Prince. Mom’s favorite freak 

Ed Ochs

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Out! Who is this charismatic, elfin performer who con fronts audiences. in spires laughter. good fee ling and dancing in the aisle? — and who used to answer the question with. "Who am I? I'm just my mother's favorite freak." But if it's true that clothes make the man. then what can be made of a talented singer/songwriter/musician/producer who calls himself Prince and wears onstage what could be either the Emperor's new clothes or the Empress' old undies? (a) That Mr. Prince is a screaming queen? (bl That he is no man at all. but a woman with a peachfuzz moustache? (c) That he has forsaken clothes onstage because he doesn't wish to be judged by what he wears? (d) All of the above? If you selected answer (c) you are correct. Prince doesn't wish to be judged by what he wears either, which, by the way, isn't very much. One look inside his wardrobe locker tells the tale. Let's see: one pair purple tights; black thigh-high tights; one pair black leather briefs; one pair leopard-skin bikini briefs. This Prince could catch a cold and die! By way of partial explanation. the 20-year-old Minneapolis -born and bred wonderboy would probably like us to peep deeply into his Dirty Mind, not just coincidentally the title of his third warn er Bros. album and second single release. And although the words to many of his funk-disco songs may not be dirty on the dance floor. don't expect to hear it on the radio. Prince has been sentenced to twenty years at hard rock All of a sudden clothes start coming off, and the audience goes berserk, somewhere In the underground of total orgasm. lesbianism, incest, sodomy, anarchy, revolution — and more than a dash of tender love and care, just to confuse things more. Using sex to sell records predates Elvis Presley. who twitched. Quivered and shook himself to fame and beyond. But you'd have to go back to Little Richard and, later, Jimi Hendrix. to find a black rocker whose sheer outrageousness could mesmerize both black and white, male and female, the way Prince does. With softer sounds filling the black music mainstream, the electronic roar of Prince's '80s-style loin shaking punk-funk has made him a champion of the people. While other black artists thrive on bleaching funk for the middle of the road. Prince is getting raunchier. Musically, it might be easier to simply dismiss him as a sicko. If It weren't for the fact that he also happens to be a multidimensional artist who has welded well-crafted, r&b songs to hard-edged rock — Motown falsetto of Smokey, Kendricks and the young Jacksons to heavy new-wave rhythms . The result, a sophisticated. Uptown sound both strikingly original and stunningly perverse, is dirtier than Donna Summer, raunchier than Sly Stone . Along with the Bus Boys, Prince stands In the vanguard of a wave of black rock and roll that has not yet arrived. The leaping legend of Prince starts in the refrigerator of America, Minnesota, where the population is only one percent Black and Hispanic, and rock is plowed under the fields or crushed into gravel. Prince's father was the leader of a jazz group, the Prince Rogers Band (so Prince ls really Prince II). When he was five. Prince got a chance to see his father in action. The sights and sounds of his father's music filled him with excitement. the effects of which still reverberate through Prince's music. whatever direction it may take. Prince wanted to bask In the same musical glow. perform the same musical miracles. and when his father went out of town again, he sat at his father's piano and taught himself to play by ear the TV themes from Batman and Man from U.N.C.L.E. It wasn't too much longer before he began entering talent contests, playing for people, and writing songs he spun from his childhood fantasies. Sexual awareness dawned early and rudely. Doctor Freud would have had a field day. For Prince. though. It marked the beginning of an odyssey that would take him down the trail of loneliness, poverty and awakening. Rock and Soul spoke to Prince recently in Buffalo. New York, where he was about to embark on his second extensive national tour within a year. In early 1980. he'd upstaged the act he opened for — Rick James. This time Prince was the headliner. "My mom used to leave trashy pornography around, and I used to sneak them out of her room when I was eight years old. Then I got sick of those and started writing my own. I didn't write risque lyrics. I didn't know the two went together: people's feelings and music." Prince's preference for sexy lyrics never wavered. Even when he began to play (top 40) for money, he'd sneak In one of his own songs whenever he got the chance. Once he was old enough Prince moved In with his friend and bass player on the road. Andre Cymone, whose father played in Prince's father's band. "When I was sixteen," said Prince, his shyness dissolving as he warmed to the subject, "I lived in Andre's basement. It was a tumbling point for me. I wrote a ton of songs, my brain was free of everything. I didn't have anything to worry about. That's when I realized music could express what you were feeling and it started showing up in my songs. "One night Andre's mother said. 'Prince. Is that girl still down there?" I got nervous but said 'Yes.' She said, 'Okay. just lock the door when she leaves.' After that I knew things weren't forbidden anymore." By the time Prince was 17. He already had five years as a professional musician under his belt. played In groups and written some solid songs. He then went to New York City and. with studio time exchanged for arranging chores record ed demos of Soft and Wet (on For You). Aces and Machine. all with sexual lyrics. Prince received offers from one record and one publishing company, but none to produce his own music. A management dispute followed, and Prince was forced to return home, but not without new enthusiasm. "I went back to Minneapolis and back to Andre's basement," he said candidly. "I could deal with the centipedes and poverty better because I knew I could make it, I'd proven it to myself and that's what really mattered... When Prince signed with Warner Bros., the headlines of strait-laced Minnesota newspapers were rife with rumors of a vulgarian given a six-figure contract to fill the airwaves with raw, sweaty sex. And when his first album was followed by a second. [b]Prince, and a hit single I Wanna Be Your Lover, the scalphunters were not disappointed. "Sex is always the most, Interesting thing to write about." he says. "It's the one subject people can't talk about without losing their cool. Have you ever noticed people can talk about Iran, they can talk about JFK being shot, but as soon as you bring up their sex life they start stuttering. My family, my father and my mother, life and death are far more personal to me than sex." Printed lyrics are not included in Dirty Mind, Prince's breakthrough rock and roll LP. Even though you need a head set lo hear the lyrics. the music still kicks up a storm of rhythm and kink. The album cover is stickered with the warning: "Album contains language which may be unsuitable for some listeners." The sticker does not however obstruct the cover photo of Prince In the royal bikini. Obviously, Prince's kingdom has come. Prince's five-piece road band is tight and crisp, and as a result. an under current of energy gets audiences jumping to their feet. Pretty soon he has everybody singing the chorus to Head without any help from the band. The Prince's sparkling green eyes dart and dash as he writhes and moans in ecstasy. All of a sudden clothes start coming off, the audience goes berserk. Is this any way for a real Prince to behave?