Number Ones: #32

032_Prince _1999_LRC

  • PRINCE 1999 / Little Red Corvette (Warner Bros.)
  • Week Ending February 2nd 1985
  • 2 Weeks At #1


The singles run from Purple Rain, which was far from over in America, found itself interrupted in the UK by this AA-sided reissue of the two best-known songs from Prince’s previous project, the double album 1999.

The title track had been a minor #25 hit in Britain, and for a while an instrumental version became the soundtrack to the Tuesday lunchtime premiere of the UK Top 40 chart on Gary Davies’ Radio 1 slot. Little Red Corvette wasn’t so successful, peaking at #54, but both were Top 20 US singles during 1983.

During the latter part of 1984, import pressings of a 7″ single with 1999 on one side, and Little Red Corvette on the other, began appearing in the bigger HMV stores and yours truly splashed out £2.49 on one such copy, even though it was in a basic WB paper sleeve. Just weeks later, of course, it was given a full UK launch and quickly became his highest-charting single by reaching #2. If only I had known; I could have saved myself £1.14 by waiting!

Purple Rain‘s impact had been such that the 1999 album had already re-entered the UK Top 100 in the early autumn of 1984, making this cash-in perhaps a little less random. Its success seemed to spur Warners into repeating the trick for several of their artists during 1985; two singles into Foreigner’s Agent Provocateur campaign, Atlantic Records in the UK decided to relegate Reaction To Action to supporting act for a “remix” of 1977 classic Cold As Ice. And then after Don Henley scored a rare #12 hit on these shores with the acclaimed Boys Of Summer and followed it up with Sunset Grill, his label Geffen decided the wiser commercial move was to reissue 1982’s Dirty Laundry in place of Billboard Top 10 smash All She Wants To Do Is Dance. The result on both occasions didn’t appear to justify the means; the Cold As Ice remix stiffed at #64, and Dirty Laundry was no more of a hit second time around than it had been originally. It’s a wonder that Elektra Records didn’t raid the Cars’ back catalogue for something to put out after Drive‘s post-Live Aid popularity (ironically, here they opted for the title track of the Heartbeat City album whereas Stateside a remixed version of 1981’s I’m Not The One was chosen at around the same time, to help promote new compilation The Cars’ Greatest Hits).

But we digress (sorry).

Surprisingly, 1999/Little Red Corvette would be the only Prince single to make #1 on my chart during 1985. There was still Let’s Go Crazy and Take Me With U left to release from the Purple Rain soundtrack, but by the time they too were bundled together for the UK market, I’d begun to move on to newer music and it only reached #3 (on the real Top 40, it peaked at a very respectable #7 given both tracks were well over 6 months old by that stage).

The decision not to issue them separately, as had been the case in the US, began to make more sense when a completely new studio album Around The World In A Day appeared from nowhere in April 1985, bringing with it the dawn of a new era and, one assumed, a fresh set of hits-in-waiting. Yet for all the excitement its unexpected release created (especially in my world), a combination of factors saw the trio of tracks chosen for the UK make a rather muted impact on my Top 40. Paisley Park (strangely never a single in the US) almost made #1, but I’d hammered the song for weeks before it was officially eligible for the chart. Worse was to follow for Raspberry Beret, quite clearly a Prince classic and the standout moment on Around The World In A Day by some distance. It didn’t even get into the Top 10 for me that summer (an obvious case of “what the hell was I thinking?”). Pop Life restored some modicum of sanity to my Prince chart history by getting to #7 in October, but had my obsession with the little genius’ music begun to permanently fade?

We’ll find out in 1986….


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