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The Eighties Club
The Politics and Pop Culture of the 1980s
A Decade in the Life
of
Prince

Prince Rogers Nelson was born 6.7.58 in Minneapolis, MN to jazz pianist John Nelson and vocalist mother Mattie. His father was leader of the Prince Rogers Trio, with whom his mother sometimes sang, and taught his son how to play the piano at a very early age. When he was 12, Prince ran away from home following difficulties with his stepfather; he was adopted by another family and learned to play the guitar, bass guitar, saxophone, and drums. His cousin, Charles Smith, invited him to join his junior-high school band, Grand Central, which included friend Cymone Anderson and Cymone's sister Linda on keyboards. During his years at Minneapolis High, Prince saw Smith replaced by Morris Day and Grand Central become Champagne, which he fronted. By age 16, Prince had left school -- and already made an imprint on music; the so-called Minneapolis Sound, called "Uptown" by its followers, was centered round Prince's new band, Flyte Tyme. By 1976 Prince was a session guitarist at Minneapolis' Sound 80 studios, where he cut demos. Following an unsuccessful trip to New York in search of a record deal, Prince got the backing he needed from Minneapolis businessman Owen Husney, who formed the American Artists management company with attorney Gary Levinson. The following year, Warner Bros. offered a long-term record deal. Prince's debut album, For You (1978) peaks at #163, having cost double what Warner had earmarked for three albums; the single "Soft & Wet" reached #12 on the R&B chart and sells 350,000 copies. Switching from American Artists to Cavallo & Ruffalo, managers of Ray Parker, Jr. and Earth, Wind & Fire, Prince began work on his second album in 1979. An extracted single entitled "I Wanna Be Your Lover" topped the R&B chart for two weeks. The album, Prince, peaked at US#22 and produced another hit single, "Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad? (R&B, #13) and contained "I Feel For You," which Chaka Khan would turn into a Top Ten hit in 1984...


