Thank You for More Than Just the Music…
Thursday the 21th April, 2016. It was one of those days you dread. Hearing the news that your favourite pop star has died. But Prince Rogers Nelson was not just any old musician. In a world choc full of Same Old, two-a-penny, mass-market manufactured and reality TV show driven ‘artistes’, Prince was a legend. He wrote his own music. His lyrics were electric. They had funk, soul, depth, meaning, irony and hidden messages galore. He was the ultimate musician, innovative to the core. A Prince by name but The King of his trade.
He was also my rock…
Not in a weird, stalker-like obsessive way. He was never exactly my cuppa in the looks department… no matter how many times he implied he had a way with the ladies! But his music was my salvation. In oh so many ways. And during oh so many times in my life. But none more so than after school.
I was bullied hard.
Nothing of the flushing-head-down-the-toilet ilk, admittedly. But I was singled out at high school in my early teens because of my ‘awkward’ appearance. There was always sneering, chortling and pointing going on. It buzzed about me perpetually as would bees surrounding a honey pot. I was the girl the boys wouldn’t touch with a barge pole; the last person chosen to make up the hockey team (despite my ball skills, I might add).
I was shy. I had hideous sideboards and a fringe – which suited me as much as The Queen wearing a Lady Gaga number. I had spots the size of snooker balls (apparently), a shiny forehead which many of my ‘classmates’ delighted in cracking furniture polish jokes about. Yeah, I know, hilarious! I hadn’t yet been introduced to wax as far as the forest of growth on my legs was concerned, nor tweezers – and sadly, the bushy caterpillars framing my eyes were definitely NOT en vogue in the early 90s.
Oh, and I had quite a pout. You could call it my trademark. Well, they did call me Rubber Lips.
But from the first moment I saw Prince belting and screeching out Purple Rain, I knew we had that much in common. Nowadays, ironically, women are paying to re-create mine and Prince’s look… But back in those vintage days of MTV (when Prince could regularly be caught grinding or screaming into my living room), perfectly slim and trim lips were a must for a girl. Immediately, he made me feel better about myself.
“Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.”
Niccolò Machiavelli, ‘The Prince’
I’d come home, raid the cupboards to comfort eat…
And play Prince’s cassettes and records. Over and over and over. Again and again. He had attitude, power, and he oozed the kind of self-love I was devoid of. Somehow when I sang those songs with him, when I bopped along in my bedroom; hairbrush as a microphone, bed as a makeshift stage, together, he and I, transformed me. Whether we rocked it to Sexy M.F, Cream, 1999 or The Most Beautiful Girl in the World; that music, his music empowered me. I can’t explain how. Perhaps it could just as easily have been Aerosmith, Guns n Roses, Bananarama or Nirvana who gave a self-conscious girl the realisation that she wasn’t just a wallflower, destined for a life of being jeered at. But it was Prince whose spirit flowed into my bedroom and touched my soul. And I am glad.
Every split second decision we make in our teenage years (and throughout our lives) leads us to where we are now. I am quite sure that if the Musical Me had had another role model, I wouldn’t be here living the wonderful life I love now, but somewhere bland and mundane instead. Prince’s music inspired me to grab life by the horns, settling for nothing but the best… so much so, that I really do credit him for giving me more than a helping hand along my path.
Of course I had friends.
But none of us were what they’d consider to be ‘cool.’ And for all I know ‘they’ (the bullies) loved Prince as much as we did. But something tells me they couldn’t have. For every single true Prince fan I have ever met has always been a bit of a misfit at heart; quirky, cool in the unconventional sense of the word, a black sheep, an outsider. A square peg which, try as you might, you simply cannot fit into a round hole. We’re rebels at heart. Rockers in a world of cheesy pop and corny ballads.
