Sugar Walls

Album: A Private Heaven (1985)
Charted: 9
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  • This song was written especially for Easton by Prince (under his alias Alexander Nevermind). Their liaison came about as engineer David Leonard was working on both her A Private Heaven album, and his Purple Rain set. Not having the courage to approach the Purple Maestro directly for a collaboration, Easton asked Leonard to pass on a message. Much to her surprise, Prince responded by sending her the backing tracks for this funky, innuendo-strewn number. "Loved it!" recalled Easton to Q magazine September 1991. "It flipped me out! Ohmigod, it's so perfect! I called him up, and he said, Would you like to come over and sing it? So I went in and did the vocals after I'd had a Super Bowl Sunday barbecue at my house. I won 50 bucks on the Super Bowl and got to do a vocal with Prince - a big day for me!"

    "I walked into the studio and there was no 12 bodyguards, just him," she continued, "and he was very quiet and shy. And I'm kinda quiet and shy, believe it or not, when I meet new people, and we recognized that in each other. On the face of it we didn't have anything in common, but we had a lot. We sat and talked about all sorts of things - he was really interested in Scotland, and I asked him about Minnesota where he grew up in similar circumstances to me. He was very smart: he knew to relax me and get me comfortable before I sang. He was really focused on me and getting the best performance in the way a director would direct an actor."
  • While we've grown accustomed to penis metaphors in song titles ("Love Gun" by Kiss comes to mind), a song titled with a vagina euphemism was shocking in some circles. Prince's erotic lyrics ensured an airplay ban in some territories and its video was one of the first to be banned because of its lyrical content rather than its imagery.

    The tune was also listed by Tipper Gore of the Parents' Music Resource Council as one of the "Filthy Fifteen," a list of songs deemed indecent because of their explicit lyrics. Easton denied the song was overtly sexual. "It doesn't say, Let's have intercourse, or Oh my, what a wonderful penis you have," she told Q. "I've sung songs before and since that were sexual – even the very first song: 'Hey, that was great, he said. Wish we could stay in bed.' 'Sugar Walls' was just another song which, without getting, too hoity-toity, was an artistic interpretation of a sexual, a love relationship."

    Prince was a predictable target for the PMRC, but Easton, whose first American hit was the anodyne "Morning Train (Nine To Five)," was more surprising. Easton's happy housewife from "Morning Train" and sex starlet in "Sugar Walls" were not indicative of her real life, but were characters she portrayed in her songs. Her ability to assume roles served her well, as she adapted to a variety of musical styles and got some acting gigs, including a role on Miami Vice and voicework on the shows Gargoyles and All Dogs Go to Heaven.
  • Prince and Easton continued to work together, and the Scottish songstress provided vocals on the Purple One's singles "U Got The Look" and "The Arms Of Orion," whilst he wrote several other songs for her. "It works like this," explained Easton to the NME in a 1989 interview. "I'll get a phone call out of the blue and he'll say, I've just written a song that is perfect for you, do you want to hear it? I'll go, yeah, then he'll send it over to me. I might get a phone call two weeks later, saying do you want to record it, or I might never hear from him again."

    "It really is out of the blue," she continued, "basically, because Prince is a spontaneous artist, more than anyone I have ever met, and he's the most unpreconceived writer that I've ever, ever had the privilege to work with. Anything is possible with him."

    And despite the rumors, Easton insisted that she and Prince did not have a romantic entanglement.
  • When the controversy around the George Michael song "I Want Your Sex" was brewing, Scott Shannon, program director of the popular and influential New York City radio station WHTZ, said, "We've had serious complaints on only one record in the past couple of years, and that was 'Sugar Walls,' by Sheena Easton. We played it for three days and then removed it from the airwaves."
  • Easton called this song "an artistic interpretation of a sexual, a love relationship," adding, "There's nothing wrong with two people loving each other having sex. Or even just somebody you really fancy a lot."
  • Bruce Hornsby, who released his 3-million selling debut album The Way It Is a year later, is the guy playing keyboards in the video. The bass player is Joe Puerta, who was in Ambrosia until the group disbanded in 1982. You probably didn't notice them because they're hidden in the shadows while the camera fixates on Easton, modeling the look of the '80s in heavy makeup, huge accessories, and a big, yellow blouse.

    Puerta and Hornsby were both members of Easton's touring band. After working with Easton, Puerta joined Hornsby's backing band, The Range, and played on his first three albums. Hornsby and Puerta are also in Easton's video for "Strut."
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