Reconsidering “The Word”- my unique perspective on Prince

Ok, I’m freaking out…
I’d been putting off writing this all day and now I’m finally going to do something about it. How well it’s going to come off, I really don’t know, but I’ll do my best to get my point across.
People in the business say that writer’s block is the result of fear, being afraid of how things are going to go or what people are going to say.
It may be easy when I’m really inspired, but even 11 years later (I think this blog will turn 11 within a matter of days… it was early April 2007), Prince is really hard for me to write about. I think right now there are just so many cylinders firing that it’s been keeping me from writing this. It’s been difficult.

I’m always honest on this blog, as honest as I can be… but I’ll just say that to be honest, I have been a wreck since I finished my journey through Prince’s music. All of it culminated in my podcast on Purple Knights (the part with my top 7 albums is up and ready to go… the part about my top 100 songs will be up shortly… I still can’t believe I did all those things in 3 hours of airtime… to complete that train of thought, I will post an accompanying entry when both are out and have been properly/fully listened to… I’d hate to post about all the items of discussion and have people read them without listening to the podcast. I don’t often do them and that’s pretty much as good as you’re going to get me in a situation like that. But for the parts that were either rushed or not clear, there will be a manuscript of sorts. I had notes in front of me the whole time and they will be here. Ok, moving on…)

This hasn’t been just because a year long project came to an end. In some weird sort of way, finishing this felt like losing Prince all over again. I was keeping his spirit very much alive and with me as I was going through the albums and reliving him through all those songs. (I’ll give one thing away that I didn’t get to on the podcast: between the albums and B-Sides and the one-off tracks I have hanging around… there were 466 Prince songs I wound up scoring and I mined my top 100 out of them).
But afterwards… it’s hard not to go into this without using a drug reference… it felt like self-medicating with alcohol, being under the influence or however else… I was under that for so long that after finishing with Prince, it felt like quitting cold turkey or it all being a medically-induced coma and waking up at the end of it. Either way, I leave Prince World after being sucked into it for so long and I’m back in a world without him. It’s almost as if his death became more real in that moment. He stayed with me for a little while, but soon enough, that feeling of familiarity was gone. I’d play an album or two, but that old connection felt like it’d been severed. That I cannot longer fool myself into thinking he’s still here when he isn’t.
Then there’s the fact April 21st is on the horizon. That day, I do plan to watch Purple Rain again. And I’ll do that on that day every year from now on. And if that day is during the week, I will take it off from work. I do not care what anyone says. Shortly after that, I will check out the extended deluxe edition of the Purple Rain album, so I’ll have that to occupy me for a couple weeks. But there’ll probably be this hangover situation again…

Yeah, it’s been really difficult. I’d been mentioning on Facebook about being depressed and because I’m now friends with some people from work, they’re concerned and asking every now and then if I’m ok. Between things ending with Prince and this HORRIBLE winter weather, it’s been a difficult past couple of weeks.
It just feels like I have nothing to be excited about anymore, no big project to keep me busy. Because this thing with Prince was a massive undertaking, but I was more than happy to do it. 10 years of fandom needed something special to commemorate it.
Other than taking that pilgrimage to Minneapolis, whenever the hell that’s going to be I have no idea, I don’t have much on the radar in my life to look forward to. That I really want to do. The long time goals of independence, finding love and getting married, and also getting a book published… those things will still take a long time to happen and I kinda need something more immediate. (Plus, those things are not easily attainable and with my personality and quirks and how I’m just afraid to step out of my comfort zone and engage with strangers, I see attaining those things as impossible)
I’ve gone through this issue a couple times before in my life where I’d be crushed by depression and I’d need some sort of project to keep me going through life. Something to keep me busy so I forget that things aren’t perfect.
I want to reiterate, though, that my life has a lot of good in it. Good job, family and friends, but something is still kinda missing for me. And I feel like I need to find it soon…

So right now, it’s really hard to focus. There’s so much I want to go into about Prince, that I still need to go into, but I don’t know how to narrow down that focus.

Going back to the title of this post… I forget how far into my career of fandom I was, but I boldly stated that I was going to write a book about Prince because there were none around. Thanks to his death, sadly there is plenty of literature around, so it makes this task seem pointless. I felt the same way when he personally announced he’d be releasing a memoir. (The state of said memoir, I have no idea. I heard he had 50 pages written. I’m betting he wrote more than that. Not the entire book, of course, but enough where it should still be published. As well as I know his music, I’d love to read Prince in his own words too).

