How Joni Mitchell Inspired the Time’s ‘Ice Cream Castles’
In the spring of 1983, the Time began work on their third studio album. The group was looking to build upon the success of its previous release, 1982’s What Time is It?. Much like their previous efforts, songwriting for the album was helmed by Morris Day, Jesse Johnson and Prince (working under the pseudonym Jamie Starr).
It wouldn’t be until January, 1984, with the majority of the album written and recorded, that the group would find their title track.
Johnson and Day had been in Minneapolis, working on a song tentatively titled "Old & Ignorant." The duo flew to Los Angeles to meet with Prince and immediately played him the track. “He dug it,” Johnson remembered in a 2014 Facebook post, adding that the Purple One kept telling him, “‘It's so cool how you played the bass on the AND instead of the 1.’ Great compliment even though at that time I didn't know what he was talking about.”
Prince set to rerecording the track, rewriting the lyrics and bringing his own influences into the piece. At this point, the musician’s affinity for Joni Mitchell came into play.
Prince had long been a fan of the folk singer’s work. He had previously thanked Mitchell in the liner notes to his LP Dirty Mind, named-dropped her in his song “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker,” and referred to Mitchell’s album The Hissing of Summer Lawns as "the last album (he) loved all the way through."
As he worked on the Time’s new song, Prince recalled a lyric from Mitchell’s 1969 track “Both Sides, Now.” In her opening lines, the Canadian singer-songwriter recalls “Rows and flows of angel hair / And ice cream castles in the air.”
Borrowing the imagery for his new work, Prince used ice cream castles as a metaphor for interracial romance.
Recording for the song, now titled “Ice Cream Castles,” took place at Sunset Sound studios on Jan. 13, 1984. The title track was the final piece recorded for the LP. Later that year, the single peaked at No. 11 on the R&B chart, however it was overshadowed by two other singles from the album: “Jungle Love” and “The Bird,” which both saw increased attention due to their inclusion in the Prince film Purple Rain.
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