I saw Prince play once. I was bored rigid but couldn’t mention this to the girls I’d gone with: as far as they were concerned, watching the purple sex dwarf (he was 5ft 2in) masturbating with and fellating his guitar and generally getting off on his sublime pixieness was like experiencing the second coming. Me, I could have done with a few more tunes.
I like ‘When Doves Cry’ a lot: the keyboard hook, the demonic guitar, the naggingly catchy tune, the otherworldly vocals that make him sound like some kind of lascivious reptile from Venus. Whenever I hear it, though, I’m reminded of my fundamental problem with Prince: he was a really great pop star who wouldn’t do pop. Instead, profligately talented multi-instrumentalist that he was (he played guitar better than any other guitarist, they said, and drummed better than any drummer), he was more interested in showing off and pushing boundaries than in writing catchy singles.
This is why chin-stroking critics worshipped him: in contrast to Michael Jackson, Prince was the weirdo recluse pop genius it was safe to like because he continually challenged you — or, as I’d prefer to think of it, took the piss (all those tiresome name changes) and tested your patience (pretentious orthography, as in ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’). But then, admittedly, I never got to go to one of his legendary secret aftershow gigs which were, apparently, like, totally amazing and went on for hours and no doubt made you feel part of the muso elect.
When I vouchsafed some of this on social media the day he died, I found the crossest reactions came from a) girls and b) kids who had embraced Prince as an early adopter of all that gender-fluidity idiocy currently so fashionable on campus.