Tallahassee, FL – October 12, 1992 – 11:58 p.m.
I looked at my watch to confirm the time as the store manager of Vinyl Fever CDs, Records & Tapes stood smiling inside the store entrance. He winked at me and smiled as I returned my own, remembering my promise that I’d camp out for an hour before the special store opening and event. I knew him and his employees very well, since this place was my second home. I practically lived in that store all through college, looking through their used items, always searching for something old/new and different to add to my expansive music collection.
But this visit was different – operational hours had come and gone. The store was opening at midnight for a Listening Party and sale of the new Prince project (denoted by a simple symbol), eventually known as the “Love Symbol” album. His 14th masterpiece.
He unlocked the doors, swung them open and stood to the side as the eager crowd flooded the store, charging straight for the displays containing the never-before-heard CD and cassette tape. Like clockwork, the Intro, then “My Name Is Prince” (the first musical track) pumped through the speakers throughout the store as die-hard fans (and additional customers) shouted a collective “Heeeeyyyyyyyy!!!!”, dancing to its recognizable clap and choral introduction. The tune’s chanting of “Ahhh-Uhhh-Uhhhhhhh” was soon bullishly overrun by the reminiscent samples of past hits “I Wanna Be Your Lover”, “PartyUp” and “Controversy” before he screamed for all to hear…
“My name is PRINCE! And I am funky. My name is PRINCE! The one and ONLY!”
It was a musical highway accident of fiery slaps on the snare, angry rap (by Tony M), violent lead guitar riffs and proclamations of the continuing purple reign by His Royal Badness. Prince was BACK, after wowing audiences with the hit album “Diamonds and Pearls”, only one year prior!
It was the second single, released after “Sexy MF“, which had already hit the airwaves in June. Prince was back with his second project to include his new band, the New Power Generation. This album, playfully known as a “fantasy rock soap opera” (starring his soon-to-be wife “Mayte Garcia” as the Egyptian princess, evading assassins while managing to fall in love with him) was as hard-hitting in its ballads as it was in its dance tunes. Laced with strong solos/accompaniments from artists like saxophonist Eric Leeds and bass player Michael Koppelman, the album included guest vocals by The Steeles and Carmen Electra. It also humored you with segues by bandmembers as well as a special appearance by actress Kirstie Alley as the agitated, yet determined reporter Vanessa Bartholomew, who couldn’t get Prince to be remotely serious as he addressed her questions.
It was the perfect blend of pop, jazz, R&B, soul, funk and rock in a style that can only be concocted by the genius that is Prince Rogers Nelson.
Song #3 “Love To The 9s” hit and immediately had me swooning hard with my CD AND cassette of the same title in hand (if you were good, I bought both formats. Just ask EWF & Chante’ Moore). From that opening (if I may be so bold as to create an adjective) falsettic “Oooooooh”, in his tender, seductive voice, shadowed by the percussion’s “kah-kah-kat _________ goom-kat” rim shots, I knew I was going to get my musical palate caressed with his jazzy ingenuity. And you betta believe, I did.
Yes, in a matter of seconds, like all women and men alike, I had been pussified by Prince…
I need to stop…
It was my intention to share with you my experience, attending my first Prince album listening party. And here I am, giving you a track-by-track breakdown. Yea, though I faithfully describe my journey to musical nirvana, I offer no apologies. Zero regrets will be given. To put it simple and plain, it was melodious, magical madness, and you had to be there.
My wife and I stayed to listen to the rest of the album after she assured me that she was alright, as she was past the due date, carrying my first son, who arrived 11 days later. Through his music, she’d found the energy that everyone else and I had been exhibiting with each new masterpiece.
We spent the remainder of the album picking up other new and used CDs and cassettes (as the store intended with any and everyone in attendance). But no matter what we purchased, it was a good two days before we listened to any of it because the love symbol had transcended its visual appearance. It was now a 75-minute velvet melody. And we were listening over, and over…
Well, we’ve moved four times since then and tacked on three more sons to the ensemble, some 25+ years later.
Vinyl Fever is gone and sadly, so is Prince. But thankfully, his lavender legacy goes on and on.
So Prince, before I tell you I miss and love you, I’m reminded to carefully contemplate these words from your ever-astounding lyrics…
“Don’t use the magical, mysterious, intoxicating, joy fantastic, fascinating word called ‘love’ unless you love me to the nines…”
I do, Prince. We ALL do…
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