Of all the celebrity deaths that have happened this year it was only when the news was announced that Prince Rogers Nelson had died that I received text messages, tweets and messages on facebook offering condolences. Hubbie told the kids, "Mummy is upset so be nice to her. When you're dried off from your shower give her a hug." In fact I was numb. A few days ago when his private flight had to land as he was ill I was already worried. I still didn't expect this news and it's come as a shock to many so soon after the wonderful Victoria Wood died.
Prince was the mixed race son of a musician raised in relative poverty and whose eccentric writing style / song titles ( eg. I would die 4 U) was apparently due to dyslexia. He wore heels and flamboyant clothing and was sexually explicit in his early lyrics and performances. In later life he became a Jehovah's Witness and chose to no longer perform the controversial material. In this later incarnation he would knock on doors and evangelise. Can you imagine answering the door to Prince and inviting him in to talk to you about his faith ?
His live shows were extravaganzas of dance, music and showmanship. He was multi-talented and nurtured the talents of many musicans and singers especially beautiful women like Carmen Electra, Sheila E, Wendy and Lisa and Mayte Garcia - who he also married. It was a live show that really turned me into an obsessive fan over 25 years ago.
When I first heard of him I didn't see the appeal really. He was short and a bit skinny and when asked why he wore heels he replied, "because women find them sexy." I just didn't see it. Then in 1990 I was working as a steward at Wembley Arena as a steward and I was paired with a lad who was a Prince obsessive. He kept convincing me how amazing Prince was and that it would be a life changing experience seeing him live. When I was offered work at some of his upcoming shows I took the chance to see what the fuss was all about. He wasn't wrong. At the end of the show when all the audience had left I was standing there looking at the empty stage wondering what I had just witnessed. My life would never be the same again. It really was amazing. At the end of the perfomance confetti fell from the ceiling and balloons with condoms attached the the strings cascaded onto the audience. I still have a jar containing that confetti.
Over the years I've been to watch Prince live many times and even managed to persuade my shoegazing Hubbie to go along to see him. If I've been to a Prince gig with you it's a sign that we're close as I don't share my love for him with just anyone. Being in the audience was more than a gig for me, it was like an act of worship. It didn't matter what he played or what he left out, I was there for the love of Prince. I was bereft when the O2 run of shows ended and couldn't wait to see him again. When he was doing those 'secret' gigs in London venues a while back I was gutted that I wasn't able to just drop everything and just pitch up to get tickets. I was, however, very lucky to get to see him so many times. He was an accomplished musician and could play pretty much every instrument to a high standard. The musicians who worked with him were pushed hard as he was a perfectionist, but he also wanted them to stand on their own as artists and would support them going on to their own successful careers.
Part of the reason for his famous falling out with Warner was because he wanted to release music more frequently than their publicity schedule would allow. Legend has it that at Paisley Park there are thousands of unreleased songs he wrote with the intention to release them on his own terms after he famously freed himself from record company control. If that meant a new album every year than that was what he would do. Whenever a new Prince track was out I'd listen to it repeatedly for hours, days even weeks. It would be lodge in my brain until anything else was irrelevant. Until the next one came along. Since I heard the news I've been singing, 'Sign of the Times' in my head over and over.
One of my life ambitions was to visit Paisley Park - he would host open days when you could wander around and maybe even see him too. I would still love to go to Minneapolis, but it just won't be the same now that he isn't there. My one abiding memory - apart from waiting with my friend Vicky for over an hour for a glance at him after the shows at the O2 - is of having seats so close that I could practically have touched him. I was standing next to Hubbie at the time - he had his arms folded and was observing rather than enjoying the show. At that moment I was entirely captivated by the man on the stage, not the man standing next to me. Sorry love. I think that Hubbie understood that I was in another dimension right then and he wasn't going to break that spell.
The only way I can think of to celebrate the life of Prince is to play some of the fantastic music he left us. So on Sunday evening from 6-8pm I'm hosting a tribute show on Croydon Radio and I'll be playing my favourite music by him. I'll wear purple and put on a raspberry beret and party like it's 1999.
Join me and Let's Go Crazy.