Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Prince Archival Vault In Our Own Brains

Don't read this.

1983. I don't remember much. Very little. But it's possible that my grandparents had MTV by this point. Based on the 45s that I still have in my possession, Prince was on my radar, alongside the Thriller singles. I don't know where my "Little Red Corvette" and "1999" records came from, although family members really got a kick out of taking me to Caldor and Bradlees and having me pick out whatever $1.49 records they were down with buying for me. The labels on these records were part of what helped me learn how to read at a very young age.

1984. I must have been a fan of "Let's Go Crazy" because sometime during summer 1984, this record became my third Prince related possession. I had a Fisher Price toy turntable in my bedroom where I frequently enjoyed listening to my collection of approximately 25 records. The cover called the B-Side "Erotic City ("make love not war erotic city come alive"), but I didn't know how to pronounce "erotic." This piqued my interest, and when I flipped over the record, I recognized the word "fuck," but I think my brain processed most instances of "fuck" in rock lyrics as a misheard term that I probably was not hearing correctly.

1985. I was kinda bummed that MTV kept playing "When Doves Cry," but the 45 was no longer available to buy anywhere. However, the video for "Raspberry Beret" got my pumped enough to want this record pretty badly and I probably owned it within a week. At this point, it started feeling like I should just start asking my family to buy me every Prince record even if I hadn't heard the song before, and so a few months later I got the "Pop Life" 45 without ever hearing the song.

I remember seeing "Kiss" at Bradlees and asking my mom to get it for me even though I had never heard the song before. It was $1.67. At first, I thought it was weird that he sang in falsetto for the whole song but it quickly made a lot of sense.

Age 6. "Anotherloverholenyohead" was my last Prince 45 until two-and-a-half decades later. I became intrigued by the back covers of "Kiss" and "Anotherlover" having puzzle piece artwork that seemed to fit together when placed partially on top of each other. After this, I got slightly less interested in MTV and Top 40 for a couple years, so the singles from 87-88 were never really on my radar until many years later.

Age 9. These girls who lived down the street had a tape of songs they taped off the radio and during 2 or 3 instances during August, they played this tape loudly from a handheld stereo while walking around the block with a gang of 9 or so kids that included my sister and myself. The first three songs on the tape were "Batdance," "On Our Own" by Bobby Brown, and "Wild Wild West" by Escape Club.

"Batdance" was a pretty huge deal. Based on my VHS of Batman, The Joker really loved Prince.

Age 11. Entering middle school was a horribly stressful experience. During the first week of school, Prince's butt was exposed on the VMAs. Jamie Foxx weighed in.

This thing happened between age 11 and 15 where I ended up rejecting stuff that wasn't "cool" in favor of grunge, and then rejecting grunge in favor of classicrock/prog/hippie bullshit between age 15-16 (resulting in the age 16 "canon" of 400 songs posted 3 posts ago). Prince was very absent from my life during this time.

1997. A few weeks into the summer when I started taping 120 Minutes every week, I saw one episode where Matt Pinfield interviewed Primus and their guitar player admitted his love for Prince in a guilty-pleasure type of manner. Les Claypool and Matt Pinfield were like "dude, Prince kicks ass."

And not long afterwards, it hit me.

Prince fucking rules.

In November of that year, I went back into my records and dug out the small collection of Prince 45s from my childhood. When I got asked to play in my first punk band with 3 of my friends, I suggested that I bring along my Prince records for sampling and an attempt at record scratching. We never actually tried it.

The same weekend I had my parents get me The Hits 1 for Xmas. Got really into "7" and "Alphabet Street."

Within the next 18 months, I had The Hits 2, Parade and Purple Rain. I occurted to me that I had never actually heard "Purple Rain" until I was about 17 or 18 years old. "Take Me With U" became one of my favorite songs of all time for a 3 or 4 year period starting around here.

1999. Napster showed up and I finally got to hear "Erotic City" without skips for the first time in 15 years. My sister thought it was funny that I got really into Prince.

2002. I went to my grandparents' house with my friend one afternoon. My grandfather, who had recently discovered how to illegally download mp3s, emerged from his office unexpectedly and excitedly asked us, "Would you like to hear 'Purple Rain?'"

2004. Prince is back. WBLS started playing "Call My Name" a LOT. Charlie Murphy's story blew minds.

2006. One of my friends got really into the movie Purple Rain and we wondered why everyone got so mad when they played "Darling Nikki." I put it on at my work once and somehow no one complained about the scene when Apalonia's incredible rack was exposed.

2007. I applied for the only job that I ended up keeping for 4 years, but it took them 3 months to hire me. So while I wanted for them to hire me, I worked at a carnival during the day and delivered newspapers at night and used this opportunity to get really into Sign O The Times and peppered WXCI's automation computer with the occasional instance of "Housequake" and "Play In The Sunshine." I heard him play "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man" on VH1 and followed it with the question, "Remember that one from back in high school?"

This is also when Justin Timberlake released "Until The End of Time" which is one of the best Prince ripoffs of all time.

This was probably also the year he did the Super Bowl which I still haven't seen.

2010. I did this thing where my radio show included a set from every one of Pitchfork's Top 100 Albums of the '80s over a 6 or 7 week period, so this is how I got into Dirty Mind. "Yamaha" by The-Dream was the best Prince song of this year.

2012. There's a picture of me singing "Purple Rain" karaoke on my band's facebook page. A few months later my heart got broken, and my bandmate made a sweet attempt to cheer me up by buying me the 7-inch of "Purple Rain" b/w "God," my first Prince record since I was 6. It took me a little while before I got around to hearing "God," but it blew me away enough to play it on my radio show many times over the next year.

2013. Prince played 3 shows in the state I live in, but I fucked up and didn't realize it was happening. A few family members of mine where at Mohegan Sun on the last night he was there. About 10 feet from their car, they saw a huge black helicopter that said the word "PRINCE" in huge letters. That was his last time in CT as he was exiting the last show. Pretty sure I had signed up for a Prince email list of some sort by this point, informing of any nearby shows. But the 3 Mohegan shows still slipped from my radius. I was pretty determined to catch a Prince show by this point. But nah, it never happened.

2015. D'angelo's Spotify session included "She's Always In My Hair" which I hadn't heard since probably the last time I flipped over "Raspberry Beret." Sadly, May was the last time Prince B-Sides were available on Spotify.

2016. Prince is dead and I've been listening to him for the past 4 days very consistently. As of today, I have a new top artist on Last.FM. This is the one that's affected me the most since Michael Jackson, but maybe even more so. I got super emotional about David Bowie, but I didn't feel the urge to immerse myself in him like what's been happening with Prince. This is the first time this has happened to me with any celebrity death, and it feels kinda weird and not normal.

At first I thought I just needed to hear every Prince song that I really like at least once, which I've done multiple times at this point.

So yeah, I don't really get how this is gonna end. I almost don't want it to. I don't get why it matters so much. The psychology of it all. Need more time.

P.S. Now looking through the 500 hottest jams again. Pretty sure he placed 3rd after The Beatles and Radiohead for most jams. Kinda surprised "Diamonds and Pearls" made the cut over "The Ballad of Dorothy Parker" or "If I Was Your Girlfriend." But it's a great song, so whatever.

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