In my wee teeny formative years I discovered Prince. Some might say that's too early because his songs usually took a young mind places it need not go. But I liked it, the music that is, as well as the journey it took me on. I also liked the art on the album covers. I always felt the album art wasn't as good as his music. But a few of the album covers did the musical content justice and also served as a primer or warning for what was sonically brewing beneath the wrapper. So, here is a list of Prince visuals along with my initial reactions (as best as I can remember). The album art is in order but not necessarily the way I discovered them.
A brother with an afro sliding across the abyss of eternity, wha... I dunno? It was an attempt at being freaky, perhaps different. This was Prince's first time out I can't fault him on this one. But it feels very much of that era of music. If you had to guess you would say with an 'I'm guessing' head shake, "hmmm-meh, 1978?" And you would be correct.
From the one-man choral procession (that blew my mind) to the crying guitars on 'So Blue' to the prepubescent rock anthem of 'I'm Yours,' the introduction was made plain, "I'm here to do sh*t a lil diff than you're used to & I don't apologize for the album art concept"
The cover was tame, but you knew this guy was different. Kinda like your Uncle Lucy or your Aunt Frank. That simple pink script font with the heart over the "i" was saying something. But what, still remains to be seen in 2010. You would never guess this guy would sleep with more women than the NFL, NBA & NHL combined. When Prince said he could make you a star he meant it.
This is when dude said, "I have an edge I will cut your ass up." Prince broke out with a new brand of what I call "Sissy Rock!" It was funky, rockish, ultra-feminine and sexy. He started bringing the synthesizers to the foreground at the end of the 70's, 1979 to be exact. I later figured out what he did very often was replace the horn section with powerful synth, genius. Later the synthesizer sound went on to become the defining sound of the 80's.
See more after I take it to the bridge...
OK, now sh*t gets funky. My first thought: look away. My second thought: Mama will never buy this for me. Third thought: Steal it, sneak it into house, hide near specialty magazines under bed. This was Funk as Punk never imagined itself. This was Funk as envisioned by a mad man-girl. With this one visual the message was sent: GAME OVER - GAME ON!
This is when Prince makes "Sissy Rock" into nasty funk themes and game changing guitar riffs. He understood rock's roots and how they lived closely to new r&b and he reminded us eloquently. Prince also show his funk chops weren't rusting with fresh funk-ups like"Partyup," "Uptown" and "Head." Needless to say, my lil mind was eviscerated into tiny little bits that were free to dance and think dirty thoughts. Oh, the shame of it all, have you ever seen a black boy blush?
I simply loved the refinement of the 'Rude Boy' stance and attitude. I hated that home-made font then and I hate it now. Magically that MF'er works. At the time (1980), that fuchsia was still considered garish and not something to use or wear. So to have a title in that color meant trouble or at least edgy. And this look was just that. The trench coat was everything, the attitude, the statement, the subversion. After all he went from wearing fuzzy panty-thongs under it to a f'n tux! Brilliant! Then the tux fux was a whole other mind-bomb; the knotted up bow-tie made the whole fashion clusterfu*ckiness just mindlessly good. By adding the newspaper headlines to the backdrop is just visual ejaculate.
Finally not only does Prince know who he is completely, he knows who we are. His Purple Majesty know what we want to hear and even how we don't want to hear it. But he sweetly gives it to his adoring public in a falsetto that we can't say no to. We gotta hear the 'Controversy," the 'Sexuality," and "Ronnie talk to Russia" wether we want to or not. I'd never heard anything so extreme. I had heard of music people claimed was extreme and had been sorely disappointed. I'd heard things considered sexual and was left wanting more. This record delivered in full blown methodic cacophony and musical wizardry. I was hooked I'd found my private joy.
Whah da fuh... did this dude just draw a penis head on his album cover? I thought there is no way on Earth or Mars the I'm not gonna like this music. This preceded the hand drawn craze that's going on today by like an eon. But it's just as homey and warm as anything out today. But I doubt it would sell on Etsy. This art is neurotically inviting and oddly friendly. It's like your creepy friend every one wonders why you hang out with. Well, it's because she harbors eccentricities the hipsters only wish they could conjure and an abstract fashion sense they will never canonize or appreciate. There's a visual witticism at play as well, especially when you consider the r&b album art and celebrity of its day.
After you get a load of that album art you listen to what is some of the seminal music of our time. Mr. Nelson lays down some rapid fire hit records that leave radio stations literally spinning. Both R&B & Rock stations have to do Prince. And they had to do him hard. The radio play was through the roof, you remember radio right. It's now located somewhere deep beneath your gps user interface, behind cd, mp3 and xm. There were things that didn't get any air play that were around the way anthems like; D.M.S.R (Dance, music, sex, romance), Lady Cab Driver & A-U-T-O-matic. Wow, just wow.
To be continued.