January 1980
"I Wanna Be Your Lover" reaches US#11 and is Prince's UK chart debut at #41. While on tour supporting Rick James, Prince reportedly quarrels with James.
February 1980
Keyboardist Gayle Chapman is replaced by Lisa Coleman, daughter of L.A. session player Gary Coleman; Lisa will remain with Prince for the next six years. Prince is certified platinum by the RIAA.
December 1980
The mostly solo Dirty Mind, originally recorded on Prince's own 16-track equipment and remixed in Los Angeles, reaches US#45. Some of the songs stir controversy, and are deemed too sexual in content by some. "Uptown" makes it to #5 on the US R&B chart.
January 1981
Prince and his band, The Revolution, begin an extensive US tour; apart from Chapman, the band consists of drummer Bobby Z, guitarist Dez Dickerson, bassist Cymone Anderson and keyboardist Matt Fink.
June 1981
Prince makes his debut UK live performance at London's Lyceum Ballroom.  Attendance is poor and the rest of the UK tour is cancelled. Cymone Anderson quits the band to launch a solo career.
July 1981
Warner Bros. releases an album by Minneapolis group Time, featuring Morris Day, and consisting of songs written by Prince using the pseudonym "Jamie Starr".
November 1981
"Controversy," the title track from Prince's upcoming album, stalls at US#70. Another track, "Let's Work," makes it to US R&B #9. Time supports Prince on an American tour. Next month, the album Controversy will climb to US#21.
March 1982
Prince buys a mansion in suburban Minneapolis.
October 1982
Prince launches a six-month tour to promote his next album, 1999, supported by Time and Prince's all-girl group Vanity 6, comprised of Brenda Bennett, Canadian Dee Dee Winters (aka Vanity) and Susan Moonsie.
December 1982
"1999" peaks at US#44.
April 1983
The 1999 Tour finished, Prince begins work on a feature film with Hollywood scriptwriter William Blinn. Dickerson leaves The Revolution and is replaced by Wendy Melvoin (like Lisa Coleman, the daughter of a session musician). Prince cancels sellout dates at London's Dominion Theatre.
May 1983
"Little Red Corvette" peaks at US#6 while 1999 makes it to US#9; the album will remain charted for two years.
July 1983
"1999" returns to the chart and this time ends up at US#12.
October 1983
"Delirious" makes it to US#8.
November 1983
Filming begins on Purple Rain; it will take seven weeks and cost $7 million. Performance scenes are shot at Minneapolis' Fifth Avenue Club. Wendy and Lisa contribute to the project as a songwriting team.
January 1984
"Let's Pretend We're Married"/"Irresistible Bitch" peaks at US#52.
July 1984
"When Doves Cry", taken from the forthcoming Purple Rain soundtrack, becomes Prince's first #1 song, remaining at the top spot for five weeks and becoming the biggest-selling single of the year. The semi-autobiographical Purple Rain premieres on the 27th in the US and will gross $60 million in two months.
August 1984
The Purple Rain album -- produced, arranged, composed and performed by Prince & The Revolution -- soars to US#1, where it will stay for 24 weeks, eventually selling ten million units in the US; it reaches UK#7, as well."When Doves Cry" is certified gold by the RIAA.
September 1984
"Let's Go Crazy" tops the US singles chart.
October 1984
"Purple Rain" climbs to UK#8; next month it will reach US#2.
November 1984
A 100-date American tour is launched, interspersed with free concerts given for handicapped children, and will sell more than 1.6 million tickets. Joining Prince onstage is percussionist Sheila E., daughter of Carlos Santana's percussionist Pete Escovedo, and with whom Prince had collaborated on her album The Glamorous Life in June 1984.
January 1985
"1999"/"Little Red Corvette" hits UK#2, becoming Prince's most successful release in Britain to date, while 1999 climbs to UK#30. 1981's Controversy is certified platinum by the RIAA. Prince wins Favorite Single (Soul/R&B), Favorite Album (Soul/R&B) and Favorite Album (Pop/Rock) at the 12th Annual American Music Awards. Prince declines to join the USA for Africa recording session of "We Are The World", held after the awards, but donates "4 The Tears In Your Eyes" to the follow-up benefit album.
February 1985
"I Would Die 4 U", from the Purple Rain film, peaks at US#8. Prince wins Best International Solo Artist and Purple Rain takes Best Film Soundtrack at the 4th Annual BRIT Awards in London.
March 1985
Prince wins Best Group Rock Vocal Performance for "Purple Rain" and R&B Song of the Year for "I Feel For You" at the 27th Annual Grammy Awards. He also wins Best Original Score at the Academy Awards. "Take Me With You", featuring a Prince-Apollonia duet, reaches UK#7 and US#25. Sheena Easton's "Sugar Walls", penned by Prince using the pseudonym Alexander Nevermind, reaches US#9.
June 1985
Around The World In A Day, recorded at the new Paisley Park studios at Prince's Minneapolis headquarters, soars to US#1, where it will remain for three weeks, and also climbs to UK#5. Prince announces he will no longer do live performances and travels to France to begin work on a new movie, Under The Cherry Moon. "Paisley Park" climbs to UK#18.
July 1985
The RIAA certifies two million units sold of Around The World In A Day, and 1999 is certified multi-platinum. "Raspberry Beret" makes it to US#2. (In August it will peak at UK#25.) It is the first single released on Prince's Paisley Park label.
August 1985
"Pop Life" hits US#7 (and UK#60 in October). Prince breaks his no-interview rule to talk to Rolling Stone's Neal Karlen.
March 1986
"Kiss" soars to UK#6.
April 1986
"Kiss" reaches the top of the US R&B chart; two weeks later it will top the Hot 100 chart. At #2 is "Manic Monday", performed by The Bangles but written by Prince as Christopher Tracy.
May 1986
Parade -- Music From Under The Cherry Moon makes it to US#3 and UK#4. Prince changes his mind about live performances and launches the critically acclaimed Parade Tour.
June 1986
Lisa Barber, a motel cleaning woman in Sheridan, WY, is the 10,000th caller in an MTV contest and wins a date with Prince to attend the premiere of Under The Cherry Moon in Sheridan. Parade is certified platinum by the RIAA.
July 1986
Under The Cherry Moon opens nationwide. "Mountains", penned by Wendy and Lisa, peaks at US#23.
August 1986
Prince plays three sellout performances at London's Wembley Arena, his first live shows in Britain in five years. "Anotherloverholenyohead" stalls at US#63. Issued only in Britain, "Boys And Girls" peaks at UK#11.
September 1986
The "Raspberry Beret" video wins Best Choreography at the 3rd Annual MTV Awards.
March 1987
Preparing a new stage show, Prince retains most of The Revolution, recalls Sheila E., and adds guitarist Mico Weaver and dancer/singer Cat Glover, among others. "Sign O' The Times" climbs to UK#10.
April 1987
Double album Sign O' The Times soars to UK#4 in its week of entry while the title single climbs to US#3. In May the album will peak at US#6.
June 1987
As Prince's European tour begins, "If I Was Your Girlfriend" stalls at US#67. It features Prince's alter ego, "Camille", as lead vocalist.
July 1987
Prince's two Wembley Arena shows are cancelled, ostensibly due to bad weather. A movie, Sign O' The Times, consisting of a filmed performance in Rotterdam, is released in lieu of live performances in the US and UK. The album is certified platinum by the RIAA, and "If I Was Your Girlfriend" climbs to UK#20.
September 1987
"U Got The Look", a duet with Sheena Easton, makes it to US#2 with help from a steamy video. Next month the single will peak at UK#11.
December 1987
"I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man" makes it to UK#29. Rumors abound that Prince wants Warner Bros. to release his next album in a plain black sleeve without credits. The so-called Black Album is never officially released, though 100 do disappear from WEA's German pressing plant, the source for a flood of bootleg copies. The tracks, including "Le Grind" and "Dead On It", are described as hardcore erotic funk.
February 1988
"I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man" peaks at US#10.
May 1988
"Alphabet St." reaches UK#9. Its parent album, Lovesexy, becomes Prince's first British chart-topper. It will peak at US#11, and supposedly features Prince's "good" alter ego ("Camille") as well as his "bad" alter ego ("Spooky Electric"). Prince's sister, Tyka Nelson, signs with Chrysalis Records and releases an album that receives scant notice.
June 1988
"Alphabet St." peaks at US#8.
July 1988
The Lovesexy Tour is launched in Paris and includes eight nights at Wembley Arena, London. Prince usually arrives on stage in a pink Cadillac. "Glam Slam" makes UK#29.
August 1988
RIAA certifies 100,000 copies of the "Prince & The Revolution" video sold.
September 1988
"U Got The Look" wins Best Male Video and Best Stage Performance at the 5th Annual MTV Awards. Prince launches a 20-date US tour, his first in America in four years. This includes a benefit concert to establish a scholarship fund in the name of a 17-year-old killed when struck by an automobile while waiting in line for Prince concert tickets in Boston.
November 1988
"I Wish You Heaven" climbs to UK#24. Prince sings a duet with Madonna for her upcoming album and signs George Clinton to the Paisley Park label.
January 1989
The Sign O' The Times video is certified platinum by the RIAA. Dave Hill's bio, Prince: A Pop Life, is published in Britain.
April 1989
Prince's half-sister, Lorna Nelson, loses a court battle during which she claimed Prince stole the lyrics for "U Got The Look" from her.
July 1989
"Batdance", featuring snippets of dialog by Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson from the forthcoming movie, Batman, soars to UK#2. The first cut from the Prince-composed and produced soundtrack will reach US#1 in August, and by September will be certified platinum by the RIAA. The soundtrack will hit the top of the album charts in both the US and UK; the RIAA will confirm two million units sold by the end of August.
September 1989
"Partyman" reaches UK#14 and, in October, US#18.
December 1989
"The Arms Of Orion", a duet with Sheena Easton from the Batman soundtrack, peaks at UK#27 and US#36. By year's end, Prince has begun work on a new film project, Graffiti Bridge, and written and produced an album for Mavis Staples.


