Little Red Corvette is the song that made Prince a star – a song about casual sex that gave him his first US top 10 hit in 1983 and introduced him to the mainstream.
According to the story, Prince came up with the opening lines, “I guess I should have known, by the way you parked your car sideways, that it wouldn’t last”, after falling asleep in the back of a car owned by Lisa Coleman.
The full story behind the song, and some of Prince’s other hits, was given to the BBC by Coleman and her musical partner in crime, Wendy Melvoin.
They were Prince’s most important musical partners, working with him throughout the early ’80s as members of The Revolution, introducing elements of jazz and classical to his provocative blend of funk and rock.
Wendy and Lisa went on to score hit TV shows after he dismissed the band.The original line-up of The Revolution will be reformed to celebrate Prince’s legacy.
Ahead of Prince’s fifth studio album, 1999, being released this Friday, the duo reminisced about their favourite Revolution songs.
Prince always borrowed my car because it was awesome.It was a ’64 Mercury Montclair, pink and white, and it was the perfect cruise-mobile on a beautiful day in Minneapolis.He put dents in it because it was so big.He mumbled ‘Hey Lisa, sorry about your car’ when he came up to me.I would run out to inspect the damage and there would be a small yellow paint mark from the pole he’d reversed into.You should watch where you’re going.
Well…I don’t know.He was sleeping in the back of the car with someone we knew as Vanity.I found her hair wrapped around the window handle.
I think they had a wonderful moment of afterglow, which is when he got the idea, because they were making out in the back seat.It’s a pink Mercury, not a red one!
Before it was recorded, we would play it in sound check and Steve would freak out.Prince used to laugh at him, “Steve has babies when we play this song!”
I have a clear recollection of the first time I heard that song.I went to rehearsal early, but Prince was already playing.After he motioned me to come over, he picked up the guitar and began fooling around with it.When everybody else showed up, he showed them their parts and we all fell in.
I decided to hold down D and F in the chorus.He said, “Alright, that’s great!”Lisa is producing herself.Why don’t the rest of you do that?He had to say something mean after he was always nice.I can support you, but don’t forget you’re not all that.
The idea of splitting the vocals from Sly & The Family Stone came from Prince.She’s a better singer than I am, so we added her voice.The two of us are singing.She has the fire and I have the dreamy quality.
I still enjoy playing that song.I love the Oberheim synthesizer and the Minneapolis sound.It has a party vibe all the way through.
Exactly.It’s very relaxing.It was one of the great things about being in the Revolution.We were like whirling dervishes, because we would play it for hours on end.Imagine what it would do to our brains if we trained our bodies.There were times when I felt great in these jams and rehearsals.It was great.There’s no other way to explain it.
In 1982, the lyrics were all about personal liberation and celebrating sexuality.
It was no longer in phase.It wasn’t in fashion to talk about those things back then, so I was always proud of him.He had a vision about people, about how we could be together, and he was able to create an area for people who heard the message.
Wendy Melvoin played her first gig as a member of the Revolution on the night Prince released Purple Rain.
We skipped ahead to 1985 and the release of Prince’s seventh album, Around The World In A Day, because Lisa told the BBC about the creation of that song in a previous interview.America, a 21-minute version of which appeared on the 12″ single, was the ultimate showcase of The Revolution’s musical muscle.
The first time we played America was in a tent in the south of France, while we were filming Under The Cherry Moon.
It was over 100 degrees in the tent.You can see in the video that we are running around the stage.We almost passed out from heat exhaustion, so we had oxygen tanks brought to us.
Someone brought Prince some orange juice when he was laying down.He was dripping with sweat.
During that song, Prince is conducting the band, calling out changes on the fly, and even playing the drums at one point.How do you prepare for that?
It’s not an easy answer.We knew what was expected of us because we had worked on the grooves for a long time.He would give us signals on where he wanted to go if we kept an eye on him.
Sometimes he’d come up to my keyboards and say, “play something like that”.I have the most boring part because he just gave me the lead line.
When I got easy parts, I would get mad at Prince and play with a yo-yo on stage.
Under the Cherry Moon’s final track is Sometimes It Snows in April.It is an uncharacteristically spare and melancholy addition to the star’s songbook, and deals with the passing of a beloved friend.The Revolution revisits the song in concert after Prince’s death.
“We were at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles, Prince, me and Lisa, just the three of us, and we were all in quiet moods.”I picked up an acoustic and Lisa was playing the piano.It happened in a couple of hours because Prince is very quick with words.He had written and sung the whole song.It came very quickly.
When he sings ” Sometimes I wish”, he pushed for a dissonant chord.It was actually his harmony that made it dissonant.The way it resolves is beautiful.
There were some around that time.Power Fantastic and The Tears In Your Eyes both had a lot of tender feelings.They all had the same kind of quiet.
All of the musicians that Prince has hired over the years, including me, he can do all of their parts.He can’t mimic Lisa, the only musician he’s ever hired.I believe that Lisa was his ultimate musical muse.I have always felt that way and I stick to my guns.
The triple-disc Crystal Ball was one of the albums Prince was working on.Wendy & Lisa’s personal favourite is All My Dreams, a bootleg from those sessions.
It was an interesting, fun, crazy day in the studio.It’s like a little movie when you listen to it.There was a carnival atmosphere.
Wendy: “Do you remember when we took him to see Kid Creole and the Coconuts and he fell in love with August Darnell?”Susan Rogers bought him one for that song.
It’s full of imagination.He sings ‘Lisa, I’m going to give you a paintbrush and you’ll paint the side of the train’.What does that mean?We were just like, “Y’arr!” after I did some crazy piano solo.This is great!This is fantastic!
Prince was like, ‘Bring it on!’ when Wendy and Lisa pulled out their recorder from their school days.It was a crazy time.
Sometimes the work was just work.But this?It was a lot like kindergarten.We were a little bit crazy as musicians.
Wendy said that they were gone.He turned into a different person when we were gone.That’s the nature of who he was.
Prince always wanted to be great, so he needed to regroup and think, “How do I reach the next level of my greatness?”Is it a film?Is it a different band?He had to find out because he didn’t know.Too bad.See ya.
The 1999 edition will be released on Friday.The solo piano album by Lisa Coleman is out now.
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