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The Gold Experience, Warner Bros. Records (1995)

The Gold Experience © 1995, Warner Bros. Records
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The Black Album
(1994)

The Gold Experience

Girl 6
(1996)

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The Gold Experience

Warner Bros. Records

When you stop a man from dreaming, he becomes a slave.

Recorded at Paisley Park Studios throughout 1993 and into early 1994 side by side with Come and intended for release on Prince’s birthday, 7 June 1994, The Gold Experience was twice postponed by Warner Brothers to ensure it could not compete with Prince’s recent output.

Keen to race through his contractual obligation to provide Warner the requisite six albums, 1994 had already witnessed the release of Come that August, followed in November by The Black Album. Prince wished to release both Come and The Gold Experience together, the former under Warner credited to ‘Prince’, the latter credited to Prince love symbol and issued by NPG Records. Their withholding of The Gold Experience marks the true catalyst for Prince’s embittered dispute over that contract and the label’s ownership of his music, heightened by the fact that he considered The Gold Experience his career best material. To Prince, being paid $100 million for six albums be dammed if at the expense of creative control. In response, in March 1995, Prince released an entirely new LP, Exodus, under his independent label NPG Records, albeit credited to the New Power Generation to avoid legal action. Its material unleashed his outrage at Warner.

The fallout with Warner would consume Prince in the years that followed and was the trigger to his name change on 7 June 1993 to Prince love symbol to frustrate the company’s marketing of his music. And so The Gold Experience was Prince’s first album issued under his unpronounceable new moniker. The LPs earliest tracks date from pre-name change January 1993, when Dolphin and Endorphinmachine were produced for Prince’s dance show Glam Slam Ulysses and carried over to the configuration of the album.

The Interactive Tour staged at Prince’s chain of Glam Slam nightclubs throughout 1994 showcased his new music, causing fans to be increasingly rankled at not being able to buy it. When finally released in September 1995, 18 months later than Prince had wanted, The Gold Experience enjoyed both critical and commercial success, achieving 500,000 unit sales in the US and 100,000 in the UK, it charted 6 and 4 in those territories. The album fittingly received Gold certification by RIAA on 7 December 1995. The Gold Experience picked up Grammy nominations in 1995 for Best R&B Album and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance (Eye Hate U).

The intended single The Most Beautiful Girl In The World is highly unusual in that, due to the contractual dispute, it preceded the album it was to promote, by a staggering 19 months. The lead single became instead Eye Hate U, released in Europe as an EP named The Hate Experience, despite featuring very highly regarded remixes it fell short of the top ten. In March 1995, with no release date in sight for The Gold Experience, Prince pressed ahead with the supporting tour The Ultimate Live Experience despite being far from certain the album would ever see the light of day. During this tour, the house screens displayed the album’s artwork, emblazoned: “release date… NEVER!”. It became the first tour ever in promotion of an album not available to buy and under the very real prospect of never being released. Warner did eventually release The Gold Experience, on 25 September 1995, long after the tour finished. In concession, Warner granted studio credit to NPG Records.

The Most Beautiful Girl In The World became one of the most crucial singles Prince would ever release. Not only was it Prince’s first release under his adopted name The Artist Formally Known As Prince ( Prince love symbol), Warner Brothers had sanctioned the single under the proviso Prince release just one track as well as pay for its pressing and distribution himself. So he did – putting it out for Valentine’s Day 1994 under NPG Records, his independently owned label created to replace the recently closed Paisley Park Records the joint venture Prince established with Warner Bros Records in 1985. The distribution was managed by Bellmark Records. Crucially, it severed Prince’s dependence on Warner, and his success with the single and its self-financed distribution instilled in Prince a confidence to pursue his career as an independent artist. The song bagged Prince his first UK number one single. A celebratory EP The Beautiful Experience followed on 17 May 1994 containing new cuts of the main track, circumventing Warner’s restriction. The Most Beautiful Girl In The World garnered a Grammy nomination for Best Male Vocal Performance in 1994, as well as a World Music Award. Two fruitful award seasons in 1994 and 1995 provided Prince high profile platforms to highlight his outrage at Warner as a music industry ‘Slave’ in a one man battle for artistic freedom.

