Prince Blends ‘Oz’ and Edward Lear on ‘It’s Gonna Be a Beautiful Night’
When Prince's on-going Parade tour reached Le Zenith on a summer night in 1986, he probably wasn't the only person in Paris thinking "it's gonna be a beautiful night." He put this stray thought to music, however, recording a track released seven months later that wore the badge of his varied influences. It wasn't an easy path.
After a run-through of "It's Gonna Be a Beautiful Night" during his soundcheck earlier that day, Prince recorded it, along with "Coco Boys," "Susannah's Blues," "Strange Relationship," "Last Heart" and the Temptations' "I Can't Get Next To You," according to PrinceVault. It was intended for inclusion on the the triple-disc Crystal Ball, but the song — his first live track on a studio album — still had a ways to go.
He took the bare-bones recording from that show, which also featured music from the Revolution, and began adding overdubs. First, he added horns. Then, he sampled the Wizard of Oz, with "The March of the Winkies" sprinkled throughout. Finally, he added the so-called "transmississippirap," performed by percussionist Sheila E. Prince recorded his protege rapping the Edward Lear poem "The Table and the Chair" over the phone, from the other side of the Mississippi River — just a week before Sign 'O' the Times was completed in November 1986.
Watch Prince Perform 'Gonna Be a Beautiful Night'
Always prolific, Prince had been releasing records nearly every year since his 1978 debut, yet he still seemed to have more ideas than ever. Crystal Ball, the original intended home for "It's Gonna Be a Beautiful Night," represented the third new album idea Prince had worked on since the arrival of Parade in March 1986. Nothing came of this one, either, after Warner Bros. rejected Crystal Ball because of its length.
As he continued chasing his muses in different directions, Prince let the Revolution go, choosing to work on his next album concept alone. Many of the Crystal Ball songs, however, shifted with his creative flow to idea No. 4: Sign 'O' the Times, a more-focused double-record Prince released in March 1987. By then, "It's Gonna Be a Beautiful Night" was credited solely to Prince, despite being played with his former band.