A Pair Of Good Shoes

After falling under the spell of Purple Rain, the following months were a dizzying descent into rabid fandom. With five earlier albums to discover, plus albums from the likes of Sheila E. and The Time, I essentially devoured one album a month right up to the release of Around The World In A Day in April 1985. I loved the album, but by then I had developed a voracious appetite for Prince music, and these nine tracks weren’t enough to feed my habit.

A few months later I caught the tail end of a song on the radio, a song in which someone who sounded like Prince was singing “Hello!” I became obsessed with this snippet, but as a 15-year-old with no money, no driver’s license, and no Internet, the song could not have been further away from me. Was it even a Prince song, or was it a guest appearance on another artist’s album? Or was it just one of the many sound-alikes of the era? I thought that “Oh Sheila” was Prince for a few days, and that André Cymone’s version of “The Dance Electric” (taped off the radio) was Prince for about thirty years.

A few weeks later, I was flipping through the singles at the Wherehouse when I saw that the “Pop Life” single had a B-side titled “Hello.” It had to be the same song, right? I had just enough cash in my pocket to afford the 12-inch version; I figured that if “Hello” wasn’t the song I was expecting, at least I’d end up with an extended version of the wonderful “Pop Life.”

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The extended “Pop Life” was a worthy purchase, living up to its subtitle (“Fresh Dance Mix”) with some jazzy piano and a bawdy fourth verse (“What’s the matter with your sex? Is fifteen minutes your best?”). And “Hello” was indeed the song I was expecting, and then some.

The introductory groove was so odd and dissonant that I thought the vinyl was warped or my record player was faltering. And since this was my record player…

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…that seemed like a reasonable possibility. But the vinyl looked perfect, and it sounded just as eerie when played back on my parents’ stereo, which was not limited by the use of an animated rodent’s arm.

The 7-inch version of “Hello” (later released on The B-Sides in 1993) was the kind of cold funk rock track that the Revolution specialized in; you could imagine the band jamming to it when Prince shows up late to rehearsal in Purple Rain. (Although, like so many other Revolution-era tracks, Prince Vault claims that the recording was essentially a one-man show, with Prince providing everything except Jill Jones’ backing vocals.) But the 12-inch version (also labeled a “Fresh Dance Mix”) took the odd creaky groove of the original and distorted it even further. The result was unique and challenging, but it would be hard to define it as Fresh, and it certainly wasn’t easy to Dance to this Mix.

The music would grow on me, but the lyrics were immediately fascinating.  Let’s remember how rare it was to get a straightforward answer from Prince either lyrically or in interviews during the first few decades of his career…

A statement of purpose like “Sexuality” spiraled into an odd rant about “tourists” with “89 flowers on their back.” His semi-autobiographic film Purple Rain tweaked his personal details to the point where to this day many casual Prince fans believe that his real-life mother was white. “Papa” had a haunting realism to it, but it described the death of Prince’s father thirty years earlier, which must have come as a shock to Prince’s entirely alive father. When he announced his retirement from touring in the Spring of 1985, he didn’t say, “I’ve been pondering my mortality and want to concentrate on more spiritual matters.” He announced, “I’m going to look for the ladder” because “sometimes it snows in April.” The songs “The Ladder” and “Sometimes It Snows In April” had yet to be released, so this was incomprehensible at the time.

So when Prince recorded “Hello” to respond to the “We Are The World” controversy, when he set out to let people know that he tried to tell them that he didn’t want to sing, but he’d gladly write a song instead, it was shocking that the opening lyric was…

I tried to tell them that I didn’t want to sing
But I’d gladly write a song instead

His explanation for the night’s events probably didn’t change many minds on the subject. For one, those who would seek out a B-side were probably already in his corner to begin with. And he didn’t refute any key details, outside of making it clear that it was paparazzi that were roughed up by his bodyguards, and not fans as was reported in some circles.

Instead of an apology, fans got a glimpse into Prince’s discomfort with fame, and his distrust of those outside his inner circle.

