In just under a week, I will be boarding a flight bound for Minneapolis, Minnesota. I’ll be away for a tiny seven days, give or take a couple of timezones. But the fact is, I’m about to travel 14,515 kms to attend what can only be described as an event for crazy, diehard fans of the late, great Prince. Yep. I have a ticket to Celebration 2017 at Paisley Park – a four-day purplefest that will pay tribute to the life of Minnesota’s favourite son.
Last time I blogged about Mr Nelson, I described the obsession I had developed hours after the news of his passing tore around the world. I stayed up ‘til dawn scouring websites for articles, video clips. I read books on the man, listened to his music on loop. I even beamed with pride when my seven year old announced his favourite Prince song is, Erotic City.
Well, it’s almost a year later, and while my compulsion has calmed a little, and my sons are now well versed in Prince’s more gentle musical outings like One Nite Alone (though he does refer to “…the undulating acrobat ready to do your bidding…”). Nearly one year on, I still can’t quite shake my Insatiable appetite for all things purple. It’s a fever. And once again the doves cry, why?
So I’m writing these words to try and make sense of it all. ‘Cause I’m not crazy. Or diehard. I am not. I was a badge-wearing, moonwalking Michael Jackson fan all through my teens until hormones surged and then it was sweaty, multiple late night viewings of Under the Cherry Moon.
Fact is, Prince was my genuine thriller. I was just too scared to admit it. But now here we are. The hormones have settled – somewhat – and that illicit, secret thrill I felt watching him doe-eye the bejesus out of Kristin Scott Thomas is out. And I don’t care who knows it.
Still, the question begs – why the continued compulsion? Is it Prince’s unflinching, phenomenal musical talent? The 1,000+ songs that promise everything from toe-curling carnal highs to starfish and coffee? Or does his music hold a power that goes beyond telling you,
“…there’s gonna be a riot, if you don’t clap yo hands…” ?
I belong to a few Prince groups on Facebook and the intensity of emotion in the threads I’ve read is palpable. People are still mourning. Heavily. They post pictures of album and poster-strewn bedrooms. Elaborate tattoos. Babies wearing onesies emblazoned with the Love Symbol. But there are also the posts that tell incredibly sad stories when Prince’s music saved people in dark times. Really? I remained unconvinced.
And then a few weeks after Prince died, I reluctantly put my blossoming media career into hibernation and accepted an office copywriting gig. But, like an ill-fitting cheap, grey suit, the job hung around my shoulders, itchy and uncomfortable. I had my reasons to keep the garb on, so I did. But for ten months I endured brain-zapping work, politics and ‘managers’ who made David Brent’s people skills look positively Messianic.
First world problem? Possibly. However, if you’ve ever been in a job – or you’re in one right now – that is slowly, but surely crushing your spirit, you’ll feel my frustration and possibly even hear that pesky little voice inside that nags daily, YOU DESERVE MORE. Trick is to believe it and GET THE HELL OUT or resist the crush any way you can. So…
Dig if you will this picture…
Day after day I’d walk into work wearing anything sparkly, star-scattered or just downright shiny (leather fit this bill nicely). Overdressed? You Betcha By Golly, Wow! I was a magpie’s wet dream. Then, I’d sit at my desk with big, fat Sony headphones clamped to my ears, the pitch-perfect sounds of Prince cajoling and motivating, flirting and teasing, screeching and whispering in my ears. Baby I’m a Star, turned up to full volume, seemed to blast away the grey around me to smithereens. The song became my protest, “You might not know it now, baby what I are, I’m a star.” (Let the grammer go. This is art.)
I would literally bounce in my seat, head grooving, feet tapping to that unmistakable LinnDrum beat; I may have also pushed my computer keyboard away, liberating my fingers for a piano solo pounded out on melamine. And I’d take immense pleasure in selecting the most provocative lyrics for my sing-out loud moments,
“Touch if you will, my stomach…”
Inevitably, I attracted the puce-cheeked office killjoy who asked me to stop singing, please. So I whispered very loudly instead, which I’m told sounded like I was the tortured lead singer in a death metal band. Everyone’s a critic.
I spent ten months at that desk, on the train, on the bus, silently working my way through Prince’s catalogue, catching my breath at the astonishing range of albums I’d never heard. Every genre imaginable vyed for my attention – soul, R&B, hip hop, jazz, rock, reggae, country, classical piano – all penned by one man. So it puzzled me when I was asked if I ever got tired of listening to Prince. Um, no. Look beyond the red corvettes and purple rains people, there’s Gold in them thar hills; yes, the purple fever had taken hold and it was doing me the world of good in a world of grey.
