Prince's crown is still a perfect fit for true king
James Brown used to be introduced on stage thus: "Ladies and gentlemen, it is star time. Are you ready for star time?" In July 2011, at Malahide Castle, 25,000 people were treated to two and a half hours of bona fide star time courtesy of Prince Rogers Nelson. (It was one of the greatest gigs Ireland ever saw.)
Two weeks earlier, in Paris, I was treated to my own private version of star time courtesy of the diminutive demi-god in Cuban heels. He arrived with an entourage worthy of Elvis Presley in the Seventies and with enough bulky security guards fit for a US Presidential visit.
Prince also arrived two and a half hours late at 5.15pm.
"I just got out of bed," the star said, when he arrived suddenly on the fifth floor of the Bristol Hotel on rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré. Breezing into his suite like an elegant force of nature, in a chic suit offset with a ladies' blouse and dark glasses, the 53-year-old immediately offered me tea.
I gave him a boxset of old jazz CDs (Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Chet Baker) as a present, which he seemed to love, because he smiled for ages before saying that he doesn't listen to new music.
"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," he said, almost singing the words to me, "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."
So what do you do when you want to hear music?
Anyone with even a passing interest in music will know that when Prince plays, what emerges is some of the most spine-tinglingly powerful music of the last three decades: When You Were Mine, Head, 1999, Purple Rain, When Doves Cry, Kiss, Let's Go Crazy, Little Red Corvette, U Got The Look, Raspberry Beret, Sexy Motherf**er.
At his best, he offers up something between sin and salvation. Sometimes he seems lost in his own private ecstasies, other times he appears like he is communicating directly with the gods.
When Aristotle said that "there was never a genius without a tincture of madness", he might have been referring to a future vision of Prince. The Minneapolis Mozart, the black Narcissus, has usually always been bonkers brilliant or thereabouts.
On occasion, of course, he has released some really awful albums and appeared to have left his muse, or his genius, behind somewhere along the line. His 1987 Sign o' the Times record – probably one of the great albums of the Eighties or any decade – and indeed Purple Rain in 1984, showed the magic of Prince at its most splendid. In June, Warner Bros are releasing a digitally remastered, deluxe 30th anniversary edition of his idiosyncratic piece de resistance.
Twenty years on from when Prince wrote "slave" on his face to protest at his contract with Warner Bros and went on strike, the artist has inked a new licensing deal with the company he once loathed. There is even a new studio album in the pipeline.
Star time or what?
Sunday Indo Living