How it all began
Mazarati was a band put together by Prince’s bass player, BrownMark, aka Mark Brown. They had signed a recording deal with the new label that Prince was starting in 1985. As part of the deal, Prince agreed that Mazarati could record a song that he’d written but had no use for called Kiss. They were given a bare-bones demo, just Prince singing the song, not in falsetto (the ridiculous ultra-high voice made so famous by the Bee Gees) just playing some simple chords on an acoustic guitar to accompany himself. The song was also a lot shorter, just one verse with the chorus.
The record producer on this album was David Z, a now-legendary producer, who was then known for his previous work with Prince. David heard the demo and started playing around with some effects, putting together the drum machine with guitar in a new way. The band got busy, and within the day the song was recorded and in the can. Finished.
Or that’s what they thought. The next day, David Z came into the studio to find Prince working on the song. He had taken the new funky guitar/drum combo and the backup vocals and was recording his own vocals on lead. He announced that he was taking the song back. He told Z that the song was too good for Mazarati. (Rude!) He offered the members of the band songwriting credits, since they had fleshed out the little he’d originally given them. But that never happened.
Once the new recording of the song was in Prince’s can, he then had to convince the record company to release it. They were not in favor of the song. It was too different. But Prince had power and he pushed it through. Kiss became his third number one hit, winning him a Grammy.
Not a fan
Prince does not come out of this story sounding good. He sounds like a double-dealing jerk. He was unbelievably influential as an artist, and his talent cannot be overstated. But I was not a fan of this song. I didn’t like the falsetto, and wished he’d sung the whole thing in his normal voice. When he starts the screechy-shouty-thing, it makes my throat hurt.
As I was researching this blog, I found the version recorded by Age of Chance. Dating from 1986, the band learned the song from hearing it in clubs and looking the lyrics up in Smash Hits, a British teen magazine. It’s not a bad take on the song. Even with the words from the magazine, they substantially changed them. But it’s fun.
In 1988, the avant-garde, synth-pop group Art of Noise heard Welsh singer Tom Jones singing Kiss on a TV appearance. They contacted Jones, and recorded Kiss featuring him singing lead. The song had been originally suggested to Jones by his son/manager in an effort to make him relevant again. It worked. The video for Kiss won Jones, then 48, an MTV award.
I much prefer this version of the song. I’ve honestly never been a Tom Jones fan, either. The raspy quality that he has makes me want to clear my throat. But I do love his take on the song.
What is your favorite version of Kiss? Let me know in the comments below. I’ll be playing these and a few other Prince songs this week on my Minnich Music FaceBook page this week, so be sure to check them out.
Until next time!