Here’s fear and writer’s block cropping back up… I started to think to myself, as much as I’d love to have my voice represented in all the Prince literature that’s coming out now… I don’t think my personal perspective warrants an entire book dedicated to it.
I mean, how am I? I’m just an admirer of his work and him as a person. (It’s funny- when he was alive, I always called myself an admirer because he hated the word “fan” so much… now that he’s left us, I’m using “fan” all the time just because, dammit, it’s easier for people to understand that. It’s the classic term you use when you’re really into something somebody does). I am not a journalist. I have no professional or personal connection to him. I’m practically nobody. Why the hell would anyone want to publish my words about Prince?

All these thoughts come to mind… from the years I tried to get a fictional story published, I know that there are query letters involved (in non-fiction, they call them proposals) and agents and representation and so on. Nobody ever wanted to represent my book because they either had a full workload or my project wasn’t quite right for them. Being honest again- that rejection still hurts, a lot. And going over that story I wrote when I was in high school, yeah, it isn’t perfect. I tried to rewrite it a couple times, but I never got to the finish line.
I’ve started writing another fictional story completely separate from that, but I had no deadline for that. Now I’m afraid it’s never going to fully come together. And even THEN, would any publisher want me? It’s a controversial, less-than-perfect subject matter… there is some R-rated sexual content involved, which I didn’t do to be shocking or because sex sells… I did it because I felt it suited the storyline.

The only reason I can think to write and try to publish a book about Prince… there is an audience for it. There are a couple of other people who like Prince and his work who have liked my writing on this blog and when they engage with me on Twitter, they seem to like my direction and thought process.
But is this really worth it just for less than 10 fellow Prince fans? Or my family where the majority don’t even care about Prince that much, but they pay attention and ask me about him sometimes because they know he meant a lot to me.

So what I did over the last couple days: I went into my flash drive with all of the chapters I’d written for this so far. I have:

1. For You- a short chapter with a little blurb for each album track
2. Dirty Mind- backstory, fashion talk, and track by track discussion
3. Controversy- backstory, fashion talk, track by track discussion and whether it’s more like Dirty Mind or 1999
4. 1999- backstory, fashion talk and album discussion
5. Purple Rain- HUGE section, I think I wrote close to 50 pages of the movie and the album
6. The Black Album- backstory, album discussion and conspiracy theories
7. LoveSexy- backstory, track by track album discussion, and synopsis of the Dortmund concert
8. Diamonds & Pearls- band discussion, track by track album discussion
9. Symbol Album- album discussion, trying to find the storyline in the album and 3 chains o’ gold movie discussion
10. Come- album discussion
11. The Gold Experience- album discussion
12. The Rest of the 80’s- culmination of Crystal Ball, The Truth and NewPower Soul
13. Rave- so far only an introduction and track by track on Rave Un2 and with In2, just a few differences so far
14. The Rainbow Children- a little on Kevin Smith’s involvement and one interpretation I wrote on the album

That’s off the top of my head… that’s only 17 albums so far (out of the 38 I own, not counting any compilations, internet releases and protégé/side projects). And together, that’s probably 120 pages so far with half of them on Purple Rain alone.

What it basically was- me going through Prince albums, but I had some backstory that I picked up either from discussion with others on prince.org, the D.M.S.R. book, the BBC Radio special “Prince: A Purple Reign” and Prince of Paisley Park. But I tried to write about the music objectively while occasionally trying to insert my opinion.
I wanted it to be an artistic discussion of the music, but not entirely focused on my own perspective. (Meaning I didn’t want to spend the chapters saying “I” a million times).
I wanted this to be something where non-fans could see Prince from a different perspective and maybe they’ll give him a chance. I wanted to debunk misconceptions about him being weird and unapproachable because of what he wrote about. I severely wanted other people to just appreciate him more than I felt they did. Sadly, more people seem to be doing that NOW when they weren’t when he was alive.

