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The real story behind Prince’s Little Red Corvette

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Prince and the Revolution on the set of the Little Red Corvette video in 1982

Little Red Corvette is the song that made Prince a star – a breathless ode to casual sex that gave him his first top 10 hit in 1983 and introduced him to the mainstream.

The story goes that Prince came up with the opening lines – “I guess I should have known, by the way you parked your car sideways, that it wouldn’t last” – after falling asleep in the back of a car owned by his bandmate Lisa Coleman.

And that’s true… to an extent.

The BBC got the full story behind the song, and some of Prince’s other hits, directly from Coleman and her musical partner in crime, Wendy Melvoin.

They were perhaps Prince’s most important musical collaborators, working solidly with him throughout the early ’80s as members of The Revolution, introducing elements of jazz and classical to his provocative blend of funk and rock.

After he dismissed the band in 1986, Wendy and Lisa released several successful albums as a duo and went on to score hit TV shows like Nurse Jackie and Heroes. They’re currently working on an album with comedian Maya Rudolph and celebrating Prince’s legacy by reforming the original line-up of The Revolution.

The duo reminisced about their favourite Revolution songs ahead of the release of a deluxe edition of Prince’s fifth studio album, 1999, this Friday, containing 35 previously unreleased songs.

LITTLE RED CORVETTE

Lisa: “Prince was always borrowing my car because it was awesome. It was a ’64 Mercury Montclair, pink and white, and it was just the perfect cruise-mobile on a beautiful day in Minneapolis. He actually put a couple of dents in it, because it was so big. He’d come up to me and mumble, ‘Hey Lisa, sorry about your car’. So I’d run out to inspect the damage and there’d be a little dent with some yellow paint from a pole he’d reversed into, and I’d go, ‘Damn it. Watch where you’re going!'”

Is it true he wrote Little Red Corvette while he was sleeping in the back of the car?

“Well… I guess. He was ‘sleeping’ with someone we knew called Denise Matthews [aka Vanity] and she was ‘sleeping’ in the back of the car, too. I even found some of her hair wrapped around the handle that winds the window down.

“So I imagine they were making out, or doing whatever, in the back seat and they probably had a wonderful moment of afterglow, which is when he got the seed of the idea… But it’s not a red Corvette, it’s a pink Mercury!”

The song became his mainstream breakthrough. Did you know it was special?

“Yeah, definitely. It was pure hit material and Prince coveted it for a little while.

“Before it was recorded, we’d play it in sound check and our manager Steve [Fargnoli] would freak out. Prince used to laugh at him: ‘Oh, Steve has babies when we play this song!'”

1999

Lisa: “I have a really clear memory of the first time I heard that song. I’d gone to rehearsal early, but Prince was already there playing the main keyboard riff. He motioned me to come over, and said, ‘Play this’, then he went down and picked up the guitar and started fooling around with it. Then, when everybody else started showing up, he showed them their parts and we all kind of fell in.

“I was in good favour that day, because I decided to hold down D and F in the chorus. He was like, ‘Alright, that’s great! Listen to Lisa, she’s producing herself. Why don’t the rest of you guys do that?’ He was always nice and then he’d have to say something mean after. Like, ‘I can support you but don’t forget you’re not all that.'”

You get to sing the first line of the song. How did that come about?

“Prince got the idea of splitting the vocals up from Sly & The Family Stone, and how everyone had a presence in that band. We actually added Jill Jones’s voice because she’s a better singer than I am. So it’s the two of us singing together. I have the dreamy quality and she has the fire.”

D.M.S.R.

Lisa: “I still love playing that song. I love the funk and the Minneapolis sound of it, with the Oberheim [synthesizers] and everything. It has a party vibe going all the way through.”

The groove on that song is so persistent. You must play the main riff a couple of hundred times.

“Right, exactly. It’s almost meditative. That was one of the great things about being in the Revolution. We were like whirling dervishes, because we would take a groove and play it for hours on end. It was not only good for training our bodies – but imagine what that did to our brains. There were times in these jams and rehearsals where I’d really feel elated. It was so good. You just become part of the music, there’s no other way to explain it.”

