Friday, April 22, 2016

Random Prince memories

I haven’t written anything about Bowie since we lost him, and haven’t even been able to listen to any of his music yet. It’s too sad, and I still don’t quite know how to process it, he was such a hero and influence. We’ve lost a lot of heroes lately, it seems like a particularly savage year.

But for some reason, while I’m desperately sad at the loss of Prince, my immediate instinct is to listen to as much of his work as possible, to defiantly get through this thing called life, to fight back against the sadness. Let’s crank it the fuck up, get loud, get sexy, get crazy.

When things like this happen, lots of random moments run through my mind, formative experiences featuring the person we just lost. This time, I wanted to write them down, mostly for me, partly just to celebrate the incredible experience of hearing his work for the first time. I’m going to wing it and throw in anything that occurs to me, just see what comes out. Let’s do this. Because Prince.

First time I heard a Prince song

I’d just bought a cheap radio off a friend, a Sqeez orange juice branded piece of shit with a 9V battery, and had a mono, single bakelite earphone (the one that looks like a hearing aid) jammed in one ear. Listening to any radio station I could find, under the covers at night when I was supposed to be asleep. Had no idea who any of the songs were, was just enjoying discovering new music. And then they played 1999, and my mind exploded. How the hell are they making those sounds? Are they even instruments? How is he doing that with his voice? What IS this? All Prince songs do everything “wrong”, the verses and chorus are in the wrong place, the lines don’t stay in the tracks where they’re supposed to, nothing fits properly, they refuse to follow standard song protocol - and that’s why they’re fucking amazing and righteous. I will never forget hearing that song for the first time, and how it made me feel - like anything was possible. And naughty. Because Prince.


As a kid at boarding school before the internet and iTunes existed, you were at the mercy of the radio and friends with albums on tape. I’d just heard Tom Jones and the Art of Noise covering Kiss, and didn’t realise it was a cover until that kid in my class with guitar angrily declared that we were all idiots for liking this terrible version of a great song. I scoffed. How could it possibly be better than Tom Jones belting out sex over an Art of Noise beat? How could it *possibly* be sexier? And then I heard it, and realised: Because Prince. THAT is how it could be better and sexier.

Lovesexy album cover

Going to a boarding school in the countryside in the 80s, there was a lot of homophobia and suspicion of anything that might possibly be effeminate. As a small kid, some of it was directed my way, as not being tough enough, or tall enough, or liking the “right” music and movies. But for some reason, not a single one of those bullies and general arseholes said a *single word* about Prince, ever, not even when the Lovesexy album cover was everywhere. Nobody was ridiculed for liking Prince. Not a word. Because Prince.

Muppets Tonight

The entire Prince episode of Muppets Tonight is an utter delight, but my favourite bit is the opening. It was at the height of Prince’s contract troubles with Warner Brothers, when he changed his name to symbol, and became The Artist Formerly Known As Prince. The episode starts, Prince arrives at the studio to be greeted by Bobo the security guard bear, who asks for his name. Prince’s reaction is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, and showed that he was happy to poke fun at himself. Watch it here, because Prince.

Nothing Compares 2 U

I love the Sinéad O’Connor version, but I’d never heard the original. At college, a friend passed me a tape of his recording of it with The Family. Both versions are completely different, and somehow both are the perfect version of the song. I’m not sure how that’s possible. Probably because Prince.

The best gig I never went to

I never managed to see Prince live. In 1995, my friend Sal went to Prince’s gig in Dublin, where I lived at the time. I hadn’t been able to get tickets, and was gutted. The next day, I called into her workplace to hear how it went. She talked me through pretty much the entire show, how it started, how it went, the talky asides, the atmosphere, in the way only a superexcited, lifelong fan could. It was so vivid, her enthusiasm so infectious, I actually felt like I’d been there. I still feel that in a way, I was there, through some sort of magic. Because Prince.


In 1989, Tim Burton unleashed a brand new version of Batman on the world. It was dark, it was adult, it was moody, it was scary. Either nobody told Prince, or he just didn’t give a shit, because he did his own thing anyway, and gave us Batdance, which is crazy even by Prince standards. It’s *completely* wrong for the movie, but somehow that just makes it work perfectly. Because Prince.


Big Train once did a sketch about Prince hunting jockeys in the African plains. It’s bizarre, you have to see it. In 2015, Prince tweeted a link to it, and clearly found it funny. One of my biggest wishes is that I’d seen his face when he watched that sketch. It’s like the internet wrapped around itself for a brief, wonderful, bizarre moment, just because Prince.

There are so many more moments I could mention. Prince is woven into the tapestry of my life, probably in a pattern that spells out something rude. So today, I’m wearing my purple shirt, blasting the music loud, and celebrating the artistry of one of the most incredible, gifted, sexiest motherfuckers to ever walk the Earth. I suggest you do the same.

Because Prince.