Rare LP copy of Camille pressed prior to its 1986 cancellation, without cover artwork.
|Studio album by|
|Label||Paisley Park/Warner Bros.|
Camille is an unreleased album recorded by Prince in 1986 and intended to be released under the pseudonym Camille, a feminine alter ego whose identity Prince assumed by disguising his vocals in a pitched-up and androgynous style. He planned to release the album without any acknowledgement of his identity. The project was ultimately scrapped several weeks before its planned release, even though the catalogue number 25543 was assigned to it, with rare early LP pressings eventually surfacing for auction in 2016. Several tracks originally intended for Camille were instead included on Prince's 1987 double LP Sign o' the Times.
Recording and concept
After abandoning his Dream Factory LP and breaking up his backing band The Revolution in mid 1986, Prince entered the studio with engineer Susan Rogers in late October to begin a new project. He began experimenting with his vocals in an artificially pitched-up style, achieved either by using a pitchshifter or by recording his vocals at a slower tempo and then speeding up the tape to create a higher, androgynous tone (he had previously experimented with this technique on his 1984 b-side "Erotic City").
Prince began referring to this new pitched-up voice as a feminine alter ego named Camille. The sessions commenced with the recording of the dance track "Housequake" and within ten days he had completed enough material for an album, which he planned to release pseudonymously under Camille's name as a self-titled debut. He informed Warner Bros. that his image would not appear on the cover and that he would not acknowledge the album as his own work. At some point, his plans for Camille also extended to ideas for a movie. It has been suggested that the name was inspired by the 19th century French intersex person Herculine Barbin, who also used the alias Camille and was the subject of the 1985 film Mystère Alexina.
By November 5, the album had reached the mastering stage and a number of copies were printed, but Prince abandoned it weeks before its intended release. His reasons for doing so are not entirely clear, though it may have been in part due to Warner Bros.' unwillingness to release an album that would not be attributed to Prince's name. It is unknown how many original printed copies of the album exist, or whether prepared cover artwork was ever finalized. After shelving Camille, Prince combined the tracks intended for that album (except "Feel U Up") with other unreleased recordings from the period into the proposed triple album Crystal Ball. Against his wishes, Warner Bros. forced him to trim the tracklist down to a double album, which became Sign o' the Times (1987). This release included the Camille tracks "Housequake", "If I Was Your Girlfriend", and "Strange Relationship".
The remaining tracks from Camille would be released through other avenues in subsequent years, with the exception of opening track "Rebirth of the Flesh," the original studio version of which has only circulated as a bootleg. The NPG Music Club made a 1988 Lovesexy Tour rehearsal recording available in September 2001. "Feel U Up'" was released in 1989 as the B-side of "Partyman". "Shockadelica," originally written (unsolicited) by Prince as the title track for Jesse Johnson's then-forthcoming album titled Shockadelica (1986), was later included as a B-side of "If I Was Your Girlfriend". "Good Love" was later released on the Bright Lights, Big City film soundtrack in 1988.
Two other songs were credited to Camille after the album project was abandoned. The first was "Scarlet Pussy", which was released as the B-side of the 1988 single "I Wish U Heaven" featuring a black label. The second was "U Got the Look", which appeared on Sign o' the Times and was also released as a single.
Prince later invoked Camille as the guiding force responsible for his next project The Black Album. Like Camille, this album was also shelved shortly before its intended release after Prince experienced a spiritual epiphany and became convinced it was "evil"; he later blamed the album on an entity named Spooky Electric, described as a demonic alter-ego induced by Camille.
In 2016, a rare LP pressing of Camille made before its official shelving was put up for auction.
- "Good Love"
- "If I Was Your Girlfriend"
- "Rockhard in a Funky Place"
- "Super rare copy of Prince's unreleased Camille LP up for auction". The Vinyl Factory. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
- Kreps, Daniel. "Rare Copy of Prince's Unreleased LP 'Camille' Up for Auction". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2 February 2017.
- Draper, Jason (2016). Prince: Life and Times: Revised and Updated Edition. Chartwell Books.
- Reynolds, Simon. "How Prince's Androgynous Genius Changed the Way We Think About Music and Gender". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2 February 2017.
- Tatlock, John. "Prince: Revolutionary Transmissions From Beyond The Greatest Hits". The Quietus. Retrieved 2 February 2017.
- Staff. "25 Essential Prince Songs". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2 February 2017.
- Partridge, Kenneth. "A Brief History of Prince Being Prince". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 2 February 2017.
- Gottschalk, Kurt. "In Which Prince at Last Wins the Battle Against Evil, and Yet Y'all Still Make Fun of Him". Brooklyn Rail. Retrieved 2 February 2017.
- Hahn 2004, pp. 121–122.
- Price, Simon. "Battle Of The Black Album: Jay-Z vs Metallica vs Prince". The Quietus. Retrieved 2 February 2017.