And one last foray into the Prince catalogue on The Second Disc with what is arguably one of the dopiest entries in his catalogue. To some, it seems like a total work for hire, a hatchet job, a cash-in – and while that may be the case, it’s kind of a fun listen.
That’s right: Prince’s album devoted to the 1989 film Batman.
The story goes that star Jack Nicholson was the one who suggested Prince to director Tim Burton. After editing two scenes to a temp track of Prince tunes (“1999” for the sequence in which the Joker and his goons wreck a museum and “Baby I’m a Star” for the parade sequence), Burton agreed, and asked Warner Bros., the film’s distributor, to make some calls to Warner Bros., Prince’s label.
Get your “Batdance” on after the jump.
At the time, Prince was crafting a follow-up to Lovesexy that he was calling Rave Unto the Joy Fantastic. The material was stronger than a good bit of the album tracks from Lovesexy (most of which come off as plodding and mechanical to this author), bringing the musical focus back to rocking guitars while maintaining the spiritual bent of The Purple One’s post-Black Album years.
When Warner Bros. came calling, they were delighted to find that Prince was indeed interested in making a contribution (legend has it that Prince was actually a pretty sizable Batman fan, with Neal Hefti’s theme to the ’60s TV show being one of the first compositions Prince learned to play on piano). Six weeks after he was called up in the winter of 1989, he had presented a full, nine-track album.
At least one of the tracks, the hard-edged “Electric Chair,” survived from the Rave album (which also yielded “Elephants & Flowers” and “Still Would Stand All Time” from Graffiti Bridge), but a few of the compositions – “Partyman,” Trust” and so on – were brand new. Prince molded the songs into a loose adaptation of the Batman arc by accrediting the lyrics to different characters from the film (Batman/Bruce Wayne, The Joker, Vicki Vale), and furthered the connection by cutting actual snippets of dialogue into some of the songs (film nerds note that some of said snippets are slightly alternate to what is heard in the final cut).
Critics dismissed the album as mostly a cash-in (one of many Bat-themed bits of merchandise in the summer of ’89), but fans loved it, sending it to the top of the charts for six weeks and earning it triple platinum status. Lead single “Batdance,” easily one of the most bizarre singles of all time (it’s essentially an extended ad for the film, with film dialogue snippets and Prince’s ’60s-esque chants of “Batman!” over stuttering samples and sequencers), was a No. 1 hit, and “Partyman” and “The Arms of Orion” (a duet with Sheena Easton) also earned Top 40 status. Final single “Scandalous,” a slow jam that was actually partially incorporated by Danny Elfman in the film’s orchestral score, made No. 5 on the R&B charts.
But the Batman LP’s legacy is a muddled one. While Prince continued to play some of the songs from this record through the 1990s, none of the tracks have ever been featured on any of his compilations (unless you count a sample of the “Batdance” intro, sans film dialogue, at the beginning of the “Purple Medley” single). It seems to have to do with the complexities of ownership between Warner Bros. Records, Warner Bros. Pictures and DC Comics, who all have some sort of stake in the record (not to mention our mercurial purple hero).
Should all the difficulties get ironed out, an expanded Batman, featuring the many B-sides and remixes commissioned for singles, would be a treat to fans of the album, the movie and The Artist.
Prince, Batman: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Warner Bros. 1-25936, 1989)
- The Future – 4:07 (played during the opening scene as the family walks through the dangerous streets of Gotham City)
- Electric Chair – 4:08
- The Arms of Orion (Duet with Sheena Easton) – 5:02
- Partyman – 3:11 (played while The Joker takes over the museum)
- Vicki Waiting – 4:52 (barely heard during Bruce Wayne’s fundraiser during the beginning of the film)
- Trust – 4:24 (used in the parade scene)
- Lemon Crush – 4:15
- Scandalous – 6:15 (played over the end credits)
- Batdance – 6:13
The “Batdance” single (edited for the 7-inch – Warner Bros. 7-22924, 1989) was backed by a B-side, “200 Balloons.” This awesome track (probably intended for the parade sequence and way, way better than “Trust”) seems to have formed the basis for much of the “Batdance” samples and itself samples a few other Prince songs, including “Rave Unto the Joy Fantastic” (which would later get a release on Prince’s identically-titled 1999 semi-comeback album). The 12″ single (Warner Bros. 0-21257, 1989) included two remixes of “Batdance” by William Orbit (one, “The Batmix,” was based on the main portion of the song, while “The Vicki Vale Mix” was taken from the funky B-section of the song).
“Partyman” featured an old B-side on its single (Warner Bros. 7-22814, 1989), a song called “Feel U Up.” This tune was written during the Controversy era but committed to tape for the aborted Camille LP in 1986. (Only certain 12″ singles – notably the U.K. version (Warner Bros. W2814T, 1989) had the “Long Stroke” of the B-side, while most had the “Short Stroke.”) The A-side was remixed thrice for the 12″ (Warner Bros. 0-21370, 1989), as “The Video Mix,” “The Purple Party Mix” and “Partyman Music Mix,” which sampled from a few of Prince’s other cuts over the years.
“The Arms of Orion” avoided any remixes, offering only an edit of the song and a new B-side, “I Love U in Me,” on the single (Warner Bros. 7-22757, 1989). (Note: all three of the previous B-sides – “200 Balloons,” “Feel U Up (Short Stroke)” and “I Love U in Me” can be found on the third disc of The Hits/The B-Sides.)
“Scandalous” was an ambitious single. While the 45 (Warner Bros. 7-22824, 1989) only offered Lovesexy‘s “When 2 R in Love” on the B-side, a 12″ and CD EP called The Scandalous Sex Suite (Warner Bros. 0-21422, 1989) featured a three-part remix of the song with a guest appearance from Kim Basinger (whom Prince was apparently dating at the time) and a lengthy, Camille-esque B-side, “Sex (the ’80s are over and the time has come 4 love and trust).”
Finally, European audiences got one more single. William Orbit was commissioned again to remix “The Future” (Warner Bros. 5439-19782-7, 1990) and provided a longer remix of that track as well as “Electric Chair” on 12″ and CD (Warner Bros. 7599-21570-0, 1990).
Two known outtakes from this album circulate among bootleggers. The first is “Dance with the Devil,” an unused song based around one of the Joker’s most oddly poetic lines in the film, and the second is an extended mix of “Batdance” that clocks in at over eight minutes.