Prince’s regal gramophone: It was one year ago today

Incredibly, Prince was the biggest-selling artist in the US last year, in terms of album sales. The purple one shifted more than 2.2 million long-players in the months after his death.

Unsealed court documents, released just days ago, also show that the star travelled under the name Peter Bravestrong to help conceal his identity.

That name was on a luggage tag he used while travelling to Atlanta for what proved to be his final concert, on 14th April 2016, exactly a week before he expired in a Paisley Park elevator.

I’d seen Prince’s Piano & A Microphone Tour at Sydney Opera House on February 20th. It was, without a doubt, one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen. Amazing what you can do with a couple of lights, a bit of a screen and a few strategically placed candles.

But when you have that amount of musicality and a pitch perfect voice still very much intact, you don’t really need to hide behind props and stupid stunts even Spinal Tap would have baulked at. The subsequent concert I saw was Madonna. Enough said.

At some point between Australia and the Georgia swansong, the Minneapolis marvel often slipped in a few lines of Bowie’s Heroes. Go search for a recording if you can, because the poignancy, knowing these were Prince’s final weeks on Planet Earth, is electrifying. Almost unremittingly sad.

I’d bought my first Prince record in 1985. It was the double-A side of 1999 and Little Red Corvette that early in that year’s chart, became his biggest UK hit until his surprise chart topper of 1994, the pretty but slight Most Beautiful Girl In The World.

Don’t worry, be party

The 7” edit contains one of Prince’s greatest intros, in fact one of the most euphoric pop intros of all time. If you think about it, 1999, When Doves Cry and Kiss – his three biggest British hits of the 1980s – all boast the most incredibly recognisable intros that other performers would have hocked their last bottle of Purple Grape Juice to have come up with first. What a cad.

On Channel 5’s Prince Story: Icon, Genius, Slave, broadcast at the weekend, Mica Paris came up with the assertion that (in the ’70s) “Bowie pushed it. In the ’80s, Prince was our black Bowie.” Pretty accurate so far. What a shame that when the Thin White Dame referenced the purple one, it happened to be on the ghastliest album of his entire career.

Everything’s bottoms to you people

For what it’s worth, like Bowie, my parents never really ‘got’ Prince. I remember bringing home that 12” of 1999 and my mum taking one look at the bum-crack suggesting back cover and snorting: “Oh, look at him trying to be sexy. Honestly!” And laughing hysterically as she went in search of a cup of tea.

When he burst on the scene the diminutive one was a veritable fireball of sexual explosion, you could never imagine him ever drinking tea. Boy George he most certainly wasn’t. Go here for a fantastic recording of that final Atlanta performance. You won’t be sorry. But one thing’s for certain, we’ll never see his like again.

Steve Pafford