Prince was a complicated guy. Everyone who was a part of his inner circle during his early years speaks lovingly about him, but also clearly still carries some scars from their relationship. The list of former collaborators who have spoken on the record about the frustration that they felt working with him is long. Just listen to any episode of the Prince Official Podcast. Morris Day’s entire book was based on his complicated relationship with Prince. BrownMark’s book is coming next. Everywhere you turn there’s a former bandmate spilling his/her guts about the emotional toll they paid working with Prince.
Arguably nobody has a greater right to carry bitterness than Lisa, Wendy, and Susannah. Lisa Coleman played keyboard/synth/piano for Prince before The Revolution was The Revolution, starting on 1980’s Dirty Mind album and going through 1986’s Parade. Clearly she influenced his work after 1986 and was heavily involved in 1987’s Sign O’ the Times even though she gets no official credit. Ditto for Revolution guitarist Wendy Melvoin, who joined Prince in 1983 at only 19 years old. She also left Prince when he disbanded The Revolution in 1986. Then there’s Wendy’s twin sister Susannah. She was the co-lead singer of Prince side project The Family, but more importantly, was engaged to Prince and shared a home with him. While nobody alive can truly answer this question, it’s hard for me to imagine that Prince had three closer collaborators over his 40-year career than these three.
The Prince Official Podcast is currently telling the story of the rocky ending of The Revolution and I have a feeling the next episode (dropping in a few hours!) will tell the story of how Prince’s relationship with Susannah ended. If it’s half as heartbreaking as the tale Wendy and Lisa tell (I’m sure it is) it will be difficult to hear. Here’s a quote from Wendy from the first episode of The Story of Sign O’ the Times podcast about how she felt when she saw that she and Wendy were barely mentioned in the Sign O’ the Times credits:
Brokenhearted. Because at the very end of it, we looked at the credits and it just said, “Thank you, Wendy and Lisa” at the very — the very last credit on the Sign ‘O’ the Times record, and meanwhile we had done so much work on that record, as you will attest to the deluxe record. So yeah, it was very painful; very painful. But we understood, you know, we’re not — yeah, it hurt like hell but, you know, life goes on.
I’m naive. I like to believe everyone in the band was the best of friends and they all hung out together until the very end. I know that’s not true, but the podcast confirms it. It actually made me sad. I know Prince could be aloof, selfish, and a thousand other terrible things, but I like to block that stuff out. As I’ve read many times in the past and am hearing again through the podcast, Prince hurt the people around him emotionally.
Then there’s today’s song. “In This Bed Eye Scream” was included in Prince’s 1996 triple album Emancipation, released just over ten years after The Revolution broke up. If you look at the title without hearing the song first, you might think it’s another freaky Prince slow jam formed from the same mold that gave us “Scandalous.” Not even close. “In This Bed Eye Scream” is an upbeat, surprisingly happy sounding song about Prince struggling with lost love. He’s singing about crying and screaming from sadness in his bed during a fast song. For four minutes he questions how he’s going to fix this situation with a woman that he lost. Then you look at the album credits.
Underneath “In This Bed Eye Scream” it simply says “2 Wendy and Lisa and Susannah” in backward letters. He’s singing to a woman, he’s singing to three women. This makes perfect sense after hearing Susannah stat on the podcast that Prince spoke to people through song. He wasn’t good at putting things in to words, so he’d write people a song. It also explains one line in the song that jumped out at me when he sings, “How did we ever lose each other’s sound?” “In This Bed Eye Scream” was an olive branch.
I don’t know how much difference it made. I’ve seen Wendy, Lisa, and Susannah speak about how they’d get together and play music with Prince sporadically, but they never approached the kind of relationship that they had in the 1980’s. It still makes me happy to know that Prince had some remorse over the way things ended with this and actually expressed it.
“In This Bed Eye Scream” is one of my favorite songs from Emancipation. It’s not breaking ground musically, but I still like the vibe and love Prince’s harmonies throughout. I find Emancipation to be a disappointing album during the only brief, forgettable part of Prince’s career, but this song is a highlight. As always, long live Wendy, Lisa, and Susannah!