Monday, March 30, 1987

Prince released Sign ‘☮’ the Times

First posted 3/23/2008; updated 9/27/2020.

Sign ‘☮’ the Times


Released: March 30, 1987

Peak: 6 US, 4 UK, 27 CN, 20 AU

Sales (in millions): 2.25 US, 0.3 UK, 4.03 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: R&B/funk

Tracks, Disc 1:

Song Title [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Sign ‘O’ the Times [5:02] (3/7/87, 3 US, 1 RB, 10 UK, 5 CN, 29 AU)
  2. Play in the Sunshine [5:05]
  3. Housequake [4:38]
  4. Ballad of Dorothy Parker [4:04]
  5. It [5:10]
  6. Starfish and Coffee [2:51]
  7. Slow Love [4:18]
  8. Hot Thing [5:39] (11/14/87, 63 US, 10a RB)
  9. Forever in My Life [3:38]

Tracks, Disc 2:

  1. U Got the Look (with Sheena Easton) [3:58] 8/1/87, 2 US, 10 RB, 11 UK, 22 CN, 90 AU)
  2. If I Was Your Girlfriend [4:54] (5/30/87, 67 US, 9a RB, 20 UK)
  3. Strange Relationship [4:04]
  4. I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man [6:31] (11/14/87, 10 US, 29 UK, 33 CN)
  5. The Cross [4:46]
  6. It’s Gonna Be a Beautiful Night [8:59]
  7. Adore [6:29]

Total Running Time: 80:06


4.758 out of 5.00 (average of 19 ratings)

Quotable: “The best album of the ‘80s.” – Josh Tyrangiel and Alan Light, Time magazine


About the Album:

“Soul, sex, excess: everything U listen 2 Prince 4.” BL “It took Prince three years to nail a worthy follow-up to 1984’s 13-times-platinum Purple Rain,” BL but this double album, “the most expansive R&B record of the Eighties,” RS500 shows Prince pushing “his own boundaries on a sprawling rock-soul soundscape dotted by searing messages and wild mood swings.” UT It “silenced people…wondering whether superstardom had made Prince lose his touch,” DBW reminding the world he was “merely the most gifted pop musician of his generation.” RC

“With songs culled from a series of aborted albums” TL – including the “the aborted triple album Crystal Ball and the abandoned Camille project” AMG – “during the nadir of Prince’s Purple Rain hangover, Sign O’ the Times has no business being anything but a career-sinking mess.” TL Instead, it not only “topped [Purple Rain] artistically,” BL but “it’s the best album of the ‘80s.” TL

“Fearless, eclectic, and defiantly messy,” AMG “this kinky double disc” BL “falls into the tradition of tremendous, chaotic double albums like The Beatles, Exile on Main St., and London Calling – albums that are fantastic because of their overreach, their great sprawl. Prince shows nearly all of his cards here, from bare-bones electro-funk and smooth soul to pseudo-psychedelic pop and crunching hard rock, touching on gospel, blues, and folk along the way.” AMG Along the way, he “electronically gender-bent his vocals and achieved epic musical sprawl without sacrificing intimacy.” BL “Most of this is attributable to genius; Prince flips back and forth between R&B and rock like a kid popping wheelies.” TL

For the first time since 1982’s 1999, Prince eschewed his backing band, The Revolution, “and hit the studio by himself, putting together four sides that acknowledge all his musical influences while remaining uniquely his.” DBW “He sounds liberated, diving into territory merely suggested on Around the World in a Day and Parade. While the music overflows with generous spirit, these are among the most cryptic, insular songs he’s ever written.” AMG

“The lyrics show Prince in a rare state of maturity. Usually his lines range from overt sexual come-ons to garbled references to God, but here Prince actually has something to say. Prince decries the ills of society” RV on “the apocalyptic title trackRS500 “ track among his alternating visions of hope and despair.” RV When he does tackle his more traditional fare he does so with songs like The Cross, a “relgious rock anthem to die for,” DBW and the “gender bending” DBW If I Was Your Girlfriend, in which Prince sings as ‘Camille,’ an “alter ego personified by scarily sped-up tapes.” AMG The result is “the most disarming and bleak psycho-sexual song Prince ever wrote.” AMG

