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17 February 2013

The Question of U: Jill Jones Talks 2 Beautiful Nights



   

  When it comes to questions about her life and career, Jill Jones is not afraid to say what's on her mind.
  Jones met Prince in 1980, on the Dirty Mind Tour, when she was doing backing vocals for R&B legend Teena Marie, who was the opening act. She was already honing her chops and is listed as co-writer on two Teena Marie songs “Young Girl in Love” from the 1980 album Lady T and “The Ballad of Cradle Rob and Me” from It Must Be Magic, released in 1981.
  She later moved to Minneapolis around 1982 and worked with Prince in various capacities for more than 10 years. She eventually signed a contract with Prince's Paisley Park Record label and released a self-titled album in 1987. However, the release was not the success she had hoped for, with the album and all three singles failing to chart on either the U.S. Billboard Pop or R&B Charts.
  Jones and Prince started work on a second untitled Paisley Park album in the early 1990s, and three tracks were recorded:“My Baby Knows How to Love Me,” “Flesh and Blood” and “Boom Boom,” with a music video being shot for the last song. However, differences of opinion led to the plans for the second album being abandoned and Jones moved to New York to quietly let her contract with the record label expire in 1993.
  For many Prince fans she has left an inescapable legacy: her iconic voice can be heard on Prince songs such as “1999,” “Pop Life” and “Hello,” among many others; she was featured in two movies starring Prince, “Purple Rain” in 1984 and “Graffiti Bridge” in 1990 and she was memorably showcased in Prince's breakthrough video for  the single“1999” – wearing just lingerie and a captain's hat.
  She also did vocal work, sometimes uncredited, for associated artists albums' such as Apollonia 6, Vanity 6, Mazarati and more. It has also been said that she inspired Prince's “She's Always in My Hair,” which is the b-side of “Raspberry Beret,” one of his biggest hits.
  In addition, she has worked with other artists including Ryuchi Sakamoto, and Nile Rogers and Bernard Edwards, of Chic. She released her second album Two in 2000 and more recently in 2009, she released the dance music single “Living for the Weekend”.
  Jones recently agreed to speak with K Nicola Dyes for “Dyes Got the Answers 2 Ur ?s” by telephone in a free-form interview to reflect on her life and career in her own words:

  My childhood...half of my childhood was spent in Ohio where I lived with my grandparents. The other half my childhood was spent in LA, where I went to live with my mother and stepfather...


  My teenage years were surrounded by the music industry. My mom was with the Motown family. My stepfather was Fuller Gordy (brother of Motown Records Founder Berry Gordy). I had everybody's albums... I did not want for music in the house. Everybody was stimulating and creative...not really eating dinner at 6 o'clock so much.

  Teena Marie was the sister I never had. My mother was her manager and she lived in our house. She took me everywhere. We drove up the (California) coast. She took me to school. I hung out with her and her friends. She was very supportive of my craft and music. (She taught me to) get my own style. I could imitate Barbra Streisand perfectly. She taught me about songwriting. We would go up to the house and see Smokey (Robinson) and Marvin (Gaye). (It was) a one-of-a-kind lifestyle, especially coming from Ohio.

  Songwriting is the escape. The place where you can vent. The place where you can say anything you want, (that) you can't say in real life. You can work things out. Sometimes I just want to pay tribute to certain things and certain people. I've since taken up writing as well and I find that to be the same thing. Having things fictionalized a little bit helps.

  It all changed when I moved to California, because I originally wanted to get into law...the practical side of me always fancied being an attorney, because we had a family friend who was an attorney. When I came out here it brought out the creative side, it also brought out the competitive side, because I attended Beverly Hills High School. It really changed after touring with Teena, working with Rick James and touring with all those people.

  Rick James could be very sweet. He was very intelligent. Based upon the fact that he knew me when I was a teenager, he was always pushing education, always asking me why I wasn't in school. I would bring my friends to hang out at his house when I was supposed to be in school... My stepsister Iris Gordy was pretty instrumental in putting together his first album. Rick was a bigger-than-life person and he enjoyed being that way; that was his personality. After I started working with Prince, he would always take the piss out of me when he saw me...

  I met Prince on tour with Teena, on the Dirty Mind Tour. I think it was in Florida... We had left Rick (James') Tour and I was singing backing vocals for (Teena Marie).

  Life on the road... Oh, I love it! I love being in a different place everyday. I (didn't) have to clean, I barely packed. I didn't have a problem with being on the road.

Jill Jones on coming of age: I definitely got over any kind of hang ups. I'm not (going to be) rolling around with a lot of wrinkles on my face doing threesomes... I remember that being on tour, the old guys who would try to pick you up. And I'd be like “ yuck, he's 32!” and (my) mother is saying things like, “you know he has a jet.”


Jill Jones and Lisa Coleman in the music video for "1999"




  I learned so much... I don't know, I'm still learning so much... I learned a lot about being independent and about being overprotected because (when you're on tour) you are in a capsule and surrounded by a chosen few. I learned that even when you don't feel well, you still have to perform, but, once you're out there you feel a little bit better. I learned a lot about men on the road. I learned about women, too. They sold themselves really cheap. I do know that I learned a lot about how women can be and that everybody wants to be special... at least for one night... and learning that they may not be. It's a really bizarre situation...