I was sitting pretty with a beautiful friend
This man tries 2 get in the car
No introduction – “how’ve U been?”
Just “Up yours, smile – that’s right, U’re a star!”
U call ‘em bodyguards, but I call them my friends
I guess I’m used to having them around…

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Prince with a beautiful friend (Jill Jones) and two bodyguard friends on the night of the “We Are The World” session

We’re against hungry children; our record stands tall

The jerky literalist in me is tempted to read this as Prince having more of a problem with children than with hunger, but that’s beside the point.

The Revolution’s record did stand tall; Prince was rightfully proud of the donations, charity concerts and food drives that were a part of the Purple Rain tour. In Alan Light’s Let’s Go Crazy, engineer Susan Rogers remembers Prince staying up all night to finish mixing “4 The Tears In Your Eyes” in a mobile truck outside the Superdome a few days after “We Are The World” was recorded. The next day, Rogers found some food leftover from a party in the stadium and brought it to Prince as they finished the track. She explains…

A bit later, I remember reading in People magazine that at the “We Are the World” session, they had champagne and caviar. In the papers, they had just torn Prince up: “How dare he? He doesn’t care about starving kids.” And I thought, “No, actually, he was the one who went hungry on their behalf, who sat up all night and was happy to eat stale bread and warm soda to make a track for your record. He’s the one who didn’t have caviar and champagne.” But you can’t say those things. I asked him, “Aren’t you going to say anything?” And he said, “No, if you say anything, they got you.”

He did have something to say with “Hello,” however. And if there was any doubt that he didn’t come here to beg forgiveness for skipping the “We Are The World” session, that was erased with the next lyric:

But there’s just as much hunger here at home

In retrospect, there is obviously nothing controversial about showing concern for hungry American children. But by shifting the focus to domestic poverty, he is dismissing USA For Africa to a certain extent. When “Hello” was released, the entire nation was still huffing “We Are The World” fumes from a paper bag, so this lyric was borderline blasphemous. (In less than a year, however, USA For Africa would tackle domestic hunger with Hands Across America, to which Prince would donate over $13,000.)

That was the gist of the 7-inch edit, but the 12-inch included my favorite rant of Prince’s career. It had everything you could hope for in a Prince rant: it was heartfelt, self-deprecating, hypersensitive, hilarious, naive, and just a little unhinged.

Prince seems to be crying for help; his voice is cracking (or altered) as he shrieks:

“Why can’t U be like the others?”
I call out over and again
“Why can’t U learn 2 play by the rules?”

His self-doubt is short-lived, however. He knows why he can’t play by the rules:

Because I am not the others
I am unique in the respect I’m not U

Still, you can tell he was wounded by his recent press coverage, and this song is teeming with the sensitivity that would lead to a song like “Billy Jack Bitch” a decade later.

I wouldn’t try 2 hurt U
Despite all the ways U try 2 hurt me
U call me a fraud, an uncaring wretch
But I’m an artist and my only aim is 2 please

I love that last line, but it has always intrigued me. I can’t think of another 20th century Prince lyric that describes his “aim” in this manner, with the possible exception of the first lyric on his first album in 1978 (“All of this and more is for you”). It’s a narrow definition of the role of an artist, and I don’t believe that Prince adhered to this over the next few decades. Instead, he strove to make the highest quality art he could, regardless of how many people it pleased.

Isn’t life cruel enough without cruel words, cruel words?
U see, words are like shoes
They’re just something 2 stand on

Yeah, I’m not 100% sold on the shoe metaphor either, but he’s going to turn it around, just wait…

I wish U could be in my shoes
But they’re probably so high, U’d fall off and die

Yes! Yes! Yes!

4 U words are definitely not shoes
They’re weapons and tools of destruction
And your time is boring unless U’re putting something down

Apparently Prince was on Twitter in 1985.

What would life be if we believed what we read
And a smile is just hiding a frown?
Come now, isn’t life a little better with a pair of good shoes?

