I originally wrote this, in happier times–Back in 2008 as I was preparing to go to Coachella and to see Prince in concert for the first time. (I saw him again at the Forum a few years later.)
I read it again this week (and updated it slightly) in remembrance of a true American original: Someone who meant more to me than I can really understand. Here’s hoping it brings back some giddy musical memories and helps us all make it through the feelings of loss.
The World Series of Love
I have never seen Prince in concert. Back when I was in college, I was nigh obsessed with his music. Anecdotally, there was this girl that I liked. I once attempted to woo her by singing “Little Red Corvette” outside of her 3rd floor dorm-room window. In the long-run, “you need to find a love, that’s gonna last” wasn’t the magic phrase that won me the girl. But it wasn’t for Prince’s lack of musical genius.
I was raised in a very conservative family. Prince, in my high-school years, was the poster boy for the evils of rock music. So I didn’t listen to a lot of Prince in the 80s. Sure, it was hard to avoid “Let’s Go Crazy” or “Raspberry Beret.” But for the most part I avoided his music.
Then, in my senior year, a friend let me borrow his copy of Sign ‘O’ The Times. And that changed everything. It wasn’t just “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” or “U Got The Look.” It was “Starfish and Coffee.” It was “If I was Your Girlfriend.” It was “Play in the Sunshine.” It was amazing. And I was hooked.
His impending appearance at Coachella has given me an excuse to go back and listen to his old albums. And I’m loving it. In honor of this, I have compiled this list of my personal top 10 favorite Prince Albums. Let’s get started, shall we?
- Diamonds and Pearls
“Something ’bout a little box with a mirror and a tongue inside.”
Prince was moving past his peak of incredible 80s albums when I was in college, and he was probably thinking of dropping his name by now. But on the plus side: twenty-three positions in a one-night stand.
“I would rather drink six razor blades. Razor blades in a paper cup.”
Would have been better if it included the b-side song “200 Balloons” and not “Vicky Waiting.” But I had so much fun dancing like an insane villain to “Batdance.”
“U’re my little lover orgasmatron.”
Might be a little high on the list for some people’s taste. And you could argue that the album Dirty Mind is a criminal omission from this list. But “Private Joy” is one of those songs that just makes me really really really happy and carefree whenever I listen to it.
Since I first wrote this, I’ve seen both LCD Soundsystem and Arcade Fire with Beck cover the song “Controversy” so clearly, that album meant something to someone else besides me.
“Spooky Electric will be your boss.”
I Wish U Heaven. I wish it for all of you. And now, I hope you’re already there, Purple One.
- Around the World in a Day
Thinking about U driving me crazy
My friends all say it’s just a phase, but ooh-ooh
Every day is a yellow day
I’m blinded by the daisies in your yard
On the heels of Purple Rain, Prince coulda just given us more of the same. But instead, we get psychadelica, The Ladder, and a girl who walks in through the out door.
- Grafitti Bridge
“I’m the cure for any disease; ain’t nobody funky like me.”
I realize most people wouldn’t put this album anywhere near this high. But I believe this was Prince’s last great album. At this point, he was Colonel Kurtz, operating on his own authority.
“This…yeah that’s 4 me. That’s who that 1’s 4.”
In the rock-n-roll era, there may have been other songs that have been as good as “Little Red Corvette.” But has there ever been a BETTER song? Come on. No. (If you’ve ever seen me do karaoke, you’ll know how much I love singing “the ride is so smoooooth, you must be a Limousine!” and then mashing up the end of the song by singing “I was dreamin’ when I wrote this, forgive me if it goes astray.”)
“Once upon a time in a land called Fantasy…”
The things Prince was doing musically at this point make my jaw drop. “Kiss” is the song everyone knows all the words to, but go back and listen to “Mountains.” And the rest of the album for that matter.
“Sometimes it snows in April
Sometimes I feel so bad, so bad
Sometimes I wish life was never ending,
And all good things, they say, never last”
- Purple Rain
“The castle started spinning. Or maybe it was my brain.”
Go listen to the full album version of “Purple Rain” RIGHT NOW! (You’ll do this if you care about me. Or care about love. Or care about anything at all that matters, really.)
- Sign ‘O’ the Times
“It was 7:45, we were all in line 2 greet the teacher Miss Kathleen
First was Kevin, then came Lucy, third in line was me
All of us were ordinary compared 2 Cynthia Rose
She always stood at the back of the line, a smile beneath her nose
Her favorite number was 20 and every single day
If U asked her what she had 4 breakfast, this is what she’d say…”
As previously mentioned, this was the album that got me hooked on Prince. It was so amazing, at the time, to hear such a diverse collection of songs that worked together so beautifully. This was music that I could not ignore. I knew then that it needed to be a part of my life, and has been ever since.
As I listen to these albums today, what amazes me is the stuff that Prince was pulling off. He had such confidence in his art, that he was willing to try anything. “Anna Stesia,” “Daddy Pop,” “Christopher Tracy’s Parade,” “International Lover.” Even if I had come up with any of those songs, I don’t know that I would have had the guts to record them.
Thanks, Prince. Thank you for everything. Thank you for all you have meant to the world. And thank you for what you meant to me, personally.
See ya at Coachella!