Tomorrow (7th June), Prince Rogers Nelson would have been 61. So, when a Prince record came up in our 30-year retrospective list it was a no-brainer that I would listen to it again, given my love for the man and his music. It is an absolute bonus that it’s the Batman soundtrack!
I love this album and always have done. I bought it back in the day to fill the gap when there used to be a looong time between films coming out in the cinema and being released on VHS (ask your parents) or coming to TV. Tim Burton, Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger and Jack Nicholson ensured that the 1989 cinema reboot for one of DC’s most loved comics characters would be a success but, for me, the other star of the film was the soundtrack. It was the first film to really have two soundtrack albums, with Danny Elfman’s glorious orchestral score (yes, I have that too) standing shoulder to shoulder with Prince’s collection of songs written for the film.
So what of the music itself? It is very much a film soundtrack album rather than a stand alone work, with each song related to a character or event in the movie and there are some glorious soundbites sampled in that take your memory straight back to specific scenes.
Five of the songs were singles back in the day, and you’ll definitely recognise them if you were around then. The Future is spiky and presciently bleak and rightly attributed to Batman’s character, but so is Scandalous, a much more laid back but still very dark sounding song speaking to the fantasy hero figure. Partyman is so much the Joker you don’t even need the Jack Nicholson quote at the start and The Arms of Orion, a duet with Sheena Easton, is the slushy, end of the disco, slow dance so that Bruce Wayne and Vicki Vale can just stare into each other’s eyes. Awwww.
Of the tracks that weren’t singles, Electric Chair has some superb guitar work taking centre stage and Trust has a fantastic Latin American party feel to it. However, Vicki Waiting and Lemon Crush, both inspired by Prince’s girlfriend Anna Fantastic and attributed to Vicki Vale’s character, are probably the weakest on the album for me. Still ok to listen to but musically nothing special, maybe indicative indeed of Kim Basinger’s portrayal of the character in the film (did I type that out loud?).
Anyway, even if you take the “film-ness” out of it, it’s still a really cool album and very Prince in style. It’s heavy on the synth, the 80’s rhythm, close vocal harmony and idiosyncratic phrasing as various themes weave in and out of each other. I would have said that it dated well but, having accidentally listened to the Chart Show on the radio last weekend, it hasn’t dated at all! All those things featured in the “up and coming trending” songs that the yoofs of today are listening to.
And yes, there’s one track on the album that I haven’t mentioned yet, you know the one. For Prince, for Batman, it’s perfect. What more can I say?
“Oh, I’ve got a live one here.”