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MO RELEASES THE DOVES

After many years of eschewing interviews, legendary Warner chieftain Mo Ostin recently relented and had a conversation of unprecedented depth with our own Bud Scoppa. That exchange appears in its entirety in our most recent print edition; below are a couple of key excerpts; you'll find more from the interview here.

Lenny Waronker said that when Prince played “When Doves Cry” for him, Prince knew it was the single right from the start, and that he knew even then that it was gonna be an important record. But he was concerned about the fact that there was no bass on the record. It may have been the first time that anyone put out a record without a bass—or it’s certainly one of the first times. So he was concerned about it and he wanted Lenny’s response to listening to it. Lenny said that when he heard the bass drum and the guitar chord part, he realized that this was a unique record by virtue of the fact that it didn’t have any bass. Lenny felt very, very strongly that the record was done, and he should put it out as it was. So that’s the way the single was actually determined.


On Sign o’ the Times, he brought in a three-LP record, and everybody wanted to reduce it to one record, because they thought in that way you could get the very best material and have a huge, huge hit. But he rebelled against it and wanted to put it out as it was. Lenny talked to management and said, “You know, instead of putting out a three-album set, let’s reduce it to two, which would make it stronger and better and more effective in the marketplace.” Management told Prince what Lenny had said. And so Prince called Lenny, and he said, “I hear you don’t like my record.” And Lenny said, “No, that’s not the case. I only think there should be some editing of the record.” And then he did something very interesting. He talked about Maxwell Perkins, who, you may remember, had a biography written about him by Scott Berg called Editor of Genius, and he told Prince about how he edited Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Tom Wolfe. And he said every one of them permitted him to do it, and in every case, it improved the book. When Prince heard that, he said, “You know what? I’m gonna go back to Minneapolis,” because he was at Sunset Sound at the time they were talking. He went back to Paisley Park, worked all night and cut the record down to two albums.

It was a fantastic analogy, and one that would really have impact, because Prince was smart enough to understand the values of those literary figures.

 

 

Image of Mo and Prince courtesy Warner Music Archives.

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