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Written during the height of the Cold War, this party jam has a much deeper meaning, as Prince was expressing his fears of a nuclear Armageddon. Under the Reagan administration, the United States was stockpiling nuclear weapons and taking a hawkish stance against the Soviet Union, which he referred to as the "Evil Empire." In this song, Prince sings about enjoying our time on earth while we still can, since by year 2000, we probably won't be here ("Everybody's got a bomb, we could all die any day").
The first single released from the album of the same name, it didn't make it into the Top 40 on the first attempt, but did upon re-release after "Little Red Corvette" hit the Top 10.
Prince re-recorded this in 1998 after leaving Warner Brothers Records, who retained rights to the original recording. Prince hated Warner Brothers, and re-recorded it in an attempt to keep them from profiting from the original version. The new version was a minor hit at the beginning of 1999.
According to Rolling Stone magazine, Prince originally recorded the opening verse in three-part harmony. Later he split up the vocals, and the harmony parts became a new melody. When Prince recorded this track, he would go all day and all night without rest, and turn down food since he felt eating would make him sleepy.
This is credited to "Prince And The Revolution." The Revolution was his backup band at the time. The lead female vocal was by Jill Jones, who was a member of the band. She also appeared in Prince's movies Purple Rain and Graffiti Bridge.
1999 was Prince's fifth album. His first four sold fairly well, but this one was a huge hit, marking his first entry into the Billboard 200 chart (peaking at #9) and becoming certified four times Platinum. It was the fifth best-selling album of 1983.
On January 16, 1999, the song spent a week on the Hot 100 at #40, thus making it the only entry to appear on the US singles chart in the year synonymous with its title. Here are four others with the year they charted in brackets: James Blunt "1973
" (2007), Smashing Pumpkins "1979
" (1996), Spirit "1984" (1970) and Bowling for Soup "1985
" (2007). Also Estelle's 1980
was a #14 hit in the UK in 2004.
Many listeners, including Phil Collins, have compared this song to Collins' similar-sounding "Sussudio
," released three years later. The singer admitted he was a big Prince fan and often listened to the 1999 album while on tour.
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