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When Prince worked with Kate Bush

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In 1993 Kate Bush released her album The Red Shoes. One track, Why Should I Love You?, featured keyboards, guitar, bass and vocals by PrinceIf you’ve ever wondered how they ended up working together or what Prince got up to in the studio while working on the track, read on…

Del Palmer, Kate’s former partner and longtime engineer and bass player, spoke about the track to Future Music in 1993:

This one actually was recorded in collaboration with Prince – Kate went to see him at a gig and was flattered to be asked to meet him after the show, when they discussed a collaboration. Unable to physically get together in the same room, they swapped multi-track tapes, with a slave reel returning from Prince’s Paisley Park studio covered in vocals, guitar solos and keyboards. The problem then was to put the track back together into something resembling its original form while retaining the best of what Prince had done. He hadn’t added one of the vocal parts which would have been particularly good for him, so it basically took two years to put it back together. What’s left is his lead guitar, some digital synths and some chorus vocals. Then Lenny Henry came in to do a vocal on the end – he’s really got a great voice and ought to be doing a serious record of his own.

What’s really interesting here, is that we can actually compare the original track that Kate supplied to Prince and the version that ended up being released. The reason that we can do this is because Kate’s original demo, the one she sent to Prince, was leaked many years ago. Some people attribute this to Prince’s then engineer Michael Koppelman, although I have seen no evidence to support this. Anyway, here is the original version that Kate supplied to Prince:



And here is the finished track, as it appears on The Red Shoes. Remember this version isn’t what Prince supplied back, which as Del Palmer indicates above, was too far from its “original form” for Kate’s liking. Prince’s engineer at the time, Michael Koppelman (more from him below) confirms that “she sort of split the difference with what he sent and what’s on the record”:



It’s a fascinating listen. The demo has Kate singing the refrain which starts with “The fine purple, the purest gold…”. That is clearly the part that Del and Kate thought “would have been particularly good for him”, but for whatever reason (perhaps lyrics about purple and gold!?) Prince ignored that. As Del says, British comedian and actor Lenny Henry ended up singing that element.

But there is more… because many, many years ago Prince’s engineer Michael Koppelman spoke in detail about this whole Kate Bush ‘episode’. I think this was in response to an enquiry from someone on the Kate Bush ‘Gaffaweb’ (happy to add a credit, if someone knows who). Anyway, Michael himself posted these words on his personal blog, so it’s 100 percent genuine, if there is any doubt.

A little warning to grieving Prince fans, Michael paints a rather uncomplimentary picture, but remember this is one man’s view, albeit someone that worked closely with him. But you can choose to take his words with as many ‘pinches of salt’ as you please. Here are Michael’s words. He is asked if he ever got to talk to Kate in person:

“I did, but only for a short moment. I was at home and the phone rang. I didn’t always answer the phone in those days, because I was severely overworked. So my answering machine picked it up and I heard Julie, from Paisley Park, saying “Mike, I got Kate Bush on the phone and she has some questions about what format they should send things over on, and I thought it would be best if she talked to you. I, being an admitted Kate Bush fan, freaked, but picked up the phone and talked to Julie. She says, Kate, I have Prince’s engineer Michael Koppelman on the phone and he can answer your questions. Meanwhile, my answering machine is still recording it all, and blaring loudly. I tell my then girlfriend to shut if off just as Kate comes on and says Hello Michael? (so to this day, if I could find it, i have a tape of Kate saying hello to me…). The conversation consisted only of her asking me if they could send 24-track tapes and what series SSL computer disks. I also asked her if she was going to come to Minneapolis, and she said I don’t think I’m wanted out there right now. Then we basically said good-bye and hung up.

It’s funny because Prince knew I was a huge KB fan. He was too, but not like me. The first time I asked him if he liked Kate Bush he said, she’s my favorite woman. I also made him a tape of all the KB b-sides, which fucking rule. When The Sensual World came out he had someone go get it and we listened to it in the studio. He didn’t dig it that much, but I knew you can’t always tell right away with a Kate album. TSW grew on me, but it is still not her best effort. This Woman’s Work is a masterpiece, though, and makes the whole album worth it. But I digress. Prince is weird, and a couple stories in this post prove it. I may be tooting my own horn here, but Prince has a weird ego. I think *part* of his motivation to work with Kate was the fact that I worshipped her, and he knew it would impress me that he could call her on the phone and work on her music and shit.