The Revolution do make an appearance on It’s Gonna Be a Beautiful Night, “a funky, but slight live recording…[which] contains his first flirtation with rap.” DBW Prince also delivers , “heavy funk” DBW on Hot Thing, “the Stax revamp on Slow Love,” RS500 and the “lovely, complex ballad Adore with perhaps his finest vocal performance.” DBW

There’s also “the equally chilling Strange Relationship. These fraying relationships echo in the social chaos Prince writes about throughout the album. Apocalyptic imagery of drugs, bombs, empty sex, abandoned babies and mothers, and AIDS pop up again and again, yet he balances the despair with hope, whether it’s God, love, or just having a good time. In its own roundabout way, Sign ‘O’ the Times is the sound of the late ‘80s – it’s the sound of the good times collapsing and how all that doubt and fear can be ignored if you just dance those problems away.” AMG

Notes: In 2020, a deluxe edition of the album was released with a third disc containing the singles, maxi-singles, and B-sides. A super deluxe edition contained six additional discs – three with previously unreleased studio tracks, two from a concert during the Sign ‘O’ the Times tour, and a DVD of a live New Year’s Eve show at Paisley Park.

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Tuesday, March 17, 1987

U2 released The Joshua Tree: March 17, 1987

Originally posted 3/17/12. Updated 3/17/13.

Release date: 17 March 1987
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Where the Streets Have No Name (4/4/87, #13 US, #4 UK, #11 AR) / I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (3/28/87, #1 US, #6 UK, #2 AR, #16 AC) / With or Without You (3/21/87, #1 US, #4 UK, #1 AR, #23 AC) / Bullet the Blue Sky (4/4/87, #14 AR) / Running to Stand Still / Red Hill Mining Town / In God’s Country (4/11/87, #44 US, #48 UK, #6 AR) / Trip Through Your Wires / One Tree Hill / Exit / Mothers of the Disappeared

Sales (in millions): 10.0 US, 2.67 UK, 30.0 world (includes US and UK)

Peak: 19 US, 12 UK


Review: U2’s blockbuster album The Joshua Tree was released on St. Patrick’s Day in 1987. It spent 9 weeks at #1 in the U.S. and went on to sell 10 million copies. It sold another 20 million worldwide. The album also ranks high on the list of The Top 100 Albums of All Time.

In the early 1980s, U2 built a following first with college radio and then album rock. By 1984’s “Pride (In the Name of Love)”, they’d even hit the top 40 of the pop charts. The band “were now spending more and more time with rock legends like Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan” QM and were, as Rolling Stone magazine declared, “a band utterly determined to be Important.” RS With its “inspirational, larger-than-life gestures...that’s precisely what [The Joshua Tree] sounds like.” RS

The Joshua Tree was “U2’s most varied, subtle and accessible album” RS as the group learned “to combine their multi-textured sound with the kind of melodies that fans could sing as well as sway along to.” QM Their “sonic trademarks are here: the monumental angst of Bono’s voice, the driving pulse of Adam Clayton’s bass and Larry Mullen Jr.’s drums and the careening wail of the Edge’s guitar.” RS

The group also jettisoned the themes of political freedom from their earlier music and opted “to focus on the more accessible topic of human relationships.” RV This is also “a record steeped in religious imagery;” RS the album takes its name from a gnarled tree in the American Southwestern desert which early Mormon settlers interpreted as the prophet Joshua pointing the way to the Promised Land. RS
Highlights include Where the Streets Have No Name which belongs “on the short-list of best album openers.” TL The instruments slowly build until it all “explodes into an orchestra of restlessness to match its searching lyrics.” RV The “yearning” I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For serves as “a crusade for religious, romantic or self-discovery.” RV “The album’s masterstroke, however, is With or Without You.” AZ “Bono’s aching voice and declarations of obsession prevails as the defining musical moment of a decade.” RV

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