Each month we take a look at a classic track or album and discuss it from a music production perspective, examining any innovations that took place during its recording. This month we take a look at `Kiss` by Prince. Released in 1986, it was his third US no. 1 hit.
`Kiss` was originally conceived as a single for Mazarati – a band that Prince had signed to his own label – and it had a very different sound to the version that eventually became a hit. Producer David Z had worked with Prince before, and had been brought in by the artist to produce the Mazarati album. In an interview with Sound On Sound, Z describes being handed the demo of `Kiss` that was intended for use by Mazarati; `when we needed a single, Prince gave me this demo of him just playing straight chords on an acoustic guitar — one verse and one chorus — while singing in a normal pitch; not the falsetto that's on the finished record. To us, it sounded like a folk song and we were wondering what we could do with it. No way was it funky. Anyway, starting with a LinnDrum, I programmed the beat and began experimenting. Taking a hi-hat from the drum machine, I ran it through a delay unit and switched between input and output and in the middle. That created a very funky rhythm. Then I took an acoustic guitar, played these open chords and gated that to the hi-hat trigger. The result was a really unique rhythm that was unbelievably funky but also impossible to actually play...`
Having finished the track in one day, Z left the studio for the night. When he came back in the morning, `Prince had already taken it off the machine, replaced the vocal with his own falsetto performance — which, I guess, he felt it needed — got rid of the bass part and added a James Brown 'Papa's Got A Brand New Bag' guitar lick`. Z asked him what was going on, to which Prince replied `This is too good for you guys. I'm taking it back.`
The sparseness of the track is one of its major strengths. Removing the bass from a dance/pop track was almost unheard of, but it had been done before – on Prince`s first US no. 1, `When Doves Cry`. In the end there were only nine tracks of instruments and vocals on the final record. In a Mixonline interview David Z recalled that this low track count meant that the single only took about five minutes to mix!