Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Few Minutes Of Prince Recollections


Once I worked on a Jesuit-owned radio station and I played the above version of "Let's Pretend We're Married" and was told I'd be suspended if I ever played it again. So I did-- every time I went on the air for a year. They only suspended me once though. I bet YouTube takes the clip down within days-- if not hours.

I was shocked when I heard Prince had died today. I was more shocked to hear he was 57. I always though of him as 40 years younger than that. I didn't know Prince well, but no one working at Warner Bros in the '80s didn't know something about the mythical Prince. Actually my first interaction with him was long before anyone outside of Minneapolis knew much about him. I was a rock critic but had never heard of him in 1978 when Warner Bros publicity head Bob Merlis called me and told me Warners had signed a young genius and that I'd love his music. His name was Prince and Merlis asked me if I'd interview him and write a story about him for an in-house Warner Bros publication, helping to introduce him to the employees and to other press people who got copies of the magazine. The pay for that publication was more than any of the normal magazines I wrote for and I was delighted to get the job. He sent me an advance tape of For You and when I called Prince he was working in a car wash. Seemed like a smart soft-spoken young man and it was nothing to churn out a colorful puff piece about him.

Over a decade later, he was a super-star and I was a Senior Vice President at Warners, helping the legendary Seymour Stein run his label, Sire Records. I went to the VP meetings but my direct work was with Sire artists-- from Madonna, the Talking Heads and Depeche Mode to Richard Hell, the Ramones and Ministry. I didn't pay a lot of attention to Prince-- other than love his music-- but I couldn't help hearing about how difficult he was to work with. All the great artists are difficult to work with. Really... I'm not exaggerating.

On day Mo Ostin, the chairman of the company announced to the assembled senior VPs at our weekly meeting that Prince was going to pop in to say a few words. Kind of. He then proceeded to lay out the ground-rules to the visit. No one was to address Prince, although I think looking at him when not talking was permissible. We could ask Mo or Lenny, the company president, a question and they would re-ask it to Prince and Prince would whisper the answer to one of them, who in turn would convey the answer to the table. Everyone was pretty shocked but it wasn't a joke, as we soon found out. We continued our regular meeting until suddenly Prince came in and walked over to the empty chair between Mo and Lenny and sat down. Mo said a few sentences about Prince's new album and upcoming tour. Everyone's mouth was agape.

Prince had woken up that morning and said to himself, "Self, I'm going to visit the senior executives at my record label. What shall I wear?" Something inside suggested a loose, flowing pale yellow silky pants suit with a pale yellow wide-brimmed hat and pale yellow high-heeled shoes. And, yes, he had a pale yellow bag. The guy who ran the department in charge of touring-- and who knew Prince very well for many years-- said, "Mo, can you let us know the contours of Prince's tour in terms of dates, venue sizes, media availabilities, etc?" This was followed by whisperings at the head of the table until Mo finally said a few inconclusive things about the upcoming tour. And so it went... and went and went. Finally, I had had enough, figured no one would ever believe this anyway, and, as unobtrusively as I could, I got up and went back to my office to work.



At 7:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lol! We used to bet on the colors he would wear on his visits. Llved when he played on the patio. --I.


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