The lyrics are all about personal liberation and celebrating your sexuality, which was quite unusual in 1982.

“It was definitely out of phase. I was always proud of him because it wasn’t in fashion to talk about those things back then. He had a vision about people, about how we could be together, and he managed to create an oasis in Paisley Park for people who heard the message.”

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Warner Music

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The Revolution in 1984 with Wendy (left) and Lisa (centre)

AMERICA

Wendy Melvoin joined the Revolution in 1983, playing her first gig on the night Prince debuted Purple Rain.

Lisa told the BBC about the creation of that song in a previous interview, so we skipped ahead to 1985, and the release of Prince’s seventh album, Around The World In A Day. The record, which featured the hits Pop Life and Raspberry Beret, also contained a funk jam called America, which served as the ultimate showcase of The Revolution’s musical muscle, especially on the unedited 21-minute version that appeared on the 12″ single.

Lisa: “The first time we played America was in a tent in the south of France, while we were filming Under The Cherry Moon.”

Wendy: “There was no ventilation and it was over 100 degrees in the tent. And if you’ve watched the video, you can see we are full-on running around the stage. I remember both Prince and I had to have oxygen tanks brought to us because we almost passed out from heat exhaustion.”

Lisa: “I remember Prince laying down on a road case and somebody brought him some orange juice. I mean, he was just dripping with sweat.”

Wendy: “He was wearing a trench coat!”

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Rex Features

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Wendy and Lisa went on to score hits as a duo with songs like Waterfall, Satisfaction and Don’t Try To Tell Me

Prince is essentially conducting the band during that song, calling out changes on the fly, and even jumping on the drums at one point. How do you rehearse for something like that?

Wendy: “It’s not an easy answer. We were good listeners, and we had worked on the groove for quite some time, so we knew what was expected of us. It was all basically just, ‘Keep your eye on him’, and he’d give us signals on where he wanted to go.”

Lisa: “Sometimes he’d come up to my keyboards and jam a little bit and say, ‘Play something like that’. But in this case, he just gave me the lead line, so I have the most boring part!”

Wendy: “Really? Is that line all you do?”

Lisa: “Well, I sing my ass off.”

Wendy: “I’m busy up there. The guitar part’s very intricate.”

Lisa: “Sometimes, when I got really easy parts I’d get mad at Prince and play with a yo-yo on stage, going, ‘I’m bored!'”

SOMETIMES IT SNOWS IN APRIL

Sometimes It Snows in April is the final track on Prince’s second film, Under the Cherry Moon. It’s an uncharacteristically spare and melancholy addition to the star’s songbook, and deals with the passing of a beloved friend. After Prince died in April 2016, the song became his eulogy, and The Revolution regularly revisit it in concert.

Wendy: “We were at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles, Prince, me and Lisa, just the three of us, and we were all in quiet moods. I picked up an acoustic and Lisa was playing piano and we just started coming up with a motif, a progression. Prince is very quick with words, so it kind of just happened in a couple of hours. He’d written the whole lyric and sung the whole song. It came very fast.”

Lisa: “He pushed for that dissonant chord when he sings ‘Sometimes I wish‘. He called it the ‘Lisa chord’ but it was actually his harmony that made it dissonant. It’s beautiful the way it resolves.”

Wendy: “It was a nice night. I remember being very, very calm. There was no drama of any kind.”

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Getty Images

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The soundtrack to Purple Rain earned an Oscar for Wendy, Lisa and Prince

There’s a real fragility to that song.

Wendy: “There were a few around that time. Power Fantastic had a lot of tenderness, and so did The Tears In Your Eyes. They all had that same kind of gentle quietness.”

Tell me more about the ‘Lisa chord’.

Wendy: “I’ll tell you one thing about Lisa: All of the musicians that Prince hired over the years, including me, he can do all of their parts. The only musician he ever hired that he can’t mimic was Lisa. She became invaluable to him and I believe, truly, that Lisa was his ultimate musical muse. I’ve always felt that way and I stick to my guns on that one.”

