On this episode, due to the unexpected passing of Prince Rogers Nelson, on April 21, at the young age of 57, I am going to take you through my personal journey with the music and movies from His Royal Badness.
A Musical Revolution
I discovered Prince quite by accident. In the fall of 1984 I entered the 6th grade a PS 156 in Laurelton, Queens. I was listening to songs by Wham!, Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner and Tears For Fears. Songs from Beat Street soundtrack, Whoodini, and LL Cool J were in heavy rotation. Then, one day, the coolest kid in class, Rahsaan Stephens, came to school, probably on a Monday, and told the class about the amazing movie he had gone to see over the weekend. That movie was Purple Rain. First of all, the fact that he got to see a Rated R movie made us all want to not only hear about it, but find a way to get an older sibling, cousin, or cool uncle to take us to see it. He spoke of the musical and sexual exploits of Morris Day, Jerome, Prince aka “the Kid” and the Revolution in and around a night club in Minneapolis. He showed us Morris Day’s dance moves along with his antics with Jerome. Furthermore, he talked about the musical performances and gave us a detailed description of the beautiful Apollonia. After this peer introduction accompanied by Rahsaan’s seal of approval, I made it my mission to see the movie and hear the album. It would be a few years before I finally got to see the movie on home video, but I was able to get my hands on a Purple Rain cassette and my initiation into the musical world of Prince had begun.
Rather than recount the hit songs from the Prince lexicon, I am taking a different approach. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Purple Rain’s, the Little Red Corvette’s, the 1999’s, the Adore’s and the like. What made Prince and his music so personal for me, were all of the b-sides, album cuts, and soundtrack songs that didn’t get any radio airplay, but I still played them over and over on CD, Vinyl, cassette tape, and nowadays digitally. These are the song I like to hear, sing along to at the top of my lungs, and play along with on my guitar. Mind you the first two I manage (in my mind) with great aplomb, in reality, people don’t play Prince’s songs on guitar, and they attempt to play a pale facsimile.
Sometimes it Snows in April – Parade
I finally got to Purple rain on VHS right before seeing the movie Under the Cherry Moon. I am sure many people were disappointed that it wasn’t a sequel to Purple Rain. Personally, I loved the movie, a simple, black and white classic love story, Directed by and starring the Purple one. Prince is Christopher Tracy, a gigolo that falls in love with his mark. Whether you love our hate the movie, you cannot ignore the soundtrack album, Parade, and the tragically beautiful ballad, Sometimes It Snows In April.
The Cross– Sign O’ The Times
Including the title track and the timeless Adore, the Sign O’ the Times album has many songs that hold up to multiple spins. The Cross is one of my jams from this album. And if you haven’t had a chance to see the concert film, I highly recommend it.
Not so Sexy
I get creative license and artistic vision, but I still can’t forgive Prince for issuing the Lovesexy album on Vinyl as two side long tracks and on CD as one track. In other words, there was no way to skip ahead to a particular song. You had to listen to the entire album in sequence. Sure, once you wrote down the song lengths, you could fast forward to the spot you wanted on CD, but no such luck on LP. Regardless, When 2 R in Love is one of my favorite songs from this album.
The Dark Knight
Batman the Movie was an event of epic proportions. Who else was equally epic and capable of creating an entire album of new music specifically for the movie? Prince and Batman went great together like chocolate and peanut butter. The Arms of Orion (duet with Sheena Easton), Party Man, and Scandalous probably annoyed my neighbors because every day when I got home from school, I played those three songs on repeat at the loudest possible volume.
When word got out that Prince was finally working on a sequel to Purple Rain, I stood up and took notice. I rushed out to see the movie on its opening weekend. It was not the sequel we were looking for. But the music, oh yes the music, makes Graffiti Bridge the Prince album that I play in its entirety—in sequence—more than any other. The fact that there were multiple songs featuring The Time didn’t hurt it either. Release It, The Question of U, Elephants & Flowers, We Can Funk, Joy in Repetition, Love Machine, Tick, Tick, Bang, Melody Cool, and Still Would Stand All Time. As an added bonus, the world was introduced to Tevin Campbell on the song Round and Round. If you skipped over this album because of the movie reviews, you are making a mistake.
By the time Prince dropped Get Off, the first single from the Diamonds and Pearls album, I was ready for something new from the Funk master. The first time I heard the song was when I saw the video with a bunch of friends from high school at a party/barbecue. Strollin’, Willing and Able, Money Don’t Matter 2 Night, and Insatiable, are some of my favorite songs from the album. I still own the DVD collection of videos from the album starring the models portraying Diamond and Pearl. I may just queue it up this weekend for old times’ sake.
One day, Prince decided to change his name to an unpronounceable symbol, and became known in the press as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince or simply “The Artist”. Then he release an album whose title was that same symbol. I fell in love with the album the first time I heard the opening horns from the single Sexy MF. The album played out like an opera and generated some of my favorite latter day Prince songs. Love 2 the 9’s, The Morning Papers, The Max, Blue Light, The Continental, Damn U are standouts on my list. The epic 3 Chains o’ Gold is a modern day Bohemian Rhapsody.
The Lost Years
After the Love Symbol album, I lost touch with Prince for a long period of time. I didn’t stop listening to the music that I already owned; it was just that Prince had changed the way he released and distributed music. I rediscovered him in 1999 when he released Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic through traditional brick and mortar stores. The Greatest Romance Ever Sold, So Far, So Pleased, and Man’ O War were added to my Prince Favorites list. 2004’s Musicology brought me Call My Name. In 2006 with 3121, I found Te Amo Corazon, Fury, The Word, Beautiful, Loved, and Blessed, and the Dance.
Is This the End?
Over the last five or so years I found new Prince music that I came to love as much as the old stuff. This list includes 4ever, Love Like Jazz, Wall of Berlin, U’re Gonna C Me, Here and Ol’ Skool Company from the Lotusflow#r / MPLSound double album. The Plectrum Electrum gave us Wow, Prezelbodylogic, Plectrumelectrum, Whitecaps, Fixurlifeup, AnotherLove, and Funknroll. Right on the heels of Plectrumelectrum, Prince and his all girl band 3rdeyeBlind released Art Official Age. Breakdown, U Know, and Breakfast Can Wait deserve attention.
Lastly, without preamble and within a few months of each other in 2015, Prince and his band released, HITNRUN Phase One and Phase Two. So far I am feeling This Could B Us, Fallinlove2nite, X’s Face, Hardrocklover, 1000 X’s & O’s from Phase One and RockNRoll LoveAffair, Stare, Groovy Potential, Screwdriver, and Black Muse from Phase Two. Of course with his newer music, it sometimes takes a while for the songs to marinate before I truly appreciate them.
Prince has so much music out there that it will still take me years to discover and truly appreciate the scope of his musical genius. He will be missed, but thanks to the volumes that he has shared with us, a part of him will always be with us.