It is, Prince. It is.

I Am Also The World!

After the American Music Awards in January 1985, Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson led a group of over 40 musicians (and also La Toya Jackson) in recording “We Are The World” to raise money for African famine relief under the name USA for Africa. We take star-studded tributes and fundraisers for granted these days, but in terms of sheer wattage and media hype, none of them can hold a candle to USA for Africa. This was a “just stand in the back and look pretty, Harry Belafonte and Smokey Robinson – we don’t have any lines for you to sing” collection of talent.

The biggest pop stars to miss the recording session were Madonna and Prince. I don’t know why Madonna wasn’t there, and I’m not going to bother to look it up. The fact that most people don’t know is a sign that most people don’t care. And if Prince had decided to leave the club at 2:00 AM instead of 3:00 AM that morning, no one would have cared about his absence for long either.

But in the wee hours of the morning, one of Prince’s bodyguards punched a photographer outside a club and wound up in jail, and the optics were bad: Prince partying all night while the rest of the industry was “checking their egos at the door.”

There are many different accounts of the night’s events, but this excerpt from Alan Light’s book quotes several people in Prince’s inner circle and seems to present things fairly. A few of the more incriminating rumors are refuted (some sources reported that Prince was a last-minute no-show; Light makes it clear that Prince never offered to sing), but Prince comes off as tone deaf at best, ignoring his managers Albert Fargnoli and Alan Leeds:

Dude, the eyes are on you, okay? You just cleaned up. The two biggest things on the planet tonight are this recording session and you, and everybody is going to want to know why that’s not one thing. So take your awards and keep your ass in the hotel. You cannot run the clubs the way you usually do, with two bodyguards, chasing girls. Not tonight, not while this is going on.

For a few weeks, Prince was pilloried in the media, from the Los Angeles Times to Saturday Night Live

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I am also the world!
I am also the children!
I am the one who had to bail them out
Now ain’t that giving?

Still, once the smoke cleared, there wasn’t much of a scandal here. Prince himself didn’t punch anybody, and it’s clear that “We Are The World” didn’t need him. The quote from an organizer that made the rounds at the time (“The effort would have been much more marketable with Prince’s participation”) is tough to swallow. There have been few things in history more marketable than “We Are The World.” It was the biggest selling single of the entire decade. It can be argued that Prince raised more money for USA for Africa by contributing an unreleased track (“4 The Tears In Your Eyes”) to the We Are The World album than he could have by singing a dozen words or less on the single. (I know I wouldn’t have bought the album if not for the Prince track.)

Beyond that, it’s clear that Prince didn’t need “We Are The World” either. Today it’s hard to believe that “We Are The World” was the biggest selling single of the 1980s. When you hear “Raspberry Beret” or “Money For Nothing,” it’s easy to imagine that it’s 1985 again. When you hear “We Are The World,” you… wait, you never hear “We Are The World”! Half of the remaining FM stations in this country blast eighties hits all day, but “We Are The World” gets in the mix about as often as “The Curly Shuffle.”

The song raised a lot of money and awareness, and every successful celebrity fundraiser that followed owes a debt to it. But musically, the song has not endured, and it does not rank among the best work of just about anyone on that stage. I would guess that in 2016, most young adults aren’t very familiar with the song. Time hasn’t been kind to the lyrics either; they range from self-absorbed (“We’re saving our own lives!”) to clunky (“It’s time to lend a hand to life”). “As God has shown us, by turning stone to bread” is a nice enough sentiment, although, reached for comment, God simply stated, “No, I didn’t.” (There is no biblical basis for that lyric.)

There are many theories to explain Prince’s absence, ranging from shyness to arrogance, but Wendy Melvoin’s claim that “he thought the song… was horrible” is a believable one. Would Prince’s vocal on the best-selling single of the decade have even warranted a mention in his obituary? Probably not.

