when albums mattered… or how prince’s ‘controversy’ changed my life.

a) this man is fucking brilliant.  i want him to marry me.  if only he were gay.  and in st. paul.  le sigh.  watch this then continue reading below:

b) the year was 1984.  i was 14.  the film purple rain had just been released.  i wasn’t a prince fan at the time (cb, you can pull yourself up off the floor), but my cousin insisted that i see the movie (i still owe her a huge debt).  we got my mom’s permission and we trucked out to a suburban minneapolis theater to see the flick. 

i. was. blown. away. 

(side story, of course, i wasn’t old enough to see the movie and the movie theater wasn’t too keen about letting me see it.  on the fly, my cousin concocted this story that she and i were brother and sister and our parents were in an accident and that she was my legal guardian.  too funny)

after the movie, my mom had to stop at target for something and i begged her to buy me the soundtrack to purple rain.  when i got home, i positively consumed that record.  that was the real beginning of my love affair with music.

a few weeks later, with money burning a hole in my pocket, i walked the mile or two to my local great american music store to see what they had to be seen (or rather heard).  it was the first time i remember specifically going to a record store to buy music. 

this too became a life long love affair with record stores.  to this day, i dig going into them, smelling the musty cardboard sleeves, flipping the stacks of plastic cd security jackets just waiting to find that next prize.  (i also have a pretty uncanny way of remembering each trip to a record store when buying new prince music.  it’s kinda fucked up).

at the store i found the vinyl to prince’s 4th record, 1981’s ‘controversy’.


i remember ripping the cellophane off the album the minute i was out the door and eagerly reading every word of the liner notes (oh to have had one of those kick-ass boom boxes that played vinyl).  as soon as i got home i put the vinyl on the record player and kicked back and got lost in princes’ minimalistic funk (with bits of disco, agit-pop and electro-rockabilly [!] thrown in).  this record changed the way i looked at music.  sure i still liked the pop-fluff that was on the radio, but controversy challenged me with sounds i had (until that point) not heard. 

the idea of mixing blatant sexuality, political overtones, and pure pop bliss was an interesting notion, but at the time confused me.  how could the guy who name-checked the lord’s prayer in the title track, and then shouted out that he wanted to “jack u off” be the devout christian he proclaimed to be (boy would i be even more surprised when i discovered siouxsie’s blistering take on the prayer a year or so later)?  this really confounded my-until-then un-challenged lutheran upbringing.  purple rain’s notorious nikki has nothin’ on the salacious cast of characters on this album. 

this was the beginning of understanding who i was as a person.  and controversy helped me to question beliefs and ways that i hadn’t even known i could question.

the power of music eh?

imagine being a deeply closeted 14 year-old in 1984 and hearing the lyrics:

“i just can’t believe all the things people say (controversy) / am i black or white? am i straight or gay? (controversy)”


“i said life is just a game, we’re all just the same”

blew my socks off let me tell ya.

and then there was the music.  i simply had never heard music like this before – blistering funk.  gorgeous piano ballads that dripped sex.  this is the shit i tell ya.  god bless the funk.  it was the simple things like the keyboard hit in the middle of the lords prayer, or the chugging guitar track in annie christian that really caught my ear.  fuck’in a – this is butt shakin’ music.  to this day if i hear the track “let’s work” i do a chair dance.

so you may ask, “what the fuck does this half to do with ill doctrine’s video up above” – it’s simple really.  i don’t think the “kids” today get the experience that i had with music.  the experience just isn’t the same.  discovering music on myspace, instead of in the stacks at a record store.  damn, that’s depressing.   

and i feel sad for them on that front.

finding the lp at the store, learning every musical note (whilememorizing every liner note), plugging in the monster headphones we all had in the 80’s into the hi-fi, or hanging out with your friends in your bedroom with loads of vinyl records and cassettes strewn around the room – well that’s an experience that simply can’t be duplicated today. 

technology ain’t all it’s always cracked up to be.

to quote the lil’ guy again:

“don’t let your children watch television until they know how 2 read / or else all they’ll know how 2 do is cuss, fight and breed” prince – sexuality 




p.s., don’t even get me started on the album artwork – that’s a whole other rant.


Explore posts in the same categories: life in a strange relationship, me., music, prince

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11 Comments on “when albums mattered… or how prince’s ‘controversy’ changed my life.”

  1. jeff Says:

    Kyle – Awesome post. I had a similar reaction to ill’s video when I saw it (Oh and I agree that he’s Mr. Hotty Pants). I’m encouraged by the recent attention to vinyl, though. I’ve noticed a difference just in the past six months when I visit stores like Electric Fetus, Treehouse, Down in the Valley — lots of younger record buyers flipping through the new and used LPs, and talking about the different bands and the artwork. It reminds me of the “good old days” and frankly, it warms the cockles of my heart.

    Loved what you said about Prince. I totally remember seeing Purple Rain on Opening day at the Apache Theater, and just being blown away (I was even more blown away by ATWIAD and all its awesome b-sides). I’m happy to know that there’s other music geeks who remember where and when they bought all their favorite records. Must have something to do with how our brains are structured. 🙂

    rock on

  2. JT Says:

    I wasn’t a Prince fan until after I saw him live! My wife wanted to see him and I got her tickets as a graduation gift. He blew me away!

  3. Chris Says:

    Great post, I never really got the music bug, I’ll listen to anything but I’m not that “into” it.

  4. cb Says:

    I can honestly say that I NEVER. EVER. Bought an “album”. EVER.

  5. Shirley! Says:

    amazing post! love prince…he is def. a love/hate kind of artist. glad i landed on the right side!

  6. chuck Says:

    i hear ya on the music, brutha.

    words could not describe the feeling when you found something you had been long looking for in “the bins”. it was as if angels sang and you had been handed the golden ticket, for reals.

    i was the king of mix tapes, too. nothing made me happier than someone else who i handed one to who could not WAIT to put it in their boombox. i learned quickly who to never make one for again: someone who looked at the cassette holder as if i handed them a parking ticket. then that stilted, “oh, thanks.” never again. they did NOT get it.

    “And when the music starts
    I never wanna stop, it’s gonna drive me crazy.”


  7. You look much younger than you are (I’m going by the 14 at 84 tidbit)

  8. Jason Says:

    Lots of Prince reminds me of my youth, but how, HOW did he become the waste of time noise pollution that he is now? It beggars belief. Batman was really the beginning of the end for me…

  9. Wendy CPM Says:

    Ah Kyle, I’m so with you on this post. Every bit of it. So much great music. I remember the glee I felt when I discovered all of the bootleg music out there that was every bit as good as (and sometimes way better than) the released music. The smell of the cardboard in the stacks… stumbling upon the diamond in the rough and wondering if it could really be what it seems… nothing quite like it. Ahhhhh…. thanks for a great post. 🙂

  10. RG Says:

    I was never one to run out and get a record. Oh sure I bought some, but I never was a big music geek. But bless my friends who were, because I got to listen to some good shit for free!

    And I’m so with you on Mr. J Smooth. I want to have his babies – or at least try really, really hard to get pregnant by him. LOL

  11. […] on Sat 27-9-2008 Record Stores Fight to Be Long-Playing Saved by cschulte22 on Sat 27-9-2008 when albums mattered… or how prince’s ‘controversy’ changed my life. Saved by mattwjones on Fri 26-9-2008 hey rock stars, want to peddle merch? Saved by dobico on Thu […]

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