Will The Little Girls Understand?

February 19, 1981

Rolling Stone

Will The Little Girls Understand?

by Bill Adler

Snaking out from the wings toward center stage at the Ritz, prancing like a pony with his hands on his hips and then flinging a clorine kick with a coquettish toss of his head, Prince is androgyny personified. Slender and doe-eyed, with a faint pubescent mustache, he is bare-chested beneath a gray, hip-length Edwardian jacket. There’s a raffish red scarf at this neck, and he’s wearing tight black bikini briefs, thigh-high black leg-warmers and black-fringed go-go boots. With his racially and sexually mixed five-piece band churning out the terse rhythms of “Sexy Dancer” behind him, the effect is at once truly sexy and more than a little disorienting , and his breathy falsetto only adds to his ambiguity – for sheer girlish vulnerability, there’s no one around to touch him: not Michael Jackson, not even fourteen-year-old soul songbird Stacy Lattisaw. At age twenty, Prince may be the unlikeliest rock star, black or white, in recent memory—but a star he definitely is.

As quickly becomes apparent, Prince’s lyrics bear little relation to standard AM radio floss. In addition to bald sexual come-ons and twisted love plaints, he champions the need for independence and self-expression. And one song, “Uptown,” is, among other things, an antiwar chant. Further complicating the proceedings are the heavy-metal moans Prince wrenches out of his guitar and the punchy dance-rock rhythms of his band (bassist Andre Cymone, guitarist Dez Dickerson, keyboardists Lisa Coleman and Dr. Fink and drummer Bobby Z.), all of whom are longtime cohorts from Prince’s hometown—Minneapolis, of all places.

“I grew up on the borderline,” Prince says after the show. “I had a bunch of white friends, and I had a bunch of black friends. I never grew up in any one particular culture.” The son of a half-black father and an Italian mother who divorced when he was seven, Prince pretty much raised himself from the age of twelve, when he formed his first band. Oddly, he claims that the normalcy and remoteness of Minneapolis provided just artistic nourishment he needed.

“We basically got all the new music and dances three months late, so I just decided that I was gonna do my own thing. Otherwise, when we did split Minneapolis, we were gonna be way behind and dated. The white radio stations were mostly country, and the one black radio station was really boring to me. For that matter, I didn’t really have a record player when I was growing up, and I never got a chance to check out Hendrix and the rest of them because they were dead by the time I was really getting serious. I didn’t even start playing guitar until 1974.”

With his taste for outlandish clothes and his “lunatic” friends, Prince says he “took a lot of heat all the time. People would say something about our clothes or the way we looked or who we were with, and we’d end up fighting. I was a very good fighter,” he says with a soft, shy laugh. “I never lost. I don’t know if I fight fair, but I go for it. That’s what ’Uptown’ is about—we do whatever we want, and those who cannot deal with it have a problem within themselves.”

Prince has written, arranged, performed and produced three albums to date (For You, Prince and Dirty Mind), all presenting the same unique persona. Appearances to the contrary, though, he says he’s not gay, and he has a standard rebuff for overenthusiastic male fans: “I’m not about that; we can be friends, but that’s as far as it goes. My sexual preferences really aren’t any of their business.” A Penthouse “Pet of the Month” centerfold laid out on a nearby table silently underscores his point.

It took Prince six months alone in the studio to concoct his 1978 debut album, because, he says, “I was younger then.” Prince required six weeks. He controlled the making of both records, but notes that they were “overseen” by record company and management representatives. Dirty Mind, however, was made in isolation in Minneapolis. “Nobody knew what was going on, and I became totally engulfed in it,” he says. “It really felt like me for once.”

The result of this increased freedom was a collection of songs celebrating incest (“Sister“) and oral sex (“Head“) in language raw enough to merit a warning sticker on the album’s cover. “When I brought it to the record company it shocked a lot of people,” he says. “But they didn’t ask me to go back and change anything, and I’m real grateful. Anyway, I wasn’t being deliberately provocative. I was being deliberately me.”

Obviously, judging by the polished eclecticism of Dirty Mind, being himself is the best course. “I ran away from home when I was twelve,” Prince says. “I’ve changed address in Minneapolis thirty-two times, and there was a great deal of loneliness. But when I think about it, I know I’m here for a purpose, and I don’t worry about it so much.”

Prince Debuts At The Roxy

November 29, 1979

Los Angeles Times

Prince Debuts At The Roxy

by Don Snowden

It must be a daunting prospect for anyone to make his or her performing debut, save for a couple of hometown Minneapolis tuneups, before an industry-heavy crowd at the Roxy. That was the situation confronting Prince Wednesday [1] night.

Prince, 19, is something of a wunderkind who produced, arranged, and composed all the material and played all the instruments on his two Warner Bros. albums. His vinyl output, somewhat like Stevie Wonder‘s, is aimed squarely at the black-pop mainstream and crossover audiences but his live show is heavily influenced by hard-rock flash.

