Prince was working so quickly in 1982 that he released two albums by two different protegé projects in the span of just a few weeks. Vanity 6’s debut, Vanity 6, came out on August 11, 1982, to be quickly followed by the Time’s What Time Is It? on August 25 and Prince’s own album, 1999, on October 27. Listening to all three together, they depict the wide range of sounds that Prince was exploring in his early career.
All the different bands he has created have been sides of his personality. Vanity 6 would be the sexy girl, Morris Day would be the comedy guy, and then Prince was the rock star.”
Lisa Coleman, Prince and the Purple Rain Era Studio Sessions, 2018
Prince had been wanting to develop and all-female side project for a while, but it wasn’t until he met the model and actress Denise Matthews at the American Music Awards in January 1982 that he finally found the muse and protegé he’d been looking for. It was Prince who decided to call her Vanity (“I think the main reason is when he looks in the mirror, he sees me,” Matthews told Rock magazine in 1985), and Prince placed her at the center of his new group, Vanity 6.
Prince had originally intended to call the group the Hookers, and had already recruited the singer Susan Moonsie for the project in 1981. He discovered another singer, Brenda Bennett, the wife of his lighting director, LeRoy Bennett, during the Controversy Tour, and once she joined the lineup for Vanity 6 had been solidified.
As with the Time’s early albums, the instrumentation on Vanity 6 was largely performed and recorded by Prince under the pseudonym the Starr Company, and was credited in the album’s liner notes to the Time. (For the 1999 Tour, Prince would ask the Time to accompany Vanity 6 from behind a curtain in addition to playing their own opening set of music each night.) In addition to vocals from Denise Matthews, Susan Moonsie, and Brenda Bennett on all eight tracks, the Time’s Jesse Johnson played several instruments on the synth-pop song “Bite the Beat,” and Dez Dickerson contributed drums and guitar to “He’s So Dull” and “3 X 2 = 6.”
Vanity 6 Album Credits
Vanity vocals Brenda Bennett vocals Susan Moonsie vocals Prince all instruments Dez Dickerson drums, guitar *Jesse Johnson guitar, bass guitar, keyboards