Teenage Prince Finds His Name and His Voice With ‘Soft and Wet': 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.
“Soft and Wet” sounds like the name of the world’s least popular brand of toilet paper, so it’s not too surprising parts of the song were written in the office of an ad agency. The lyrics were co-written by Chris Moon, an ad executive and studio owner who was instrumental in developing Prince as an artist and setting his legendary career in motion.
Moon owned a Minneapolis studio, Moonsound, where Prince’s first professional recordings were laid down in 1976. It was a deal Prince couldn’t refuse: set some of Moon’s lyrics to music, and in return, have free reign of the studio while Moon was working at his day job. “I started looking at Prince and the music as a product,” Moon told Per Nilsen for the book DanceMusicSexRomance Prince: The First Decade. “Teenage girls because they’re going to think of Prince as sexy.”
But graphic songs could not get onto the radio or into Casey Kasem’s American Top 40, so Moon proposed the concept of “implied, naughty sexuality”. Prince liked it, and the angle that clearly positioned Prince against Michael Jackson and Rick James worked ... eventually.
Chris Moon later recounted the origin for the song’s racy lyrics to Matt Thorne for the book Prince: The Man and His Music. “What I’d been trying to was come up with the anchor tune that would summarize this marketing concept, and so I wrote ‘Soft and Wet’ sitting in ad agency Campbell Mithun after this wonderful evening (one that included dalliances with two women), tired and a little bit hungover.” The original lyric included this passage “Angora fur, the Aegean sea / It’s a soft, wet love that you have for me.”
One of the lines that made it into the final song, “I really dig it when U call my name”, sets up a different story. Moon had a hand in shaping Prince’s stage name as well. Moon tells Thorne that Prince was hesitant about recording these racy songs under his Christian name. Prince told Moon, “It’s gotta be Mr. Nelson”, but Moon replied, “Mr. Nelson? Look, let me break it down to you this way. There’s this white guy named Willie. Maybe you’ve heard of him, maybe you haven’t, but we don’t want to be confused with Willie Nelson.” According to Nilsen’s book, Prince almost immediately started practicing his signature with a heart dotting the “i”.
“Soft and Wet” went through several re-recordings before landing as the third track on Prince’s debut album, For You. It was released as his first single on Prince’s 20th birthday, June 7, 1978. The song would peak, much later, on Nov. 25, 1978, at No. 92 on the Billboard Hot 100.
It wasn't the last time Prince released new music on his birthday. In 1991 he sent a 12" single of "Gett Off" to select DJs, then followed that up the next year by doing the same with "Sexy M.F." His 1994 CD-Rom Interactive was also released on June 7, and in 1996 subscribers to the Prince Family Newsletter were sent a cassette single of "Dinner With Delores."
Prince: 40 Years of Photographs, 1977-2016