Then I started to think the other day… there is going to be a problem with me doing the book this way. All the sources I got my information from, not all of them are ones I can just click and access. And I don’t think I can submit fan comments or blanket comments under the “purple community” umbrella. That’s not going to be perceived as professionally. (I mean, Matt Thorne did say a couple times how some songs were fan favorites and he’d go on to say otherwise for himself… I can’t get away with that because I’m not a bloody journalist!)
But I’m also not going in by saying I think every Prince song is great. I want to reflect on the positive when possible, but I will be honest when something just doesn’t work for me. And I already had.

As far as I can tell, what I wrote about Dirty Mind and Controversy still hold even after all these years. With the Symbol Album, I might have to edit some things. I think I said it was one of my favorite albums and clearly it isn’t… it was in my bottom 10 Prince albums, to the best of my memory.
The Crystal Ball chapter, I started re-reading and not loving my approach. I tried to save time by pitting songs against similar songs and declaring which I thought was done better. I’m still not an expert on the album, but I know a little more than I did then.

In addition to the fan commentary being an issue… it’s going to be work about as well as hearsay in court. I don’t know if that’s something I’ll be able to put in the book and have publishers support it.
There was one other thing… and it started with Alan Light’s book on Purple Rain called “let’s go crazy”… that is such a good book and it discussed Purple Rain in such good detail that I really don’t need to bother myself. Meaning that a lot of my discussion on that project will have to be cut out because someone already did a far better job than I did.
But then, I do remember writing some interesting discussions… about Vanity vs. Apollonia, or analyzing the various conflicts within the movie, those things will probably will be good. But all the backstory stuff I got from DVD commentary and Behind-the-Scenes footage… I should probably cut out entirely because someone already did a better job of it.

Why I called it The Word, I can’t remember anymore… it’s not a JW thing and it wasn’t because it was my favorite Prince song ever (although it did chart very high in my personal scoring system)… but the more I listen to that song, the more I’m starting to get my own interpretation of it that is so apt for the book.
I’ll probably copy the words line by line and putting my own thoughts in brackets.

What is this exhalation?
That I just can’t explain.
What are these new inspirations
That I can’t get out of my brain?
How am I gonna sleep with this feeling
Rushing all through my veins?
Get up, c’mon, let’s do something.
Don’t you wanna go get saved?

[This verse describes me coming into contact with Prince. Not sure which encounter I’m thinking of, but either way, it was a big deal. Something about him just affected me so much and I didn’t quite know why, but I wasn’t getting over it and I wanted to find out more]

Tonight is calling you to react
Act upon every urge
You can’t get no satisfaction
if you ain’t got the courage.
I don’t know what you’re afraid of.
I don’t know what you’ve heard.
Get up, c’mon, let’s do something
Don’t you wanna know The Word?

[First two lines- something in me is wanting to take that extra step and finding out more about Prince. And I’m not going to be entirely happy or things won’t settle down until I do. 3rd line- I’m afraid because he has a long career and I’m thinking that it’s too late to catch up on everything. But he’s also an artist that is taboo and a lot of people think he’s weird. He’s saying to me that he doesn’t know why I’m afraid or what I’d heard about him and he’s encouraging me to give him a chance]

The bridge about the spiders spinning the sticky webs… I don’t know if I’d found my own interpretation for this train of thought yet…

Don’t matter how far you have
the truth has got to be told
No matter how shiny your lips
they’ll never be streets of gold.
They may try to get us crazy
cuz they don’t know what I’ve heard
We’ve got this new exhalation.
Talking about The Word.

[This coincides a little bit with a moment I had after listening to “Gold” and an interesting conversation took place as a result of it… he’s saying it doesn’t matter how far I go with this as long as I make my voice known. They’re not going to always be perfect, but you still need to say them. And there will be doubters and you need to not listen to them].

Somehow, I gotta figure out how to make these things work in terms of the book for my own personal perspective.
I started to have some of these thoughts during the week I was listening to 3121, but I didn’t give myself the opportunity to really spell it out like this.

All Prince fans have their own unique stories and perspectives. That much is true.
But since the beginning, my journey with him has always been a little unconventional and different than it was for everyone else.

…now’s to the part where it’s less self-deprecating and more self-satisfying… finally!

1. I’m unique in the fact that I didn’t immediately join the fan community the first time I saw him.

I attempted to count this a couple of times, but I believe that I encountered Prince on 7 different occasions before he finally stuck around.

*I saw the 1999 video the year of… the song and the visuals of the video stayed with me even after all the time in between times I’d seen it.

