The Prince Album Credit that Left Wendy and Lisa ‘Brokenhearted’
Revolution guitarist Wendy Melvoin has revealed that she and keyboardist Lisa Coleman were crushed to discover that very little of their work was included on Prince's 1987 Sign O' the Times album.
Speaking to the Current on a podcast dedicated to the making of Sign O' the Times in advance of the upcoming expanded box set version of the album, Melvoin described her mood at the time as "[b]rokenhearted. Because at the very end of it, we looked at the credits and it just said, 'Thank you, Wendy and Lisa' at the very — the very last credit on the Sign 'O' the Times record, and meanwhile we had done so much work on that record, as you will [see on] the deluxe record. So yeah, it was very painful; very painful. But we understood, you know, we're not — yeah, it hurt like hell but, you know, life goes on.'
Part of that disappointment was that the two women had such a great working relationship with Prince at the time. "I think Wendy and I were just so motivated," Coleman added, "inspired and happy to be where we were, working with Prince, and that he had come to the point to trust us so much. You know, we'd jam constantly every day and that builds like this love intimacy thing between all of us and — we would do everything in the studio. Wendy and I would get into the studio, and we were just so inspired we would try everything, from 'let's put a bass part on' to doing like patty-cake rhymes and things from our childhood that we'd think of, and it's like 'Oh, let's just throw this thing on there,' and Prince was like 'What was that?' We were just having fun."
Coleman said that the bond was so great that, even when Prince wasn't around, he could send them a tape with "sketches of songs, maybe a little guitar and vocal or piano and drums or whatever it was. And he would just say, 'I need some background vocals,' or he'd say something he wanted specifically. But then he'd also say — you know — 'Just put your stuff on it.' So you're like 'OK, we've got lots of stuff, so we'll put it on it.'"
"I had my moments in the quiet moments of the night after a project was done and you'd listen back to your work," Melvoin remembered, "and what you know your input was and what made him happy and what made him feel inspired — [it] gave me so much energy and motivation to keep at what I was doing. I felt like my voice was important. And it was even stronger because my musical collaboration with Lisa was so strong at that time."
After disbanding the Revolution, Prince re-recorded most of the acclaimed double album's tracks by himself. "Almost all of that stuff was starting to be done late '85 through '86 when The Revolution was still around," saxophonist Eric Leeds explains. "A lot of people equate all of the stuff that we think of as Sign O' the Times stuff with that band with Sheila E on drums and other people, because that was the band that went out and played that music [on tour], but they had nothing to do with any of the music that was on Sign 'O' the Times album, at least to my knowledge."
In the end, only Wendy and Lisa's studio contributions to "Slow Love" and "Strange Relationship" made it onto Sign O' the Times. They also appear on the double album's lone live track, "It's Gonna Be a Beautiful Night," which was recorded during a Prince & the Revolution set in 1986 at Le Zenith in Paris.