The album’s second single, Gold followed the anthemic footprint of Purple Rain. Its B-Side Rock N’ Roll Is Alive! (And It Lives In Minneapolis) was a track Prince wrote in response to Lenny Kravitz’s Rock N’ Roll Is Dead. The song was later reissued as a special vinyl pressing by The Prince Estate on 5 April 2019. The intriguing Billy Jack Bitch is about gossip columnist “CJ” Cheryl Johnson of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Spurned by not being recognised, Prince referred to her as Billy, in return she wrote of him as Symbolina owing to his height: “What if I called you silly names just like the ones that you call me”.

The liner notes for The Gold Experience written by Jim Walsh, music critic for the St Paul Pioneer Press, are of particular significance. They paint a faltering rather than the fawning portrait typically expected for an album – candidly discussing Prince’s diminished popularity in consequence to his name change to Prince love symbol and dispute with Warner, and that by 1993 Prince had grown bored of being Prince. Agreeing to publish such an honest critical assessment as liner notes demonstrated just how deeply Prince was revaluating himself and divorced from his past. The Gold Experience encapsulates Prince in his most transformational moment, that its wholesale reworking of musical style declared not only the change of personal identity but artistic direction also. The Gold Experience is considered the high point of Prince’s 1990s output.

Cover story

Reminiscent of photographer Randee St. Nicholas’ 1991 cover shot for Diamonds And Pearls, her second and final album cover collaboration with Prince displays him shrouded behind a glistening curtain of gold, in lieu of strings of pearls. Gold is the colour Prince adopted to showcase to the world he had moved on from the purple reign of old. From his Purple Rain-esque close of his 1995 album, and a new custom symbol-shaped guitar replacing the iconic Cloud Guitar, Prince was firmly the Artist Formally Known As. Emblazoned with a golden Prince love symbol everything both on and in The Gold Experience highlights rebirth, both as an identity and an artist, in the fight for creative freedom. Prince led the artistic direction himself for the cover, choosing one of his most trusted photographers, as this was his most important release to date.

Prince | The Gold Experience
Photography by Paul Bergen

2022 and 2023 reissues

Following the resolution of a legal dispute that caused the album to fall out of print after its initial run, it was met with delight The Gold Experience was republished by The Prince Estate and Sony Legacy in 2022. Issued as a special translucent gold coloured double vinyl version on Record Store Day on 18 June 2022, its D-side also reissued the five original remixes of the maxi-single Eye Hate U. The RSD release cover reproduced the original US promo version of the album given limited circulation in 1995. The RSD version followed the 17th June general release in CD format issued as a digipak. The sales found the album re-enter Billboard’s Hot 200 at number 47, and 46 in the UK. Sony Legacy gave the LP reissue full commercial release on 9 June 2023 coinciding with the 30th year since Prince’s name change to Prince love symbol.

Performers

Vocals/Guitar
Prince love symbol
Drums
Michael Bland
Keyboards
Tommy Barbarella Endorphinmachine, Shhh, Dolphin, 319, Billy Jack Bitch, Eye Hate U and Gold
Morris Hayes Endorphinmachine, Shhh, Dolphin, 319, Billy Jack Bitch, Eye Hate U and Gold
Ricky Peterson We March, The Most Beautiful Girl In The World, 319, Eye Hate U and Gold
Bass Guitar
Sonny Thompson Endorphinmachine, Shhh, Dolphin, 319, Billy Jack Bitch, Eye Hate U and Gold
Programming
Kirk Johnson We March
Eric "Statik" Anest The Most Beautiful Girl In The World and Beautiful
Trombone
Michael B. Nelson Now, 319 and Billy Jack Bitch
Tenor sax
Brian Gallagher Now, 319 and Billy Jack Bitch
Baritone sax
Kathy Jensen Now, 319 and Billy Jack Bitch
Trumpet
Dave Jensen Now, 319 and Billy Jack Bitch
Steve Strand Now, 319 and Billy Jack Bitch
NPG Operator
Rain Ivana