*I saw him in part of Purple Rain. I thought a couple of times of renting the movie from Blockbuster, but the one time I did remember, we were going to have company over for a wedding and my mom said it wouldn’t be the best idea. I just dropped it then and just for years, I completely forgot.

*He made that surprise appearance on American Idol that I had heard a possibility of, but never thought he’d actually do it because I figured he’d think he was above it. (That wound up being true, but he still came)

*Good Morning America- somehow I heard about that shortly after his American Idol appearance

*VH1 was counting down their top 100 80’s songs and I saw Prince for “little red corvette” and “when doves cry”

*The SuperBowl Halftime Show

*I was looking up SuperBowl commercials or something the day after the SuperBowl… bam! there was a website full of his videos… and that was that… ok, 8… I completely forgot about hearing “I would die 4 u” and “Baby I’m a star” a couple years before seeing them performed in the movie… that was such a pivotal thing, how could I forget? I wanted so badly for 7 to happen, that’s why.

My point is that I waited a LONG TIME before I decided to dedicate myself to finding out about Prince. I’d been curious about him for years. I’d known about him and the few times I saw him, they were all very positive. And they were infectious and being around him was unlike being around anyone else ever. I swear, that is not an exaggeration.
So why did it take me so long? I honestly don’t know. Either other things would always distract me or I just didn’t have that free time to stop and think about him and trying to find out more.
I always say that deep down, I knew I wasn’t ready for him yet. The vast amount of music he put out, it’d take me ages to catch up on everything. And I knew he was not typical and I might not fully get him, but I somehow wanted to know more. That curiosity was so strong.
And the fact I was so drawn to him resulted in me sticking around for as long as I have… because even though I did finally take that step to the other side and decide I was going to find as much about him as possible, it was not an easy thing to pursue. There were a lot of moments of doubt and there was difficulty.
And just maybe I wanted to be sure I was ready for him or that I just needed to reach a certain age where I’d be able to appreciate him. Thinking back to my view of music when I was a teenager… he’s so unconventional that I couldn’t have understood his unique artistry. And in the early days of my official fandom, there were some bits of that old mindset that kept me from liking certain songs. They were too long or repetitive, to give one example. I didn’t like a lot of really long songs when I was younger. The Moody Blues had a couple songs on their greatest hits album that we had in the car a lot… they ran 5-8 minutes long and there wasn’t a lot of variation or anything in them that I could really grasp and enjoy. Then around the same time as I found about those two Prince songs, there was Disco Inferno… which ran for 9-10 minutes… after the first three minutes, it was all instrumental and it was repetitive and I hated it. Which makes me believe that I might not have liked Purple Rain when I first heard it in the movie because he took so long to get through it. Heck, I didn’t like “Baby I’m a star” at first because a) I liked the previous song better and b) he kept ending it and starting it up again… that song is only 4 or so minutes long and I was already sick of it by the time the multiple endings came…

I think I’ve made my point… sorry about that… just couldn’t stop myself…
What I’m trying to say is most fans hitched themselves to Prince’s star (I think that’s the saying…?) after seeing or hearing him once. I had to encounter him multiple times before I finally did that.
Maybe that’s just a testament to how finicky I am as a person and it takes me a while to warm up to things. I can’t be sure.

I’m unique in my own personal scope of music. I grew up around The Moody Blues and Bruce Springsteen (we played them so much in the car that I really can’t stand to listen to either anymore… although there are a handful of songs I will still enjoy). I grew up in the 90’s during bubblegum pop, Britney Spears and boy bands. We also got Pure Disco parts one and two, so some of those songs had been with me since I was a teenager as well. I started paying more attention to singer-songwriters because those were the types of artists my dad personally liked. And I think I wanted to find someone that he’d accept instead of just rolling his eyes like he did at all the boy bands I liked.
Nowadays, I still very much love pop music, but I’m much more selective than I used to be. (And Prince is to blame for some of it… I think he’s the best there is, so nobody will be able to compare to that).
And I’m also kinda unique in the respect that I didn’t grow up around Prince like so many other fans had. He’d been in the background, I’ll say, since 1999… but only coming out of my subconscious when he personally appeared in front of me. There are also a couple of artists that were established in an earlier time that I got into. I’m not serious about many of them (just Hall & Oates and Depeche Mode, I think). But I will sometimes get interested in older artists that aren’t as relevant as they used to be. But I think that’s something Prince might have started… yeah, the only non-current artist in my album collection that predate Prince is Rick Astley.
Let’s just say my tastes in music are very different than most people my age. Not just me not like hip-hop, but I don’t like a lot of current stuff. I like some, but not a lot. Half is thanks to my dad and half is thanks to Prince.