ANYWAY, what led up to the phone conversation above: one day Prince’s assistant, Therese, told me as we were talking on the phone that Kate Bush had called. Therese also knew I was a big Kate fan. Then, in the studio that day, Prince said, guess who I talked to today. Me, being stupid and unable to keep my mouth shut, said, Kate Bush? Prince got a little miffed, and said How did you know that? And I said Therese told me, and he said, hmm, I should dock here for that. At that point I knew I fucked up and tried to say, no, she just knew I’m a big fan. As a side note, I told Therese that Prince was a little pissed that she had told me that, and she apologized to him. Therese is a really cool person. So, Prince tells me that he and Kate are going to work on a tune together. He also told me that while they were talking he told her that his engineer would rather work with her than him. (I thought, wow, Prince and Kate Bush talking about me!).

ANYWAY, Eventually the phone call above occured and the tapes arrived and I put them up and got a rough mix up. I still have a cassette of it. It fucking rules. It is 1 million times better than the lame disco Prince put on it. There was, of course, no disco on it before Prince got his hands on it. So Prince comes in and listens to it. And the brutality began. First we sampled the drum thing and synced it up to my Powerbook so we could do MIDI. At that point, we essentially created a new song on a new piece of tape and then flew all of Kate’s tracks back on top of it. So now we could run the sequencer and add all the keyboards that Prince put on. So Prince stacked a bunch of keys, guitars, basses, etc, on it and then went to sing background vocals.

When Prince does vocals, he sits right at the recording console with a microphone hanging over it and does his own punching in and out. So he kicks everyone out of the room when he sings. It took him a few hours and then he called me back in and played me the thick, multi-tracked background vocals he had put on. Now, as we all know, the song in question goes “Of all the people in the world why should i love you”. When Prince called me back in and played me what he had done, he had sung “All of the people in the world”, instead of Of All. I said, isn’t it OF all the people in the world? Not ALL of? He said, no, we had a little talk about that, in his cocky way, as if to say he had talked with Kate about changing the words to “all of” instead of “of all”.

The next day, I was waiting at my hotel room for the call to go to the studio when the assistant engineer, Sylvia Massy, called and said Prince was in the studio doing vocals. I was surprised; i was always called well in advance of Prince going into the studio. When I got there he was changing all the vocals to “Of All”, and was sampling them in himself, which is something he would normally never do himself. My interpetation? He made a mistake, as humans do, and didn’t have the guts to admit it. That’s weird. So I sorta poked my head in at one point and asked him if he needed any help, and we went on with the day. Eventually he had me do a rough mix, and when he had approved it, we sent it to Kate.

I got a call from Therese a few days (or weeks, I forget) later. She said, Kate Bush said to destroy all copies of that mix. I said, huh? Did she not like it or something? (my heart rejoiced, because I hated what Prince did to it) She said, I don’t know, she just said to destroy them. Later on Prince told me, Kate Bush liked what we did. She said it sounded very American. So at that point I wasn’t sure if she was even going to use it. We sent the tapes back and she sort of split the difference with what he sent and what’s on the record. Kate, if you read this, stick the pre-Prince version of Why Should I Love You out on something. And let me do a remix of Not This Time.

Make of Michael’s words what you will, but it’s certainly an interesting read. I’m a big Kate and Prince fan and I quite like elements of both versions. I do think it would have been infinitely better with Prince singing the Lenny Henry lines, but the fundamental issue, in my opinion, is that Why Should I Love You? just isn’t a very good song, certainly not by Kate’s high standards. Would love to hear you thoughts, so leave a comment.

Note: Kate later sang backing vocals on Prince’s My Computer (from 1996’s Emancipation). The song echoed themes from Kate’s Deeper Understanding (from 1989’s The Sensual World).

