The story of the Family is one of missed opportunites boiled down to its most basic – Good Decisions vs. Bad Decisions. Let’s start at the beginning – after Morris Day left The Time in 1984, Prince tapped “St. Paul” Peterson as his replacement, causing guitarist Jesse Johnson to hit the road as well. Left with a drummer, a bass player and a valet (“Now, now, Jerome!”), Prince had Revolution guitarist Wendy’s sister, Susannah Melvoin join the band, and rounded out the strange quintet with saxophonist Eric Leeds.
Good Decision #1: Changing the band’s name from The Time to The Family. No one would have ever accepted St. Paul as a replacement for Morris Day. I mean, really.
Bad Decision #1: Trying to maintain some of the same funk The Time was famous for, most notably on songs like “Mutiny”, making The Family come off as more of a dry run for Wa Wa Nee.
Good Decision #2: Creating a unique “Family” sound for their self-titled LP, drenched in strings and minor keys on songs like “River Run Dry” and the first single, “Screams of Passion” represented here in its 12″ version.
Bad Decision #2: Picking “Screams of Passion” as the first single when you had, wait for it, the original version of “Nothing Compares 2 U” sitting there nice and all polite-like on Side Two. This even more melodramatic and provocative version could have been a major hit six years earlier than when Sinead O’Connor’s take on it took it to the #1 position.
Bad Decision #3: Pulling the plug on the whole thing without recording a second album or playing more than one live date. The Family, for all its Prince-ness, was a fairly unique corner of the Paisley Park empire – it would have been interesting to see what a second album would have brought.
Maybe we’ll get that chance, since The Family, all five members, have announced they’re reuniting for a tour and new album. Is this a Good Decision or a Bad Decision? Time (heh) will tell. At least Jerome’s involved! A Family reunion without Jerome would be like a Happy Mondays reunion without Bez.
And so ends Prince Proteges Week. Don’t worry – there are tons more we can talk about in the future. I didn’t even get to Jill Jones, Mazarati, Apollonia 6, Jesse Johnson’s Revue, et al. Stick around. We have a few years to get to ’em.
“Screams of Passion” peaked at #63 on the Billboard Hot 100, #9 on the Hot R&B/Hip Hop Singles and #10 on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play charts in 1985.
“The Family” is out of print.