Anyone who considers them a member of the purple community, who loves Prince’s music, NEEDS TO READ THIS BOOK.
A year or two after I became a member, became a fan, I had openly expressed my angst over the fact there were no books to be found about Prince. Even though music and his veteran fans were the best resource of knowledge I could ask for, I wanted more.
“Dance Music Sex Romance” had been long out of print, although I found part of it online in the form of a .pdf.
“Possessed” by Alex Kahn was said not to be very good, which was also said about “A Thief in a the Temple.” I saw the latter at Waldenbooks/Borders once, but didn’t pick it up because it didn’t have the best reputation.
It’s really hard to do Prince justice and also keep the overall dialogue positive.
I’d dreamt about and even accumulated material for writing my own book about him… if anything, my aim was to make him more accessible for casual music fans (so I guess I could say my own family would be part of this target market)… and also defusing the myth that “Purple Rain” was the only good thing he did, that was worth remembering.
That album and the entire era is the gold standard he never quite matched with the rest of his career, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the rest of his music doesn’t warrant its own investigation.
Off the top of my head, I could recommend at least five albums…. it’s just a matter of picking the perfect five.
DIRTY MIND, 1999, THE GOLD EXPERIENCE, 3121, and PARADE… the first three are really good, 3121 is one of his best in the past 10 years, and Parade is just a personal favorite of mine.
But anyway, onto the actual book…
I’d watched the DVD commentary multiple times. The same with all of the behind-the-scenes featurettes. So I know quite a bit about this period of career already.
Even then, I still learned so much more from this. The best part was probably all the interviews. Everyone from Wendy & Lisa, Al Magnoli (the director/co-writer of the movie) to people Prince had influenced liked QuestLove, Adam Levine and Chris Rock. They had their own say on different parts of the overall experience, how the music came into being, how the craziest movie pitch ever was realized…
The only thing, for me, that kinda took away from it was when the focus dwelled to the cultural phenomenon. Scoping the music scene in 1984 where all these 80’s artists arrived at their pinnacles at the same time. Certainly the first time I heard Bruce Springsteen brought into this conversation. It was always Prince, Madonna and Michael Jackson. (I grew up in a family of huge Springsteen fans, which if anything, has turned me off to him with the exception of a couple songs… “Dancing in the Dark” and “Glory Days” in particular, I still love to this day, and I enjoy hearing “Hungry Heart” on the radio).
I don’t mind a little sketch of the music scene in 1984, but to go on for pages in a certain chapter about it… needless to say, I got bored of it.
The book also kinda ends on a negative note, talking about how Prince never reclaimed the greatness of his heyday, how his catalog is very uneven (which is true, but much of it was still worth exploring)…
Having Prince in your life at any capacity isn’t always easy because he doesn’t act like every other artist out there. He doesn’t put out music consistently (instead of once every 2 years, you’re lucky to get an album from him every five years). He certainly doesn’t tour consistently.
But I try not to make whatever time I spend with his music and movies (well, movie… I don’t watch “Under the Cherry Moon” all that much and had only seen “Graffiti Bridge” the one time… mostly for the sake of my adoration of Morris Day, which was shaken up by his portrayal in the movie) about the negativity. I try to enjoy myself and, as always, I allow it to feed my soul in whatever capacity it does at that given time.
Plenty of interesting tidbits, though.
The departure of Vanity prior to the filming of “Purple Rain” was explained in more detail. Part of me is inclined to believe it had to do with her and Prince having a falling-out in their relationship (hard not to imagine because he wasn’t monogamous), but it does make sense that her people pushed for her to seek other opportunities while her star was still on the rise.
Prince’s relationship with Apollonia, which had returned to the spotlight last year when he invited her to Paisley Park and it was her first time at First Avenue since doing the movie, continues to fascinate me. It doesn’t appear as if they were ever romantically involved. He certainly seems to think of her as a good friend he can hang out with.
One thing that stood out to me was the filming of the Lake Minnetonka scene. Apparently she’d jumped into the lake so many times she was getting hypothermia and he rushed to her side, genuinely concerned. She recalled in quotations how his warmth gave her the strength to pull through.
That’s a side of Prince not many people get to see. Most had never heard about and I found it very moving.