  I used to think that Prince and I would have been friends during the duration, during our whole lives. Because we had a really strong friendship... You can be with people for 10, 12 years, it's phases of your life, you just close the book and you just put it on the shelf. So, it's so bizarre when people ask anything about him, it was just a phase in my life. It's nothing in particular, it's just my point of view of certain phase in my life. It's always in retrospect. I used to say, when I got older, if I was on the Swiss Alps and I was milking cows, there would be somebody that would come across the hill that asked about Prince!

  I've never tried...Ooh, let me think for a second. Let me think. I've never tried... parasailing? (Laughing). I would say skydiving. Never tried that. I've never tried on a size 4 shoe. I've tried on a size 5. I guess some of those crazy things like jumping out of a plane...I've never drunk dialed President Obama.

  I don't understand why the political arguments going on today, are the same ones that were going on when Abe Lincoln was president. I don't understand why (there are) Republicans, who are broke as shit, who don't want a minimum wage increase. I don't get the Republican mentality when people are broke! I don't understand how best friends can go out with your exes...

  I hate when people ask, oh, I don't know if I hate anything anyone asks me. I guess it's okay people for to ask me, I just don't have to answer. I think that when people ask your age, they associate that with your demise and what they think you should be doing. I think when you're newly married,  people shouldn't ask when you're having kids. Because you don't know what their deal is and I think it's personal.

  People would be surprised that I have a really, really crazy temper. Maybe they wouldn't be surprised at a hot temper. They would be surprised to know that I am trying to learn German right now. My husband is German and (the language) is really, really hard. People would be surprised to know that I want to live in Germany.

  I love my family. I love that the universe has given me many opportunities to have a family. Even going back (to being) on tour I liked having a family. I adore my husband, when I was getting married I just looked at him and I thought "what took you so long to get to here?" I love that everyone gets along. My family. My cats and all my pets that I've ever had.

Jill Jones on Tipper Gore (and the Parents Music Resource Center): Tipper Gore was on our ass. (MTV) banned my video ( for the single "Mia Bocca"). They would only play it in the middle of the night, at 3 am... She directly impacted my life, she actually did in a weird way...


  My first album was a very long pregnancy, good God, it took so long get out. It was a really ace album, but, the timing was way off. I don't think everyone was ready for it. Radio wasn't looking for it. There's a rap convention in Atlanta that I went to and people came up to me saying “you're Black? I didn't know you were Black! I would've played your record.” I just came back to Prince, like, “should I just get a tan?” White people somehow knew I was Black and they said “I'm not playing that house Negro on the radio.”
  The album was dead in the water. Then, I went to a function and I think I was crying. A Warner Brothers executive (Rob Dickens, CEO of Warner Brothers UK) saw me and he put money into the project to do promotion in Europe. We made the (music) video (for the single "Mia Bocca")...They (Europeans) always liked Josephine Baker, that whole thing always worked. I was discriminated against in my own country. I opened for Jody Watley in LA and, seriously, the crowd just stood there whole time with their arms crossed. I was angry dancing. I was singing “G-Spot” and I was like “I'm not going to shake my ass.” I know (on past tours) I would go out in my bra and panties, but, then I put on my trench coat and I'd leave. I just threw the mike down and walked off the stage. Prince came to me and said “is that it, are you done?” Maybe he created the diva in me.
  I think the album was a very intellectual album. We made a decision to take a lot of the poppy songs off. Once Clare Fisher puts the strings on it... I wanted to leave them on... That's where I sealed my fate to never have a hit record...(Prince) could have given me "The Glamorous Life". Sheila E. would come to the studio to play basketball and I did not know that the child was going in (to the studio) late at night and singing the songs...

  The second album... My mother passed away in '95. When she was diagnosed in cancer in '94, I had a deal with London Records. Steve Fargnoli hooked me up with them. My contract expired with Prince in 1993 on April 15... which I remember because it was seven years to the day. When my mom passed...I didn't want to sing. I don't think I handled it as professionally as I should have. I wrote a letter to my manager that said “You're just too busy going through the corporate world, because you don't know what the fuck you're doing.” And I faxed it. And we were dropped... I (later) recorded (the album Two) with Chris Bruce and it was cathartic. I had a new boyfriend at the time and that was a nightmare. (I) just had to get it all out. That record came and it was supposed to come. (The song) "Gorgeous Wonder" is about my daughter and she just saved me in so many ways. I just ended up going into interior design through friends. It was very trying and tricky. I remember (one time) that I was bartending and the RZA (from the Wu-Tang Clan) came in and said “you're Jill Jones” and I was like “No, I don't understand” and I pretended like I was French. Don't let your pride swallow you up...because that is a mistake. Everything's fixable and your good friends would never make you feel bad about it...

  True friendship...learning a lot about it. I don't know what it is. I think it's the intimacy that I have with (some) people, but, it's always tested. People disappoint you. I know I tolerate a lot of other people's mistakes. I don't know. Honestly, I don't know what to say.

