Prince’s work ethic and creative output are the stuff of legend. Because of this, it was difficult for Prince to find people to work with that could not only rise to his level of expertise, but meet is insanely demanding schedule. One of those rare people was Peggy “Mac” McCreary. In the early 1980’s Prince split his time between Minneapolis and Los Angeles, but he wrote and recorded music no matter where he was. When he was in Los Angeles he recorded at Sunset Sound in Hollywood and Peggy McCreary was his preferred recording engineer.
If you want to know more about the legendary Peggy Mac and her time as Prince’s recording engineer I urge you to read Duane Tudahl’s Prince and the Purple Rain Era Studio Sessions. If you don’t have weeks to dedicate to a massive book, at least read this. Like anyone close to Prince, her stories about him are incredible. I particularly enjoy her admitting that if it weren’t for Prince she’d probably still be a smoker, but he demanded that she quit. Not necessarily because he was concerned about the health risks, but because he got tired of her smoke breaks in the middle of their recording sessions. Peggy Mac might actually be the source of more insightful Prince stories than anyone I’ve come across in all of the books, magazine columns, and podcasts I’ve consumed.
The story behind today’s song is simple: In January of 1982 while Prince was working on music for 1999 and The Time’s What Time is It he started experimenting with a new song and McCreary was the engineer. At the end of the session she asked Prince for a song title so she could document it. Prince said, “What’s your middle name?” She said, “Colleen.” He said, “Name it Colleen.” End of story. Nothing ever came of “Colleen” until last fall when it was included in the vault tracks on the 1999 Super Deluxe Edition. The liner notes say that he revisited the song in 1993 but don’t specify. It’s amazing to me that he recorded some music for one night in 1982, then eleven years later dug it back out. Did he remember the song, or was he just digging through the vault and thought, “I don’t remember this,” and bring it back out? We’ll never know.
“Colleen” is a 5+ minute instrumental and it’s repetitive. It has the makings of something cool and funky, but it’s clear when you listen that it never passed the conceptual stage. It’s cool to hear for a minute or so, but 5:30 is unnecessary. There aren’t any noteworthy solos or changes to the groove. It just kind of goes and then stops with nothing really grabbing your attention. Again, it could’ve been something much better, but Prince moved on to other things. If I was handing out letter grades I’d give “Colleen” an I for incomplete, but I’m not doing that. Instead I’ll give it a 1.5 out of 5 stars and wish he had added more to it. Peggy Mac deserved something better on a song with her name.