Today I visited the My Name Is Prince exhibition at the O2 in London, where, famously, he performed his 21 Nights live shows way back in 2007.
Everyone has their personal, unique relationship to Prince’s music.
One of my earliest Prince memories is from school; I remember guys laughing in the locker room about the lyric “why is your organ so small? I didn’t realize I was playing in a cathedral” from the Batman soundtrack (an album that I didn’t acquire until much later).
My first love was Thieves in the Temple; I couldn’t get enough of that song, and consequently rushed out to buy the Graffiti Bridge album, which, looking back, probably wasn’t the best introduction to his albums, but what did I know back in 1990? However, The Question of U remains a favourite to this day.
Next, I worked backwards, purchasing the Lovesexy cassette tape during a family holiday, and immediately became obsessed with it. That album seduced me, and I spent many hours taking it all in, absorbing the music and the lyrics, trying to figure out what it all meant.
Decades later I finally got it on CD, happy that the songs were all separate, rather than the one long continuous track that they had been on the original release. My favourite from that album is When 2 R in Love; “Drop drop drop drop water water water, come bathe with me.“
The first Prince single I bought was Gett Off. I couldn’t stop playing it, “23 positions in a one night stand“. Years later, when I lived in Japan, this song became an anthem for a close friend and I, and now I can’t listen to it without thinking of her.
I bought Cream, too, and then the Diamonds and Pearls album, which was more thrilling than Graffiti Bridge had been.
Next came Sexy MF, a song that I felt a bit embarrassed to play, but I loved it all the same. I must admit that I didn’t appreciate the love symbol album as much as others have proclaimed to, and my interest in Prince dwindled a bit then.
However, I was soon in for a treat. Upon returning home after a long summer in Israel, The Hits and the B-sides was released in 1993 and I bought the triple CD version, the very same day that I flew home.
I remember trying to listen to the whole thing in one sitting, but jet lag got the better of me and I fell asleep somewhere during CD 2, only to wake up some twelve hours later, still in my clothes. The b-sides (on CD 3) were a revelation; a whole CD of Prince songs that I had never heard before.
It was like being given a key to a box full of treasure. 17 Days, She’s Always in My Hair, Feel U Up and Erotic City became new favourites, alongside the blockbuster hits 1999, If I Was Your Girlfriend, I Would Die For U, and Let’s Go Crazy.
Prince’s later stuff didn’t pull me in, so instead I looked back. I finally got the Batman soundtrack and loved it; this album is on frequent rotation in our house, since my sons want to listen to it a lot, but I think it’s because they like Batman, not Prince. 1999 followed, as did Sign o’ the times, Purple Rain and Dirty Mind, which is probably my most favorite Prince album of all.
I was fortunate to have seen Prince play live, just once, in Chicago in 2012. As he said during the show, “we’ve got so many hits we can’t play them all”.
My Name Is Prince exhibit
Photography was not allowed in the exhibit, so I can’t show you what was inside; words will have to do instead.
Items on display included his personalised guitars and some of his stage outfits; everyone said he was a small guy, but, man, those outfits looked tiny.
There were his awards, his lyric sheets, album artworks, video installations of live performances, costumes from movies and music videos, and, of course, a souvenir shop where you could buy overpriced Prince paraphernalia.
The exhibit has been lovingly and carefully put together, to take you on a journey through his career. If you can get tickets, I highly recommend it.
More information here.