Kate’s words (published on her site) on Prince’s untimely death: “I am so sad and shocked to hear the tragic news about Prince. He was the most incredibly talented artist. A man in complete control of his work from writer and musician to producer and director. He was such an inspiration. Playful and mind-blowingly gifted. He was the most inventive and extraordinary live act I’ve seen. The world has lost someone truly magical. Goodnight dear Prince.”

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36 responses to When Prince worked with Kate Bush

  1. eric slangen says:

    Great story.

    • Toro Clyatt says:

      WOW!! I had never heard the demo version, before just now. While being an avid fan of both Kate and Prince, I must admit that while I was somewhat taken aback by Michael’s comments, he was spot on that Kate’s demo version is far superior to the album’s version. However, I disagree that ‘Why Should I Love You’ isn’t a very good song…even ” by Kate’s standards”. I very much liked both versions, ultimately. Only after hearing the original demo (longer) version, I prefer it more. There lies a similarity with Kate and Prince; the longer their tracks, the better it gets – they are at their best when given a larger canvas to paint… and their audience to truly interpret what was intended. The standard 2 to 3 minutes track isn’t very suitable for such visionary artists.

  2. Alan says:

    Really interesting to read this, thanks for posting. I prefer the demo. I don’t really like the song much but I prefer it in its earlier version. I wonder if Prince was a bit miffed that she didn’t use exactly what he sent back?

  3. Alan says:

    Also see http://www.katebushnews.com/index.php/2016/04/rip-prince-1958-2016/#comment-612913
    for Kate’s comments on Prince, both then and now.

  4. Francisco says:

    Awesome! Thanks for posting this!

  5. Anthony C says:

    I’ve always loved this song – it’s so beautiful, but the mix is a little busy and messy.

    I’ve never heard Kate’s guide track before – it’s truly amazing, I love it.

    I’ve heard this story before, a long time ago. I always think of this story when I hear this track.

    As a massive Prince fan, I’m also aware of how he can be. Creative people have differences of opinion. Even Prince would do things because he’s Prince, but it doesn’t mean it’s great all of the time.

    A great leader listens. Prince should have listened just a little bit more often.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    We’re gonna miss him bad!

    :-(

  6. Chris Squires says:

    Agree with Paul, it’s a shame that their main work together was on a song that, although good, is nowhere near her best work. The album came at a very difficult time for Kate, which is well known. Something approaching the quality and “out-thereness” of Night of the Swallow and many tracks on The Dreaming might have showcased his talent better.

  7. R.naud says:

    Interesting piece but it could indeed be summed up by what Paul says in the end: “The fundamental issue, in my opinion, is that Why Should I Love You? just isn’t a very good song”

  8. Vassilis says:

    Obviously, Michael Koppelman has been the genius behind the music all those years and that made Prince so jealous that he even collaborated with Kate Bush just to impress him. Alas, even then, without consulting the genius, he managed to fuck up.

  9. baward says:

    I’d have loved to have heard the result of a collaboration between Prince and Joni Michell, which I think was mooted at one point. Or him and Bowie. Both fantasy collaborations would have been fantastic.

  10. Jon says:

    Hey, wasn’t TRS supposed to be reissued on heavy vinyl? Did I miss it? Actually I’ve always enjoyed WSILY, interesting to read the backstory. Thanks Paul!

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      No you didn’t miss it. 14 months after they announced it, it’s nowhere to be seen. I’ve enquired a number of times at Analog Spark, but I keep just getting bland statements about “production delays”. That was in June last year that they told me that. I’ve given up.

      • Gordon says:

        Speaking of KB re-issues, was there ever a 2-disc (re-issue) version of ‘The Sensual World’? I saw it listed in an ad in the back pages of Q magazine (about late ’90s). I know that sounds kinda dodgy, but it was a mail-order music seller/distributor (can’t remember the name) I had ordered from before. It’s nearly 20 years since, and I have never heard another thing about it. Internet searches give me nothing, even Discogs has no mention/listing of a such a thing.

        Back to ‘TRS’ – I actually quite like the album. I’m very fond of “Rubberband Girl”, “And So Is Love”, “Moments Of Pleasure” and “Constellation Of The Heart”, and even “WSILY”. I absolutely adore “You’re The One” – during a rather miserable time in 2001, I had it on constant repeat*. But I do think the album’s audio quality/mix is rather flat).

