince gets utterly lost in “Life Can Be So Nice” while sitting alone in his car. The scene, defined by detachment, was appropriate.
Long before their official split, Prince was already drifting away. Parade makes that wanderlust clear: “Girls and Boys,” “Mountains” and “Anotherloverholenyohead” are the only songs that feature the entire “movie band” lineup of Brown Mark, Bobby Z., Lisa Coleman, Dr. Fink and Wendy Melvoin – though Wendy and Lisa are featured elsewhere, notably on the album-closing “Sometimes It Snows in April.”
“Obviously, Purple Rain was the pinnacle of, like, ‘I’m a pop star and these are masterpiece pop songs,'” Wendy told Yahoo in 2017. “But afterwards, the roots started going in all of these different areas. He was trying to cherry pick all of these different elements of himself to explore.”
Prince continued to pull away as the Revolution set out on tour behind Parade. Resentments were building, long before he summarily fired them and then reworked many of their contributions for the subsequent double-album masterpiece Sign O’ the Times.
“He became more of a satellite; it hurt our feelings.” Lisa told Spin in 2016. “He used to travel with us on the same bus, but then he got his own. He would always be escorted ahead of us in his own car, and we were left behind. … When it changed, I’d have to go through other people to talk to him. I was not into that.”
The presence of Sheila E. on “Life Can Be So Nice” was particularly notable since it signaled a turn away from Bobby Z, who’d played drums for Prince from the beginning. “I had been in all of those bands with him,” Bobby Z told Yahoo, “and finally, after being a superstar all those years, he was like, ‘I kind of want to do this myself again.’ We know now that he was growing a little tired of it.”
Still tinkering with the song in mid-1985, a restive Prince contacted Clare Fischer about arranging and recording orchestration for “Life Can Be So Nice.” Ultimately, as with the bass line in Parade’s breakout hit “Kiss,” Prince left it on the cutting-room floor.
He’d gotten to a point where the things he deleted were just as important as what went in. Soon, this negative space would include every member of the Revolution save for keyboardist Matt Fink, who remained through the Graffiti Bridge era. “Towards the very end of our relationship together as a working triumvirate,” Wendy admitted in a 2008 talk with Out, “it felt more like he had used up all he needed from us and he was going on to something else.”
They finished with a bang. Wendy and Lisa’s final album with Prince included two co-written songs; “Life Can Be So Nice” was one of eight total appearances across 12 tracks on Parade. That’s no doubt why they refused an apparent post-firing suggestion that they remain on as sidemen out on the road.
“After being in the studio with him all the time, we didn’t want to be just tour band members,” Coleman told the Los Angeles Times in 1987. “We had done too much with him to sit back and be in his back-up band. That would have been a great thing for most musicians, but not for us.”
Instead, Wendy and Lisa made a clean break, taking Bobby Z along as producer for their debut as a stand-alone duo.
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