Saturday, November 3

"In 1984 you either liked Bruce or you were gay"

Many years ago I asked a good friend if he liked Prince. That was his answer.

Adolescent homophobia aside, I wasn't much into Springsteen, Prince or any of the other "We Are The World" celebrities of that age either.

Nor was I alternatively cool.

I just wasn't into buying records. Off the top of my head I cannot think of a band that I would say "I really only like their early stuff." Besides, that sounds twattish. Although, I did buy Sheryl Crow's first record before she was famous, so that's two twattish statements in one paragraph.

Don't blame my parents. They ALWAYS had the radio on, and they were vinyl junkies, so growing up I got a decent music education.

In 1986, I went to Design College and in an attempt to "be creative", I began to read 'The Face'. A year later I was listening to anyone who sampled James Brown, going to The Hacienda and putting Acid in the front of any musical genre (thus debasing it).

Then I read an article about the canceled Black Album and I became somewhat obsessed with Prince.

I used the word somewhat instead of unashamedly in that last sentence. But at the time, there was no shame in liking Prince.

From 1986-88 Prince released Parade; recorded the double album Dream Factory, which morphed into the triple album Crystal Ball, and the female alter-ego disc Camille, all of which would be distilled into Sign 'O' The Times. He recorded, only to subsequently scrap The Black Album, before releasing LoveSexy. By any standard this was a phenomenal creative output.

Prince was always prolific. The Jamie Starr stuff with The Time and all of the other Vanity (sic) projects. But the outpouring of 86-88 coincided with the opening of Paisley Park on the outskirts of Minneapolis.


Yesterday, with much anticipation, I drove to Chanhassen, home of Paisley Park Studios. This was as exciting as Graceland for me.

There's no sign, just this cool I.M. Pei style building. So many of my favorite records were recorded in there.

And unlike the Elvis House, I got to be awe struck all on my own!

There appears to be no Wi-Fi at Paisley Park. I once sat on a step in Euston, London and opened my laptop and got Jools Holland's Wi-Fi connection. Below, a screen-shot of my laptop from the Paisley Park Parking lot (terrible alliteration.)

When I was 18, I read "Prince: A Pop Life" by Dave Hill. It's the best biography I've ever read. This book was an education. It explained nuances, styles and influences and introduced me to a whole catalog of other artists.

Today, it's still the reason why I'll pick up a musician's biography. The chance that an author's writing could get me into another band or artist is compelling.

Do I still dig Prince? Sure I do. Only I'm no longer the hapless blank canvas I was in my teens. Distractions, distractions. The name change, the lack of QC, the Jehovah thing (I took a photo of that place too)

He still writes some great stuff, and he gets his own genre listing in my iTunes, but now he's one of a thousand artists in my collection.

These days the most interesting conversations are when friends remind you of a band you'd forgotten that you liked!

Blogs are vain. The easiest put down is, "Nobody gives a shit about your thoughts", and I play the role of the jaded malcontent way too many times. This week I've tried to overcome some of my own sensitivities, and for the most part it was fun.

I started this post with a quote, so I'll end with one. I'd seen Prince perform live dozens of times when I finally persuaded Anne to come with me. It was at Wembley Indoor Arena and it was his worst show ever.

As we walked out I turned to Anne and said, "What did you think?"

"I thought it would be funkier", she replied.

Me too darling.

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