Years Before Elon Musk, Prince Heads to ‘Marz’
Right near the end of his career, Prince fully embraced a style of music that was in full bloom back when his first album came out: punk rock. “Marz," the 11th track on his 36th album, PlectrumElectrum, clocks out at a mere 1:48; but in that time, Prince tackles a myriad of issues with a filth and fury that would make the Buzzcocks proud.
PlectrumElectrum marked the one and only album by Prince with 3rdEyeGirl, a powerful trio comprised of Hannah Welton-Ford on drums, Ida Nielsen on bass and Donna Grantis on guitar. The album was released the same day as a solo Prince project, Art Official Age. While Hell has yet to freeze over and pigs are still unable to fly, Prince did something with these two albums nobody thought would ever happen again, he released them on Warner Bros. As Matt Thorne notes in Prince: The Man and His Music, “After eighteen years of estrangement, Prince was making peace with the label that shepherded his most successful releases.”
According to PrinceVault, “Marz” was likely recorded in late 2013 or early 2014. The racially inspired social commentary in the opening verse pre-dates Prince's 2015 single, “Baltimore”: “Lost my job at Mickie D's / 4 giving away 2 much food 4 free / But I couldn't watch another black child go 2 school with nothing to eat.” PrinceVault notes that this same lyric also showed up in the unreleased Undertaker-style guitar jam, “Midnight Blues," that appeared on the 3rdEyeGirl TV broadcast on June 28, 2013.
Prince and 3rdEyeGirl performed the song during his fourth appearance on Saturday Night Live (Nov. 1, 2014). While the show typically gives musical guests two performance slots, in the first and third act of the show, host Chris Rock introduced the band just once and they played a blistering four-song, 10-minute jam that included “Clouds,” “PlectrumElectrum,” “Marz” and “Anotherlove.” Graphic artist John Andosca pulled the “Marz” footage and added some retro visual effects to create a standalone music video that looked straight out of the '70s Midnight Special musical variety series narrated by Wolfman Jack.
Elsewhere in the song, Prince sings about music as a form of street competition: “7 of us then took 2 the streets / Raised by the music, fed by the beat / C-ing how long we could stay outta jail is how we'd / That's how we'd compete.” He previously explored such a West Side Story theme in “Coco Boys," an unreleased song that eventually fed the rival band storyline in Graffiti Bridge. Thorne also notes how 3rdEyeGirl just might be the realization of one of Prince’s first abandoned rock projects: “He showed up in England striking a far more modest pose as the pseudo-diffident singer of a low-key garage band (was this what he wanted for the Rebels all those years earlier?).”
As the song crashes to an end, Prince winks at the landscape littered by televised talent shows while giving advice to rock star wannabes, “Everybody in the world wants 2 b a star / Few got what it takes 2 get that far / If a rocket ship didn't cost more than a car / A brother might move 2 Marz.”