The result is a bizarre combination of musical and visual elements. Guitarist [Dez] Dickerson (black leather jacket and leopardskin pants) and bassist Andre Cymone (legs encased in plastic wrap) both look more punk than funk. Prince largely sticks to guitar and throws enough pelvic grinds and phallic guitar poses at the audience to give most obnoxiously macho rock stars a run for their money.

Prince sings in a thin falsetto that recalls Eddie Holman (remember “Hey There, Lonely Girl”?) , but his vocals lack the power to cut through the instrumental attack on the rock-oriented material that comprised half of the hour-long set. The largely black audience responded more favorably to the more restrained, carefully crafted funk exercises like “Sexy Dancer” and “I Wanna Be Your Lover.” The latter is the nation’s No. 1 soul single this week and also rising fast on the pop charts.

The slack pacing and Prince’s uneasiness as a front man can be chalked up to a simple lack of stage experience, but a more pressing problem is Prince’s attempt to straddle two disparate musical worlds. That’s not necessarily a bad move, but it is a jarring mixture at this point. Prince obviously is a talented new arrival, but he needs to reconcile those two musical instinct if he is to maximize his potential as a live performer.

Comedienne-illusionist Judy Carter successfully kept the capacity crowd off balance and laughing with a combination of unpredictable antics and feminist-slanted raunch that made telling points without sacrificing the humor quotient.

Prince’s 1st Concert Is Energetic, Sexy

January 8, 1979 (Monday)

The Minneapolis Star

Prince’s 1st Concert Is Energetic, Sexy

by Jon Bream

He had the opportunity to play his first concert in New York’s prestigious, 20,000-seat Madison Square Garden. But instead, Prince, the teen-aged, one-man-band recording star, chose to debut at the Capri Theater, an obscure movie house in his hometown of Minneapolis.

Backed by five other young, local musicians, Prince gave an encouraging debut performance Friday before about 300 persons.

Jive-talking emcee Carl Ray of KUXL introduced the 19-year-old prodigy – who had produced, composed, arranged and played all the instruments on his first album “For You” – as the next Stevie Wonder. That comparison may have been a bit too lofty and presumptuous. But, in many ways, Prince (who was named after his father‘s stage name) lived up to his regal name.

He strutted across the stage with grand Mick Jagger-like moves and gestures. He was cool, he was cocky and he was sexy. Prince is a real showman. He reached out to the audience, and the fans, especially the teen-aged girls, embraced him.

His one-hour show sounded quite different from “For You,” which is dominated by falsetto singing and smooth, soulful sounds. Onstage, Prince and his band tore into an uproarious, hard-funk sound.

At times, it sounded like kind of a youthful if not immature mixture of the Isley Brothers (when they had Jimi Hendrix as their guitarist) and Sly Stone. Bassist Andre Anderson and guitarist Dez Dickerson often relied on flashy pyrotechnics and overzealous showmanship. Yet, what the players lacked in sophistication, polish and experience, they made up for with refreshing energy and emotion.

By contrast, Prince’s singing was more thoroughly professional and quite convincing. He demonstrated a fascinating, female-sounding falsetto with uncommon range. Unfortunately, several times his voice (which recalled Smokey Robinson’s) was swallowed by the feedback and clutter of the inferior sound system. Even the pretty, acoustic ballad, “So Blue,” was marred by an annoying buzz in the sound system.

Despite delays for technical problems, the pacing of the show was effective. Prince, who played several different instruments during the concert, opened with the soft, catchy title song from his album. He then moved into a jazz-rock-funk instrumental and his dance-oriented single “Soft and Wet.” A couple of new, hard-funk tunes were sandwiched around the acoustic number. Then the program closed with a trio of tunes dominated by loud instrumental work.

The highlight was the finale, “Just As Long As We’re Together,” Prince’s contagious, new single that should appeal to soul, pop and disco audience alike.

As a whole, Prince’s performance clearly indicated he has extraordinary talent. Combined with careful direction, time, experience and refinement, that should spell a royal future for Prince.

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The Power And The Glory, The Minneapolis Story

January 19, 1979 (Friday)

Twin Cities Reader

The Power And The Glory, The Minneapolis Story

by Martin Keller

When local disc jockey Kyle Ray introduced Prince’s debut concert at the Capri Theater in north Minneapolis earlier this month, he hallelujahed in the tradition of Muhammad Ali: “The power and the glory, the Minneapolis story—PRINCE.”

He wasn’t just fanning the audience. At 18, this young black wizard from the Twin Cities plays countless instruments, and wrote, arranged, produced, played and sang everything on his first album. He is indeed powerful.

Another new album has been written, and is ready for production sometime this winter, and when a tour that Warner Brothers is preparing for him commences, Prince will stand realistically on glory’s doorstep.

His prodigious talents drew four Warner Brothers executives from California to his premier engagement here. Coming all the way from the sunny west coast to the frozen, below zero confines of Minnesota, the record moguls reportedly left the Twin Cities satisfied that their “client” could perform well with a band and entertain with a great degree of professionalism. They left convinced, in other words, that Prince is going to be a star.