Data

Producer
Prince love symbol
Label
NPG Records
Distribution
Warner Bros. Records
Cover/Design
Randee St. Nicholas, Amanda Costanzi, Michael Van Huffel and Prince
Released
28 years ago on 25 September 1995
Reissued
17 June 2022
Running Time
65:22
US Chart Peak
6
UK Chart Peak
4
Prince Album
#17
Orig. Formats

Tracklist

  1. P. Control (5:59) 1
  2. NPG Operator #1 (0:10)
  3. Endorphinmachine (4:07)
  4. Shhh (7:18)
  5. We March [feat. Nona Gaye and Mayte] (4:49) 2
  6. NPG Operator #2 (0:16)
  7. The Most Beautiful Girl In The World (4:25)
  8. Dolphin [feat. Lenny Kravitz] (4:59)
  9. NPG Operator #3 (0:18)
  10. Now (4:30)
  11. NPG Operator #4 (0:31)
  12. 319 (3:05)
  13. NPG Operator #5 (0:10)
  14. Shy (5:04)
  15. Billy Jack Bitch [feat. Lenny Kravitz] (5:32) 3
  16. Eye Hate U (5:54)
  17. NPG Operator #6 (0:44)
  18. Gold (7:23)

Released as a single

1 Also known as Pussy Control.
2 Co-written with Nona Gaye.
3 Co-written with Michael B. Nelson.

Singles from The Gold Experience

The Most Beautiful Girl In The World, single from The Gold Experience, NPG Records (1994)

The Most Beautiful Girl In The World

NPG Records

Released
9 February 1994
Distribution
Bellmark Records
US Chart Peak
3
UK Chart Peak
1
Cover/Art
J.C. Munson
Formats
  1. The Most Beautiful Girl In The World (4:07)
  2. Beautiful (3:57)
The Most Beautiful Girl In The World, single from The Gold Experience, NPG Records (1994)

The Most Beautiful Girl In The World

NPG Records

12"/Maxi-Single


Released
28 March 1994
Distribution
Bellmark Records
US Chart Peak
No Release
UK Chart Peak
1
Cover/Art
J.C. Munson
Format
  1. The Most Beautiful Girl In The World (4:07)
  2. Beautiful (3:57)
  3. Beautiful [Extended Club Version] [remix by Simon Harris] (6:25)
  4. Beautiful Beats [remix by Simon Harris] (3:30)
Eye Hate U: The Hate Experience, single from The Gold Experience, NPG Records (1995)

Eye Hate U: The Hate Experience

NPG Records

Released
12 September 1995
Distribution
Warner Bros. Records
US Chart Peak
12
UK Chart Peak
No Release
Cover/Art
Randee St. Nicholas, Michael Van Huffel and Steve Parke
Formats
  1. Eye Hate U [Album Edit] (4:27)
  2. Eye Hate U [Quiet Night Mix by Eric Leeds] (3:55)
Eye Hate U: The Hate Experience, single from The Gold Experience, NPG Records (1995)

Eye Hate U: The Hate Experience

NPG Records

12"/Maxi-Single


Released
12 September 1995
Distribution
WEA Records
US Chart Peak
No Release
UK Chart Peak
20
Cover/Art
Randee St. Nicholas, Michael Van Huffel and Steve Parke
Format
  1. Eye Hate U [Extended Remix] (6:17)
  2. Eye Hate U (6:07)
  3. Eye Hate U [Quiet Night Mix by Eric Leeds] (3:55)
Eye Hate U: The Hate Experience, single from The Gold Experience, NPG Records (1995)

Eye Hate U: The Hate Experience

NPG Records

12"/Maxi-Single


Released
19 September 1995
Distribution
Warner Bros. Records
US Chart Peak
12
UK Chart Peak
No Release
Cover/Art
Randee St. Nicholas, Michael Van Huffel and Steve Parke
Formats
  1. Eye Hate U [Edit] (4:27)
  2. Eye Hate U [Extended Remix] (6:17)
  3. Eye Hate U [Quiet Night Mix by Eric Leeds] (3:55)
  4. Eye Hate U (6:07)
Eye Hate U: The Hate Experience, single from The Gold Experience, NPG Records (1995)

