Friday 9 December 2016

Barry Egan: The time I met Prince - 'There really wasn’t anyone like him'

Barry Egan, the only Irish journalist to interview Prince in person, laments the death of the genius who gave us Kiss, Raspberry Beret and 1999, and remembers the time he spent with him in Paris....

Published 21/04/2016 | 19:41

Musician Prince gestures on stage during the Apollo Theatre's 75th anniversary gala in New York, June 8, 2009.. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File
Musician Prince gestures on stage during the Apollo Theatre's 75th anniversary gala in New York, June 8, 2009.. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File

His Purple reign is over. Doubtless doves will really cry tonight. The Mozart of Minneapolis has sung his last note.

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Prince having left the stage forever is a sad moment for anyone who loves eccentric soul music with tunes that milk men could whistle back in the day: 1999, Kiss, Raspberry Beret, Purple Rain and Little Red Corvette.

There really wasn’t anyone like Prince. How could there be? He was more than a maverick, more than an iconoclast. He went on strike from his own record company in 1994, saying the music industry made him a “slave.”

He blurred the genders with his image (dressing in his black under pants and a coat like a flasher, on the cover of the Dirty Mind album in 1980) and with his songs (If I Was Your Girlfriend from 1987 is about Prince wanting the physical closeness that two women together could have.)

He wrote about HIV AIDS before anyone in the mainstream culture in 1987 on Sign Of The Times: “a big disease with a little name”.

I loved him from the beginning. So flying to Paris in June 2011 to meet him on the fifth floor of the Bristol Hotel on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore was a privilege.

In this Nov. 22, 2015 file photo, Prince presents the award for favorite album - soul/R&B at the American Music Awards in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, File)
In this Nov. 22, 2015 file photo, Prince presents the award for favorite album - soul/R&B at the American Music Awards in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, File)
Musician Prince gestures on stage during the Apollo Theatre's 75th anniversary gala in New York, June 8, 2009.. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File
File photo dated 10/08/88 of Prince, who has died at the age of 57, his publicist said. PA Wire
File photo dated 17/09/88 of Prince, who has died at the age of 57, his publicist said. PA Wire
File photo dated 12/02/85 of Prince
File photo dated 24/02/97 of Prince arriving at the Brit Awards in London, as the singer has died at the age of 57, his publicist said. PA Wire
File photo dated 25/02/07 of singer Prince who has died at the age of 57, his publicist said. Yui Mok/PA Wire
File photo dated 20/09/95 of Prince, who has died at the age of 57, his publicist said. Fiona Hanson/PA Wire
File photo dated 08/05/07 of singer Prince who has died at the age of 57, his publicist said. Ian West/PA Wire
File photo dated 02/10/02 of Prince, who has died at the age of 57, his publicist said. Tim Whitby/PA Wire
Singer Prince gestures as he announces upcoming live dates at the Apollo Theater in New York October 14, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/Files
Musician Prince (L) performs for members of the news media in Miami Beach, Florida February 1, 2007. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/Files
Singers Prince (R) and Beyonce perform during the 46th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles February 8, 2004. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn/Files
File photo dated 02/10/02 of Prince, who has died at the age of 57, his publicist said. Tim Whitby/PA Wire
File photo dated 15/02/06 of Prince performing on stage at the Brit Awards, as the singer has died at the age of 57, his publicist said. Yui Mok/PA Wire
File photo dated 15/02/06 of Prince performing on stage at the Brit Awards, as the singer has died at the age of 57, his publicist said. Yui Mok/PA Wire
File photo dated 12/08/86 of Prince Rogers Nelson PA Wire
File photo dated 12/08/86 of Prince Rogers Nelson PA Wire
File photo dated 12/08/86 of Prince Rogers Nelson PA Wire
File photo dated 12/08/86 of Prince Rogers Nelson PA Wire
File photo dated 12/08/86 of Prince Rogers Nelson PA Wire
File photo dated 12/08/86 of Prince Rogers Nelson PA Wire
U.S. singer Prince leaves the French Open tennis tournament in Paris June 2, 2014. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier/Files
U.S. singer Prince watches the French Open tennis tournament in Paris June 2, 2014.
Musician Prince gestures on stage during the Apollo Theatre's 75th anniversary gala in New York, June 8, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/Files
Prince performs during the halftime show of the NFL's Super Bowl XLI football game between the Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts in Miami, Florida, February 4, 2007. REUTERS/Mike Blake/Files
Prince performs during the halftime show of the NFL's Super Bowl XLI football game between the Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts in Miami, Florida, February 4, 2007. REUTERS/Kyle Carter/Files
Prince performs during the halftime show of the NFL's Super Bowl XLI football game between the Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts in Miami, Florida, February 4, 2007. REUTERS/Mike Blake/Files

It didn't matter particularly that he looked like Dot Cotton from Eastenders dressed up as Jim Hendrix for Halloween. He was still my hero.

There was a staccato rap to his speech.

I asked him where did the astral riff from 1999 come from.

"Some place."

What do you do when you want to hear music?

"I play."

He was mad as a bag of squirrels on acid. And I loved him for it.

Prince said he had has little or no interest in contemporary music.

File photo dated 15/02/06 of Prince performing on stage at the Brit Awards, as the singer has died at the age of 57, his publicist said. Yui Mok/PA Wire
File photo dated 15/02/06 of Prince performing on stage at the Brit Awards, as the singer has died at the age of 57, his publicist said. Yui Mok/PA Wire

"A lot of it sounds phoned in. It is all machines. You can't jam with a machine. You can put your dirty clothes in a machine but you can't jam with it. Carlos Santana, who is a real cosmic guy, told me that, we are analogue creatures. We feel music as human beings. But a lot of the new stuff lacks feel."

I asked him if he watched the movie Black Swan. I thought Darren Aronofsky's dark pyscho-sexual masterpiece would have been Prince's kind of movie.

"That must have passed me by. It's not my cup of tea."

What was is your cup of tea?

"English Breakfast Tea. Do they have Irish Breakfast Tea?"

They have Barry's Tea, I pointed out.

"Your tea? You have a tea? Would you like a tea?" Prince getting up to make himself a cup of tea in heels.

Returning with a tea for himself and a Coke for me, His Highness In Heels never really looked like falling off them onto the ground of his palatial suite in the City of Light.

I hope God has enough sense to vacate the most palatial suite tonight in Heaven and let Prince lay down his weary head.

______

You can read Barry Egan’s unexpurgated interview with Prince in this Sunday’s Sunday Independent

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