In 1984, Prince wanted the world to hear Sheena Easton sing about her vagina’s “Sugar Walls”

By on August 9, 2018

In 1984, Prince decided he wanted the world to hear Scottish-born singer Sheena Easton singing about her vagina’s “Sugar Walls,” a tune which ended up charting at #2 on the PMRC’s list of the “Filthy Fifteen.”

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Back then, the prolific Prince was writing and recording so many new songs that the tape boxes housing quarter-inch rough mixes had to be stored in a hallway upstairs from Studio 3 at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, California.

Whenever he was asked by another recording artist (or their manager, producer, etc.) if he would write a song for them, Prince would simply grab a tape from the archives and hand it over.

Most of the time, all they needed to do was re-record their own vocal track, as Prince had already filled the rest of the tape with the music, typically playing all of the instruments himself.

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This isn’t what happened, however, after Prince and recording engineer David Leonard saw singer Sheena Easton on “The Tonight Show.”

Without her asking him to do it, Prince decided to write & record a song specifically for Easton’s new album, which Leonard was working on at another Hollywood recording studio, Sound Factory.

On Friday, January 20, 1984, Prince blocked out studio time in Sunset Sound’s Studio 2 to record this brand new sexy synth-and-drum heavy song.

He reportedly used the first of what turned out to be many one-use songwriting aliases, “Alexander Nevermind.”

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Prince scratched out the song’s lyrics on the fly — written from Easton’s perspective about the aroused sensitivity of her sex-ready vagina — and recorded a temp vocal track as he often did, sitting at the mixing board with a microphone dangling down.

“Blood races to your private spots
Lets me know there’s a fire
You can’t fight passion when passion is hot
Temperatures rise inside my sugar walls”

He also recorded a temp vocal with singer Jill Jones to hear how it would sound (she later claimed that Prince had written the track for her to record).

The 2-inch master tape was then sent over to Sound Factory accompanied by a note that basically said, “here’s a song I wrote for you… give me a call if you want to do it.”

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Some sources claim it was Easton who — after learning that her engineer was assisting Prince on recordings that ultimately ended up on Purple Rain — who had contacted Prince, saying she wanted to collaborate.

There are also conflicting stories about whether or not Prince possibly oversaw Easton’s vocal sessions at Sound Factory, or whether the vocals were done at Sunset Sound, but either way, Easton recorded her lead vocals on Sunday, January 22, 1984, which was “Super Bowl Sunday” that year.

Easton would later tell Q Magazine in September 1991 that Prince had asked her to come over to Sunset Sound to record her vocals, which she says she did after the Super Bowl BBQ she was hosting at her house was over.

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The track — which Easton included on her album A Private Heaven, released in December of 1984 — was almost immediately controversial, but the Greg Sills-directed music video for “Sugar Walls” didn’t feature any controversial visual content.

Even so, some TV broadcasters refused to air the video because of the hyper-sexualized lyrics.

Read more about Sheena Easton and her “Sugar Walls” below.

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Sheena Easton had debuted as a singer just a few years earlier, rising in status as a relative unknown pop singer to a chart-topping star-on-the-rise after appearing on a BBC documentary show called “The Big Time,” which chronicled what life was like for a singer who wasn’t yet a star.

Easton spent most of 1980 being followed around by a camera crew, who filmed her recording her first single, “Modern Girl.”

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Her second single, 1981’s “Morning Train (Nine to Five),” shot to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

“Sugar Walls” would end up being her sixth Hot 100 Top Ten hit in a row, and her first #1 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart on February 23, 1985.

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“Sugar Walls” — which ended up at #9 on the Hot 100 –also ended up nearly topping another list, coming in at #2 on the Parents Music Resource Center’s “Filthy Fifteen,” their list of songs deemed “indecent” because of their explicit lyrics.

#1 on this list — which also included some culty underground metal groups like Venom and Mercyful Fate — was Prince’s song “Darling Nikki.”

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The PMRC — co-founded by Tipper Gore, wife of future Vice President Al Gore — felt too many pop songs being played on the radio were actually “pornographic.”

This led to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) putting “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics” stickers on all recordings.

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Enough pressure was applied that some conservative-minded commercial radio stations — like NYC’s WHTZ — eventually stopped playing “Sugar Walls.”

Easton actually agreed that parents were well within their rights to filter the content their children were being exposed to, but, she said, adults were “free to choose what they want.”

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Sheena Easton would later provide vocals for Prince’s singles “U Got The Look” (1987) and “The Arms Of Orion” (1989).

Prince also ended up writing several more songs for her — 1987’s “Eternity,” which scored a #2 Dance Track, and 1988’s “101” — and although rumors have persisted for years, Easton insists to this day they were never lovers.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.