SHE’S ALWAYS IN MY HAIR
An excerpt from Prince and the Purple Rain Era Studio Sessions: 1983 and 1984 by Duane Tudahl, available now from Rowman & Littlefield. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
In almost every possible way, Prince was at an artistic peak unlike any other time in his career. His recent rise in popularity and creative output had made him the envy of most musicians in 1983, despite the fact that for the first year since his debut in 1978, Prince hadn’t release an album. His 1982 album 1999 was still on the charts and by late December most of the music for his movie, Purple Rain, had been recorded and with the exception of some pick up scenes they’d film in 1984, his movie had been shot. Prince was on the verge of super-stardom, but directly ahead of him was a lot of work. He’d have to find a way to keep Morris Day and the Time from self-destructing while he finished writing and recording their third album and he was racing the clock to create an entire new collection of songs for Apollonia 6, but for some reason he ended the year working on “She’s Always In My Hair,” a track that wouldn’t fit on either album. Over the next seven months, he’d also record complete albums for the Family and Sheila E., but the song wasn’t included in either of those as well. The track wouldn’t even fit on any of his own albums and would be hidden away on the B-side of a single. In an era of when Prince was recording brilliant B-sides including “Erotic City,” “17 Days,” and “Another Lonely Christmas,” “She’s Always In My Hair” stood out as was one of his best.
This is the story of the day Prince spent recording “She’s Always in My Hair.”
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 29, 1983
“She’s Always in My Hair” [listed as “Sex Shooter”]
Sunset Sound, Studio 3 | 6:30 p.m.–4:00 a.m. (booked 5:00 p.m.–open)
Producer: Prince | Artist: Prince | Engineer: Prince | Assistant Engineer: Bill Jackson
I don’t plan or anything like that. When I record, I find
if I usually just sit down and do something, I’ll gradually
come up with something. Sometimes it starts with a lyric.
Prince was renting a house on Benedict Canyon, but like he’d done the day before on “The Glamorous Life” he was again writing lyrics on the stationery from Le Parc Hotel. His original draft started with the phrase, “A boy got killed at Disneyland today / Some say he was trying to be Superman,” which was supposedly based on a story in the news, but the lyrics were discarded and the focus of the song shifted to a playfully romantic tone. Prince would later use this method of songwriting on “Sign o’ the Times.”
“She’s Always in My Hair” is another amazing track Prince recorded in one day. It is the sort of song that would be a crowning achievement for most musicians, but Prince would relegate it to a B-side. In many respects, the A-sides of Prince’s singles were released for the record company and for airplay on the radio, but the B-sides gave him a chance to stretch out and reveal some of his extensive unreleased work that may not have fit the theme of an album. There is also a financial benefit to this, as the B-side of a hit single generates equal sales royalties as the A-side.
The reason Prince listed “Sex Shooter” on the work order can be traced to the influence of the Apollonia 6 song, which was strongly featured in the Purple Rain movie. Prince literally sampled himself when he took the lead line from Apollonia 6’s “Sex Shooter” (the four-note riff heard at 0:09), slowing it down slightly to create a recognizable sequence that comes between “she’s always there” and “telling me how much she cares” at 0:43 of “She’s Always in My Hair.”
Prince was the only musician on the track, and engineer Bill Jackson remembers how this session began: “He was out at the piano writing a few words, playing some keys, writing a little bit more, and he was out there maybe a little over an hour.”
Prince quickly programmed the pattern on the LM-1, nearly replicating the beat and the phasing effect of the drums he’d created on the long version of “Sex Shooter.” Jackson says, “He put the two-bar phrase in and within ten minutes, he had the drums. I remember there was a pause in the song [probably at the ‘Maybe I’ll marry her, maybe I won’t?’ section] and he just stopped it and waited and then started it back up in real time without a click track, and then he went back and erased the kick drum and the snare drum that he didn’t want because they were doing the same thing through the song.”
Prince then recorded the keyboards on the Oberheim OB-8, a Fender bass, and a guitar, followed by the piano. According to Jackson, “He went out there to the grand piano and recorded the piano with him singing. And I think we went in and fixed a couple of things in the vocals.”