Then, as 2016 wound up, news of Paisley Park’s Celebration 2017 Event was burning up social media feeds and my imagination. Could I? Should I? Yes and yes came the resounding responses. So a high octane adventure started to take shape in my head – and heart. I guess now I was officially a big-time Prince fan. But in the last little while, as I’ve revealed my trip to people, I’ve found myself justifying this rather giant fangirling moment in my life, like I can’t quite own ‘the crazy’. Well how could I when this news has nearly always been met by glazed expressions and frozen smiles?
But instinct is a beautiful thing. And while my ego’s been bruised by people’s opinions, deep down, I’ve simply followed what excites and illuminates me. So, I resigned from the office gig a few weeks ago and slowly, but surely, my personal voltage has returned to high beam (!). And one recent muggy morning, as Sydney was being pummelled by rain, I found myself heading to McEvoy Street, Alexandria; the site of a giant Prince mural. I didn’t question the purple pull this time. I just went with it and parked illegally in a driveway beside the artwork. The building was purple, so I figured the business inside was responsible for the mural. So I got out of my car and marched inside to find a very busy signwriting workshop of about five or six men.
“Hi, um, could someone please take a photo of me with Prince?! Also I’ve just parked illegally in your driveway, but…”
A man crouching on the floor, attaching a sticker to a sign, snapped,
“The parking attendant will love that!”
“Who painted this?” I asked.
“The boss – the guy who was working on the floor when you came in.”
Oh?! And then the rain came again. Heavy, fat drops. I rushed my thanks and retreated back to the car just as Mr Signwriter came out of the workshop.
“Thank you for painting this mural!” I called out from my car.
“You still here?” he said, with a warm smile as he walked over.
Ice melted and suddenly we were deep in favourite song talk, supernatural vocal ranges, underrated albums and…my Paisley Park trip.
“Wow, really? You must be a big fan.”
“Well, yes, but, I…I’m not a nutjob, I just think his music is…”
“I’m so jealous. How amazing will that be?”
“I know, I…”
“Can you wait here for a moment, don’t go away. I’ll be right back.”
He disappeared into his workshop. Moments later he returned holding a large perspex Love Symbol.
“I made so many of these after Prince died. This is my last one and I want you to have it.”
“You’re giving this to me?”
“Absolutely. It’s yours.”
I jumped out of the car, hugged him and next thing I know we’re both posing in front of the mural, laughing in the pouring rain. Since that meeting, my family has met John’s family, we’ve shared lunch and philosophised about that electric word, life. And then last week during one of my now impotent “I’m not nuts.” protests, John interrupted me.
“Everyone I talk to about your trip is so jealous…but you’re travelling half way around the world for a week. So, yeah you’re nuts.”
The words stung and hung in the air for a moment before John continued,
“But, so what?
So what? Yes, so what?
Yes. There’s nothing ‘normal’ about laying down a couple of grand to spend seven largely sleepless nights hanging with some equally crazy, but interesting people in Minnesota who loved an eye-lined mortal and his music so much they want to share this passion with a bunch of strangers. Yes. This is nuts. I am nuts. But the alternative? Stay shackled to a job devoid of genuine meaning, be paralysed by fear, don’t rock the proverbial, be quiet, don’t shine your light too bright lest you blind the lemmings around you… No.
Over this last year, as I’ve listened to Prince’s astounding catalogue, I’ve burned with envy at his prolific artistry and the insane confidence he had in himself as a musician, as a man… But more than all of this, he owned his brand of crazy. He embodied the art he created without apology; in heels, in eyeliner, in cloud suits. And now I get it. I understand that what I’ve felt since April 21, 2016 hasn’t been a compulsion…
In its purest form, great art jolts us awake, reminding us of who we are and the love we are capable of feeling for each other, the planet and, ourselves.
And while Prince lived his art and all it stood for – love, sex and spirit – most of all his oeuvre represented a big, fat invitation to just be U. Quirks n’ all.
So next week will be historical. I’ll be in the home of arguably the world’s most gifted musician exactly one year after his untimely passing. It will be a remarkable, unrepeatable moment in time. And I don’t care whether people think this is a certifiable act of sheer nuttery. I believe this event will be bigger than Prince’s life and music; a powerful antidote for the ills our world is suffering now – divisive politics, disconection, alarmist views, ego and fear unchecked. Because over four days in the American midwest next week, there will be unity, music and, love. White, black, Puerto Rican everybody just a freakin’, good times a rollin’.
So when I land in Minnesota next week (perspex Love Symbol in tow), I will check into my hotel sold out with fans from around the globe, wear my purple heart on my sleeve and proudly own my brand of crazy.
So, bring it on, Minneapolis. I’m ready Paisley Park. Let’s go crazy.
Let’s. Get. Nuts.
Follow me on Facebook for live video posts direct from Prince’s Minneapolis – launching in Sydney on April 17.