I owned this masterpiece of funk on cassette way before the vinyl. After Purple Rain and Parade, I was determined to own all of his discography on disc (vinyl, not the dreaded laser). I found most of his early catalog rather easily, but something about 1999 holds a special place in my heart. It was actually the first Prince record I was exposed to (great wording there). I got this on cassette in 1983. I was 10 and I got the cheap ass grey Walgreen’s radio with one cassette deck. I was thrilled. I got a lot of cassettes. I rocked out. My mom had a problem with Prince. She called him “the pig” because she got ahold of the lyrics for “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” and she did NOT care for her 10-year old daughter to hear “such filth”. Laugh. You should, for you know how that has turned out. The absolute only reason my mom caved and bought this for me was because she LOVED, LOVED, LOVED L”ittle Red Corvette”. I mean, ridiculous obsession. If she bought it for me and I was at school, she could borrow it and play the hell out of that while I was at school. I do believe, honestly, that’s the only reason I owned that at all.
When the time came to find it on vinyl, it wasn’t as easy as one could hope. I found Purple Rain, Parade, Dirty Mind, and Controversy easily. For some reason I still haven’t figured out, 1999 was a bitch to locate. I wonder if Prince himself wasn’t somehow responsible for ordering the copies all stricken from public buying. Maybe part of his “Slave” persona and boycotting Warner Brothers was to send his purple paisley clad elf warriors out to grab all copies away from public view (Don’t laugh, you never know, this IS Prince we are talking about). After spending about 7 years looking for it and scouring weird locations, I finally found the bitch- in Oak Park, at a neighborhood institution known as Val’s Halla Records. If you’re ever out in Oak Park, IL, find it and check it out. I guarantee you’ll find something of note. I was there with Mike and Janine, my friends, who were looking for radically different albums. Janine was looking for any Def Leppard, Mike was looking for an album by Selena and a live rare Elton John album. I was just checking for anything great. I had no intention of finding it, and there it was. Gorgeous, not a ridiculous price, and it was mine. I didn’t mind the long wait in locating and owning it. Totally worth it.
I figured, since I am talking about the pint-sized Prince of Purple, I may as well discuss a book that I ran into about Prince. It was located completely by accident. I had read about this book in a copy of Mojo magazine at the other book hole. It’s written by Alex Hahn, a journalist and attorney, and the review in Mojo so grabbed my attention that I had to find this book. Of course, the RAM (rednecks a million) folks didn’t have this and it couldn’t be ordered from the Honey Boo Boo Pod Warehouse that distributed our books, so I was out of luck. Shamazon had copies of this at the time that were going for $58.00 and up. I really wanted that book, but not that damn much. I didn’t think of Alibris and I didn’t know of Abe, two far better sites for locating out of print books. I did the usual and hit all the nearby book stores. I finally found this book at Waldenbooks in Woodfield Mall when they were going out of business. It was marked down big time, and I got it for the princely (sorry, I had to) sum of $7.99. Not bad for a hardcover, and hey- it’s a first edition. Double score.
As for the book itself, it is compelling. You cannot put it down. I’m telling you now, if you’re expecting a glowing portrayal of the Artist known as a Genius, well, it does portray him as a genius, but it also portrays him as a human being, which you may not care for. If you believe in butterflies, magical cereal fairies, and socks remaining clean forever, then this is NOT the book for you. All in all, Hahn tells us like it is. The rise, the mid-point, the top of the heap, and the fall back down quite steep. There are no holds barred, and some people who believe that Prince is not only a genius but a nice, normal chap, are in for one hell of a rude awakening. Hahn covers the all incarnations of the backup band, including the allegations that Prince steals material from his band members and the unceremonious firings of those who helped him get where he is. It talks of all of the affairs, it hits on the critical acclaim and the critical shame (yes, Under The Cherry Moon, I’m looking at you) that individual albums have accomplished, as well as his rudeness to fans that aren’t women, among the mysteries of Prince, as many as Hahn tries to solve, he ends up creating more. And that, my friends, is why you need to read it. If you want to read it, go on Alibris, go on Abe, go on Shamazon, and grab a copy. It is definitely in my top 10 rock biographies that I have read in my lifetime. I feel if there’s a definitive book on Prince, this is it. And it’s spectacular, so you should grab a copy if you can.