Had a nice little Sunday today with my family celebrating my nephew’s birthday and watching the Packers whip Detroit’s ass. Now I find myself in the familiar position of sitting tired in front of my MacBook late on a weekend night trying to meet a self-imposed deadline. I said a few weeks ago I was going to stop typing these on weekends because nobody reads on Saturday and Sunday, but I can’t help myself. I can’t give up on this streak.
Before I forget, did anyone see H.E.R. performing “Nothing Compares 2 U” at the Emmys tonight? She killed it, as always. Nice to see a talented young artist keeping Prince’s work and memory alive. It’s unfortunate that her music accompanied the “In Memoriam” segment that featured more big names than any one of those segments in recent memory.
“Cold Coffee & Cocaine” is the first song on the Daily Prince to come from the posthumous 2018 release Piano & A Microphone 1983, released two years ago tomorrow. When I heard about Piano & A Microphone I was actually kind of disappointed. Of all the things in that vault that we could listen to, a random recording of Prince playing piano in 1983 wasn’t what I had in mind. I was wrong. It’s become a go-to record in my vinyl collection.
We got an acoustic version of one of my all-time Prince favorites, “17 Days.” We got an early – and too brief – peek at “Purple Rain.” We got a few other seemingly random classic Prince album cuts with “Strange Relationship” and “International Lover.” We also got songs like “Cold Coffee & Cocaine.” A song that, as far as I can tell, was never intended for any of this albums and never actually had a proper studio version. I saw it suggested on princevault.com that Prince was using the Jamie Starr voice, meaning this might have been a song he was working on for The Time. For what it’s worth, I call that his Cloreen Bacon Skin voice.
“Cold Coffee & Cocaine” is 5:00 long and meanders at times. At times it feels like Prince is making it up on the spot, with is completely possible. He’s singing about a woman he’s through with because every time he goes to her place to eat all she offers him is cold coffee and cocaine. There’s also a lot of “good Lord” and “ow” like a classic James Brown record. You don’t really listen to “Cold Coffee & Cocaine” for the lyrics, though. You listen because of Prince’s mastery of the piano.
Again, I’ll go back to when the Prince Estate announced this project and the disappointment I had. I thought to myself, “Prince wasn’t playing piano in 1983. Prince was programming a Linn drum machine and playing synthesizer. He was making nasty funk music. Why are they putting out an album of him playing piano?” Maybe because, as it turns out, even at 27 years old Prince was a virtuoso. This album proves that despite the fact that his last several albums had been filled with controversial, genre-bending funk, punk, and new age classics, Prince was still a brilliant musician and songwriter who could sit down at a piano and play beautiful music. To quote the Prince Estate, it also brought Prince’s career full circle. His last tour in 2016 before he died was the Piano & A Microphone Tour. It seemed like such a radical concept when Prince was playing those concerts, but as it turned out, he had been doing it his whole life.
“Cold Coffee & Cocaine” feels rough and incomplete, but Prince’s work on the piano is brilliant. It’s not the best song on the album, but it’s an interesting peek into the mind of Prince the songwriter. He had an idea on that day in 1983 about a song that he may have never considered again, but now it’s immortalized on an album. I hope the fact that the estate called the album Piano & A Microphone 1983 means that there are more recordings like this in the vault and maybe we’ll get a series of Prince on a piano albums from other years. Even better, I’d love to hear an Acoustic Guitar & A Microphone album if such a thing exists. The “I Feel For You” demo that was released in 2019 leads me to believe there’s more of that in the vault as well. “Cold Coffee & Cocaine” is cool, and I’d like more of it. Please don’t take that literally. I don’t drink coffee.