Big Tall Wall is a track recorded on18 April 1986 at Galpin Blvd Home Studio in Chanhassen, Minnesota. It was included as the fifth track on a late April 1986 configuration of the Dream Factory album (which was planned as a Prince and the Revolution release), but was removed as the album underwent changes, and was not included on the two later configurations.
In July 1987 Prince revamped the lyrics, and re-recorded the song. It was then mentioned in the initial script of the Graffiti Bridge movie, dated 22 September 1987. It was included as the first track on the 25 September 1988 configuration of the Graffiti Bridge album. The song was also mentioned in the movie script from October 1987. In this version, Power Fantastic was supposed to be sung by as a duet between the characters "Camille Blue" (played by Prince) and "Ruthie Washington", who Prince hoped would be played by Madonna.
The track was initially recorded around the time when Prince’s then-girlfriend Susannah Melvoin had moved out of Prince’s house and the lyrics, including “I’m gonna build a big tall wall, stone circle so you can’t get out”, are a direct reference to the converted grain silos Calhoun Isles condominiums, to which she moved. The song at this point had a quite upbeat sound and melody, making the lyrics effectively talking about imprisonment seem somewhat sweet and innocent.
The 1987 version is a re-recording, done when Prince came back from the Sign O’ The Times Tour and Susannah Melvoin was out of the picture, romantically. This version is a minimalist funk/rock song, with Prince’s vocals accompanied only by a drum machine beat. The lyrics now include the line “I’ve got more holes than a golf course” which Prince later re-used in the party coda to The Ball (later heard in the intro to both Joy In Repetition and Eye No). The line ”pretty little baby, you’re so glam, every time I see you I wanna slam” likely later inspired Glam Slam. While equally possessive, this new version seems to be attributed to a woman Prince expresses his desire (but not respect) to make his, while the previous one focused on a woman and relationship he wants to keep. It has also been suggested that in this version Prince is singing about himself, being held captive perhaps by his fans.
In September 2020, two versions of the song were released on two of the discs with previously unreleased tracks included with the Sign O’ The Times Super Deluxe Edition (Big Tall Wall (Version 1) from 1986 as the sixteenth track of Vault Tracks part 1 and Big Tall Wall (Version 2) from 1987 as the tenth track of Vault Tracks part 3 respectively).