Geez. At the time I am writing this, the news of Prince’s death is rocking the digital world. I read that he was found in an elevator by dumbstruck cops who then panicked and called for paramedics – shocker. EMS tried to revive him with CPR but to no avail. The prince of pancakes is dead. Game, Blouses. Being a former EMS
hack professional, I can only imagine what that was like, but that’s not why I’m writing this.
How often to do you get to shove tubes in a famous person’s throat and break their ri…never mind.
Al Jourgensen, singer/creator of the industrial band Ministry, released a song last year called “Ghouldiggers,” a play on the phrase ‘gold diggers’ but instead referencing the practice of the music industry who monetizes and profits on artists long after they are dead:
“You know, I was once told by an ex-manager, “Son, you’re worth more dead than alive. Cuz when you’re dead, we can sell you off in pieces.” That’s the way it works around here. You don’t believe me? Why don’t you try asking Jim Morrison, or Jimi Hendrix, or Janis Joplin, or Kurt Cobain, or Amy Winehouse? I’m pretty sure they’re gonna take my side of the story.”
Mark my words: Prince, beloved by many, is gonna be the next Jimi Hendrix, in the sense that he will be marketed up the ass until we’re all dead and long after that. That new stick up your ass? It’s not a stick! It’s a “new” Prince record. Jimi releases a “new” album almost every year and he’s been dead for almost 50 years…
So, that was my first thought – the proverbial “They” are gonna market the shit out of his royal purpleness from now until the sun burns out and then probably for a time after that. I remember reading 8,000 years ago that Prince had a vault with countless unreleased music in it – the “good” stuff, or so they said. Was he saving it for a (purple) rainy day (har har)? Who knows! But we’re gonna find out and we’re gonna pay! Whoever owns the rights to his material just won the ghouldigger lottery. Get your shovels ready, folks! Thars gold in them thar bones!
My second thought was: holy fuckballs, Batman, the internet just shit itself and the shit is all purple. Gross. Whenever someone famous dies, people rush to social media to express their shock and grief and it goes on like that for however long it takes to get it all out. The puns are painful but they help people cope I suppose. I struggle to remember what it was like to mourn a celeb before all this sparkly and wondrous tech-no-foolery.
When it’s someone big, those reverberations shake the foundation of what connects everyone and that is: personal experiences and memories, which brings me to my point. The majority of people mourning have absolutely zero connection to the deceased personally, but I’m willing to bet they have a lifetime of memories. I have many of my own in this case, and they they’re not all warm fuzzies with purple clouds and happy little trees.
Prince – whew, where to start? You either love him or hate him. I’ve done both. Most of the Prince music I own is on cassette, which, for me, is telling. It was part of a specific era in my life. I can remember when I got into Prince and when I got out of Prince. Everyone has their own stories and one thing I’ve seen crop up online is: this is the passing of soundtrack to my life.
*cue Time Life Music infomercials shilling you purple box sets a few months from now, sold by the corpse of Dick Clark*
I’ve written about Prince’s music before. I put one particular piece in a book – I’ll get to that in a bit but I want to talk about what Prince’s music meant to me over the years because I think it differs a bit from others. I look at Prince’s music like this; for me, in order to get into it, I was usually a miserable mother fucker.
Being lovesick meant listening to Prince, and for a time, I was convinced that my life was a cross between “Purple Rain” and Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” I was a lovesick teenager without the outlet of social media to feed the black hole of depression that many teens go through when it comes to bad relationships and the “end of the world.”
Instead, we had our music and Prince’s was the heroin that any lovesick addict like myself craved. That whole scene in the Purple movie, when he performs ‘The Beautiful Ones’? That was me. I lived that…or so my stupid, hormonal, teenage mind thought. Kids are dumb and dramatic.
Once I matured past the seminal “Purple Rain” I found yourself going through the entirety of the man’s library and found even more songs to tear my heart out to. It became a pastime.
I look at Prince’s music from that era the same way I do NIN’s “Pretty Hate Machine,” – I cannot relate to much of it anymore because I overdosed on it too many times.
Yes, I too enjoyed the party jams – I used to spin those records at parties when I was DJ and many of them still bring a smile to my face. Hell, I was there when “1999” was actually relevant and everyone thought the world was going to explode because the toaster was programmed with outdated code. Kids today can’t say that – I played “1999” in 1999. So, ha, kiddies! Now get off my lawn.
But if I’m being honest, most of the man’s music reminds me of past relationships and bad ones at that. Why you wanna treat me so bad? Indeed.
Which isn’t to say that I don’t think that his music is still great – because it is – but I haven’t had a use for it for decades. I grew out of it, much like many other teen angst anthems. Smells like teen spirit? No, smells like bad breakups and mix tapes gone awry. Everyone has their “breakup music,” mine was Prince.
I remember the first time I watched and heard Prince on TV. I was at my cousin’s house and the video for “When Dove’s Cry” came on. It blew my mind. It felt “dirty” in the same way scrambled cable signals did when we were trying to catch a glimpse of a boob. Hearing that album was unlike any other experience previous to that time.
I happened upon Purple Rain during puberty, which, I know now, heightened its experience and relevance for me. How often did you hear tales of masturbation on a record set to music that sounded like having sex? Back then? Groundbreaking. Here was this tiny dude with a guitar, in heels, pushing gender boundaries and sexing up these gorgeous women with catchy tunes? It messed with people’s heads.
People forget, but Prince became mega popular during the same time that Tipper Gore and the PMRC were trying to censor music. In fact, Gore founded the PMRC partly based on the lyrics of “Darling Nikki,” and the music world would be forever changed with the advent of “parental advisory” stickers on albums considered “obscene.”
This was a pivotal point in music and one I feel should be taught to students in public school. I am a fierce advocate of free speech and during that era, we had to fight for our right to party and for Nikki to diddle herself silly on wax. It mattered.
That fight alone demonstrates Prince’s impact and it’s one of the reasons I respect him as artist: he pushed fuckin’ boundaries and unapologetically at that. That’s rare now.
I also remember when I stopped listening to Prince and that was with the release of Crystal Ball. I hated it. His music grew less melancholic (as did I) and I moved on, but one thing I always thought was super cool was hearing his influence in other music that I listened to. For example, when Public Enemy sampled “Let’s Go Crazy,” for their blistering political anthem “Brothers Gonna Work It Out,” I was blown away and it wouldn’t be the last time.
Anyway, you’re gonna read 1,000 stories about Prince from here until the end of time, this is mine. His music means 1,000 different things to countless people and who I am I to say any different? I always wished I could play guitar like him and spent many nights lamenting over the emotions he brought to the surface when love went anyway but the way you imagined it would.
Here’s to a man who truly changed music and influenced countless people and made me feel like shit on countless occasions. As I mentioned earlier, here’s a poem I wrote and published in the out-of-print Demon in the Mirror titled “The Beautiful Ones,” after his song of the same title.
The back story behind this poem is that I was down in the dumps and drowning my sorrows in some shithole strip club on the corner of Fuck You St. and Feel Sorry For Yourself Ave.
The song came on and for whatever reason; the woman dancing decided to fuck with me. It screwed my head up and I started to hate that song.
Understand, this is all ancient history. I long let go of the juvenile relationship blues and holding songs responsible for my personal misery, but there was a time when that song pushed my buttons. Look for a 10-year-anniversary edition of Demon in the Mirror next year…
Thanks for reading.