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On This Day in Music… April 16, 1994: Prince Scores Only U.K. No. 1 of His Career While Not Actually Called Prince

'The Most Beautiful Girl in the World' was credited to an unpronounceable squiggle.

prince the most beautiful girl in the world
Source: NPG Records / mega
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It seems almost inconceivable that Prince only managed a single British No. 1 in his career – and even more bizarre that out of all his extraordinary singles catalogue, that sole chart-topper should be the ballad “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World”, which peaked at No. 1 on April 16, 1994. It would also be Prince’s final U.S. Top 10 single.

But the strangest thing of all is that at the time it became his biggest hit, Prince was not even calling himself Prince.

In 1994 the man who had been christened Prince Rogers Nelson was coming off the back of an extraordinary 12-year run of British chart hits, starting with 1982’s “1999” and including “When Doves Cry”, “Let’s Go Crazy”, “Purple Rain” and “Take Me with U” from the Purple Rain album, “Sign o’ the Times” and “U Got the Look” from 1987’s Sign o’ the Times, “Get Off” and “Cream” from 1991’s Diamonds and Pearls, and, in 1992, “Sexy MF” and “My Name is Prince” from Love Symbol.

Although “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” was not featured on Love Symbol, it was that album that gave the first indications of what would be one of the oddest and most fascinating episodes in the history of pop.

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prince purple rain
Source: mega

Prince had enjoyed a spectacular run of hit singles between 1982 and 1994.

Love Symbol was not the official name of the 1992 album, but a moniker adopted after the trademark Prince gave to the unpronounceable glyph on its cover, a specially commissioned and designed combination of the astrological signs for male and female. It would be ironic that the LP’s lead single would be “My Name is Prince”, because the following year, Prince would declare that his name was not, in fact, Prince. From now on, he was called… whatever the Love Symbol glyph was called.

In a somewhat unhelpful press statement he explained: “It is an unpronounceable symbol whose meaning has not been identified. It’s all about thinking in new ways, tuning in 2 a new free-quency.”

If it all made for a great headline, in marketing terms it was a disaster – not least because the symbol was not only unpronounceable, but also because it didn’t exist on any computer keyboards. In desperation, Prince’s record label Warner Bros were forced to send out thousands of floppy discs to media outlets containing a digital rendition of the image, so that they could actually write about him. (In the end, most didn’t bother using the glyph anyway, preferring to use the slightly tongue-in-cheek sobriquet “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince”, or even “TAFKAP”.)

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prince love symbol
Source: mega

In 1993 Prince changed his name to an unpronounceable 'love symbol' and also performed with the word 'SLAVE' written on his face.

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If it was a nightmare for Warner Bros, that was kind of the idea.

Prince had first signed for the label as a teenager in 1977, and in the intervening years had released no fewer than 14 studio albums with the label. So prolific a writer was he that these came at an astonishing rate of almost one a year between 1978 and 1992… but even despite this, by 1993 he had amassed a huge catalog of unreleased songs – by some estimates as many as 500.

Prince was desperate to release his music as soon as he felt it was ready; Warners, on the other hand, preferred to control the flow of material, reasoning that releasing too many songs at once would saturate the market and dilute the artist’s brand.

With negotiations stalled, Prince took control of the narrative. “Warner Bros took the name, trademarked it, and used it as the main marketing tool to promote all of the music I wrote," he said in a press statement. “The company owns the name Prince and all related music marketed under Prince. I became merely a pawn used to produce more money for Warner Bros.”

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Warners could have “Prince”, seemed to be the reasoning, and Prince himself would become the love symbol (or TAFKAP). To further reinforce his point, he also took to appearing in public with the word “SLAVE” written on his face.

It was into this atmosphere that “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” was released – ironically giving Prince/TAFKAP his first and only British No. 1.

After a flurry of album releases (four in three years), Prince finally fulfilled his contractual obligations to Warner Bros and in 2000 declared that, although he would still use the love symbol as a logo, he would like once again to be known as Prince.

There would be one final twist in the story. In 2009 an Italian court ruled that Prince had plagiarized “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” from the 1983 European hit “Takin’ Me to Paradise”, written by Italians Bruno Bergonzi and Michele Vicino. The case would drag on until 2015, when Rome’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Italian writers.


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