Purple Memories

As soon as I saw the tweet from The Current that there was a death at Paisley Park I started to cry.

Not because I was sure it was Prince. Not that I had a gut feeling or anything like that.

I started to cry because the very idea of losing Prince overwhelmed me, I guess. Had you asked me yesterday I wouldn’t have said, “yes, Prince’s death will make me bawl my head off until I have no more tears and I will spend the day intermittently lost in reverie and mourning his loss on Twitter.”

Prince’s death, and David Bowie’s before him make me sad for music fans who didn’t have Twitter or the Internet when John Lennon was shot or when Buddy Holly’s plane crashed. It must have been much lonelier to lose someone you never met then. Today, the communal grieving of Minnesota has been a comfort.

Jenni’s mom took her to see “Purple Rain” in the summer of 1984. Since her family were relatively rich compared to our family Jenni got to do a lot of things like buy records and go to movies and see Rick Springfield in concert.

The best thing about this was that Jenni was really good at recapping her adventures in the land of pop culture. I remember staring at the “Purple Rain” record as she explained the entire plot of the movie, scene by scene. I had just turned twelve, she was nearly thirteen. Poor kids in the suburbs didn’t care about spoilers, we just wanted to know.

“It was dirty,” she said. “There was a lot of heavy petting. A LOT!”
“What is heavy petting?”
“You know, heavy petting.”

I nodded as if the mere repetition of the phrase was definition enough. I didn’t even know what heavy petting was, but I was pretty sure I wanted to do it.

Prince and his music might not have become intertwined with the sexuality of all the tweens of suburban Minneapolis in the 1980s, but it sure did with us. His music introduced us to sex in a way that was simultaneously fun and dirty. It was accessible and approachable, and most of all joyful. Discovering sexuality through Prince’s music didn’t seem shameful or furtive, the way it did when we hid in the basement and looked at Jenni’s dad’s old Playboys.

I finally got the see “Purple Rain” when it came out on video. We watched at million times. The movie was pretty hot, but the music was hotter and we loved it. We spent an entire summer doing the “I Would Die 4U” dance on the coffee table.

I can’t seem to locate the spot in my memory when Prince entered my life. I remember with exacting detail how and when I discovered The Replacements, Liz Phair, Soul Coughing, Matthew Sweet. It seems that Prince was always there.

Raspberry Beret” was inescapable the summer of 1985. Not that I minded, because I loved that song with all my entire heart. And I spent most of the rest of my life longing for a raspberry beret of my own. As you may remember, once I finally had one, it didn’t end well.

At my 40th birthday party a few years ago I made everyone go around the room and tell us what their first concert was. I forget what most people said, because that was nearly four years ago. I do, however, remember my cousin Laurie’s answer. Laurie, incidentally, was the babysitter who introduced me to rock & roll and is therefore my very favorite cousin forever. She saw Prince at First Avenue sometimes in the early 80s as her first ever concert. Today one Facebook she posted pictures of her “Purple Rain” record that I’m sure she got when it was first released.

The Spectator office had a small area of it walled off by two floor to ceiling walls made of glass. We called it The Bubble. When Prince’s “The Hits 1” came out in 1993, I paid entirely too much money for it at music store in the Oakwood Mall. The day before the next edition of the newspaper came out my friend Trish, a copyeditor, and I locked ourselves in the Bubble and attempted to review disc one of Prince’s Greatest Hits. Mostly we giggled and wrote about how awesome he was, and though we didn’t se these words, we wrote about how Prince’s music made you aware of your own loss of innocence as you finally began to understand what his lyrics really meant. . . She had a pocketful of horses, Trojans and some of them used.

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