        I’d also like to see a DVD release of “The Line, The Cross and The Curve” – but that probably won’t happen until sometime after George Michael reissues the Wham! catalogue. :)

        *(along with Kirsty MacColl’s “Don’t Go Home” and “Tomorrow Never Comes”)

        • Chris says:

          Going against the grain of most Kate fans, The Red Shoes is actually my favorite album of hers; the four tracks you listed are fantatic, as are Eat the Music and the title track. Ironically, Why Should I Love You is probably my least favorite song on the whole album.

  11. Jason says:

    His collaboration with Madonna was decent too, but considering the caliber of talents on offer could have probably been much more impressive.

  12. Neal says:

    I like that song – especially the original demo version. I love Prince though and at the time I loved that song when I listened to The Red Shoes, but I think it does sound quite dated now

    • Stan Butler says:

      Much as I love the music of Prince, Kate’s demo is perfection. He should have sent it back untouched.

      • Chris Squires says:

        Now that would have been a classy thing to do…and so funny. “N’ah can’t top that” in his best West Ham accent.

        As WSILY came out it was less than the sum of it’s parts, which is probably why the musical colossus that is Jeff Lynne doesn’t work with The Duckworth Lewis project.

  13. Zongadude says:

    I too am a big fan of both Kate and Prince, and I remember vividly being rather disappointed when the album came out: the song those two geniuses made together wasn’t as good as what we could have expected. Sometimes collaborations between two great artists is less than what they’re doing separately.

  14. Kiki says:

    Why Should I Love You? – Oh, I really disliked this song back in the 90s. I love Kate Bush & Prince, but I thought their musical styles didn’t mesh together well at all.

    But the song always remained a curiosity to me. Like your article implies, it’s an interesting artifact of collaboration between two great minds. With the back-story and the demo version to give it more context, it becomes a really intriguing track. Thanks for a great article.

  15. WKRP says:

    I remember being a bit disappointed with the collaboration on this song. Perhaps because it was written solely by Kate, it isn’t that different from what she normally does, therefore it lacks much of an impact by Prince. I think the push to do something with him, rather than having the perfect song and then seeking him out, best explains how this song is perceived. But it bugs me that the OP so freely writes that this is not one of her best songs. It is far better than anything I could come up with or all but a few humans. But I have to accept that she is judge by her other work.

    I never was a Prince fan. And I discovered Kate late, after I had already honed my taste on British rock of the late 60s and the 70s. I adore her mid-late stuff and all the fabulous b-sides on This Woman’s Work.

    I see no reason to doubt the story. It is how Michael experienced it. It would not surprise me if Prince would not agree with how things went, because it is not 100% flattering, and that’s how Prince wants his perception to be.

    But I don’t begrudge Prince for it either. He has warts and all, probably magnified by his fame and ability to preside over the collection of people that worked for him, who added their own talents and sometimes submerged their own egos because his was a fire that burned so bright.

    I had not heard much about Prince for years and years until the Superbowl, which I thought was a little odd for him to do, being far removed from his heyday. I don’t think he would have done it back then. But I think artists’ perceptions of the Superbowl have changed, as has who the Superbowl desires to perform for them. It’s the zenith of American sports, and I think it is now like winning a gold medal to be asked to perform.

    The artists that we looked up to growing up are growing old now. It’s a sadness that mortality is catching up to our generations as it has all others. I saw Prince in the stands at a Golden State Warriors game a month or two ago, so I was stunned to hear of his passing so soon after that. You just never know. I am glad to hear that artists, talk shows, towns, etc. are honoring this legend. He was one of the mega-stars because he had a mega-album back in the day, like Madonna, Bruce, Fleetwood Mac, etc. I watched his pre-Superbowl press conference posted here, and I enjoyed the humorous side that we saw. Sure his likes to keep his distance from people. That’s part of the aura and he was just more comfortable that way. That’s his nature, just like the comments in the article. It’ fine not being the same as everyone else. People respect him for that.

