Prince Pictures an Odd Fantasy in ‘Lady Cab Driver': 365 Prince Songs in a Year
To celebrate the incredibly prolific, influential and diverse body of work left behind by Prince, we will be exploring a different song of his each day for an entire year with the series 365 Prince Songs in a Year.
One need not be a prude to recognize the fantasy at the center of Prince’s 1982 album track “Lady Cab Driver” as … well, a love bizarre.
Over a slinky, bass-forward groove, the falsetto-voiced Narrator Listeners Assume Is Prince (and why should we not think that Prince has placed himself in this scene?) gets into the Lady Cab Driver’s car and asks to be taken on a ride to somewhere undetermined. “Just put your foot on the gas,” he pleads. “Let’s drive.”
Turns out he’s had some existential grief come his way. “Trouble winds are blowin’ / I’m growin’ cold,” he tells her. “Get me outta here / I feel I’m gonna die.” Desperation begets motion, and even when you’re moving forward toward the unknown, you’re moving away from something else—it’s the fodder for a thousand blues songs and three or four Clint Eastwood westerns.
If the song were just about this—about running away, about escaping, about craving these things in order to depart from the monotony of workaday existence, or to leave behind a life that is slowly suffocating him—it would be at worst interesting, at best moving and cathartic. These are the fantasies of the every-man and every-woman, yearnings that too often pose too great a challenge to overcome.
The problem with those fantasies, however, is that there’s just not enough sex. At least, not enough for a Prince song.
The fantasy in the song starts taking shape when the Narrator determines that Lady Cab Driver has apparently obtained her hack license not to make a living, but just for, you know, fun. “Take me to your mansion,” he implores of her. “Honey, let’s go everywhere.” And thus, we have the crux of the fantasy—a wealthy Lady Cab Driver who only picks up fares to pick up the fares.
The real fun begins once the Narrator gets the Lady back to her mansion. She probably gives him the nickel tour of the place (10 bedrooms, seven baths, lots of closet space) and then they pick out a bed on which to play out their lustful urging. This is the very epitome of unsurprising—the entire encounter could only have led to this—the passenger reaches his destination.
As the bed creaks and the Lady moans, the Narrator begins to dedicate his … um … gyrations to various people and things:
“This is 4 the cab you have to drive, for no money at all
This is 4 why I wasn’t born like my brother, handsome and tall
This is 4 politicians who are bored and believe in war
This yeah, that’s 4 me, that’s who that one’s 4″
It’s nice that he thought of himself in this setting, isn’t it? Letting off some steam about family issues and politicians—it’s like conversation around the table at Thanksgiving. And just like most of those conversations, things wind up getting a little weird, as, after several seconds and several more dedications, he offers the following toast:
“This one’s 4 Yosemite Sam and the tourists at Disneyland
And this one, ooh yeah, that’s the one
That’s 4, that’s 4 the creator of man
This is 4 the sun, the moon, the stars, the tourists at Disneyland”
One imagines the Narrator running out of things to which he might dedicate his thrusting, and just making some things up (though it does lead into an extended instrumental wind-down and a raging guitar solo). One also imagines the Lady Cab Driver wondering—quite possibly for the first time the entire evening—what she’s gotten herself into, and perhaps how she’ll be able to get the world’s funkiest Yosemite Sam fan out of her mansion.
Prince: 40 Years of Photographs, 1977-2016