Wendy & Lisa Extend an Olive Branch on ‘Lolly Lolly (According to Prince)’
In 1984, Prince & the Revolution were the biggest band on the planet, riding high on the international smash, Purple Rain. Two years later, the party was over, with Wendy & Lisa being the first to decide the water was no longer warm enough. The duo released their self-titled debut album in 1987 led by the dreamy single, “Waterfall." While many Prince fans followed them into these uncharted waters, the mellower vibe of the album caught many off guard.
“Looking back on it, I think we alienated a lot of hardcore Prince fans on that first record,” said Wendy Melvoin in an 2010 interview with Adam Mattera for the Fruit at the Bottom expanded reissue on Cherry Pop Records, “On Fruit at the Bottom, we wanted to win them back.”
In the same interview in the reissue’s CD booklet, Lisa Coleman discusses the duo’s intentional return to funk. “The record company was a little confused by us too," she said. "Like ‘What is it with you guys? I thought you were with Prince & the Revolution? Where’s the black audience for this?’”
For their sophomore record, initially released on Columbia in the U.S. and Virgin abroad, Wendy & Lisa reunited with long-time Prince engineer Susan Rogers while recruiting their sisters Cole Ynda and Susannah Melvoin to help sing what Coleman described as “really big, fun vocals." Drummer Carla Azar, who initially auditioned for Sheila E., rounded out the new band pictured on the album sleeve.
Watch Wendy & Lisa Perform "Lolly Lolly"
While Fruit at the Bottom is decidedly the most Prince-sounding album in Wendy & Lisa’s catalog, Prince was less than thrilled with their sound and image. “He couldn’t stand what we were doing,” Wendy tells Cherry Pop, “I remember him saying, ‘if you guys really want to make it you should have someone else be the lead singer and make records like Lita Ford.” Lisa adds, “I think he was a little disappointed we didn’t come out flashier.” Part of Prince's issue with their image was their desire to wear jeans on stage.
The second single from the album, “Lolly Lolly”, was inspired by the Woody Guthrie folk song, “Hey, Lolly Lolly.” Lisa says, “When Prince heard the song, he liked it and said, 'Let me do a mix of it for you.’ We were never estranged the way some people think.”
According to PrinceVault, “Lolly Lolly (according to Prince)” marks Prince’s only contribution to a post-Revolution Wendy & Lisa record; it was also the first time he remixed a track that was not his own. The remix was released as a b-side on the original "Lolly Lolly" European 12-inch single and found a permanent home on CD on Cherry Pop’s reissue of Fruit at the Bottom. Prince's remix was also the version used in the official video clip.
The original "album version" welcomes listeners into the album as a radio dial slowly scans the airwaves looking for a good groove. The hetero-normative lyrics, “Talking ‘bout my baby / He makes everything all right,” masks the fact that Wendy & Lisa were in a romantic relationship at the time; it was the worst-kept secret in show business thanks to the coy opening lines of “Computer Blue." The very concept of out-and-proud lesbian pop stars was a bit ahead of its time in 1989.
Prince’s "Lolly Lolly" remix ups the Around the World in a Day playfulness of the track; he throws in some left field musical hooks and sound effects while downplaying the original’s prominent – and very Princely -- guitar part. As a dance jam, the original fares better; as an oddity, the remix is well worth the price of the special edition, along with the set’s extensive liner notes by Wendy & Lisa.
It would be close to a decade before Prince would reunite with Wendy & Lisa at the 2006 BRIT Awards for a four-song medley (“Te Amo Corazón” and “Fury” from 3121 plus “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Purple Rain”). Wendy and Lisa also contributed to Prince’s 2007 album, Planet Earth. In addition to a successful composing career in Hollywood (Heroes, Nurse Jackie, Crossing Jordan), the duo toured with the Revolution in 2016 and 2017 to honor their legacy with Prince.