Prince and Sheena Easton Get Funky Silly on ‘La, La, La, He, He, Hee': 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.
Prince is generally regarded as an artist who gravitated toward fairly adult themes, but he also had a childlike playful side that surfaced on occasion, and the results tended to be among his most enduringly charming efforts — like "Starfish and Coffee," for instance, or the Sheena Easton collaboration "La, La, La, He, He, Hee."
Recorded in early 1987 and initially released as the b-side to the title track and leadoff single from Prince's Sign O' the Times album, "La, La, La, He, He, Hee" marked one of several songs Prince and Easton would work on together during the '80s. While their association wasn't terribly long-lasting, it definitely produced some of the biggest hits of Easton's career, including her 1984 Top 10 single "Sugar Walls." That track was written solely by Prince, but "He, Hee" came with a lyric credit for Easton — a relative rarity, particularly at that stage of her career, but something spurred by Prince.
"That was something I was writing," Easton recalled later. "Just a stupid little thing. See, I have six cats. It was about a cat up in a tree teasing a dog. I was actually being sarcastic. He said, 'Yeah, that could be a song,' and I was like 'Oh yeah, like what do you want me to sing? La La La, He He He — I love you, you love me? That's how talented I am?' He said, 'Actually, that'd be kind of cute! Go ahead and write it.'"
That "kind of cute" idea sparked one of the lengthier studio jams from this era of Prince's career. Although the "official" version of the track, released on the flip side of the "Sign O' the Times" single, clocked in under 3:30, it was just a slender edit clipped from the full-length version. That cut — dubbed the "highly explosive" version — was included on the 12" "Times" single, and ran on for more than 10 minutes and 30 seconds. It might seem like kind of a lot for a song about a cat in a tree, but when you've got a groove that won't quit, it doesn't really matter what the lyrics are about.
Prince and Easton would work together for a period slightly beyond the recording of "La, La, La, He, He, Hee"; in fact, another song, "The Arms of Orion," had much more in the way of lyrical input from Easton. Her time in the pop spotlight as a solo artist was coming to a close — by the mid-'90s, she'd segued away from the Top 40 with a standards record and shifted her focus to the Japanese market — but even after stepping away from the music industry, she looked back on her work with Prince fondly.
"I don't really write anymore as I'm out of the game now, but back then, that was my thing," she said of the youthful perspective taken on "La, La, La, He, He, Hee." "Then, all my songs were little stories. I liked storytelling songs. He used to think they were amusing. I don't think other people did, but he used to think they were."