But I think what makes me the most unique among that community… I was probably the worst possible candidate to become part of this fraternity/sorority of Prince fans because of… I want to call them personal quirks, but that isn’t quite right. I mean to say that the kind of artist Prince was (particularly in the first half of his career- Dirty Mind through The Gold Experience, roughly) the least compatible with me as a person.
This is going to sound weird… it’s hard to explain my personality when it comes to certain things.
I’ll preface by saying that I didn’t grow up in a religiously strict household.
But I do not like cursing. I don’t like it in music or in movies. I did it very rarely from memory, but on the occasion I did, I got in trouble. So it was odd to go off to college and find one of my professors was cursing in conversations with students. Not so much that it was dropping f-bombs every other word, but a curse word or explicative had been once or twice in a semester.
I do not like nudity or sex in movies or overly lewd sexual language. From memory, I don’t remember encountering much of it, but the few times I did, I was uncomfortable about it.

I didn’t find out until I’d already gone through the door that Prince was the type of artist who did a lot of those things that I really didn’t like or feel comfortable around.
The Gold Experience was an album that was very difficult for me to like at first because it was a culmination of all those things. I wrote my reactions to it on Housequake and one or two people wrote back saying that I wouldn’t get through any of Prince’s music if I couldn’t handle what was on that album.
It was a serious conflict and I had a complete breakdown over it… then there came a moment I’ll never forget where, whoever it was that reached out to me, it was a spiritual encounter and whoever that person was, they told me everything would be ok and I could do things at my own pace and not have to worry about what everyone else thought of my views.

To this day, I will still look for approval of my opinions to feel validated… but after that, I think I just stopped caring what everyone else thought. I would take new albums on my own time and block everyone else out until I knew how I personally felt. I took ownership of my opinions.

As for the lewd content… it took a year or two, but all the issues I had… for the most part, those issues went away. At least with Prince’s music. I’d listened so much that I’d become desensitized. And I can see how he used artistic expression to make things not come off as filthy or offensive.
Ironically, Prince stopped cursing after he became a Jehovah’s Witness, but now I will occasionally curse… no f-bombs or worse than that… but I’ll say “hell” and “damn” and “shit” occasionally happens or I’ll say someone on some show is being a bitch because she’s being mean to a character I like… I thought I’d try for Lent to stop doing any of that and even pseudo-curse words… nope, I couldn’t even do that. I made it maybe 3 days. It’s not as if my language is laced with expletives, but it’s like I don’t know how else to react to certain situations without certain words and usually I’m just talking to myself in the car while this is going on.

I did have a big point to this… and it was the fact that I actually changed FOR Prince. I am not the same naïve person I was when I “met” him or started getting to know him. My personal sexual experience is still zero. But I guess you could say that I started testing those boundaries of what I was comfortable with as far as media goes because of him. And a story I’m working on is about that as well… exploring those topics and experimenting with them.
How they’ll translate into real life… I have no idea… I sure as hell am not going to have sex with the first person I date.

So the point of this whole post… it’s not just me venting, I promise.
I think I can offer a unique perspective on Prince because I’m not your typical music fan or your typical person. I’m uncomfortable with a lot of things in life in general… one of those things is just talking to people and starting up any sort of conversation verbally. There are certain people I feel comfortable enough around where I can freely do that, but there are not enough of them. And they’re mostly family members. Prince has helped me overcome some of that, but only in small doses and in certain situations that don’t come up all that often. Certainly not often enough.

How I’ll progress with Prince from here… I really don’t know… it’s getting a little more difficult to be around him just because it hasn’t been the same lately. He’s not as present as he used to be and the energy is different. But I do feel like he is still around, somewhere.
As is often the case with him, I think I just need to let go and let things happen on their own.

Yeah, this is way too personal to share on Facebook…

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One Response to Reconsidering “The Word”- my unique perspective on Prince

  1. 319 - says:

    Your musings are stunning. A beautiful read as always.

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