Autobiographical Order No. 254: Prince – 1999

“Mommy…why’s everybody got a bomb?”

Back when I was in high school, I must have heard “1999” about a thousand times. Why? Because I went to high school in 1999, obviously. So naturally it was played at dances and pep rallies and whatever else. And you probably did to. It’s kind of a gimme.

But it also took on a sort of sinister tone, as there was some pre-millennium anxiety running rampant, what with the Y2K scare and doomsday predictions coming out of the woodwork. And, naturally, “1999” is about the end of the world. It’s the funkiest, sexiest song about doomsday ever written, but still, it’s about the endtimes.

Listening to it today, I get a sense of comfort, in a way. Released in 1982, “1999” reflected anxieties about a nuclear holocaust brought about through Cold War conflicts between the U.S. and the then-USSR. And this wasn’t the first time Prince alluded to the Cold War. 1981’s Controversy had a song called “Ronnie Talk to Russia.” And Dirty Mind, from a year before, ended with a song called “Partyup” in which Prince chants, “You’re gonna have to fight your own damn war/ ‘Cause we don’t wanna fight no more.” So, clearly this was something that was on his mind a lot.

It’s kind of on all of our minds right now, since our president is an irresponsible man-child with no impulse control and a penchant for baiting nuclear-armed countries into Twitter battles. It’s…unsettling. But hey, it’s also not the first time we’ve been in this weird position, even if before the situation was a bit different.

Prince’s solution, naturally, is to say “hey, we’re gonna die, might as well party.” And 1999 is equal parts party and mortality. It’s in a sense where the whole complex Prince figure comes together into one cohesive whole. There’s a lot of sex. To the contrary, some religion too. And there’s a lot of doomsday anxiety. Most of all, though, there’s a lot of funk. Synth-heavy funk at that. If you can’t dance to these songs, you are definitely doing it wrong. In fact, “DMSR” (which stands for Dance Music Sex Romance) is one of my favorite songs to play when I DJ. So. Damn. Funky.

In fact, pretty much every song here is outstanding. The whole first side—”1999,” “Little Red Corvette,” “Delirious”—is all hits. So yeah, there are worse ways to spend the endtimes than listening to 1999.

Rating: 10.0

Sound Quality: Great


Autobiographical Order No. 210: Prince – Dirty Mind

There’s a difference between an artist’s best album and your favorite album of theirs. Sort of. Maybe. Kinda. In many cases, my favorite album by a band or artist is the one that’s the canon favorite (Trail of Dead, Interpol, The Rapture…most ’00s indie bands I suppose). But in a lot of situations, my personal favorite is something different. A more underrated album perhaps.

With Prince, it’s hard to call anything underrated. He was a massive star, a genius that earned everything ever said about him, and one of the greatest musicians/artists/icons to ever grace this earth (and we didn’t have him long enough). Everybody loves Purple Rain. Everybody should love Purple Rain. If you don’t love Purple Rain, then something is seriously wrong. If you find yourself in this situation, listen to it again. And again. Until it clicks. It will.

Purple Rain is one of the few cases of massive acclaim and monoculture that I’m 100 percent behind. Usually when everybody loves something, I’m skeptical. But not Purple Rain. Still, I might say my personal favorite (not saying it’s a better album, but shit it’s close) is Dirty Mind. It’s a relatively brief album, at just a hair over a half-hour. And it’s a new wavey kind of funk album that seems humbler and more raw in the face of Prince’s bigger productions later on. It makes it sound a little more punk, honestly. I kinda love that.

This isn’t where Prince started to get raunchy, but he went wild with it. “Head” is one of his funkiest tracks ever, about what you think it is. “Sister” is one of the most provocative things he’s ever written. And “Uptown” celebrated sexuality and rule-breaking defiance of gender norms that seems pretty radical now. And every single song is an absolute banger. Of course.

I had a copy of this album on CD well before I picked up the vinyl version at the Record Swap, but once I saw it I didn’t even think about it. Obviously you need Dirty Mind on vinyl. I definitely needed it. I might even listen to this one more than Purple Rain, come to think of it. Whatever the case, it’s proof of how great Prince was very early in his career, and an album that I’ll always have a special place for. Maybe it’s not Prince’s best album (though like I said, there’s an argument for it) but it’s my own personal favorite.

Rating: 10.0

Sound Quality: Great

(Side note: I’m conflicted about Prince being ubiquitous on the Internet now. It’s great that you can find his music everywhere, but that’s not what he wanted and I feel weird about it…)

Autobiographical Order No. 170: Prince – Purple Rain

You can learn a lot about the person who previously owned a used record just by listening to it. In fact, you can learn a lot before that even happens—whether they’re the type to write their name on personal property, whether they take good care of things, whether they’d actually sell the damn thing in the first place, etc. (And I, for one, want to know why anybody would sell Purple Rain, especially an early pressing of it.) In the case of my copy of Prince’s Purple Rain, bought used at Record City in 2012, I learned just what kind of listener the previous owner was. Short answer: They liked the hits!

I’m the kind of listener who has such a deep craving for music that I could never limit myself to just the hits (though some bands only have good singles and the rest are garbage, but that’s another story). And frankly, Purple Rain is 100 percent hits. Every track is amazing. Every. Single. Track.

My copy, however, is crackly and noisy at the beginning of two tracks: “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy.” These are, incidentally, the first tracks on each side, so it could just be a matter of long-term needle dropping (maybe a little carelessly) but my instincts tell me that whoever had this record was going back to these two jams. And I can’t say I blame them. But then again, the title track, “Take Me With U,” “I Would Die 4 U,” “Computer Blue,” “The Beautiful Ones”…. I’m just listing every song at this point.

Purple Rain is one of those albums, like Rumours, where you not only know and love every track, but seemingly everyone you know has a personal connection. I genuinely don’t know anyone who doesn’t like Prince. I don’t think you’re allowed to not like Prince. Last year, after he died, many of my Treble colleagues shared their Prince stories and the common theme seemed to be that he was as ubiquitous to them as he was in my own life. His music, anyway. I never met the man. Though everyone who has definitely has a story about it.

For me, I only have stories about going to see a midnight showing of Purple Rain at the Ken Cinema, or that the album was released on my wife’s second birthday, or that it was also released on my friend Alex’s actual date of birth. Or when my wife and I and several of our friends and my brother and her sister all did the eyeball-gun-four-point hand dance to “I Would Die 4 U” at our wedding. (That looks confusing but just try to convey the title of the song to someone else with hand gestures and then it makes more sense.)

Purple Rain belongs to everyone, even those who just want the hits, and that’s fine. Though I’ve given this record a good home, where I enjoy every moment. And those few crackles are a minor hindrance to what’s overall a pretty stellar sounding record. Though there is one extra bonus to buying this particular record:


Does yours come with a badass poster of The Revolution? If not, you missed out.

Rating: 10.0

Sound Quality: Good (beginning of each side); Great (everything else)