One of the first things to come in mind was David Bowie's recent death. In that aftermath, I shared how he affected me. When I looked back at what I wrote on FB about him, much of what I said about Bowie goes a thousandfold for Prince. Maybe if I was 10 or 15 years older, Bowie would get the essential credit for influencing me. But as a guy who's formative years were in the 80's, Prince was my pop culture reference to a star who was androgynous, alien-like, and demonstrated musical genius on many albums with a sound that was both authentic to the artist and evolving into something new and different from the previous releases.
I first became aware of Prince with "I Wanna Be Your Lover" in the early 80's when I was 7-9 years old. I caught it on the radio a couple of times and liked it. A year or two later, Chaka Khan released "I Feel For You" and I somehow became aware of the Prince connection and that this meant I liked two of his songs (an important stat to keep in the olden days when singles were fine, but knowing you could get a bunch of songs you like for $8 or whatever was actually priceless). It was with the release of the various singles from 1999 - especially the exposure via Solid Gold - that I started to consider myself a Prince fan. (I may have also heard "Party Up" at some point during this period of my life. When I later bought a Dirty Mind/Controversy double-album cassette, "Party Up" sounded very familiar.
But I knew as a 10 year old, that I wasn't supposed to be part of Prince's fan base and that I probably shouldn't own any of his albums. I could enjoy "Little Red Corvette" as the Solid Gold dancers pranced around the stage or sing along with "1999" on the radio, but it never crossed my mind that I could buy the album and not get into some level of hassle or trouble with my parents for the purchase.
When Purple Rain came out, the push and pull on whether or not to buy an album became a practical concern and not just a passing dismissive thought. I enjoyed every song I heard. I wouldn't be shocked if I did buy a 45 of "When Doves Cry" but can't recall for certain and considering the 45s I've kept, I would expect that song to still be in my collection. If I didn't get a 45 of "When Doves Cry," I don't think I got up to buy my first Prince album until 1987 when Sign O the Times came out and I started 8th grade. I either got Sign or Purple Rain on cassette first at that age. From that point on, I started buying up previous and future releases.
Prince was my primary musical influence during high school. He quickly became the musical act of which I had the most albums and who I would most readily identify as my favorite. I never owned Purple Rain on vinyl, so when I broke one of my Walkmen so it wouldn't flip sides any more - instead merely playing the top side in reverse, the first thing I wanted to do was to put my cassette copy in and listen to the end of "Darling Nikki". I would recite the monologue from the end of "If I Was Your Girlfriend" to girls I was interested in. I dreamed of a woman who would be a combination of the females in "Starfish and Coffee" and "Raspberry Beret", as well as "Delirious" and "Do Me, Baby".
When I hiked the Appalachian Trail between my junior and senior year in high school, I took my Walkman and two cassettes. One of those cassettes was my Prince Dirty Mind/Controversy double album tapes. It was shortly after that trip, that Prince's influence really started to wane. Diamonds and Pearls was the album that I realized that Prince and I were parting ways; the headscratching I did with Graffiti Bridge wasn't just with that one project.
I did buy Emancipation and Crystal Ball. But didn't buy another Prince album until 3121.
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