Prince’s Hot Rock: The Secret Life Of America’s Sexiest One-Man Band
Most influential one-man band
By Debby MillerApril 28, 1983
What does a twenty-two-year-old musical wizard in bikini briefs have that other rock stars don’t? Whatever it is, it makes him the world’s sexiest and most influential one-man band.
His music, a technofunk and rock blend that many have started to call “the Minneapolis sound” because of the way the Minnesota native’s influence is spreading, is the freshest thing around. So Kraftwerk made The Man Machine? This is the Man Sex Machine. He usually plays every instrument on his albums, even sings his own backup most of the time. His upper register can give you goose flesh when he’s singing gospel-style, and he can turn around and hiccup his way through rockabilly like a perfect descendant of Elvis. There just don’t seem to be any bounds to Prince’s nerve or talent – each album is better than the last (he’s made five), each stage show more outrageous.
A tour begun in November of last year had grossed almost $7 million before the end of March. Prince’s new double album, 1999, has sold almost 750,000 copies, with its hottest single, “Little Red Corvette,” closing in on the Top Twenty on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. And two groups he helped form made the black chart’s Top Ten this winter: Vanity 6, a coquettish trio that performs in lingerie and whose “Nasty Girls” was a disco smash, and the Time, the tightest, funkiest live band in America.
Prince, just twenty-two, is the father of it all. But just try checking out the lineage. There isn’t just a private side to Prince, there’s an almost mysterious aspect. While the art of self-promotion has never been alien to rock & roll, it seems only to frustrate Prince. He was fairly outspoken until last fall, when, after his first interview to promote 1999, he walked out of the room and announced that he would never talk to the press again. “He’s afraid he might say something wrong or say too much,” says a former aide-de-camp.
When he did talk, he often contradicted himself. Rumors started to spread, and now his silence feeds them. Is Prince his real name? Is he black or white, straight or gay (questions he himself raised on his 1981 hit-cum-Lord’s Prayer recitation, “Controversy”)? Is he the Jamie Starr who produced albums by the Time and Vanity 6? Is he a shy little Prince or a despotic king?