How Prince’s Record Label Got Him To Reduce “Sign O’The Times” From 3 LPs To 2 LPs Is Brilliant

On Sign o’ the Times, Prince brought in a three-LP record, and everybody wanted to reduce it to one record, because they thought in that way you could get the very best material and have a huge, huge hit. But he rebelled against it and wanted to put it out as it was. Lenny Waronker (President of Warner Bros. Records) talked to management and said, “You know, instead of putting out a three-album set, let’s reduce it to two, which would make it stronger and better and more effective in the marketplace.” Management told Prince what Lenny had said. And so Prince called Lenny, and he said, “I hear you don’t like my record.” And Lenny said, “No, that’s not the case. I only think there should be some editing of the record.” And then he did something very interesting. He talked about Maxwell Perkins, who, you may remember, had a biography written about him by Scott Berg called Editor of Genius, and he told Prince about how he edited Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Tom Wolfe. And he said every one of them permitted him to do it, and in every case, it improved the book. When Prince heard that, he said, “You know what? I’m gonna go back to Minneapolis,” because he was at Sunset Sound at the time they were talking. He went back to Paisley Park, worked all night and cut the record down to two albums.

It was a fantastic analogy, and one that would really have impact, because Prince was smart enough to understand the values of those literary figures.