Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Prince @ Wembley Arena, March 1995

In the past, there have been a couple of instances where I missed a concert to which I had already bought a ticket. The worst case would have been that of The Bangles. I bought a ticket for a 1989 London gig (I think it was at The Town & Country Club in Kentish Town). Then the gig was cancelled. In fact I think the whole tour was cancelled. To add insult to injury a few weeks later The Bangles split up. I got my money back (I think it was only 10 pounds), but there was no chance of seeing them again, right? Fast forward 11 years later in 2000 in LA, and while I was eating my burger in a fast food joint on Sunset Boulevard, I notice a huge billboard on the other side of the road advertising The Bangles Reunion tour. I could not see them in the US (I was due to head back to London a couple of weeks later), but The Bangles were back together and that meant there was hope! I had a chance of finally seeing them! Well, that chance came 1 year later, when the came to London for a gig at The Sheperd's Bush Empire. After only 12 years I saw them live! I thoroughly enjoyed it. Five days later it was September the 11th and several other gigs were cancelled. Oh well...

The other instance of me missing a gig was in 1990. And this time, as you've guessed it, it was Prince. Back then there was no internet, so if you wanted to buy a ticket you either went to a box office (I was always going to one at Westminster opposite The Houses Of Parliament which was unfortunately closed when works for the Jubilee Line extension started), or you mailed your check and hoped for the best, receiving your ticket in the mail. I don't know why, but in this case I used the latter method. Demand for tickets was bound to be heavy, so I probably felt safer having had my check mailed. If it was sold out I thought I would get a refund. Now Prince had announced 3 gigs initially (if I remember correctly), around the 20th of June. I asked for one of them, knowing that if I didn't get one for the date I had chosen I would get one on one of the other two dates. The timing was right, just after the exams. Well what happened was this: All gigs were sold out, so Prince kept adding gigs which were also sold out. Seven gigs were eventually announced in London, all 7 were sold out, then he went to Birmingham for 3 gigs at the NEC and after Birmingham he added 2 more to London. I was eventually allocated a ticket to one of these two, I think it was for the 4th of July. I received the ticket in the mail. The problem was that I had no way of staying in the UK until that date. The college would be closed, I would not have anywhere to stay and I could not support myself for all these days leading to the 4th of July. So I went home, and never went to that concert.
4 and a half years later, in January 1995, when I returned to London from my Christmas holiday, upon entering Tower Records for one of my regular visits there, I saw Prince tickets being sold at its Box Office. Needless to say, I immediately grabbed one. It was either for the 21st or the 22nd of March.

Prince's situation was much different by then. As the day of the concert was approaching, Time Out magazine featured a Prince interview. A Prince interview? Now that was something extremely rare. Back in the 80's at the height of his popularity Prince would not give any interviews. I bought the magazine and from that interview I learned that he had declared war on his record company which would not let him release his latest album "The Gold Experience" and that's why he had written the word "Slave" on his cheek.

To get back at them he said, he would not play any of his biggest hits on that tour so that the record company would not profit from sales of these records. Now this would seem like a big disappointment probably, but Prince was Prince and he was funky, so I knew I was going to have a good time anyway. In fact, the company tried to cash in by releasing a limited edition "Purple Medley" single which I did buy, though he would not play any of these songs on the day.
I was lucky enough after all these years to find the complete interview on the internet and you can read it here: http://princetext.tripod.com/i_timeout95.html
It's funny how many little things I remember while I'm writing this. Upon entering the arena I saw that I had to go through a security check in case I was carrying any illegal items. There were several people doing these checks men and women, so naturally (!) I went to one of the women. Very kindly she instructed me to go to one of the guys. Apparently the men were checking the men and the women were checking the women. Well, it was worth a try (:LOL:).
I remember my security guy finding my Stephen King (or Dean Koontz) paperback and telling me "It can't be that boring, can it?". I explained that I had a long tube journey back home. You see, while both Wembley and my place were in North London, I would have to travel through Central London to change to the Piccadilly Line and get back to Wood Green.
Anyway, I was finally in and I realized that in fact "Purple Medley" could be heard at the gig but only through the speakers while we waited for the concert to start and while the single was being advertised at the video projectors. Finally Prince came on stage and launched into a very funky set which looked like this:

01. Endorphinmachine
02. The Jam
03. Shhh
04. Days Of Wild
05. Now
06. Funky Stuff
07. Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine
08. The Most Beautiful Girl in the World
09. P Control
10. Letitgo
11. Pink Cashmere
12. Loose!
13. I Love U In Me
14. Peach
15. 7
16. Get Wild
17. Billy Jack Bitch
18. Eye Hate U
20. 319
21. Gold

So, who cared that he did not play the earlier hits, when in fact there were other hits like "The Most Beautiful Girl In The World (#1 in the UK), "Peach" and "LetItGo", but most importantly, my favourite Prince song ever: "7"

Yes, my favourite Prince song is not from the 80's but from the 90's:

"All 7 and we'll watch them fall
They stand in the way of love but we will smoke them all
With an intellect, and a savoir-faire
No-one in the whole universe will ever compare
I am yours now and you are mine
And together we'll love through all space and time
So don't cry..."

There were also great b-sides like "Pink Cashmere", a cover of James Brown's "Sex Machine" and even a song from the album The New Power Generation (his backing band) released without him: "Get Wild". Oh and there was also "P. Control" the complete title of which was "Pussy Control". Prince introduced it as "a song about our favourite part of your anatomy ladies, which drives us crazy". He then proceeded to guiding all the women in the audience to sing along with him "Aaaaah, pussy control!". Priceless!
After the concert, on my way back to Wembley Park station, I found a guy selling posters on the street. I bought a Prince poster (of course) plus a laminated "Pulp Fiction" poster which was hanging for several years in my bedroom. Funny the things one remembers after 21 years... You will be missed Mr.Nelson...

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