Tell me who in this house know about the quake? Well, we do!
It was 30 years ago, today. – Well almost. I was on a school trip to some canoeing place and while some went out for a second round, I hung out with my favourite girl friend, Tina. No, not girlfriend, (we were passed that) but girl friend.
She lent me her brand new cassette tape with the latest Prince album on it. I popped it into my yellow Sony Walkman, inserted my earbuds, pressed play, and nothing was ever the same again. Sure, we had all heard “Sign O’ The Times” but the album was a whole other beast! When I first heard that overly confident voice demanding everyone to “Shut up, already” I was blown away! Those drums, man. I was heavily into hip hop and metal at the time and hadn’t fully fathomed the awesomeness that was Prince. I hadn’t even realised how good his earlier records was, until that magical, mystical moment in the sun on that floating pier. I remember I had to sit down, it was all just to much. “I mean really!” – I was listening to the worlds greatest party, and I was invited! The music took me places. Lunch was served and I had starfish and coffee, maple syrup and jam. I got to bathe with Dorothy Parker, with my pants on! I was 15 and believe me when I say, I thought about “It” all the time.
For the first time I could relate to the androgynous singer. His beats were hitting, his riffs were hard. His voice was punchy and raw. He was singing about me, to me. I was mesmerised. It was as if he was inside my head. All those times I had wished that I was your girl friend! Lately, in school, I had turned into the guy they all came to, with their older-boyfriend-issues. I had gone from king status to geek status. I had become the nice guy in the friend zone and summer could not come fast enough! And suddenly here was Prince! He got me. He understood. He gave me comfort and a sense that I was destined for something else – the afterworld. For me, that afterworld was whatever was gonna come as soon as school was over.
Safe to say, Tina didn’t get the tape back. Not until I had had the chance to make a copy of it anyway. (Don’t worry, I’ve bought it three times since).
Strangely though, as the years have passed, I haven’t listened that much to the album for maybe 20 years and as I saw that it was time for its’ 30th anniversary I started wondering why? So the other day, I sat down and put my headphones on. Wow! Immediately I was back on that pier in the sun. But something else hit me. The reason why I haven’t listened to ”Sign O’ The Times” for so long is probably because I am listening to it everyday! Every time I put on Miles Davies, it’s thanks to that album. Every time I listen to Frank Zappa, it’s because of Prince. Every time I enjoy a great pop song it’s because of how that album taught me music, production, sound. Suddenly I realised, that moment on the pier was the starting point of my career as a producer and mixer. Had it not been for ”Sign O’ the Times” I might never have dared to venture into all those obscure jazz albums and fusion groups. Maybe I wouldn’t even have understood the rest of Princes catalogue. The album is full of exciting counter point, intricate chords, weird sounds, and advanced theory, but done in a way that you never realise the complexity of it. It’s a true masterpiece and maybe the highlight of a brilliant career. It’s also a rare gem for musicologists that is far to often overseen. On a more serious note, if it wasn’t for ”Sign O’ the Times”, I would never have had the balls to build my studio. I would never have learnt how to make a properly gated reverb. I probably wouldn’t have been asked to produce Orren and Barbas earlier group, King Kong Crew, and we would maybe never have met. I certainly wouldn’t have been Grammy nominated, and Billy Momo wouldn’t have sounded the way we do! In a way, I owe it all to a purple-loving man in heals, wearing Peaches and Black! (Oscar Harryson, aka ‘The Head’, guitar + producer)