  I want to know how to stop over analyzing and to kind of just not take things so personally anymore.

  Can I? What does that mean, can I? Now it's at the point of why can't I?

  I wish that I did not see so many homeless people and that they had their own home. I wish that the bankers that perpetrated all this fraud would be prosecuted and in jail for a long time. I wish good health to all my friends and family. I wish everybody had health care...

  Ten yearsTen Years (emphasis added). Wasted. Yeah, ten years wasted. And I don't think fondly of these ten years, the ten years that I'm thinking of... But, I got a good song out of it.

  My musical influences, this is the thing, I hate that question...Of course David Bowie, of course Led Zeppelin, of course Billie Holiday. Even Barbra Streisand. To me Prince was a great influence...Ryuchi Sakamoto. Classical pieces. I just love Rachmaninoff. I love Radiohead. I love Fiona Apple...I love people who are actually just a little bit themselves. They have hitches and flaws...





Jill Jones on the unfinished second Paisley Park album: We (Jones and Prince) were kind of were at two different roads. The song (“Boom Boom”) was from 1982 and it seemed forced. He kept remixing it. I went to do the video, but, it was late, it was too late. And I just ended up going back to New York, got married and waited until my contract expired. During this time he called me-- and I was at a friend's house-- and said, "you don't have any charisma, you should dye your hair black and you need to get breast implants like Brigitte Nielsen." I was furious... Dickens (CEO of Warner Brothers UK) was instrumental at one point with Roger Davies, my manager, when we were trying to complete my second album alone. Without Prince. But, Prince rejected every attempt we tried.

  I've done a lot of interesting pieces of material. I've done many internal journeys, spiritual journeys...I can do a lot of things, I'm curious, everyone would be surprised by that. I've done crocheting and I have also done knitting.

  The music business is not the same as it used to be...it's worse. The music business is now just isolated by a few of the old guard and they are just picking at it like vultures. They have reduced people to this value and it's disgusting...The music business is full of spineless people who are getting 20 to 25 percent of these kids' money for licensing and merchandising...Have you looked at how many plays you need to get on Spotify just to make $3,000? What is crazy is that they were doing this back in my day. They made money on the vinyl and they made money on the plastic. But, you know, here we are.

  Pop stars can be boring. They are boring nowadays. I mean, American pop stars are boring. I love the Brits. I don't know if anybody really wants to have good content anymore. Maybe it's generational. I think it's superficial. It's synthesized. It's synthetic. They're equally as processed as the food in the grocery stores...it's synthetic and processed and it's fake.

  Nowadays, people are just in flux. Things are suspended. Nowadays, everyone has had a big pill that has them in a coma. People don't have any verve, they've just lost it. Nowadays, I don't think people go out to gigs a lot, live performances, they don't really watch them.

  My mother...amazing lady. Strong, sensitive, compassionate. But, she let a lot of people walk all over her, unfortunately, and she was a lot more forgiving than I was.

  My father... I don't know him. I had two conversations with him on the phone. When I was younger I cared, but, now I don't care anymore. I got over my daddy issues a long time ago, but, that was in God's hands and I think that worked out. He had a really salty character that might have impacted me. I think we were touring and I called my father and Prince said you should never call him again. And I said, you're right, he wouldn't even come to the show. He was just a sperm donor.

  The future...God willing, I will learn more. I will be doing a new album which I'm working on now. I want to be busy doing things. I want to be open to being more creative. I'm more interested in film things behind the scenes. I don't know, we'll see. Right now I am wrapping up a Dance album.



Jill Jones and Marcus Scott of Beautiful Nights




Check out the video for "Mia Bocca" here:




Check out the unreleased video for "Boom Boom" here:



Stay beautiful, Kristi

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3 comments:

  1. That was a fantastic read. :) Thank you!

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  2. OH PLEASE........ WE ALL KNOW WHO -IN MY HAIR- WAS ABOUT, AND IT WASN'T YOU. BUT, THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY... THE ONE HE STILL THINKS ABOUT... (YEAH, I KNOW, SO WHAT!!!! ) EVER BEEN INVITED TO AN EARTHQUAKE, IN LA.. ? JUST ONE THING, TO SAY TO HIM, YES, ..I HEAR YOU, I ALWAYS HEAR YOU, I'M JUST NOT ANSWERING. OVER THE YEARS, I QUESTION.. WILL WE BE LONG DEAD... COLD IN THE GROUND.. BEFORE YOU EVER LEARN THE MEANING, OF TRUE FRIENDSHIP, NOT SEX!!!? ..MAYBE SO. HEARTS AND GLITTER... ON THE FLOOR.....TIME ERASES EVERYTHING, ..BUT ITSELF. WHO'S GONNA PICK THAT MESS UP, HE SAID, ...ALL I COULD DO WAS LAUGH. SOME MEMORIES NEVER DIE... THEY JUST STAY LOCKED FOREVER, IN SOMEONES HEART.

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  3. I'd love to know what Jill thought of the other ladies who were around her during her time with Prince. It sounds like she's a bit bitter about Sheila E. getting "The Glamorous Life". Vanity? Apollonia? Susan Moonsie? I'm curious what Jill's experiences were with them

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