And then there’s the fact that none of them doodled symbols all over their folders, or covered their rough books with the lyrics from Raspberry Beret, or saved up their pocket money from their Saturday job to catch the bus all the way to London and hit the Prince Shop in Camden. Just to buy one limited edition LP. Only very few of us had that kind of dedication…
I took Prince with me to college…
Where my Love Affair led me to see him in Wembley. In actual concert! I was lost for words as he rolled out onto that massive stage on his conveyor belt, easily the same height as my 5ft 2 self. Even in his heels. I loved that he embraced masculinity and femininity all at once. I remember thinking how cool that was. He had so much to teach the world. And he lit up that flippin’ arena. The chemistry was indescribable. You just had to be there. You just had to be there.
Prince got me into trouble once…
Pop Life proved too enchanting a backdrop at my friend’s party (who equally adored Prince). We both equally adored the college ‘dish’. Oh yeah, by then my self-confidence – in no part thanks to Prince’s tunes – was on the up. Very on the up!
Said ‘dish’ just happened to roll up at the house party… and I ‘bagged’ the snog… Well, we’d made a pact: whoever got him, got him. The next day my friend refused to speak to me. Only a week later and a token sorry present in the guise of a rare and pretty damn well mint condition Batdance record could rekindle our friendship.
Yep. The Prince hobby could get expensive too. But he was worth it.
Because a world without Prince is unthinkable.
I’m still in shock. Typing away like an automated robot. I simply cannot process it. And tomorrow there will be that sweet 10 second thing when I wake up and all of this was just a bad dream. Except it’s really not.
I think for many of us it’s going to take a while to get our heads round things…
Not only did his tracks fuel me with determination, self-belief and the mindset to get through another school week of taunting, being ignored by everyone (except when they wanted to copy my homework) in my German class and pretending not to hear the phrase ‘she looks like she’s got a moustache‘ whispered a little too loudly behind my back…
“Cool means being able to hang with yourself. All you have to ask yourself is ‘Is there anybody I’m afraid of? Is there anybody who if I walked into a room and saw, I’d get nervous? If not, then you’re cool.”
Excerpt from an interview for Rolling Stone, 1990.
… Prince was also the one whose music I turned to in the aftermath of various incidents in a previous domestic violence relationship. The one-offness of his songs somehow fueled me to stand tall and proud of who I am. They challenged the status quo, they were provocative, questioning, holloring, freaky, funked-up, spunky. A rainbow of adjectives. All of the things that perhaps I wanted to be at one time or another.
Like Prince I have also lost a baby.
The singer’s only child, a little boy named Gregory, sadly died when he was just a week old. I think we can all of us take solace in the fact they are now finally reunited.
After the stillbirth of my daughter in 2009, I spent many years without music. It was too painful to listen to anything super romantic, soul-stirring or sentimental.
In fact, Prince’s edgier songs were some of the melodies that gradually got me back into being able to play my CDs once more around the house and in the car. Slowly but surely. The Morning Papers, Controversy and Melody Cool, in a funny way, are kind of neutral when you’re coming out the other side of grief.
Now I’ve introduced my children to Prince…
Only the non- x-rated stuff, of course! Which went down with mixed reviews. But they are of the X-Factor generation, they know not what they listen to. Still, my 5 year old son loves grooving to the Batman CD, and as for my 8 year old daughter, well, she’s a classic, conventional Taylor Swift fan. I can only count my lucky stars that she’s not really fussed about Justin Bieber or One Direction… there’s hope yet.
One thing is for sure, I will still be shaking my arse once a week to ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ when I’m old, wrinkly and grey. So they’re just going to have to get used to sharing their mum with Prince. In fact, I have this vision of huge numbers of us breaking out into rock sequences in nursing homes in 20whatever. I’m pretty sure he’d approve of that.
Here’s the perfect song for that prediction!
Prince, it’s been the pleasure of pleasures. A roller coaster, but an awesome one.
Thank you for every second of it. Thank you for the legacy of real music.
Rest in peace and keep ’em entertained up there!