I loved Prince. If you didn't know that about me, well you do now. I first saw him live when I was working as a steward at Wembley Arena and he performed a number of gigs. I was scheduled to work two of them and I even agreed to work two Cliff Richards so I'd get to work another Prince. Honestly crowd control at a Cliff gig is no mean feat. Those older women will go to great lengths to get up close to the Peter Pan of pop and some had travelled from Sweden just for the gig. Anyway, I digress.
My first Prince gig was an eye opener and from the moment I saw him on stage on I was completely hooked on his music and him. Bear in mind I was an old hand at gig going by this stage and was pretty much a metal head and indie chick so my love for his smooth stylings and insane guitar skills came as a bit of a shock. Carmen Electra was the support act on that tour - Prince named all his early muses from Appollonia to Carmen and later Vanity. They were all incredibly beautiful and he would nurture their talent (such as it was) and then let them go on to do their own thing. He surrounded himself with fantastically talented musicians, there was The Revolution, the New Power Generation and most recently 3rd Eye Girl. He launched the careers of Sheila E, Wendy and Lisa, Jill Jones and brought Mavis Staples to an audience that hadn't heard of her - for shame.
One of the rumours that circulated about Prince during his lifetime was the legendary vault of unreleased music he kept at Paisley Park in Minneapolis. He was a prolific writer and often gifted his songs to others. The Bangles, Sinead O'Conner and Chaka Khan all benefited from songs he'd written that gave them huge success. His perfectionist tendencies meant he played every instrument and had high expectations of his fellow musicians. What it meant for a fan was a mindblowing show every time. From him sitting at the piano playing a haunting rendition of a ballad to the brain melting opening of When Doves Cry he held the entire O2 in this palm every one of the 21 nights he played in 2007. I was there for three of the nights and he played a different set each time - I wish I could have gone to all 21 nights. Unlike the drunk woman I met in the ladies who wailed that she'd missed her favourite song I didn't leave the arena once he was on stage - why would you ? Prince was a mesmeric performer and a party animal. He'd come off stage having played for 2 hours and go on to hold an after party where he'd play for even longer.
The night I went to watch Prince with Hubbie we were the closest I've ever been to the man himself (Prince, not Hubbie) and while my beloved stood with his arms folded watching the performance I was enthralled and entranced and plotting a way to get even closer without getting dragged away by security. I managed to resist the temptation to get into trouble and Hubbie grudgingly admitted he could see how much of a showman Prince was. He did also acknowledge that his skills as a guitarist are underrated by non fans. I have no idea if it's true, but as the apocryphal story has it Eric Clapton was once asked how it felt to be the greatest guitarist in the world and he - apparently - said, "I don't know, ask Prince."
So it's been a year since he died and I still feel the ache of realisation when I hear his voice. Of course I didn't know him, but does it matter ? I am so lucky I got to see Prince as many times as I did. I'll be playing his music today and remembering that.