Prince: Liverpool remembers a true Icon
PRINCE & ME
By Andy Holland.
A lot will be written about Prince over the next few days. Some or most of it will consist of facts and figures, relating to his career, how many record sales he had, his accomplishments…
I don’t really want to talk about any of that. Prince was a remarkable artist. That goes without saying. A man who could play any musical instrument he laid his hands on, often better than people who spent their whole lives learning how to play one. He also had a fantastic singing voice, looked exciting, could dance his ass off, and wrote some of the most memorable songs of our times.
Prince would have stood during any period of popular music. He broke rules people didn’t even know existed. In the 1980s, to anyone growing up in the North West of England, he was like the embodiment of what rock ‘n’ roll should have become by the 1980s. He was dangerous. He provided flash and Technicolor during a very bleak time.
The 1980s were hellishly gloomy, there was stuff on the TV about imminent nuclear war and nobody seemed to have a job. Boy George famously quipped that he preferred having a nice cup of tea to having sex. Our parents had enjoyed the so-called permissive society, and what did we get? AIDS tombstones on the telly. It was as if we were paying for all the mistakes made by our parents.
But, ‘Let’s Go Crazy!’ proclaimed Prince. If the world was about to end we might as well have a huge party.
Smash Hits magazine named him the “Purple Perv”, one Radio 1 DJ relentlessly called him Princey-Boy and Poncey Boy, but it only added to his allure.
Prince’s hyper-sexuality seemed to be an act of defiance in the 1980s. Sure the poodle-rockers sung about sex but they just seemed to be just going through the motions. You wanted to laugh at their ridiculous posturing. In contrast, Prince was playful about it, and looked like he was constantly getting his freak on with whoever was up for it. He also had that age-old dichotomy of being extremely religious but drawn to sin. That made it seem all the more dangerous. His albums always featured one or two tracks that referenced God and Jesus, and in Liverpool we could relate to that, partying as we do at the weekend and then atoning for it on Sundays. That had been a vital component of rock ‘n’ roll since the very beginning.
Prince also took chances with his music that no-one else was doing, still managing to remain tuneful, and having hits. Most chart music was dull and predictable, but you never knew what Prince was going to come up with next. He seemed to be constantly in his recording studio experimenting and recording. While other artists seemed to struggle to crank out an album once every two years, Prince was rumoured to have albums worth of material ready for release every month, but they were being held back by his record label, who feared that it would ‘flood the market’. As fans we found this enormously frustrating, and we’d try to find bootleg copies of the unissued albums, often enticingly named ‘The Black Album’, ‘Chocolate Box’, ‘Camille’, for example.
Of course Prince himself was actually rumoured to have been the curator of these bootleg releases, but who knows? He was certainly unhappy with his record company for stifling his creativity, which is why he changed his name to something totally unpronounceable (and untypable), and wrote the word ‘slave’ on his face. This was an act nobody seemed to understand but we fans did. What many people seemed to conveniently forget was that Prince was a Afro-American and deeply conscious of the fact; the word ‘slave’ had a deep resonance with him and he genuinely felt like he was being treated like one by his label. His freedom as an artist was being taken away. He was first and foremost a musician and his label were preventing him from reaching his audience.
At this point some believe Prince lost his way, but Prince had always been an uncompromising artist. The fact that he was ever mainstream was the true anomaly; as a truly free spirit he wanted to follow his muse wherever it took him. The internet became one way he could reach his fans without having to worry about a label getting in his way, and he would use that and many others in the coming years still producing brilliant, challenging and inspirational music.
In 2016 we have lost too many great artists already, but the loss of Prince is shock. We can all remember him doing three hour high energy shows. It seems inconceivable that somebody that physically active could die at the age of 57, and the fact that he passed away in his recording studio proves that he was still a hugely active musician with loads more to give.
Prince – A Celebration Of His Life & Music takes place at The Buyer’s Club on Hardman Street, Liverpool on Friday 29th April 10pm – 2am.For more info on the night check out their Facebook page here