Prince Sets a Film Pitch to Music With ‘Coco Boys': 365 Prince Songs in a Year
To celebrate the incredibly prolific, influential and diverse body of work left behind by Prince, we will be exploring a different song of his each day for an entire year with the series 365 Prince Songs in a Year.
Most films start with a pitch meeting, where a director, star or producer razzles and dazzles the studio by talking them through the essential elements of the film they want to make. Even though Prince was an international superstar, the star of the mega-hit Purple Rain, and star/director of the beloved flop Under the Cherry Moon, one can imagine he would pitch the next film project in the most Princely way possible. Why talk when you can sing?
“Coco Boys” is a film pitch set to music. According to PrinceVault, it was originally tracked by Prince and the Revolution on Aug. 25, 1986 at a soundcheck at Le Zénith in Paris. Vocals were added back in Chanhassen, Minn., the following month. The track was intended for a musical project called The Dawn, but elements of the plot were later woven into incarnations of the Graffiti Bridge script.
“Over on the east side across the river / There was a band called Coco Boys / The leader was a brother named Frankie / He was the ladies' pride and joy," he sings. Just when you think Prince is the star of this band, he makes the big reveal, “I was in a band called Sandra Dee / And honey, we were a sight for moral eyes / Everybody in the band had blonde hair, natural or otherwise / There was an argument as to who was gonna go on first / I guess U could say the Coco Boys won.”
Prince loved the idea of rival bands, but as much as the media liked to think Michael Jackson was his main rival, that was the real world. In Prince’s world, his main rival was himself. The public image he created was elusive; he rarely spoke to the press and would cloak much of his public and private appearances in an aura of mystery. But Prince was also funny, gregarious, a total ham and a ladies man. For this side of his personality, he created the Time, and fashioned his real life friend, Morris Day, into a stage persona called “Morris Day” that reflected this side of his personality. When Prince couldn’t get his original, much more spiritual version of Graffiti Bridge greenlit, he resurrected the Time rivalry from Purple Rain and some of the “battle of the bands” themes heard in “Coco Boys”.
While “Coco Boys” remains unreleased, it brings to light several characters and themes we hear in other work that did make it out around this time. The character of Frankie gets a verbal shout out in “Le Grind” off The Black Album, and again on the Lovesexy album. Prince also references a pair of dance crazes: The "Detroit Crawl," which also got mentioned in the movie and album Sign O’ the Times, and the "Kangaroo."
One of the secret weapons for the fictional Coco Boys band lurked in the horn section, "They had a trombone player the size of a house, who considered whoopin' punks like us fun." Prince's real-life brass section at the time included Eric Leeds (saxophone) and Atlanta Bliss (trumpet). The demo for "Coco Boys" is notable for featuring Prince scatting the horn parts himself, possibly as a guide for contributions that may have never materialized (unless a new version emerges from the vault).
While Prince had a big heart, good sportsmanship wasn't always in his bag. In real life, he and several members of the Revolution reportedly egged members of the Time during a gig at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. As the epic battle of the bands tale of the “Coco Boys” comes to an end, Prince licks his wounds, “But they said we looked 2 freaky and the Coco Boys won / But that's all right cuz it was still a blast / Next day at school I kicked Frankie’s ass.” In the movie Graffiti Bridge, the Kid (aka Prince), wins the day – and the battle of the bands – not with fists, but an epic ballad.
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