Prince Builds a Mazarati, Hits ‘100 MPH’
If any song properly defined Prince in the summer of 1984, it was “100 MPH," because that’s just about the speed he was working around the clock. At the time, the film and soundtrack to Purple Rain were taking the world by storm, alongside accompanying albums by the Time (Ice Cream Castle) and Sheila E. (The Glamorous Life). While most artists would be celebrating their good fortune or touring to promote the current album, Prince was already working two or more albums ahead, all while preparing for the Purple Rain world tour. Prince’s initial demo for “100 MPH” was laid down amid this flurry of recordings; it would eventually wind up on Mazarati’s self-titled debut album.
Contrary to popular belief, Mazarati was not one of Prince’s protégé projects, nor was Revolution bassist Brown Mark the band’s lead singer. Like Dez Dickerson and André Cymone before him, Mark had ambitions beyond bringing Prince’s recordings to life on stage. In the studio, Prince was a fierce bass player; most every Prince recording that wasn’t cut as a live band features Prince on bass -- if bass was even in the mix. At the time, Prince told Rolling Stone that he wouldn’t use bass in his music if Mark wasn’t his live bassist. But the writing was on the wall; the Revolution’s run would be over within two years. What faster way to exit the biggest band on the planet than riding with a new band named after the one of the world’s fastest cars?
Technically, the seven-piece funk band was named after how the automaker, Maserati, is pronounced. They were gigging around the Minneapolis club scene as Prince’s success generated tremendous media and fan interest in the hot new “Minneapolis Sound." Mark went to school with two of its members, singer Sir Casey Terry and bassist Jerome "Romeo" Cox, and kept offering advice and encouragement along the way.
In the book Possessed, Alex Hahn describes Mark’s initial hesitation to tell Prince about the band. When stepping on stage to jam with the band, Mark wore a mask and called himself “The Shadow” to prevent any word from making it back to this boss. Guitarist Terri Christian urged Mark to reveal the secret, “Just tell him. The worst he can do is want a piece of it or tell you to stop.” Prince, turned out, did want a piece of it. He became increasingly interested in the band, and invited them to sign to his new label, Paisley Park. Prince’s involvement steadily increased; he was soon jumping up on stage with them during concerts and telling them how to dress. Band outfits on the album’s back cover appear to be pulled straight from the wardrobe closet for the “Raspberry Beret” video.
In April 1985, while at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles, Prince wound up being too busy with engineer Susan Rogers to keep up with his ambitious recording schedule. He placed a call to engineer David Z. Rivkin (brother to Revolution drummer Bobby Z) in Minneapolis. “Can you come out to L.A. for the weekend?” Prince told Rivkin, as retold to Hahn. Rivkin agreed and packed a light bag; when he arrived Prince told him, “Oh by the way, you’ve got to be here for a couple of months, we’ve got a Mazarati album to do.”
For loyal Prince fans, the Mazarati album is as notable for the seven tracks that made the album as for the three that were cut. Mazarati rejected the song “Jerk Out,” but it would wind up on the Time’s Pandemonium album and become one of the biggest hits of their career. According to PrinceVault, “100 MPH” was offered in replacement of “Susannah’s Pajamas” which Prince gave to girlfriend Susannah Melvoin’s the Family project for their self-titled debut. While in the studio, the band asked Prince if he had any more tracks to offer. Prince excused himself, grabbed a guitar, had Rogers roll tape, and within 15 minutes, returned with the song “Kiss”. Nobody in the band cared much for the bluesy number, but they revamped it through the night with Mark and David Z, redoing the arrangement and adding the funky percussive riffs that became a No. 1 hit when released on Parade.
In addition to “100 MPH”, Prince reworked lyrics to two other songs, “Strawberry Lover” and “I Guess It’s All Over.” with Jill Jones providing backing vocals to both tracks. Otherwise, the rest of the album had little to no Prince involvement.
Just like “Kiss”, Prince’s original version of “100 MPH” morphed once Brown Mark, David Z and the band sunk in their funky hooks. Prince’s original sounds like the Time right at the start; a keyboard wave similar to the lead-in to “Ice Cream Castles” gives way to a funky bass line. PrinceVault notes that a keyboard riff heard in the Time’s “Cool” also briefly appears. An extended version, primarily instrumental with Mazarati vocals at the end is in circulation. This wildly ambitious seven-minute vamp would have fit right in on a fifth side to 1999. The take found on Mazarati is dramatically different. The vocals hit sooner and the song features different suites, including an acoustic guitar interlude, slowed down vocal effects and hip/hop scratch cuts, and joyous screams from most of the members of the band.
Watch Mazarati's "100 MPH" Video
The official radio edit shows up in the official promotional video, a clip so outlandishly 80’s that it owes as much to Poison as it does Prince.
On July 1, 1986, the band participated in another legendary Prince event, the strange world premiere for Under the Cherry Moon held at the Centennial Theater in Sheridan, Wy., the hometown of MTV contest winner, and Prince’s date for the night, Lisa Barber. The group performed “Player’s Ball," “I Guess It’s All Over” and “100 MPH”. After leaving Prince’s kingdom, the group recorded one more album for Motown before calling it a day.
Watch Mazarati Play "100 MPH" at the 'Under the Cherry Moon' Premiere