How Prince Created ‘Another Lonely Christmas’
When Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U” was released as a single on Nov. 28, 1984 it, understandably, was hailed as another hit for the Purple One. Still, the track’s success overshadowed its b-side, “Another Lonely Christmas,” the closest thing to a holiday tune that Prince ever recorded.
Of course, “Another Lonely Christmas” was hardly a traditional festive track. Instead of sleigh bells, Santa and snow-kissed streets, the music icon sang about a lover who died on Christmas Day.
“He enjoyed having his studio decorated with Christmas lights, but a traditional Christmas song wasn’t something he ever pursued,” noted author Duane Tudahl in the book Prince and the Purple Rain Era Studio Sessions: 1983 and 1984. “Instead he decided to turn the idea of a Christmas song on its head by singing a sad song about the holiday.”
Initial recording of the track took place on Feb. 18, 1984, with Prince reportedly operating as a one-man band, even engineering the track. Despite the soulful song’s seemingly personal lyrics, Prince insisted that it was “a work of fiction.” However, a former collaborator believes “Another Lonely Christmas” reflected more of Prince than the singer was willing to admit.
"He was a very truthful writer, and wasn’t afraid to say when he was lonely,” explained Susan Rogers, Prince’s sound engineer from 1983 to 1987. “This is a guy who had money and had employees, but all the people who he called friends were people he gave a pay check to.”
Rogers spent the holiday season of 1984 with Prince, the only time the Purple One ever performed “Another Lonely Christmas” in concert. On Dec. 24, Prince played a matinee show at the Civic Center in St. Paul, Minn. The singer’s home at the time was in nearby Chanhassen and, as he returned that evening, he was greeted by protestors upset that he’d performed his sexually-charged material on a religious holiday. “We did an early show that day because Prince wanted to be respectful to people and their desire to be with their families on Christmas Eve,” Rogers recalled. “But when we pulled up, I remember seeing placards that read ‘Prince of Peace, not the Prince of Porn.'”
Undeterred - though perhaps a little annoyed - the legendary musician spent that night working on material for his upcoming LP Around the World in a Day.
Prince’s next concert would be Dec. 26, once again at the St. Paul Civic Center. That night, he performed “Another Lonely Christmas” for the first and only time, placed in the setlist between “Baby, I’m a Star” and “Purple Rain.” Tudahl later opined that the "theme of the song, spending Christmas alone, seemed to accurately reflect (Prince's) emotional state at that moment."
Despite becoming a cult-favorite among many Prince fanatics, “Another Lonely Christmas” was never included on a standard studio LP release. Outside of its position as the b-side to “I Would Die 4 U,” the track appeared in the 1993 compilation set The Hits / The B-Sides and the 1997 remastered and expanded edition of Purple Rain.