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Talking Style: Prince’s “Uptown”

Prince playing bass

It has now been one week since my hero passed away. Like everyone else on the planet I am still in great shock and disbelief. Even though I had another episode “in the can” and ready to go I thought that it would be most fitting to share with you the first bass line that I ever learned, “Uptown” by Prince. It may even be the first bass groove that drew me into playing the electric bass guitar so, this Talking Style episode, my goal is to capture and convey some of the essence of the song and share with you why this Prince cut is so important to me.

My introduction to Prince:

By the time I was 10 years old I was already a huge music fan and so my family would give me 45 records as gifts. My Aunt Cynthia gave me a handful of 45’s in an Easter Basket or something crazy like that and in the stack was the single “Uptown” from the 1980 album Dirty Mind. I’m sure she was thoughtful in her giving, but I don’t think she had a clue of the sheer magnitude of how much that gift would shape the rest of my life. I was so engaged by the message of the song and the insanely tight groove.

About the song:

“Uptown” was the lead single from Prince’s third album, Dirty Mind and speaks about a Uptown as place free of racism, sexism and other prejudices. Uptown is a place where everyone is free to be themselves.

The production is fairly organic consisting of drums, bass, rhythm guitar and a synth lead line. The live personnel was Matt Fink and Lisa Coleman on keys, Bobby Z – drums, Andre Cymone on bass. Prince is responsible for most if not all of the playing on the recording.

Follow along with the transcription and video.