Eye Hate U: The Hate Experience

NPG Records

12"/Maxi-Single


Released
19 September 1995
Distribution
WEA Records
US Chart Peak
No Release
UK Chart Peak
20
Cover/Art
Randee St. Nicholas, Michael Van Huffel and Steve Parke
Format
  1. Eye Hate U [Edit W/O Guitar] (3:50)
  2. Eye Hate U [Album Edit] (4:26)
  3. Eye Hate U [Quiet Night Mix by Eric Leeds] (3:55)
  4. Eye Hate U [Extended Remix] (6:17)
  5. Eye Hate U (5:58)
Gold, single from The Gold Experience, NPG Records (1995)

Gold

NPG Records

Released
30 November 1995
Distribution
Warner Bros. Records
US Chart Peak
88
UK Chart Peak
No release
Cover/Art
Steve Parke
Formats
  1. Gold [Edit] (4:43)
  2. Rock N' Roll Is Alive! (And It Lives In Minneapolis) [feat. Mayte] (4:34)
Gold, single from The Gold Experience, NPG Records (1995)

Gold

NPG Records

Released
30 November 1995
Distribution
WEA Records
US Chart Peak
No release
UK Chart Peak
10
Cover/Art
Steve Parke
Format
  1. Gold [Edit] (4:43)
  2. Rock N' Roll Is Alive! (And It Lives In Minneapolis) [feat. Mayte] (4:34)
  3. Eye Hate U [Extended Remix] (6:17)

Also available as a limited gold jewel cased CD.

Supporting tour

The Ultimate Live Experience

The Ultimate Live Experience

1995

The Gold Experience – review

Sex, Fetishes, Loneliness, Vindication, Love and Hate are the experiences Prince shares here, all neatly linked by sultry female narration courtesy of the NPG Operator. Personally, The Gold Experience is my favourite Prince record of all (and reputedly Prince’s favourite). I skipped college that day to rush to HMV on Oxford Street then back home to play this on first morning of release, just elated to finally have the thing in my hands following so much will it/won’t it by Warner Bros. Putting it on almost 30 years later still surprises how great it is. Prince goes in hard, guns blazing. The sound is fresh, the quality and tightness the music performed makes it a crime to think it was almost a shelved Prince album. The Gold Experience was famous as ‘that’ album which became the straw that broke the camel’s back in the relationship between Warner and Prince, ending the best partnership in music. So along came a rare moment, that a tour (teasing audiences with ‘Release Date: NEVER’ on jumbo screens displaying the album’s artwork) preceded the album it was promoting, by many months. What’s more astonishing, that between the release of the lead single and the album eventually dropping, two Prince albums had gotten released in the interim (Come and The Black Album – the reason behind Warner delaying it). The tour is one of his greatest. The Gold Experience houses Prince’s worldwide smash The Most Beautiful Girl In The World (his final proper hit single) but it is the delicious guitar solo of Shhh where you can actually hear thing literally sing its heart out. The album’s rawness, topped by Endorphinmachine that opens like a sonic boom and leaves the listener catching up. It and Dolphin elevate this as one of the best albums of Prince’s career and undeniably his best of the decade. Eye Hate U (Prince’s breakup with Carmen Electra), Shy and the tight-ass Billy Jack Bitch keep the unleashed newness alive even 30 years of listening later. After the Purple Rain reboot Gold are we finally ordained “2 the  dawn”. And what a grand awakening it was. The Gold Experience is the gold standard that future Prince albums were to be measured by. All hail to Prince’s new direction in music.

The Gold Experience

Related releases

The Beautiful Experience EP
The Versace Experience (Prelude 2 Gold)
Rock N’ Roll Is Alive! (And It Lives In Minneapolis)

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