One hot day in the summer of 1984, I stopped at my local 'wrecka stow' (record store for those who aren't funky enough to know what this means) to purchase the new Prince single, "I Would Die 4 U." I played it repeatedly until I was sure that knew the lyrics. Once satisfied that I did, I flipped the 45 over to a song that I'd never heard titled, "Another Lonely Christmas”.
I thought the title was odd that he would put out a Christmas song in the summer. Once I placed the needle to the record, I thought, "Oh great, just another sad love song”. It irked me a bit that a slow, sad song was on the backside of an upbeat song that made me want to get out and party. I figured I'd give it a shot, play it one, and turn it back over to the fun side.
The track began and I frowned at the distorted guitar chords. Then the piano and bass followed suit, and prince immediately began singing in a melancholy tone chased by an annoying echo. I frowned again and thought, "What the hell?" I inhaled, picked up the needle, and reset it at the beginning of the record. This time, I closed my eyes, tuned out the background music, the echo, and focused on just the lyrics.
I mean, in theory, the song is completely depressing, yes. This wasn’t a Christmas song as I’d originally thought. It was about the heartache of a former lover who died suddenly on December 25th, leaving him to spend Christmas alone. The cause of this mysterious lover's death was undefined. Her father said it was pneumonia, her mother said it was strep, either way, she was gone, and it was a senseless tragedy.
Musically, the aforementioned slow drag of the distorted guitar and the bass, drums, and piano work well with the haunting echo. Before I could processes it, I had played and replayed the song so much that hours had melted away without me noticing.
This track is like listening to a campfire story about the enchantment of young lovers and the tragedy of a life lost too soon. Prince sang on about the wonderful moments they shared, he also described how heartbroken he is, and how she was the only one he dreamed about and the only one he cared about.
Now if you’re wondering, like I was back then, the story is not true. Not a word of it. Prince admitted that this is strictly fiction. Only he could come up with a song about Christmas and death and have it all be a figment of his beautiful mind.
The video below is not an actual video, it's an audio of a an official rehearsal session. I would have loved to be there!
The album version is included below.