The subtitle to the excerpt from Light’s book is “At the apex of his success, Prince made a high-profile decision that damaged his reputation for years.” Manager Bob Cavallo boldly states, “I believe that moment is what made people ambivalent about his greatness” and that it took two decades for Prince to live it down.

Yes, it’s true that Prince would never again experience the white-hot superstardom of Purple Rain. I don’t believe that anyone else has, either. But I don’t think “We Are The World” had anything to do with it. A month before Prince made that “high-profile decision,” he made a conscious decision to float back to earth. He put the finishing touches on Around The World In A Day, an album with the implied subtitle “Thanks, But I’m Done With The White-Hot Superstardom Of Purple Rain.”

To me, the only lasting legacy of Prince’s “We Are The World” scandal is the song “Hello,” and I’ll have more to say about that B-side later in the week.

Working Up A Black Sweat

“I’ve got three acts. I don’t need four. I mean, what would you do in my position?”

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“Um… I would fire Dez Dickerson & the Modernaires. I can’t believe we’re even having this discussion. You do realize I wrote every song that these four acts play, right?”

Or at least that’s what I thought The Kid should have told Billy. Prince’s character in Purple Rain was believable as a Troubled Misfit, but as an Underdog just trying to hold on to a nightclub gig?

Sure, Prince lore does feature one classic underdog story. In November of 1981, 90,000 rock fans showed up to the L.A. Coliseum for a show featuring The Rolling Stones, J. Geils Band, George Thorogood, and a tiny unknown black man wearing high heels and a thong singing “Jack U Off.” What could go wrong?

“Jack U Off” was an aggressively heterosexual come on, mind you, although as bassist Brown Mark explains…

When you talk about street lingo, where I come from, guys don’t jack girls off. I don’t think Prince understood that—Prince was in his own world.

If you are guessing that the Los Angeles crowd reacted to Prince singing “I’ll jack you off” by breaking into discussion groups to ponder how sexual slang varies among different regions and cultures, you are mistaken. They didn’t know what to make of Prince to begin with, and “Jack U Off” was the last straw. They chased him off the stage in a torrent of verbal and literal garbage. To Prince’s credit, he showed up again two days later to face the same ordeal.

Prince was taken from us much too soon as it is, but I look at a picture like this…

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…and I’m grateful that he wasn’t taken 35 years earlier.

So, The Kid as an underdog might have worked if the antagonists in Purple Rain were racist homophobes, but by the time the movie was shot, “Little Red Corvette” and “1999” were burning up the charts, and Prince was clearly oozing otherworldly talent over every frame of the film. You’re trying to tell me that he can’t cut it at First Avenue, portrayed in the movie as a multiracial, androgynous Wonderland? His days as an underdog were clearly behind him.

Or were they?

On August 3, 1983, Prince and the Revolution were at the top of their game, producing the live tracks that would anchor the Purple Rain album/film during a landmark First Avenue gig. But just 17 days later, before shooting for the movie began, Prince would be humbled in Los Angeles once again, when James Brown called Michael Jackson and then Prince to the stage.

Jackson performs for only 31 seconds, but it’s a transcendent performance nonetheless, an all-time “leave ’em wanting more” move. You could show that 31 seconds to a baby or a Martian and they would know they were looking at a superstar. After setting the bar high, Jackson spends the next 31 seconds pleading with Brown to call Prince up too.

Some may say Prince’s performance got off on the wrong foot when he was carried to the stage on the back of his massive bodyguard, Big Chick Huntsberry. I would disagree. I think it’s a perfect way for the diminutive Prince to make an entrance, and if a director ever wants to make a smaller, personal film about Prince’s world, they could do a lot worse than exploring the relationship between Prince and Big Chick.