Hearing about his relationship with Wendy, Lisa and Susannah as well. I had no idea that Wendy and Lisa were even dating at the time. I just heard how Wendy followed The Revolution through their dates on the 1999 tour and Prince first heard her play guitar in a hotel room. Then there was talk about Prince feeling this spark meeting Wendy and getting to know her, asking Lisa if it was okay to bring her into the band (a decision that took some of the guys off guard and there was some tension over it).
And of course him meeting Susannah, Wendy’s twin sister. What guy isn’t excited about finding about twin sisters. Not to mention finding out there’s a twin sister that’s “available.”
Makes it all the more a shame the falling out he later had with Wendy and Lisa because their relationship together was pretty amazing. Nothing makes that more clear that the PARADE album where he wrote the base tracks and they finished them while he was shooting “under the cherry moon.”
As for movies, I didn’t know just how big a movie fan Prince was. This whole idea of “Purple Rain,” before all the pieces came together, that was all him. He wanted to star in a motion picture with his name at the top.
While future moviemaking ventures didn’t have this great a pay-off, just having the creativity and the guts to pursue that… especially after 5 albums and only one of them being a mainstream success.
Then again, we are talking about Prince here.
Probably the first time I’d heard certain songs from the soundtrack addressed. I’d wanted to hear the guys in the DVD commentary (Al Magnoli, Bob Cavallo and Donald E. Thorin- co-writer/director, producer and director of photography, respectively) bring up “Computer Blue” and “Modernaire”… how they came into being.
“Computer Blue” is my favorite performance number and the extended version is probably my favorite bootleg that any member of prince.org sent to my inbox… nobody really talks about how this song was so massive and had to be cut down to make room for “Take me with U”…
and “Modernaire” was the last time we saw Dez Dickerson (the guitarist replaced by Wendy) in association with Prince. The two of them didn’t part on the best times so Prince set him and his new band up within his management company, which cushioned the blow… nowadays, the same can’t necessarily be said, but Prince rarely parts ways with ANYONE on good terms. The only ones I can think of that are still okay are Apollonia, Dr. Fink and Bobby Z. Even if they’re not in constant contact with one another.
Some parts were a little difficult to swallow. Like hearing about Morris Day’s behavior on set, how he’d started using around that point and was chronically late. I know he had issues with addiction, just didn’t know it was at that particular time.
Then there was the Purple Rain tour. It’s understandable, of course. A creative entity like Prince getting sick of doing the same thing every night. And just dealing with the fame and such. Reading about the mood swings and such reflected on him negatively, but recollecting it now, I feel bad for him.
Something I don’t think I’d really felt other than the loss of his baby with Mayte. As well as his difficulty dealing with WB in the early-mid 90’s.
And by saying I’d never felt sorry for him, that’s not meant to be a negative connotation. That’s not me saying “why feel sorry for him because his arrogance isn’t worth the pity”… that’s me saying that Prince isn’t one of those people you feel sorry for :shrug: he carries himself with such confidence and handles himself really well that pity never comes into the overall mindset. He’s too strong a person for that kind of talk.
If not for the knowledge, I’d recommend this book because it showcases Prince in the best possible way. It shows his genius, elaborates on his mystery without completely dispelling the myth, and it gives you some bad along with the good. But mostly, the focus is on the good, something that can’t be said about many of his fans right now.
As for me… I really should get back to listening to him. If not his newer albums, revisiting the older ones.
Before even launching into “the making of” portion, Alan Light pens a pretty good condensed biography on Prince leading up to 1983 regarding all his records and achievements and stuff.
Rick James, the few times he was mentioned, sounded like he was whacked out of his mind. Not just feeling that Prince was stealing his moves (they didn’t even mention how Matt Fink became the doctor because Rick James had a “jail bird” outfit that they decided they didn’t want to copy while opening for him), but believing MTV was getting back at him by promoting Prince…
Probably the most interesting thing: the way everyone dressed was all Prince. He was so sick of everyone thinking the on-stage clothes were costumes that he insisted everyone not wear normal clothes in public. Everyone became their “purple persona” as if they’d all become part of the same painting.
Even Morris Day and Sheila E. were part of the “Prince makeover” experience… which is kinda crazy and with Morris, it kinda ruins the illusion a little bit for me. But that doesn’t mean I still like the guy and think back on his concert as the best I’d been to.
I doubt Prince would even read this, but in case he does, I’d take the chance to say “I could very well say your concert was the best I’d been to… but you have to come to the tri-state area so I can experience that!”
Just saying… [just not during February, I’ll be busy that month, lol]