That ain’t Lake Minnetonka

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I’ve loved Prince since I was thirteen. He was my first obsession. I collected his entire back catalogue, which back then was an impressive eleven albums. I purchased these slowly but deliberately with my pocket money from my local Woolworth‘s store, on cassette tape. My older brother, always a mainstream guy, was abhorred by the high heels and outlandish sexuality of Prince.

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“I bet you don’t like his music when you’re twenty” he once asserted cynically.

Seven years later, at twenty, I made a point of reminding him, and stating “Yes, I do still like Prince“. Disappointingly, he didn’t remember the bet.

When I was fifteen my mum asked me if there was anywhere in the USA I’d like to go for a holiday? I said “Yes! Paisley Park, in Chanhassen, Minnesota. It’s Prince’s studio.” Miraculously my mother agreed, in what must be legendary levels of parental endeavor. [Another time, she seriously considered an alternative to mainstream schooling for me since I thought I’d do better at stage school such as the one I’d seen in Fame the TV series.]

We did indeed add Paisley Park to our holiday in the USA. We stayed in Minneapolis, a town not known for international tourism. I got to visit First Avenue, the venue featured in Prince’s 1984 movie Purple Rain.

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At the time my mum was a journalist for a local, weekly newspaper. At the hotel in Minneapolis, before our pilgrimage, she had an idea that she might be able to talk her way into an interview with Prince himself. I don’t remember if I had warned her that Prince was infamous for shunning the press but somehow, on the hotel room phone she made some calls. By including a fuzzy description that she was from a “paper in London” she managed to speak to his publicist. The woman was surprisingly polite and seemed enthusiastic. She said she’d try to get back to us. I meanwhile had begun to worry knowing this mega-star was somewhat out of the league of this small town journalist and her desperate daughter. We didn’t get the callback, but I shall never forget her trying. Parents can be astonishing sometimes.

We made the run to Chanhassen, and I stood for a photo, smiling, outside the odd angular, sci-fi tiled exterior of Paisley Park. I was close to my hero and this was enough. I wish I had the original photo today to share, but it’s in a box somewhere.

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In 1990 I bought tickets to the Nude Prince tour at Wembley in London. Lovesexy had a been a hit and he was rolling out some Batman tracks and greatest hits. For some reason I had tickets for two dates. The first I attended with my best friend. We both dressed in Prince styled outfits and painted half our faces white in the style of ‘Gemini’, a Prince character from the Batdance video.

My second set of tickets I used in a calculating way. I invited one of the hottest guys from my peer group. And indeed, I secured a “date” with this blond, blue eyed, long fringed idol of mine. However there was no payoff during the date for me. I think he was just very pleased to see Prince, for any reason. Richard Snow, if you’re out there, it was meant to be a romantic whirlwind! I don’t forgive you.

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So years passed and Prince has never really left my heart. I’ve never specifically enjoyed funk, R&B or soul, as sometimes Prince is categorised, but I’ve always enjoyed the sound of Prince. Hearing few bars of something from Purple Rain, or Sign ‘O’ the Times reduces me to a purer place from my youth.

In the most narcissistic way, I’ve always held onto the belief that had I ever met Prince, our otherworldly knowing of each other would have been obvious; there would have been sparks, thunder claps, and an awful lot of slow love. I’m sure I’m not alone in that fantasy.

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Since Prince has evidenced reluctance to streaming his music for inequitable royalties he may not be so familiar to millennials. He is however available on Jay-Z’s (expensive!) Tidal service, and for this weekend the Minnesota radio station The Current has a weekend long, Prince-only streaming playlist.

I will miss you Prince! But thanks for sharing your spirit, humour and spice.┬áSomething about you makes me love something about┬áme, and that’s a pretty awesome gift.

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