Lisa: “Wow.”

ALL MY DREAMS

Prince was recording several potential albums, including the triple-disc Crystal Ball, when he suddenly called time on The Revolution. Bootlegs from those sessions have circulated amongst fans for years, and this All My Dreams is Wendy & Lisa’s personal favourite.

Wendy: “I wish Lisa and I could get our hands on All My Dreams and finish it up for him.”

Lisa: “That was such an interesting, fun, crazy day in the studio. When you listen to it, it’s like a little movie or something. It had a carnival atmosphere.”

Wendy: “Do you remember around that time we took him to see Kid Creole and the Coconuts and he fell in love with August Darnell singing through the megaphone? He made [studio engineer] Susan Rogers buy him one for that song.”

Lisa: “It’s so full of imagination. He sings, ‘Lisa, I’m going to give you the paintbrush and you’re going to paint the side of the train’. What does that mean?! And then I do some crazy piano solo, just pounding around, and we were just like, “Y’arr! This is great! This is just fantastic!'”

Wendy: “I remember me and Lisa and my twin sister Susanna pulled out recorders we had from our school days, and Prince was like, ‘Bring it on!’ It was just a crazy time.”

You’re in a reverie remembering it.

Wendy: “Oh yeah, for sure. It was such a beautiful time of exploration.”

Lisa: “Sometimes the work was just work. But this? It was like kindergarten for songwriters. As musicians, as songwriters, we were a little bit nuts.”

Why did Prince withdraw from that psychedelic style?

Wendy: “Because we were gone. And once we were gone, he turned into a different person. That’s the nature of who he was.”

Lisa: “Prince always wanted to be great, so he needed to regroup and think, ‘How do I reach the next level of my greatness? Is it a movie? Is it a different band?’ He didn’t know, but he had to find out – so it was like, ‘Sorry, you guys. Too bad. See ya.'”

The deluxe edition of 1999 is released on Friday. Lisa Coleman’s solo piano album, Collage, is out now.

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Coronavirus: Mission Impossible filming halted over health fears

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Tom Cruise is set to appear in the seventh film in the Mission: Impossible series

Filming on the latest Mission: Impossible movie in Italy has been paused due to concerns about the outbreak of coronavirus in the country.

Shooting on the seventh film in the series was due to take place in Venice over the coming weeks.

But Paramount has halted production after Italy recorded the worst outbreak of coronavirus in Europe.

There have been more than 200 cases in the country so far, including seven deaths.

The number of cases makes Italy the third worst-hit country in the world after China and South Korea.

Tom Cruise was not in Italy for the shoot, according to The Hollywood Reporter., but the production crew were sent home.

“Out of an abundance of caution for the safety and well-being of our cast and crew, and efforts of the local Venetian government to halt public gatherings in response to the threat of coronavirus, we are altering the production plan for our three-week shoot in Venice,” Paramount said in a statement.

“During this hiatus we want to be mindful of the concerns of the crew and are allowing them to return home until production starts. We will continue to monitor this situation, and work alongside health and government officials as it evolves.”

This isn’t the first time the Mission: Impossible franchise has been hit by difficulties.

Mission Impossible: Delays and difficulties

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  • During promotion for Mission: Impossible III, an advertising firm placed digital devices in 4,500 newspaper vending boxes in Los Angeles, which played the movie’s theme tune aloud whenever the door was opened. But some members of the public mistook the devices for bombs and reported them to police, who in turn detonated several of the news stands. An LA hospital was even evacuated for 90 minutes because of the apparent threat.
  • One scene in the first movie was shot outside the Lichtenstein Palace in Prague, but it turned out to be a far more expensive location than originally thought. Authorities initially quoted the filmmakers $2,000 (£1,540) per day, but when they turned up to shoot on the day the team was told the new price would be $23,200 (£17,860) per day.
  • Cruise has performed many of his own stunts during filming, but he’s occasionally been injured in the process. The actor cracked a couple of ribs while shooting Mission: Impossible 3, and in 2018 he broke his ankle jumping between buildings while shooting the sixth film, the footage of which was seen on The Graham Norton Show.
  • The third movie suffered a delay of a year after its director Joe Carnahan exited the project because of “creative differences”. Cruise was able to shoot an entire film (War of the Worlds) in the time it took for a new director to be appointed.
  • In 2015, Disney announced the title of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, but Paramount felt this clashed too much with their fast-approaching fifth Mission Impossible film, Rogue Nation. Disney kept their title but agreed to hold off on promoting the film until the fifth M:I had been released.
  • Mission: Impossible 2, which was about the outbreak of a deadly virus, came up against horrible weather, logistical problems during city shoots and the defection of cinematographer Andrew Lesnie to the Lord of the Rings franchise. “This is one of the most difficult movies I’ve ever made,” director John Woo said at the time. “But we overcame. We kept fighting.”

