Prince: Sign O' The Times

As this 1987 LP appears on 180g vinyl Steve Sutherland recalls his interview with Prince back in 1981. Did their meeting influence the singer's signature behaviour?

Maybe I should shoulder some of the blame. It was me, after all, who declared in a Melody Maker review of his previous album, Parade, that Prince was God's gift to music or some such nonsense.

Prince then appeared to have taken my praise – and many, many, many others' – at face value and begun to behave accordingly. 'If the Creator took a mere seven days to put the world together,' his thought process seemed to be, 'then the very least I can do is bash out an album in a week – maybe every week.'


Face To Face
However, let's not jump the gun into that full-blown megalomania just yet… Pray allow me to reel you back through the years a little. I was one of the first UK journos to spot Prince's talent and, as such, one of the few to be granted a face-to-face interview. This was in 1981, and at the London Embassy Club where I had taken Prince, as my guest, to an early evening launch party for something to do with Steve Strange and Visage. After our interview, it became apparent Prince had nothing to do that evening and knew no-one in town.

So I hailed a cab and took him along to the do where he spent the whole night standing in the corner, talking to no-one, refusing my offers of drinks and generally looking shy and lost. Eventually he left me to hobnob with the Spandaus and their primped-up like. Later, when Prince became the sartorial peacock we all swooned over, I used to joke that it was me that first turned him on to the New Romantic style.

But, anyway, back to my article which, incidentally, began: 'The quiet little man with bovine, brown eyes and a whisper of a 'tache stares absent-mindedly out of the hotel window across London's rainswept rooftops. "Actually," he decides finally with pronounced hesitation, "I think it's much more embarrassing talking about these things than doing them. I mean, I find it a lot easier to sing swear words than to say them and when I first had a girl, I found it really hard to tell my mother but, Lord knows, I didn't feel embarrassed while I was doing it to her."'

This was around the release of his third LP, Dirty Mind, and Prince was over here in London from Minneapolis for a one-off show at the Lyceum, which he performed wearing a studded leather coat, Y-Fronts and black thigh-length tights…


A Lotta Trouble
'To me it's not outrageous, it's comfortable. I've always dressed the way I've wanted to and if it goes with the music, it's only because the music is part of me and so is the way I dress. I don't try to do anything to shock or to make money – that would make me a hooker…

'I saw an analyst once because I was wondering why it was that I was so sexual-minded and why I wanted to go against the grain so much because it got me into a lotta trouble a lotta times. He asked me to talk about my childhood – y'know, when you first experienced this and first experienced that, sort of thing.

'More than my songs have to do with sex, they have to do with one human's love for another which goes deeper than anything political that anybody could possibly write about. The need for love, the need for sexuality, basic freedom, equality – I'm afraid these things don't necessarily come out. I think my problem is that my attitude's so sexual it overshadows anything else, that I might not be mature enough as a writer to bring it all out yet.'

As the interview wound down, he unleashed this whopper: 'I'm gonna stop this soon. I don't expect to make many more records, for the simple reason that I wanna see my life change. I wanna be there when it does, I don't wanna be doing what's expected of me'.