Article – His Highness of Haze 84

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      His Highness of Haze
      By Jack Cocks (Time)
      Time, August 6, 1984

       

      Stumped. For a long minute, anyhow. When Apollonia asked Prince—and yes, those are their real names, approximately—”Is there anything you can’t do?” there was a lingering silence. A tough question to put such a tyro. More silence. A fast career review was clearly in order.

      There would be no question of just skipping to the highlights since 1978, when Warner Bros. Records released his first album when he was 17, for Prince it has been highlights all the way. For You was not the hottest seller in the stores, but the fact that Prince had written, produced and played all the instruments on his first effort got the press making comparisons to Stevie Wonder. There were four more albums and a wonderful grab bag of singles like “When You Were Mine” and “Little Red Corvette”. Now there is Purple Rain , a No. 1 sound-track album with a No. 1 single, “When Doves Cry,” that is the first song since Billie Jean to reach the top slots simultaneously on the pop, black and dance charts. Purple Rain had already sold nearly 2.5 million copies before the movie was released last Friday. This is serious business. So is the movie, a short-circuited psychodrama that grafts snazzy performance footage onto the fictive fever chart of an angst-ridden musician called The Kid and played by Prince himself. The movie has been pulling down real tub-thumper reviews, the sort of hot-seat hype that gives some indication of the way Prince can generate fever and keep the temperature high.

      He does it with a peculiar combination of ambisexual eroticism and self-mythologizing. Until Purple Rain , Prince played at being a prisoner of sex who craved a life sentence. Some of his song titles sounded like cuts on a Pigmeat Markham party record (“Head”, “Soft and Wet”). If there was a unifying theme to his lyrics—indeed, a governing obsession—it was that carnal knowledge is the ultimate wisdom. Party till you drop, make out till you molder: self-realization through rutting.

      Purple Rain, both album and movie, is designed for wider consumption. Prince’s performing entourage still includes young women attired in flash-happy lingerie. But Prince has dispensed with performing in his leopardskin skivvies, and for the movie camera, dresses up in high-heeled boots, ruffled shirts, brocaded jackets. If anyone notices the similarly suited ghost of Jimi Hendrix floating about, so much the better. Hendrix’s classic Purple Haze has left all sorts of echoes around Prince’s neighborhood, and not just in the music. Prince has both mastered the Hendrix style and contemporized it; he has become something of a past master at haze in general.

      The plot of Purple Rain, which Scenarist William Blinn (Roots , Fame ) and first-time Feature Director Albert Magnoli both deny is specifically biographical, nevertheless hews roughly to the broad outlines of Prince’s life. (Prince declines all interviews.) Shot entirely in Minneapolis, where Prince Rogers Nelson was born and grew up, and where he became a regent of the local music scene even before that first album came out in 1978, the movie uses everyone’s real name for characters (“We’ve all called Prince `The Kid’ for a long time,” says Band Member Lisa Coleman) and a lot of real locations.

      The Kid has also been provided, like his real-life doppelganger, with a black father and a Mediterranean mother. In the movie, Dad cuffs Mom around a good deal: he is a frustrated musician, which explains these bouts of violent temper; she shrieks and screams a lot, which presumably demonstrates her ethnicity. If women are sexual baubles in Prince’s songs, in his movie they are tarnished angels who love to have their wings clipped. Apollonia (the “baptismal name” of Newcomer Patricia Kotero, 22) strips down and jumps in to an icy lake to win The Kid’s approval. The Kid, arrogant, sensitive, injured and defensively sadistic, realizes he has been thoroughly psyched by his parents. He salves the wounds by dedicating a song to his father, performing a tune written by the young women of the band and fetching Apollonia on his motorcycle for a last, cathartic concert.

      Elvis did all this, and more, and better, in King Creole and Jailhouse Rock , but each new decade needs its icons. Prince is a suitably odd one for these askew times, albeit something of a miniature. He is frequently photographed from low angles or astride a motorcycle, but when he can be caught in what passes for a spontaneous composition, he seems to be the height of a coffee table. He has the faintly demented courtly charm of Dwight Frye swallowing flies in Dracula , but his sexual charisma is at low tide in the dramatic scenes. All this changes in performance, where Prince really comes out wailing, part Hendrix, part Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. If music alone could make a movie masterpiece, then Purple Rain might have a shot. Its score is ecumenical rock, echoing everyone from Hendrix and Sly Stone to Brian Wilson and Earth, Wind and Fire, yet remaining entirely original overall. It may have the best original rock music ever written for a movie.

      “He’s like a Mozart,” enthuses Apollonia. “I visited his house on a lake 20 miles outside of Minneapolis. It is purple. It’s pretty. He has a studio in there. He lives in that studio.” Apollonia shares a number of things with Prince, including “pretty much the same measures. I’m 36-24-36 and he’s got a well-developed upper torso”; some articles of clothing, such as his suits and her lace tanks (“He’s a ladies man, not homosexual. He does love his women”); and a phone number. “The hot line, I guess you’d call it,” Apollonia says. “That’s right by his bed. No one else has the number.” But it was in person that Apollonia popped the question. The toughie, the one that provoked lingering silence.

      Finally Prince had an answer for her. “Anything I can’t do? I can’t cook.”

      #4677

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        “LOL” To the “I can’t cook” bit. Says a man who so talented it’ll make your head spin and then explode! If he set his mind to it…there’s nothing he couldn’t do.

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