A Tale Of Two Versions Of The Artist's Hit '1999'

Ex-Prince prepares new recording of song as Warner Bros. ships classic party-single to radio.

As The Artist Formerly Known As Prince once so boldly sang in his end-of-the-century hit, "1999," fans will, no doubt, "party like it's 1999," when the new year approaches.

But the question that's fast shaping up is: "To whose version -- The Artist's new mix or the original from his former alter-ego, Prince?"

"I'll have to listen to both and then make a decision about which one we'd play," said James Alexander, program director at Detroit's urban-format WDTJ-FM.

As many had predicted upon its release in 1982, the smash party-single "1999" (RealAudio excerpt) is making a comeback just in time for the end of the millennium. But in an unexpected twist, the erstwhile Prince may have some competition in 1999 -- from himself.

On Wednesday, The Artist announced on his official "Love 4 One Another" website that he's preparing a new recording of the song, along with a remix of the original and a cover version by Miami producer Ceasar Sogbe, who engineered The Artist's 1996 album Chaos and Disorder.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros. Records, which owns the music on Prince's 1999 album, including the original "1999" and the hit "Little Red Corvette" (RealAudio excerpt), has begun sending copies of the "1999" single to radio stations and music magazines to drum up new interest in the song as the pre-millennial year approaches.

Back in 1982, when The Artist -- then, of course, known as Prince -- released "1999," many fans and observers noted that the song would serve as the perfect anthem to celebrate the year 2000.

Programmers at radio stations contacted Thursday said they haven't yet begun to pump the famed version of "1999," much less consider the prospect of a remake by The Artist.

In New York, WBLS-FM programming-assistant Danielle Eldridge said her station would probably favor a new recording of "1999," but she's yet to receive any calls from listeners about either version.

Meanwhile, longtime Prince listener Greg Schroder said that even if The Artist's new recording turns out to be a well-timed marketing ploy, he'll still buy it.

He said he's heard a number of alternate takes of various songs on Prince bootleg albums and thinks the Minneapolis-based musician often takes intriguingly different approaches to the same song.

"Each version is good in its own way," Schroder, 39, of Houston, said. "He could do '1999' in another way and still not screw it up, and still make it interesting."

"Love 4 One Another" offered no hint about when a new single might be released; Artist-publicist Leslie Pitts said The Artist was out of town and she was not at liberty to comment on the single. Calls to Warner Bros. were not returned.

"Love 4 One Another" coyly hinted that The Artist -- who has long complained publicly about not owning the master recordings to his Warner Bros. work -- might even re-record the 1999 album in its entirety.

"Spies at [The Artist's recording studio] Paisley Park saw a new 1999 CD cover," a note on the site reads. "Could the whole album b[e] re-released?"

Meanwhile, The Artist -- who this year has already released the three-CD Crystal Ball (RealAudio excerpt of title track) and the record Newpower Soul with his band the New Power Generation -- also is preparing to issue material from the vault.

Roadhouse Garden, a newly completed album credited to Prince and the Revolution, is said by "Love 4 One Another" to be set for release in "a few months."