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Singer Duffy ‘drugged, raped and held captive’

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Duffy’s debut album Rockferry went seven times platinum

Grammy award-winning singer Duffy has revealed she was drugged and raped after being held captive by an attacker.

The 35-year-old Welsh star posted on her verified Instagram account that her “recovery took time”.

The performer, who had a UK number one single Mercy in 2008, wrote to her 33,000 followers: “The truth is, and please trust me I am OK and safe now.”

“I was raped and drugged and held captive over some days,” she wrote.

Duffy, whose debut album Rockferry went seven times platinum as it went to number one in six countries, won three Brit Awards and a Grammy following her breakthrough.

“You can only imagine the amount of times I thought about writing this,” she wrote on Instagram.

  • A biography of Duffy
  • Listen to Duffy on the BBC

“Well, not entirely sure why now is the right time, and what it is that feels exciting and liberating for me to talk.

“I cannot explain it. Many of you wonder what happened to me, where did I disappear to and why. A journalist contacted me, he found a way to reach me and I told him everything this past summer. He was kind and it felt so amazing to finally speak.

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Duffy wrote about her ordeal to her 33,000 Instagram followers

“The truth is, and please trust me I am OK and safe now, I was raped and drugged and held captive over some days. Of course I survived. The recovery took time. There’s no light way to say it. But I can tell you in the last decade, the thousands and thousands of days I committed to wanting to feel the sunshine in my heart again, the sun does now shine.”

‘Sadness in my eyes’

Duffy – whose real name is Aimee Anne Duffy – went to number one in 12 countries with Mercy, which was the UK’s third-best-selling single of 2008 with sales of more than 500,000 copies.

The singer, from Nefyn in Gwynedd, then enjoyed success with her first album Rockferry as it became the UK’s biggest selling album of 2008.

“You wonder why I did not choose to use my voice to express my pain? I did not want to show the world the sadness in my eyes,” she added.

“I asked myself, how can I sing from the heart if it is broken?

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Duffy went to number one in 12 countries with her single Mercy

“And slowly it unbroke. In the following weeks I will be posting a spoken interview.

“If you have any questions I would like to answer them, in the spoken interview, if I can. I have a sacred love and sincere appreciation for your kindness over the years. You have been friends. I want to thank you for that. x Duffy.

“Please respect this is a gentle move for me to make, for myself, and I do not want any intrusion to my family. Please support me to make this a positive experience.”

The BBC attempted to contact Duffy to verify her account.





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‘Deontay Wilder’s costume didn’t make an ounce of difference’

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The designer of Tyson Fury’s boxing outfits has told BBC Radio 5 Live that Deontay Wilder’s ring-walk costume wouldn’t have impacted the result of the fight.

Melissa Anglesea is the creative director of Lancashire-based Suzi Wong. The company has made Tyson Fury’s shorts and robes since the start of his boxing career.

Wilder told US media that Fury didn’t actually hurt him, but he lost because his costume was too heavy meaning his legs were “shot” from the beginning of the fight.

Anglesea dismissed Wilder’s claim and said the costume worn by the American made “absolutely no ounce of difference”.

For more reaction to the fight, listen to 5 Live Boxing with Costello & Bunce on BBC Sounds.



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