The first Prince album I purchased was 1999 – on Oct. 18, 1983, almost a year after its release on Oct. 28, 1982. Why I waited so long: I was somewhat on the fence about whether I liked his music. Oh, I thought he was talented, don’t get me wrong, but the bulk of my musical obsession was focused elsewhere, as the other two albums I bought that same day show. That said, once I did hear 1999 in full…well, I bought Purple Rain on the day of its release the next year, and it went on to become my No. 2 album of ’84, right behind Talk Show by the Go-Go’s. (Yeah, yeah, I can hear the snickers echoing through the tubes that make up this thing we call the Internet. If I only knew then what I know now…or not. I’d still make the same call. For where I was at that point in my life, it made and still makes sense.)
Anyway, there was a stretch in the ’80s when he was one of the best musical artists riding the charts – 1999 (1982), Purple Rain (1984), Around the World in a Day (1985), Parade (1986) and Sign o’ the Times (1987), specifically, though his Batman soundtrack (1989) had its moments, too. (Lovesexy, on the other hand…the less said, the better.) Anyway, I remember sitting around a table at a Folk Show staff meeting in early ’86 while one of my fellow deejays – like me, a long-haired, unlikely Prince fan – raved about “Raspberry Beret.” Prince’s music pushed past long-established boundaries, in other words.
Aside from his music, what I always found amazing (and/or amusing): Prince’s extracurricular activities. He wrote hits for Sheila E., Sheena Easton and the Bangles, among others, including “Manic Monday.”
That song wasn’t written for the Bangles, though, but Apollonia 6. Prince supposedly became infatuated with Susanna Hoffs, however, and decided she should sing the song instead. Here’s Apollonia 6 demo (which sounds almost exactly like the Bangles’ version).
He also oversaw the final LP of one of the great, lost bands of the ’80s, Paisley Underground pioneers the Three O’Clock, whom he signed to his label, Paisley Park Records. That 1988 album was Vermillion, and features the Prince-penned “Neon Telephone.”
Just imagine those lucky people getting to hear 1999 or Purple Rain or Dirty Mind or… for the very first time. A few years back, Prince’s earlier albums (up through Parade) were released on HDTracks in glorious 24/192 quality. Listening to that version of 1999 was like hearing it again for the first time.
The only possible good thing that could come from Prince’s passing is the systematic remastering of his entire catalog as well as the release of gems from The Vault.