Prince knew how to push people’s buttons. When ‘Darling Nikki’, taken from his 1984 soundtrack album Purple Rain, was released, the world was shocked to hear a musician talking about masturbation on the radio. Dave Grohl, on the other hand, thought it was a bold-ass move and later covered the track with Foo Fighters, who bought their signature grunge-laden chime to the controversial record. It’s certainly one of the more bizarre Prince covers out there. Bizarre, but undeniably brilliant.
Darling Nikki sees Prince recall an encounter with a sexually vivacious woman in a hotel lobby, who the singer finds “masturbating with a magazine”. Prince was no stranger to the sexually-explicit pop song, but this was the first track of its kind that was released as a single. It subsequently received a great deal of attention from fans and critics alike.
Written for his movie Purple Rain, ‘Darling Nikki’ is sung by Prince after he finds out his girlfriend, the perenially-seductive Apollonia, has ditched him for his rival, Morris. In an attempt to embarrass her in front of her new amour, Prince sings this song in a club, leading her to run away before the performance is over.
It’s easy to see why Appolonia might have been a little embarrassed. In the second verse, Prince sings: “She took me to her castle / And I just couldn’t believe my eyes / She had so many devices / Everything that money could buy.” The sheer carnality of ‘Darling Nikki’ came as a shock to Tipper Gore, the wife of former US vice-President Al Gore, who was outraged to hear her 11-year -dol daughter listening to the song. In response, she founded the Parents Music Resource Center to fight against the ubiquity of songs with offensive and sexually explicit lyrics.
Everyone from John Denver to Frank Zappa ended up at a PMRC hearing, leading to the vilification of Tipper, who many regarded as stepping on their right to free speech. Although there were no laws to convict musicians in the way Tipper would have liked, the controversy surrounding ‘Darling Nikki’ did lead to the introduction of warning stickers reading “contains explicit content.”
Here, Foo Fighters bring the ferocity lurking behind Prince’s original track to the fore, unleashing a wave of distortion when the chorus kicks in. There’s also a fair bit of heavy metal screaming. Make sure you check it out if you haven’t already.