When it came time to delegate tasks during the session, Jackson recalls that Prince didn’t seem to want to rely on the engineer: “A lot of time he’d just run the tape machine himself. He’d just take his hand off of it and he’d punch in and punch out because a lot of times he was faster than talking to someone about it. Sometimes he’d let me do it. He needed someone to engineer, but he didn’t need them to do everything so you were kind of partially an assistant and partially the actual engineer.”
Even though Prince hadn’t recorded the track before today, he instinctively knew the song. “He’d be listening in his headphones to the tape rewinding and he’d hear it going backwards and say ‘Okay, stop there,’” according to Jackson. “He wouldn’t tell you to go back to the chorus or anything like that, he’d just say, ‘Rewind,’ and then, ‘Stop there,’ and I’d play it and we’d just punch in for the places he wanted to fix. And then he’d do it again. ‘Rewind . . . stop,’ and he would punch in for a harmony on another track. And he never messed up. It was all there in his head, and he’d just put it down when we’d record it.”
The handwritten lyrics contain an additional verse, but because of the length of the track, Prince decided to discard it.
Months later when working on the song in Minneapolis, Prince confirmed the track’s muse to his engineer Susan Rogers: “He told me himself that it was inspired by Jill Jones, so I can say that with some authority. Jill was around at that time and he really loved her. He had a lot of affection for her, but as he said, ‘She was always in his hair.’ She was one of those women who wasn’t doing anything wrong. She was always there telling him how much she cared and he said it with a great deal of affection. He really cared for her a lot.”
The track’s inciting incident supposedly stemmed from Jones leaving food on the counter at his home: “He was very orderly. Very organized. And he thought I was a complete slob. I was lots of fun, but kind of messy, leaving stuff everywhere. And I was like, ‘Well I was going to get it later,’ and he was just like, ‘But who does that?’ I was like, ‘Who does what?’ ‘You leave little bits everywhere you go.’ I think Prince sometimes got confused with me. We wanted to do the right thing, but a lot of times he just couldn’t. We were all just too young.”
Prince offered Jones a cassette of the song as an attempted apology, which was something he’d done for other women in the past. It didn’t go over well, especially the line: “Maybe I’ll marry her / Maybe I won’t.” “I asked him ‘Who says that?’” remembers Jones. “And he was like, ‘Well, I thought you would really like it.’ He was really, really sincere and I’m like, going, ‘Maybe?’ I got really hung up on ‘maybe.’ I said, ‘Everybody knows the woman always decides about marriage. Always. Whether the man knows it or not, it’s the woman. The woman can make the man do it.’ And I just tore up the house. I didn’t really like ‘She’s Always in My Hair.’ I said, ‘You can’t give me this song and think it’s going to make up for everything.’”
Jones never ended up marrying Prince and, reflecting on it years later, she is very philosophical: “I really truly believed that Prince was married to his music. There was no woman who could ever, ever rival that. Or compete. No way. You could try to fit in next to it, but nah, it was his music.”
A mix was created at the end of the session that contained a dip in the audio at approximately 6:15, consisting of a brief fade to silence and then a resurface of the last few notes and final sting. Because the song had an obvious Beatles influence, it seemed like a tip of the hat to the Fab Four, who had used this trick on “Helter Skelter.” Prince would also revisit this stylistic decision on The Black Album with “Rockhard in a Funky Place,” and on the 12-inch releases of “Alphabet St.” and “Mountains.”
Status: “She’s Always in My Hair” (6:32) was worked on again in January, adding finger cymbals, creating a new mix, and discarding the false ending. Additional work was done in Minneapolis in August of 1984, but it is unclear if the song was simply overdubbed or completely rerecorded. If it was rerecorded, the newer version was deemed less satisfying and remains unreleased. The version of the song recorded on this date was given the name “She’s Always in my Hair (New Mix)” and eventually released on June 19, 1985, as the B-side for the 12-inch of “Raspberry Beret.” An edited version (3:27) was released as the B-side to “Raspberry Beret” on May 15, 1985. It was also included on the B-side of the 7-inch and 12-inch of “Paisley Park” in Europe and Australia.
(The quotes from this article were gathered by personal interviews of the author with additional content from interviews conducted by Alan Freed. Musician magazine and Rolling Stone magazine were the source of the quotes from Prince.)
Prince and the Purple Rain Era Studio Sessions: 1983 and 1984 by Duane Tudahl (with a foreword by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson) was released on November 15 from Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (Hardcover, 514 pages).