Prince Had Songs w/ Big Daddy Kane & Miles Davis That Were Shelved

With the passing of Prince, and everything turning purple, we’ve been hit with a storm of dedications and various media tributes. Rightfully so. In all of this, a couple interesting stories have emerged. One is a story about how Prince and Miles Davis hooked up for a song in 1985, and the other is a remix that Big Daddy Kane did to “Batdance” that was shelved by the label for being “too different.”

Check an interview below about the Miles Davis story from Alan Leeds, and listen to both of the songs. I’ve also added Donnie Trumpet‘s “In Your Light” dedication.

John Luongo interview with the LA Times:

LA Times: How did you get Big Daddy Kane on the record?
John Luongo: He was on a label owned by Warner Bros. That made it easier. But really, he had a great reputation. I knew there was a great respect for him in the community. And I think his work and persona was something that Prince appreciated, too. He had a melodic quality to him, which some rappers really didn’t. You put all that together, and it made him a really attractive addition. So when he got to the studio, I gave him some specifications, but everything was all of his own creation, right on the spot. He was brilliant, such a professional to work with.

LA Times: So what happened to the song?
John Luongo: The whole thing, recording, mix and editing, took a day and a half. But I had a deadline! I remember FedEx was there waiting as I did my best to finish up, so we could make the next plane to rush it over to L.A. and Minnesota to let Warner Bros. and Prince hear what I had done. … And then Warner Bros. said they didn’t like it; it was too different. And that was it. They didn’t release it.

Alan Leads on Prince and Miles Davis:

TLM: How did Prince view Miles?
AL: Eric joined the band in the middle of the Purple Rain tour and quickly became friends with [guitarist] Wendy Melvoin and [keyboardist] Lisa Coleman, who were familiar with jazz. Gradually they began turning Prince into this kind of music- he had little first hand knowledge of jazz. This was during 1984/85. They made it their own project of turning Prince onto different kinds of music. Eric would give him jazz records and turned Prince on to Sketches of Spain and Kind of Blue and other stuff. Gradually the three of them had an impact on Prince and he felt that he needed to know this music and figure out what he liked and didn’t like. He had a very genuine interest in expanding his musical curiosity. Young black guys were attracted to Miles because of his politics – he was an icon. I think as Prince learnt more about Miles he started to see some of himself in Miles. He was fascinated with Miles and used to ask Eric about stories about Miles and he’d share recordings with him. He’d show him video recordings and Prince would be fascinated and say ‘look at the way Miles is standing.’ – he was just studying his moves or his posture. There was a real fascination with the iconic aspect of Miles.

TLM: Can you explain how “Can I Play With U?” happened?
AL: I’m basing this on my files and Eric’s journals and his recollections. Shortly after the meeting at the airport, they swapped numbers and I’m sure they talked about Prince submitting some material for the first Warner Bros album. As I said, there might even have been conversations before they met Tommy LiPuma [then head of Warner Bros jazz] and the Warner Bros people. So it was already in our mind that ‘Miles was on Warner and you guys are going to end up doing something together.’ Now, they’ve met and swapped numbers, it was more imminent. And once Prince has got a passion for something, he jumps right on it.

Within a couple of weeks, Prince was in the studio and he recorded the initial track was on the 26th and 27th of December 1985. Eric was in Florida on holiday with our parents and he got a call from Prince saying ‘hey you gotta come round here.’ Prince did the basic track on the 26th and Eric overdubbed his horn on the 27th. Eric recalls Prince intending to take the tape to Miles in Malibu and Prince said to Eric; “I’m going to take this tape to Miles in Malibu. Do you want to go?’ And Eric was well up for it! I don’t know why, but that meeting never happened but they sent the tape by messenger. In January [1986] Prince sent the multi-track tape to Miles for him to do whatever overdubs he wanted to do. This didn’t happen until February and March. Prince was never present at any of those overdub sessions – he had absolutely nothing to do with them. He was enamored with Miles but I don’t know how ambitious Prince was about working with Miles.

TLM: Prince pulled the track from the album.
AL: I remember Prince’s reaction when he got the tape back – he wasn’t enthralled with it. Not so much because of what Miles had done with it. But he just lived with the song long enough and realised that there wasn’t really anything brilliant about it. It was something that had been hastily and impulsively done. I feel certain that Prince felt that if there was going to be a collaboration that was officially released, it should be something more significant than what that track was. That wasn’t a reflection of Miles’s playing, but more about the composition and the significance of the quality of the track in itself. He seemed to lose interest in that track and the fact that album ended up going in a different direction [Marcus Miller took charge of the album that became Tutu]. I think if Tommy LiPuma or Miles had gone back to Prince and said ‘look this track isn’t great. Let’s do more and let’s make an album together,’ I think Prince would have probably submitted twenty tracks. I don’t think it would have changed his MO or his willingness to spend a lot of time in the studio together, but I think he would have been interested in submitting tons of tracks in the hope of making an album. But that didn’t happen. Whether he was hurt by that, I don’t know, but I know he just seemed to lose interest.

About Donnie Trumpet’s “In Your Light” dedication:

One of my best friends and musical mentors, Maceo from the band The Omys gave me a mix cd when i was going through a tough time with a song called Donna by Prince. I listened to the song over and over in the car. I never imported the cd, could only hear it in the car, so when i tried listening to it on tour i couldn’t find it anywhere. As you know Prince’s music is pretty rare on the internet but this song was especially elusive because it was a part of a compilation album of his “unfinished” music. This was a really powerful inspiration for me after having worked so hard on Surf and still having so much material left over that didn’t quite fit but still described my vision and passion of the era of making music when putting Surf together. Songs are like poems, they’re never done.

In honor of that song and all songs like it, and the earth claiming one of the greatest humans to ever grace its land, Prince…I dedicate this to everyone who will ever hear it.


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