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But things soon go downhill, as Prince commandeers a (left-handed?) guitar and is unable to accomplish much with it. He salvages the appearance with a solid double “microphone between the legs” move, he preens a bit, and then he takes a bow, leading to perhaps the most relatable moment of his career. Have you ever been mildly embarrassed and tried to exit a party without calling any extra attention to yourself? I certainly remember what that’s like. It feels something like…

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“Okay, this isn’t my night, but that wasn’t so bad. The guitar bit flopped, and it kills me to be shown up by Michael Jackson, but who cares… it’s not like anyone with a computer will be able to watch this performance on demand in 30 years. I just need to finish my bow and quietly exit past this sturdy lamppost and I can forget all about this.”

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“This is not my night. What kind of lamppost collapses when a hundred-pound man lightly places a hand on it? Actually, why is there a lamppost here in the first place? That’s okay. Be cool. Just help push the lamppost back up, and as long as it doesn’t break…”

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“This is not my night.”

This serves as a reminder that not everything came easy to Prince. And while we are all familiar with the many contrasts of Prince’s persona (black/white, male/female, sacred/profane), there is one more dichotomy that stood out to me: the enigmatic Genius who floats on a magic cloud of talent and charisma versus the Human.

With the exception of the Rolling Stones story, all Prince lore serves the Genius theory. He wrote his first song when he was seven. He played all 27 instruments on his first album. He wrote and recorded so much music that there are “thousands” of unreleased songs in The Vault. The idea of Prince as a savant is explored in detail at Daily Grail, with quotes like this one from keyboardist Morris Hayes:

I was just one of those church cats that played music by ear, so at first it was very difficult for me to keep up. We wouldn’t just learn one song, we’d learn a string of songs, and when we’d come back the next day I’d forget some. I remember he pulled me to the side and said, “Are you a genius, Morris?” I said no. “O.K., then write it down. I don’t write it down ‘cause I’m a genius. I’ve got a million of ‘em, and I can remember. But unless you’re a genius, write it down.”

People who encountered Prince often tell stories of him mysteriously appearing or disappearing, a reputation Prince played with when making his Twitter debut in 2013.

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I suppose there is one other humanizing story in Prince lore. Wikipedia states that Prince had epilepsy as a child. I think we can all relate to this, because illness doesn’t care how gifted you are…

My mother told me one day I walked in to her and said, “Mom, I’m not going to be sick anymore,” and she said, “Why?” and I said, “Because an angel told me so.”

Oh. Never mind.

In early 2004, Prince opened the Grammys with Beyoncé, was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame (before destroying it with one of the greatest guitar solos ever), and launched his Musicology tour. From that point on, every time I saw Prince perform in person or on screen, his brilliance was seemingly effortless. “I’m working up a black sweat!” he sang in 2005, but it never looked like he was working or sweating. It was like Michael Jackson’s 31 seconds in 1983, except for 12 consecutive years. And it’s why I thought he might live forever.

Ironically, when he was at his peak in the eighties, he usually did appear to be a fallible human working up a black sweat. He was more like the other man on that 1983 stage, the “hardest working man in show business.” His most successful tours financially (Purple Rain) and critically (Lovesexy) were scripted affairs that required a lot from Prince (multiple instruments, a wild range of vocal styles, costume changes, and a fair amount of acting), but left little space for him to improvise and let his genius flow naturally. If you saw a two-hour show in 1985, you might think, “That was amazing; he left everything he had on that stage.” If you saw a three-hour show in 2011, you might think, “That was amazing; I bet he could have played for another three hours.”

Throughout his career, I would sometimes use his physical appearance as shorthand for whether we were looking at the Human or the Genius. If he looked constrained by too much lace or too many accessories, he was struggling with something (his record company? stardom? God?). If he looked comfortable, he was invincible on stage.

This action figure wrapped in eight layers of lace at the 1985 Grammys?

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He was working something out, and while his performance of “Baby I’m A Star” was fabulous, it was Human. He left a puddle of sweat on that stage. An extra layer of lace knocked over the microphone stand…

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…and then Prince clocked himself with the microphone in his haste to pick it up. (What is it about L.A.?)

