Put yourself in the shoes of a popular music lover in 1985. In the past year you had Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Madonna’s Like a Virgin, Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A., and Prince’s Purple Rain all jockeying for position on the Billboard charts. Four career-defining albums that changed pop music forever. Of course, Prince was the first of that group to follow-up immediately in early 1985. You can imagine the anticipation as Prince dropped an album less than a year after Purple Rain and only weeks after the tour ended. Eager fans who gobbled up millions of copies of Prince’s last two albums waited to see what the guitar/rock/funk/R&B God would do next.
He responded with an oud, fingercymbals, and darbuka.
The truth is, Prince was already tired of Purple Rain when the tour was just starting. He couldn’t wait to move on. As Prince told Rolling Stone at the time, “I don’t want to make an album like the earlier ones. Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to put your albums back to back and not get bored, you dig?” Instead of making Purple Rain 2, he collaborated with his Revolution comrades, specifically guitarist Wendy Melvoin and keyboardist Lisa Coleman. In fact, the song “Around the World in a Day” was originally recorded by Lisa’s brother, David Coleman, during studio time at Sunset Sound in California that was given to him as a gift from Prince. Prince heard Coleman’s song and loved it, then re-worked it in to the version you hear now. “Around the World in a Day” is the only song by Prince to give writing credit to David Coleman.
Another quote Prince quote from that era that I believe sums up Prince’s attitude toward Around the World in a Day beautifully comes from an interview in Ebony magazine where he said, “I don’t go into the studio just to make a hit; that would be too easy. There are a lot of people who do that just to make a payment on that Cadillac. I just never really look at it like that.” That would be too easy? Maybe for Prince. Not so much for pretty much everyone else on the planet.
So, what did we really get with the album and song Around the World in a Day? First, I think the song represents the theme of the entire album well. It’s first track of Prince’s first album after he became a mega-star and household name. I think there’s an obvious reason he picked that song to lead off the album. Within the first minute of the song you realize this isn’t Purple Rain anymore…but it’s still great. The first two verses of the album are an invitation to get away.
Open your heart, open your mind
A train is leaving all day
A wonderful trip through our time
And laughter is all you pay
Around the world in a day
Around the world in a day
Loneliness already knows you
There ain’t no reason to stay
Come here and take my hand, I’ll show you
I think I know a better way, y’all
It’s still Prince’s unmistakable voice, songwriting, and musicianship. The sound and message are different. In a 40-year career that spans damn near every genre of music it’s saying something that Around the World in a Day is considered his most eclectic album. Many claim it was influenced by the Beatles, but don’t tell Prince that. He insisted that it wasn’t. People who wanted another Purple Rain were disappointed. People who love good music know that Around the World in a Day is another masterpiece that belongs at or near the top of the list of Prince’s best albums.
As for the song “Around the World in a Day,” it’s not the best song on the album, but it’s the perfect opener.