Immerse yourself in the year 1982. The year begins with Ozzy Osbourne biting the head off a live bat, and ends on the official—yet unofficial—end of ABBA with their final single “Under Attack”. Bombs were being dropped on The Gap Band, meanwhile, Hall & Oates were still telling people that they can’t go for that.
It was a major year for the trio of 80’s stars who were all born in 1958: Madonna made her debut, Michael Jackson released Thriller, which to this day holds the title for the world’s best selling album, and Prince released the album that had officially put him on the map, 1999.
As the 35th anniversary of the release of this album circulates our present day, let’s take the time to reflect on the history and gravity this album holds—not only for Prince but for pop music for the rest of time.
Reverb is a tool that had its first come–up in the very early 80’s. The most natural way it was achieved was through an echo chamber: a room with a loudspeaker in the corner and a microphone facing the speaker from the opposite wall.
The first-ever recording of the reverb sound was first created within the legendary Townhouse Studios Stone Room in London. The sound came from within those walls, but unfortunately, this room wasn’t accessible to everyone, and echo chambers were expensive to have. This led to the 1982 invention of the AMS RMX16, a portable machine that allowed reverb to be right at the artist’s fingertips. The Artist.
When it came to gated reverb, there was nothing Prince loved more. He used a Linn-LM1 drum machine that used real drum sounds. When Susan Rogers (Prince’s longtime friend and studio engineer, who is now a Berklee College Professor) introduced the Linn-LM1 to the AMS reverb box, she used a preset called “non-linear”. This preset is something that cannot be made in a chamber, so the update in technology during this time was helpful for the evolution of reverb.
By 1982, 1999 was Prince’s fifth album, but even before his 1978 debut, he was far from naive to the ways of making music. And though he continues the themes he carried through his previous projects (sexuality, war protest, sexuality, love, synth, did I mention sexuality?), there’s something about 1999 that is so masterly, so superb, erotic and beautiful.
Songs like “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” tend to the pop radio audience, while keeping his grip on his need for pleasure. As the album continues, tracks such as “Lady Cab Driver” and “Automatic” make this statement of beseechment even stronger. As the album ends with “International Lover”, the seams have far been broken and the sultry completely oozes out of it. The finale track doesn’t just encompass sexiness, it makes a fine wine out of it.
When Prince released 1999, it was such a big influence on artists of that era, and still is now. For instance, take Jack Antonoff. He used the very same Linn-LM1 machine that Prince used for his work to create his music and produce the music of other artists such as Lorde and Taylor Swift.
So think about it, if it had not had been for that little happy accident in the Stone Room, the sound of the 80s wouldn’t have been the same! And if it weren’t for that 80s signature sound, where would Lorde’s Melodrama be? Where would Carly Rae Jepsen’s EMOTION be? Taylor Swift’s 1989 (interesting…)? Blood Orange? Bleachers? None would have existed in the same way as they do now.
So before you go on a wild goose chase trying to find a publication doesn’t list Purple Rain has Prince’s best album (Based on personal experience, this does not end well), travel backward just two years before to the overlooked purple majesty. Thank you for flying Prince International. Remember, next time you fly, fly the International Lover.