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He somehow managed to belt out the first lyric of the song (“Hey!”) at the exact moment that the microphone tried to kill him, and he never looked back. It was an admirably professional moment, and the performance was ultimately brilliant. But it was human.

A year later, this guy was comfortable and confident, and his performances were unbridled orgies of natural ability.

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Prince has been gone for three months now, and this photo is 30 years old. But regardless, he just stole your girl.

The guy on the cover of the Lovesexy tour book was a troubled human…

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…but the guy at the Super Bowl fluttered into Dolphin Stadium on the wings of doves and exceedingly funky angels.

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This is reductive bullshit, of course. The times when we were able to see Prince’s flop sweat, he was still a once-in-a-lifetime talent. And when the genius seemed to be flowing through him with ease, he was still working his ass off. He could knock things over in his pajamas, or dazzle when he was BeDazzled. He would do his best to look cool when he was struggling, and when he was in the zone, he might draw attention to imperfections. I saw him do that in Oakland just weeks before his death, making an exaggerated “that’s not quite right” face as he repeated the last measures of “Under The Cherry Moon” on the piano three or four times. (They all sounded perfect to me, for what it’s worth.)

Bruce Springsteen is a much more prolific songwriter than people give him credit for (he’s got his own vault of unreleased material), and he was considered somewhat of a guitar prodigy as a teenager. But if you were to ask his fans to describe him in one word, few would say “talented.” His relationship with his fans is based on letting them see him sweat.

As a Springsteen fan, you would think I would appreciate seeing Prince sweat as well. But while I am certain that the internal conflicts behind his more human performances also fueled some of his greatest records, I must admit that I grew quite attached to the Genius on stage. I saw this infallible man perform eight times over the past dozen years and it was breathtaking every time.

What about you? Do you ever consider the Human and the Genius separately, or do you always see the complete picture? Were your favorite Prince performances sweaty or sublime?

Either way, I don’t care how many lampposts The Kid knocks over… Billy should just fire Dez and move on, no?

The Second Coming

Just stumbled upon this interview with Chuck Statler, who was slated to direct Prince’s first feature film in 1982. The Second Coming began as a concert film, but Prince had ideas to insert some dramatic scenes and turn it into a full-length feature. After recording a Bloomington concert and a few offstage scenes in March of 1982, Prince lost interest in the project and it was abandoned.

The few narrative screenshots that Statler provided feature women in lingerie and Prince blowing bubbles with bloodshot eyes.

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It’s hard to imagine that we were deprived of a cinematic masterpiece here. After dropping this project, Prince focused on recording the 1999 album, and laying the groundwork for the Purple Rain phenomenon, so you can’t really question his choice.

Still, I’d really like to see that concert footage someday. Until then, here’s Prince at the peak of his “hide your daughters” audacity, filmed about six weeks before the concert for The Second Coming was filmed.

 

Single Cover Art

If there was one aspect of Prince’s career that was undeniably at its peak in later years, it is the cover art associated with singles. You can conveniently review the artwork for over 100 single releases on one page at Prince Vault and judge for yourself.

In Prince’s early years, single cover art generally featured a provocatively dressed (or undressed) Prince propositioning you with his eyes. Unless you lived in Japan or England, where he appeared to be too preoccupied with riding Pegasus while nude to give you much sexual attention.

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This Pegasus shot from the overseas release of “Sexy Dancer” originally appeared on the back of 1979’s Prince album. And while it is difficult to compare musicians from different generations, please note that neither Paul McCartney, Elvis Presley nor Beethoven ever appeared naked while riding Pegasus on the cover of a Japanese single.

In my opinion, over the next 30 years (and 80+ singles), nothing compared 2 Pegasus. I liked the artwork for the “Sign O’ The Times” single, I suppose, as much for the font (a blend between Arial Crayon and Times New Scribbled In Your Own Blood) as for the intriguing photo of Cat.

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It would be 2013 before he would take his single cover art game to the next level with the release of “Breakfast Can Wait.”

