It was evident on Prince's album "Parade" that the parade was passing him by. The music on the 1986 LP was scattered, helter-skelter and unfocused. With the exception of the steamy "Kiss," it wasn't even funky.
Prince is no dummy. He knew it was time for a change, and his next move was inevitable. There had to be an upheaval in his band, the Revolution.
A year ago, he broke the news to the members. Guitarist Wendy Melvoin and keyboardist Lisa Coleman, who had been called his "musical shadows," were out. So was his drummer, Bobby Z, who had been with Prince since the late '70s.
Music-biz gossips had a field day. Rumors were flying about the real reason Prince was breaking up his band. There was talk that he was dissatisfied with the two most prominent members, Melvoin and Coleman. Some insisted the conflicts were strictly musical. Others whispered that sex and romance were involved.
Of course, no one could get the real story from Prince because he almost never talks to the media. So what really happened? Why has Prince been touring with a mostly new band?
The other good sources are Melvoin and Coleman, who are now talking to the media about "Wendy and Lisa," their debut album as singer-songwriters on Columbia Records.
In a bustling West Hollywood cocktail lounge the other day, they gave their side of the purge of the Revolution. The chatty, affable Melvoin did most of the talking. Coleman, the shy, quiet type, was smoking nervously and said little at first. But after a while she relaxed and became more talkative.
Both discussed their exit from Prince's band in very vague and strangely positive terms. If they knew why he dropped them--and they probably do--they weren't willing to talk about it in great detail.
Apparently Prince called a meeting last September and informed the members he was breaking up the band. The two women insisted they never saw it coming. "If we had been looking, there were probably signs," said Melvoin. "But maybe the signs were there and we just didn't want to see them."
There was one obvious indication that Prince was about to make some kind of change. "He had been working more on his own than usual," Coleman said about the recording sessions last year for Prince's latest album, "Sign 'O' the Times." "We weren't with him in the studio as much."
That was a major switch. These two had apparently been Prince's most frequent collaborators. "We worked with him more than anyone else," Coleman said. "For a while we were just about the only people he worked with. We were Prince's embellishers. We embellished his musical vision."
Melvoin and Coleman appear on the "Sign 'O' the Times" album, but not to the extent they had expected. "We played on a lot of the material for that album," Melvoin said. "But he cut a whole lot of it out when he put together the final version of the album."
Coleman hinted that there was a possibility that they might have remained with him strictly as touring musicians, but added, "After being in the studio with him all the time we didn't want to be just tour band members. We had done too much with him to sit back and be in his back-up band. That would have been a great thing for most musicians, but not for us."
Clearly, Melvoin and Coleman didn't want the Revolution to stop.
"If Prince hadn't decided to break up the band we'd still be in it," Melvoin said. "It was our thing. It was our home. It was 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It was constant creativity, constant high. It was adventure. You never knew what was going to happen."
Added Coleman, "Being in a band with Prince was like holding onto the tail of a comet. It was great until it flamed out."
Surprisingly, they wouldn't admit to being upset or angry at being booted out of the band. "We weren't upset," Melvoin said. "It just took some getting used to, since working with Prince had been such a big part of our lives for so many years.
Are they still in contact with Prince? "Somewhat," Melvoin said. "He's here in L.A. in the studio. We've tried to talk to him but we keep missing each other."
Coleman: "We've talked to him. We'd like to talk to him more. We miss him. It's a shame things turned out this way."
Melvoin, 23, and Coleman, 27, who grew up together in Los Angeles, decided to form a duo after the split with Prince.
"It seemed natural for us to work together because we've known each other so well for so long," said Melvoin, whose father, like Coleman's, was a studio musician. "We come from musical families and our families are close to each other. We've complemented each other musically for years. We've been writing together for a long time. It just made sense to work with Lisa. We never even thought about solo careers."
Rather than chasing a record contract right away, they financed their first album themselves and then went after a deal. Earlier this year, when the album was nearly finished, they decided to sign with Columbia Records--one of several interested companies.