Few tracks convey the majesty of The Purple One quite like his 1986 hit ‘Kiss’. Alongside ‘Purple Rain‘, ‘Raspberry Beret’, and ‘When Doves Cry’, it is by far one of the pop icon’s best-known hits. But did you know that there was a moment when Prince very nearly lost the hit single to a different group before reclaiming it at the very last moment? Let’s take a closer look.
While ‘Kiss’ ended up on Prince’s 1986 album Parade, it was originally written for a completely different group. In the mid-’80s, Prince’s bassist Mark Brown decided to step back from touring with The Revolution and start his own side project, Mazarati. After signing to Paisley Park records, Brown approached Prince for some help, asking if he wouldn’t mind writing them a song. Prince happily obliged, taking a break from the Parade sessions to pen a hit worthy of his former bandmate. Ever the determined craftsman, Prince came back to Mazarati with not one but two tracks recorded on a mini tape recorder. The first was ‘100mph’, the second, a bluesy number recorded on acoustic guitar called ‘Kiss’.
Mazarati were blown away by the second offering and took it to producer David Rivkin (AKA David Z), who reworked the track, transforming it into a pulsating, funk-infused floor-filler. David Z later recalled how the track’s intoxicating central groove came to be: “Starting with a LinnDrum, I programmed the beat and began experimenting. Taking a hi-hat from the drum machine, I ran it through a delay unit and switched between input and output in the middle. That created a very funky rhythm.”
With the track’s foundations cemented, Z moved on to creating a solid harmonic structure using an acoustic guitar: “Then I took an acoustic guitar, played these open chords and gated that to the hi-hat trigger.” he added. “The result was a really unique rhythm that was unbelievably funky but also impossible to actually play.”
David Z continued working throughout the night, and when Prince wandered into the studio the following day, he was astounded by what ‘Kiss’ had been turned into. He recognised the song’s hit potential and quickly backtracked on his decision to gift it to Mazarati. “It’s too good for you guys,” he told the duo. “I’m taking it back.” But he didn’t just refuse to hand it over; Prince sweetened the deal with a hefty paycheck. As the bassist told Uncut: “I thought that sounded like a good deal. I spread the bad news to Mazarati, who were pretty angry. In the end, I didn’t even get paid for it. He totally stiffed me. I quit the band shortly after that. He treated me so bad, but I don’t care. He gave me a ton of opportunities, so I look at the good things.”
Prince could be a real cutthroat when he wanted to be, and it wasn’t just Mazarati that he messed around. Apparently, the singer assured David Z that he would receive co-production credit for the song. Still, in the end, Prince only credited him as the song’s arranger, ignoring the fact that Z had crafted the song’s hit-making elements without any help from Prince.