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I’m sure you all know the story behind that photo, but regardless, I am always looking for an excuse to link to the greatest six minutes in the history of sketch comedy.

In 2014, when the “This Could Be Us…” Internet meme eventually swallowed up Prince and Apollonia…

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…Prince was inspired to write a song called “This Could B Us,” which was released as a single in 2015.

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These last two singles reflect the softening of Prince’s persona that occurred over the last decade of his life. He was able to take himself less seriously and engage with the world outside of Paisley Park more than ever before. The artist who always refused to look in any direction but forward was able to fondly look back at his career.

Maturity and self-awareness are great and all, but they don’t get you naked on Pegasus, so I don’t want to shortchange his earlier work. What’s your favorite cover art for a Prince single?

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I’m on vacation, so for now, here’s Prince in his Gemini persona, playing a practical joke on the Batchimp in the video for “Partyman.” Taunting Michael Jackson and Bubbles? Maybe. Maybe not. Who cares? Prince playing a practical joke on a chimpanzee dressed like Batman needs no justification.

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I Love The 80S

When recently writing about seeing Purple Rain for the first time and deciphering the backwards lyrics in “Darling Nikki,” I overlooked the common thread between these two stories: a cheap little Toshiba RT80S boombox.

Purple Rain was a visual marvel. The fashion alone was unlike anything we had ever seen. And beyond that, The Kid’s bedroom and dressing room (and for that matter, his motorcycle) were esoteric pieces of art that filled every inch of the screen with the film’s unique aesthetic.

Needless to say, while this 14-year-old from the suburbs was mesmerized, I found it hard to relate to Prince’s sexy purple paisley world. I mean, just look at this screen shot:

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I sat in the movie theater thinking that between the ruffles and the candles and the lace and the dippy dippy wave of his ‘do, there’s nothing in this film that reminds me of my… wait! That’s my Toshiba RT-80S boombox! The one in my bedroom, right next to my Mickey Mouse record player! I was just listing to Air Supply’s Greatest Hits on that boombox yesterday!

(As an aside, yeah, I’m sure you have fond memories of your 80s boomboxes, too, but mine actually had “80S” in the model number. Checkmate.)

It was only a quick glimpse, so I desperately wanted to get a closer look at the stereo to confirm it was the same one I had. C’mon, Kid, don’t you think you were being a little hard on Wendy and Lisa? Don’t listen to your terrifying hand puppet. You do need those girls and their stupid music. Just play their tape, will ya?

And, to my delight, he did…

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It’s hard to explain how thrilling it was to see my personal artifact in this universe. I wouldn’t have been any more stunned or tickled if Chewbacca had been wearing my Little League uniform in Return Of The Jedi. I didn’t want to get greedy, but I was hoping for at least one more shot of the boombox. And sure enough, a few seconds later, the film cut away from The Kid listening to Wendy and Lisa’s tape to the tape player itself…

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Huh? That ain’t Lake Minnetonka, and that ain’t my Toshiba RT-80S. And while we’re at it, did someone just turn out the lights in the dressing room? Good job, guys… you were this close to the Acadamy Award for Best Picture.

That’s probably a clip from a scene taking place in The Kid’s candlelit bedroom, but this glitch was exciting to me in its own right. We didn’t have the internet around to track continuity errors back then, so for years I took a bizarre pride in knowing this useless piece of trivia. I even felt a tiny twinge of pride when I discovered that as of today, Boomboxgate still hasn’t been mentioned on IMDB’s Purple Rain Goofs page.

The boombox would move around a bit during the film, as a portable stereo is wont to do. It’s visible in the corner of the screen when Prince first makes out with Apollonia, but for some reason I was distracted at the time and didn’t notice it in the theater.

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It makes a final appearance in my favorite scene of the film, where a grieving Kid keeps rewinding and replaying Wendy and Lisa’s “Slow Groove” before playing it on the piano himself.

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Any thoughts on 80s boomboxes? Continuity errors? Chewbacca? Post ’em in the comments.