  16. elliott buckingham says:

    the track with kate bush on emancipation is great

  17. Reza says:

    Great article!

    Kate Bush is also thanked in the liner notes of Prince’s Diamonds and Pearls album (1991).

    The Kate Bush collaboration with Prince is also mentioned in an interview with Prince by the journalist Chris Heath, who visited Paisley Park for 6 days in 1991. His account mentions a possible video:
    “He [Prince] talks some more about his new projects. I mention the possible video with Kate Bush. Frequent transatlantic phone conversations with the floaty Ms. Bush have been openly alluded to during my tenure at Paisley Park, but Prince denies any knowledge. Strange.”
    http://www.gq.com/story/prince-interview-inside-paisley-park

    The deleted lyrics of the demo version of “Why Should I Love You?” are also intriguing. Kate sings “If I could sing like a blackbird, Just like my heart was filled with summer”. Kate fulfilled this wish many years later, after happiness had come back into her life, when she duetted with a blackbird on “Aerial Tal” on the Aerial album.

  18. giulio says:

    ‘Why Should I Love You’ is not one of Kate’s finest moments.
    But it’s not Prince’s fault, as the song itself was weak in the first place.
    The whole ‘The Red Shoes’ album isn’t Kate at her best, not at all :(
    So, Prince, from above, do not feel guilty…

  19. Hiram says:

    Love the song and the album, absolutely nothing wrong with it.

    I want to hear Kate working with Tori Amos please. And some red vinyl pressings of Red Shoes please.

  20. Jon says:

    Hey Gordon – for sound, you might audition the TRS included with The Director’s Cut – it was mastered from an analog tape.
    On the wish list, a superdeluxe of TRS including all the b-sides, promo versions, demo(s), and remixes, the Fruitopia music, and Blu-ray of TLTC+TC along with promo videos. Another item we’ll never get…

  21. Keith DeWeese says:

    Not sure about the comments that the song, itself, is “weak” or not one of Kate’s best. As far as I’m concerned, the original is brilliant and certainly not among her weakest efforts. A polishing of the demo would be very satisfying.

  22. David Rubin says:

    And still no word on the vinyl remaster of The Red Shoes. This demo is fantastic. She sounds so fresh and amazing, but she always does. Let’s hope this will start a remastering and remixing of those early Kate lips.
    Yeah, Prince will be missed : (

    Dave

  23. Steve Pritchard says:

    I was at college with Kate Bush’s nephew back in the early nineties and he knew I was a huge Prince fan so he told me pretty much the exact same story. He said that Kate had sent a track to Prince and he’d sent it back “with all this weird shit on” and that Kate hated it because he’d changed it to basically a completely different song.
    Take that for what you will, but I’d never heard Prince’s engineers version of events until now and it took me straight back to the conversation I’d had with Kate’s nephew all those years ago.

  24. Newmusicmark says:

    I didn’t like the song back then. I hated it actually. But now, after not listening to Kate straight in a row for years, I can look back it and appreciate it and enjoy it. It doesn’t really fit on Kate’s record though… :) Sound wise the original album version sounds a bit muddy, maybe because trying to match the different recording styles? Was the 2011 fish people remaster better sounding?

    I like this Kate demo, probably better than anything else on that album which was not a favorite… and now I’m REALLY interested in hearing Prince’s version.

  25. Libor Supcik says:

    I would like to point out 2 things. The demo shows an important rhythm contrast between the chorus( ‘you should not…”) which brings the awe and shivering…. Prince killed this contrast(0:59). His drums and and solo at 2:17 might have been grafted-in, keeping merits of both versions, though…
    I was surprised that the main 9 notes keys melody was not Prince’s.

  26. Awwfrack says:

    Michael Koppelman was a nobody “engineer” till Prince got him a job at Paisley Park. In that time he allowed him to work on his albums as well as gave him free reign and the opportunity to be a producer on Ingrid Chavez’s album. Instead of showing gratitude his ego clearly got the better of him, “Prince wanted to impress me” Really?? To then bad mouth Prince and call out Kate to get him to produce her was just classless.
    Michael now does astronomy. Kate never did call him and paid tribute to Prince….says it all really.

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