‘Our Destiny / Roadhouse Garden’ Suggests an Alternative Prince Timeline: 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.
Imagine an alternate 1985 timeline where Prince and the Revolution released a big, arena friendly, modern rock follow-up to the blockbuster Purple Rain soundtrack, instead of the dramatic left turn that was Around the World in a Day. While Day is beloved by Prince enthusiasts, especially when you fold in the visionary 12-inch versions of the singles and b-sides, the album itself earned a fraction of Purple Rain’s initial 15 million in global sales. “Our Destiny/Roadhouse Garden”, the second single released from Warner Brother's upcoming expanded edition of Purple Rain, provides a glimpse of the less psychedelic album that could have been.
On the newly released recording, the introductory string section seamlessly segues from the strings that closed out the Purple Rain album. Like the song “Purple Rain," which had its live debut at the legendary August 3, 1983 show at First Avenue in Minneapolis, “Our Destiny” and “Roadhouse Garden” made their debut on the same stage nearly a year later at a June 7, 1984 gig to celebrate Prince’s 26th birthday. According to PrinceVault, these recordings were later overdubbed, if not replaced entirely, to create the track we hear today. While working on the string parts for “Pop Life” at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles on September 27-29, 1984, Wendy and Lisa had another go at “Our Destiny”. Lisa took a turn on lead vocals on the 28th, Jill Jones took a turn a day later. Coleman’s recording made the final cut for the 2017 release; it is her first formal release on a Prince record in the lead vocal role.
“Our Destiny” is a song about falling in love, but not too far in love. At the First Avenue show, Prince handled the vocals, including the spoken word segue, “Look, I’m not saying get married or nothing. I’m not looking to settle down baby; I don’t wanna have kids. All I’m trying to say is you gotta be the finest specimen of woman I’ve ever seen.” In her recording, Lisa spits the same line with the same bravado, dropping the word “woman” to keep the song dedication worthy for commitment-weary gay and straight audiences.
In concert and on the 2017 studio release, “Our Destiny” segues into “Roadhouse Garden” which is thematically similar to “Paisley Park” and “Dream Factory”, describing a utopian refuge where personal and artistic expression can take root and flourish. “This is the house where emotions grow, give ‘em love, open your soul, it’s alright, it’s alright.” Prince, whose tightly guarded emotions were a narrative theme in the Purple Rain film, briefly admits how safe he feels in the company of the Revolution.
Spoiler alert. The love did not last. By the end of the following year, the Revolution would be disbanded. When Prince smashed his guitar at the end of both the show and the Parade tour at Yokohama Stadium in Tokyo, Wendy Melvoin knew the end was near. “Oh f---, this is it,” she told Matt Thorne for his book, Prince: The Man and His Music, “we got back to L.A., and he took me and Lisa aside and said ‘I’ve got to let you go’ and we’re like, ‘But we just finished five records worth of material.” As Thorne explains, “Indeed, it is the period from the end of Parade to the release of Sign O' the Times on which a large part of the legend of Prince’s Vault rests.”
While lost albums such as Camille, Crystal Ball, Dream Factory and Roadhouse Garden dance like sugar plums in the heads of Prince fans around the world, Lisa Coleman explains that they’re all a myth, “It was never that he’d come up with these as proper titles; he’d label the cassettes after the title of the last song.” Some of the strings recorded for “Our Destiny” found their way into Around the World in a Day's “The Ladder” while the ‘It’s Alright, It’s Alright’ refrain in “Roadhouse Garden” found its way into “It” on Sign O’ the Times.
If all the master tapes survived their time in Prine's vault, perhaps each incarnation that he sequenced and considered (some just on cassette, others on mastered acetate) will eventually see the light of day. Tracks speculated to be intended for the album Roadhouse Garden include “Witness 4 the Prosecution”, a track that circulates in multiple incarnations; the Wendy and Lisa version being one of Prince’s funkiest hard rock songs. A studio version of “All Day/All Night” (also debuted live at that birthday gig) became a highlight of Jill Jones’ self-titled debut album, but the unreleased Prince vocal version rivals the soon-to-be-released “Computer Blue (Hallway Speech Version)” as one of Prince’s most sinister jams.
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