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Ever Dance With The Devil In The Pale Moonlight?

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Electric Chair - Prince (mp3)
Strange Relationship - Prince (mp3)

A sampling of the Oddest Celebrity Marriages of My Lifetime: Liz Taylor and Larry Fortensky. Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley. Lyle Lovett and Julia Roberts.

Perhaps no celebrity marriage has had as significant an impact on my life, however, as the first gay marriage I ever supported: Prince and Batman.

The year was 1989. When news of this marriage reached me, I was 17 and apoplectic. What the shit was some scrawny screechy sex addict doing writing not just one, not just two, but the entire freakin’ soundtrack to the most anticipated movie of my teenage life?!?

Not since Olivia Newton-John danced romantically with Gene Kelly in Xanadu had life been so confusing.

But that was May/December confusing. Prince was ambisexually confusing. Rumors were that he slept with practically every hot woman on the planet. But then all my elementary school classmates insisted Prince was “Queer.” And when my uneducated eyes witnessed him slink across the floor in “When Doves Cry,” he certainly looked queer. Prince made no sense as a comprehensible storyline, other than the undeniable fact that he was a hyper-sexual entity that had lots and lots of sex with... some unknown portion of humanity and possibly even animals.

In my clueless and safe adolescence, I dealt with my uncertainty about Prince by simply avoiding his music whenever possible.

Batman forced my hand. I was so hopelessly and helplessly weak-kneed with excitement for Batman, I was forced to reconsider Prince. In hindsight, what so fascinates me about that soundtrack is how one of his crappier albums managed to convert me into an actual fan of his music.

Seriously, Prince’s Batman isn’t that good. Nary a review -- glowing or damning -- suggests that Prince spent more than few weeks putting it together. He literally cranked it out in his sleep. He added some cutesy marketing decisions (this song is sung by The Joker! this one’s sung by Vicki Vale!), and threw in some songs sitting in his endless closet of unused material.

Then he mashed up all of it with some movie quotes and the old theme song and made a number one hit out of it. Before “Batdance” earwormed its way into heavy airplay on the local radio station, I had managed to keep Prince outside my musical fence line. Prince has more pop music genius in his farts than most artists could get even by selling their souls to the devil.

In the fall of 1989, inspired by my new appreciation, I went back and purchased Sign O’ The Times, which had been released a year prior.

The best thing about being introduced to an artist at a mediocre point in their career is that it provides the proper foundation from which to truly admire their masterpieces. To awaken to the Rolling Stones through Steel Wheels, or Cheap Trick with Standing on the Edge, or Prince through Batman... In all three cases, this offered me the perfect vantage point from which to appreciate their best albums.

Sign O’ The Times is, at the very least, a borderline masterpiece. If a masterpiece requires that each and every song approach or reach musical perfection, then I guess it’s not that kind of masterpiece. But if, from start to finish, a masterpiece opens a wormhole to a kind of sound and a way of seeing that feels utterly distinct, then Sign is just that and a bag of starfish. Sign is the Lebron James of ‘80s albums, imperfect yet so uniquely brilliant as to have no peer.

For me, the best little-known Prince song is also the hidden cornerstone of Sign: “Strange Relationship” is the song I’ve always imagined Prince accidentally forgot to remove. Knowing almost nothing about Prince, this is pure speculation, but I often feel like this is Prince at his most honest and introspective. His Bizarro version of “Man in the Mirror” where he is sadly resigned to being an abusive ass with women.

From there, I went both backward and forward with Prince, buying the next three albums after Batman and going backwards to 1999. Once I acquired and played to death The Album Where Prince Changed His Name To A Big Funky Symbol, my interest hit a sort of immovable object. I eventually bought his 2-disc greatest hits and sold off most of his albums... a decision I sorely regret.

“I just want to know, are we gonna try to love each other?”
It's not too late. Give Prince a chance. He can't stand to see you happy, but more than that, he hates to see you sad.

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