The first time I heard Prince, it was from my neighbor across the street, a pretty red boned girl named Yvonne who had light green eyes and good hair. She and I would ride our bikes across the beat up sidewalks of Pasadena near Lake and Villa, down south to Poo Bah’s Record Shop. It was a dusty little slip of a shop on the South East corner of __ and ___.
Though small it was filled with albums, full LPS and smaller 45s, posters new and old adorned the walls and ceilings like rock and roll wall paper, telling stories with their images, causing emotions to rise and fall like the detritus of dust motes dancing around the room, made more evident by the sunlight beaming through the windows.
It was a magical place, a place to get lost in, your choices made not by listening to a track but just buying the album in its entirety or the 45. There were no headphones to plug into and listen to see if you liked what you heard. It was enough to know you loved that one song, and that was enough to get you into that store to buy it.
We would ride our bikes down there, not even bothering to lock them up, but dragged them up the four steps leading to the front door, where there was ample room from the wide porch, typical of old Craftsman style homes. You see Poo Bah’s was once a cute little Craftsman Bungalow that probably housed a family of four, or a teacher from nearby Caltech, a nurse from Huntington Hospital. It was old and full of character, its wooden floors no longer burnished and gleaming, its built ins no longer holding China, but records. Who knew that old built ins would be so ideal for records?
Yvonne and I would peruse the album covers, walking back and forth between the aisles, excitedly pulling out an album that interested us, gazing upon the cover, anxiously flipping it over to see and read what was on the back, the heft of the album lending it an almost trophy like quality and presence. Not like the flimsy CD’s of today or their predecessors, the cassette. Only the 8 track and an album had brevity, had weight. I think there’s a direct correlation between the message of the music and not just when it was released but in what capacity was it released? Meaning, the good, soulful, blow your mind, crazy good and that’s some poetic shit music was released on 8 tracks and albums. The more pop, bubble gum, aggressive type of music a la Britney Spears, Marilyn Manson, Blink 182, Ariana Grande, that’s all CD.
But Prince. Prince came out in the 70s, his music on albums and later cassettes. His first album, For You, released in 1978, when I was five-years-old. By the time I made it to Poo Bah’s record shop, I was 11, and it was the summer of Purple Rain, reigned over by Prince, who had the number one album, movie, and song in the United States. Yvonne, being two years older than me, was far more familiar with his work, having been allowed to see the R rated Purple Rain because she was 13. At 11, the closest I could get to Purple Rain was gazing upon the album cover at Poo Bah’s, something about the white background, the flowers, the brazen Purple Rain written across the front, it stirred me, riled me up a bit.
I distinctly remember hearing “Adore” while getting dressed one hot summer day. The lyrics then and now resonate with me, they are the quintessence of love unconditional, just beautiful. I remember thinking, “Wow. Those words are SO pretty! I wish someone would feel like that for me!” because at the time Adore was being played on the radio, I was 13-years-old, tall and thin, with a frizzy head full of curls that refused to be tamed, and Coke bottle thick red framed glasses that were constantly sliding down my face.
Yvonne was 15 by then and not really interested in my company anymore, so I would often ride my bike by myself from Pasadena up to Altadena. My reward would be cruising downhill, the wind blowing my hair back, my muscles relaxing after the uphill ride. I would think a lot on those solo bike rides, and I would pray to have a best friend and to be pretty. That’s what I pined for, that and to be one day be adored like in the Prince song of the same name.
Seven years later I went to Prince’s nightclub in Downtown Los Angeles. Glam Slam. On the corner of 3rd and Boylston. I had a fake ID that I had memorized, and was all smiles and googly eyes at the burly security guard. I always believed you get more with sugar than with salt, so a sweet disposition would be more beneficial for my 20 year old ass to get into the club.
I remember being on the dance floor with my English girlfriend Julie. She was wearing my white knit body suit, her straight brown hair cut blunt and long, bangs hanging over her eyes. We were dancing when yet another security guard barreled his way over to us. My heart sank, sure I would get asked to leave for being a minor.
He was coming straight for me. I stopped dancing and looked at him, wide eyed, without guile.
He took a breath and said, “Would you like to meet Prince?”
NOW my heart REALLY sank. Sank and came back up with the force of a gunshot from the barrel. Would I like to meet Prince?! Are you f*cking kidding me?!
“Yes,” I said, and he quickly turned on his heel to show me the way. “Excuse me,” I said, and he turned back to me. “What about my girlfriend?” I asked, pointing towards Julie who was at the bar getting a glass of water.
The security guard looked her way, from feet to face, and back to me. “No,” he said, “just you.”
And away we went, up the stairs to a closed door. He opened the door and stepped aside.
There he was. Prince. Sitting on a sofa in a suit and sucking on a Tootsie Roll Pop.
My body was shaking uncontrollably, as though I were having a small seizure, or I was freezing cold and could not get warm. I remember sitting across from him, our knees touching, and tensing the muscles in my legs to stop them from shaking. I was nervous, anxious, excited, exhilarated. Prince. He wanted to meet me! To talk to me!
And it all started with Adore and me walking through a door.