Sitting quietly at a friend’s house before a practice session with his new band, Prince quickly dismissed any talk of stardom and the particulars that accompany it.

“I don’t think about it,” he said in a low voice which sometimes is almost a whisper. “It’s all just part of the dream factory. If it happens, it happens. It’s best not to even worry about that, ’cuz if you strive for it and don’t get it, you’ll be disappointed and feel like a failure.”

Even with that kind of mature realism working in his favor, though, Prince is already conscious of the effect he might have once he begins the rounds as a full-time performer. Dressed like Jimi Hendrix on opening night, and wearing his hair in falling braids for the interview, it was hard not to think of him as another Stevie Wonder.

He admitted, somewhat unabashedly, that he would like “to appeal to as many people as possible and keep them on his side.” He may not be thinking about stardom, but his strategy is geared toward that end.

Prince is the sixth youngest in a family of ten, mother and father included. His father plays piano and writes music, and at one time performed in a swing band.

“My dad called my piano playing ‘banging,’ and didn’t pay much attention to it. I guess I was seven then. I never really listened to music, either, and I still don’t very much. There’s never nothin’ I can get into. If I listen to a record, I head something that I’d like to do differently, and I become too critical of it. You shouldn’t be that way, ‘cuz the group took their time and effort and worked on it. I’d rather just do my own thing.”

Doing what pleased him, Prince picked up instrument after instrument and mastered them all. His high school days at Minneapolis Central thoroughly bored him, and once his music teachers discovered they had a monster talent on their hands, they left him completely alone.

“They’d just lock me in a room, once they understood what I was doing. I skipped school a lot, but I graduated early; dismissal was my favorite time of day. I believe in teachers, but not for me. Anything creative I don’t think can be taught, otherwise you get somebody else’s style; it’s not yours, it’s theirs.”

Undoubtedly, this philosophy propelled Prince in the recording studio at Sound 80 where he began work on his debut record, For You. He literally took charge of the whole process. Calling him self-reliant is a gross understatement.

The demo tapes from For You were taken to a number of record companies before Warner Brothers agreed to give Prince what he wanted: a sizable advance and full control of the production, playing, singing, and arrangement on the LP.

“I’ve written 20 songs for the next album, and I think Warners is going to let me handle all of the record again. I didn’t have any particular thing I was trying to accomplish on the first record—I was just putting down what I heard in my head. I wouldn’t say the second one will be like the first, but it’ll sound like me,” Prince said, toying with a tambourine.

His debut concerts surprised many. He and his five piece band chose to play a heavy metallic series of songs mixed in with the “soft and wet” textures that color the disco and funk pieces on For You.

“I like to play a lot of guitar. That heavy sound goes better in concert than it does on record. I guess synthesizer is my favorite instrument now, and that’s part of the reason for two keyboard players. I really like working with this band, and I’m gonna do an album with them where everyone writes and I’m just there playing with them. They’re really great individually as well as collectively.”

Despite Warner Brothers’ attempt to solicit L.A. musicians, Prince finally settled on Minnesota talent. The record company flew him out to Los Angeles with Bobby Z., a drummer from Minneapolis, and a local bass guitarist Andre, a longtime friend and a great showman himself. The three of them spent a couple of tedious days auditioning players.

Gail Chapman, keyboard player in the band, moved from Duluth where she had played with “eight commercial-sounding groups,” and met a cousin of Prince’s while living on the northside. She jammed with Prince, and eventually was invited to join. “This whole band was formed from jamming,” Bobby noted.

Dez Dickerson got his job after playing just 15 minutes with Prince, while the other keyboard player, Matt Fink, persistently called Prince’s former management company six months before the band even formed.

Prince’s quiet manner may be the ideal stance in the face of the towering music industry, where talent is often less important than the machinations of the biz.

“The music end of my life I’ll probably always do, but not the business end,” said Prince softly. “I hate plane rides, too. I’d rather stay at home and rehearse, or play in the studio by myself. I like the quiet here in Minneapolis, and nobody bothers me; I’ll always keep a place here.”

The multi-talented prodigy, who once dreamed of becoming a cowboy or a fireman, lives alone with a couple of pet alligators, and chooses not to make the scene very much. He’s still under age for most bars in this state.

“I used to hang out at the Infinity (a St. Louis Park disco which recently closed) but I’d rather hear loud, live music if I go out at all. Actually, I spend a lot of time in the bathtub thinking. Music and playing is almost like breathing for me,” he said shyly in the low voice that belies his performing falsetto.

Prince plans to play here again soon, once the tour is set. “But before I can do that, I have to go to New York and L.A. and that means more plane rides,” he winced. Since his career might rest on the wings of those planes, I urged him to get used to it. “Well, I may not stay in music, you know. If I get bored, I may become an artist, a painter—I do that too. Or I might become a janitor or something else,” he shrugged.

Given Prince’s age and his remarkable abilities, it’s safer to assume that “the Minneapolis story” will spend more time in the air and on the airways than he will mopping up.”

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