Music Banter - View Single Post - Baby I'm A Star - The Once and Future Prince
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Old 04-03-2021, 09:50 AM   #8 (permalink)
Trollheart
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5215 France Avenue, Edina, MN. That was Prince’s new address, his first ever home of his own, after being bounced from his estranged father to his aunt and various record studios. Prince finally had a place to lay his head. It wasn’t big or fancy, had virtually no furniture, but it was his. As he prepared to tour to support the album, he realised he could not after all do everything himself on stage, and would need a band to play his music on the road. So he set about auditioning musicians. In addition to Andre Anderson on bass, he soon had Gayle Chapman on keys and Bobby Rivkin (who for some reason would become known as Bobby Z) on drums. Bobby’s mate Matt Fink would join on additional keyboards and Desmond “Dez” D’andrea Dickerson would take guitar duties.

Capri. Sounds nice and exotic, doesn’t it? Sunwashed Mediterranean island, where holidaymakers flocked in their thousands. Would you be impressed if I told you that Prince’s debut gig took place in Capri? You would? Well, tough: it wasn’t in Capri, but at Capri. The Capri, that is: an old Minneapolis film theatre on West Broadway. Still, as journalist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune Jon Bream put it, Prince could have debuted at Madison Square Gardens. Except, of course, that he didn’t. Bream had been one of the first reporters to notice Prince, and to interview him. As a result, and as he believed in the young artist, Bream was invited along to most gigs, including of course this one.

The first night went over well, despite many technical problems which Prince and his fledgling band had to soldier through, but on the second night Warner flew executives in, the idea being to determine whether or not Prince was ready for a tour - or, more to the point, whether it was worth financing one at this early stage of his career. They decided that on balance, the answer was no. Prince needed to record a second album before they could let loose the purse-strings and send him out into the world. Prince was crushed, and his relationship with Owen Husney began to deteriorate. One possibility put forward for the breakdown, rather trivial in anyone else but something that would become part of Prince’s psychological makeup, was when Husney could not drop everything to bring a space heater over to Prince’s place. This demand that he be served, first and always, no matter what, that he was to be seen as the most important thing in the lives of anyone he knew, would be repeated throughout his career, and lead to more than one uneasy departure for friends and employees alike.

Aware now that he needed management, Prince was introduced to childhood friends Bob Cavallo and Joe Ruffalo (whom I don’t believe knew the Gruffalo!) who represented Earth, Wind and Fire, Ray Parker Jr and one of Prince’s all-time idols, Sly Stone. The three of them hit it off and would remain friends throughout most of Prince’s career. They suggested Gary Brandt as a producer, and this time Prince, who knew he had put himself in a hole by overspending hugely on For You (and failing to get any real sort of return for his label) did not argue. He knew this time he needed a hit album; having got all the experimental and artistic stuff out of his system with his debut, he set about creating a dance record that would appeal to the record-buying public.

In contrast to the debut, which had taken three months to record, Cavallo and Ruffalo booked a single month at Alpha Studio in LA. Again, Prince did not try to change anything. This time, he had nine home demos he intended to work on to put on the new album, rather than try to create new stuff in the studio. He knew what everything was, where it was going, how it should and would sound. One advantage of having managers, he found, was that they booked a limo to take him to and from the studio. By June he was finished the album, but unable to rebook Brandt for the mixing - Prince needed to take the tapes home, study them, get new ideas and come back to record them properly - he ended up in Hollywood Sound Recorders in LA, where he finished the album. As with For You, he took charge of creating the cover, the liner notes, the photographs, all to his own specifications.

You wouldn’t call him a hummingbird, because that denotes somehow flitting from here to there, project to project, never settling on one or the other. But he certainly was a busy bee, rarely drawing breath at the end of one album before plunging into the next, sometimes even working on or more projects at once. Remind you of anyone? So with the wrap of his second album, and waiting for its release before he could hopefully tour for the first time, Prince decided to create a new vehicle for his talents. This would be a rock venture, and allow him to step outside the somewhat constricting world of funk and soul, and he would call it The Rebels. It would involve all his bandmates from the cancelled tour, and unlike his own albums, on this one he would accept input from everyone.

They had great fun creating songs, trying out melodies - Prince himself wrote four, and preparing to record the album. Then, out of nowhere, Prince just decided he was against the idea. With no explanation (and none was advanced later in his life, so we’ll never know now) he changed his mind, shelved the project and instead looked towards the release of his second album, only a short time away now.
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