Dirty Mind (Warners, 1980)
Dirty Mind
When You Were Mine
Do It All Night
Gotta Broken Heart Again
Uptown
Head
Sister
Partyup

"Despite the contrived visual sensationalism of the sleeve - which has him pouting in flasher ace, black stockings and bikini briefs - Prince is still a blessing in (bizarre) disguise."
New Musical Express

"Though Dirty Mind is an undeniably appositive title, the LP might just as accurately have been called Prince Confronts the Moral Majority: except for "Uptown," "Partyup" and the loping "Gotta Broken Heart Again," none of Dirty Mind could make it onto the most liberal radio-station playlists these days. In a time where Brooke Shields' blue-jeaned backside provokes howls of shock and calls for censorship from mature adults, Prince's sly wit -- intentionally coarse -- amounts to nothing less than an early, prescient call to arms against the elitist puritanism of the Reagan era."
Ken Tucker, Rolling Stone

Controversy (Warners, 1981)
Controversy
Sexuality
Do Me, Baby
Private Joy
Ronnie, Talk To Russia
Let's Work
Annie Christian
Jack U Off

"It should come as little surprise that on his fourth album, Prince has made his inflammatory and explicit sexuality the basis of an amusingly jive but attractive social agenda. Once you've exalted brother-sister incest (Dirty Mind's "Sister"), not to mention nearly every other sexual possibility, how else can you get people's attention?"
Stephen Holden, Rolling Stone

"Prince has an urge in him which sometimes comes out as a nightingale, sometimes a vulgar pierrot and then occasionally just a babyish gurgle. Here is a minstrel who sings of his bedtime succour - a modern prince, mark you, and may have the captives seduced, only to dash the accomplishment away; straddled o'er an earthquake of rocky showtime guff and peacock proud of Mr Reagan to boot."
 New Musical Express

1999 (Warners, 1982)
1999
Little Red Corvette
Delirious
Let's Pretend We're Married
D.M.S.R.
Automatic
Something In The Water (Does Not Compute)
Free
Lady Cab Driver
All The Critics Love You In New York
International Lover

"Having graduated in record time form postdisco, garage rock to high-tech studio wizardry, Prince works like a colorblind technician who's studied both Devo and Afrika bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force, keeping the songs constantly kinetic with an inventive series of shocks and surprises."
Rolling Stone

"Like all his previous records, 1999 has been written, produced and arranged entirely by Prince, and he's played most of the instruments on the album. Until now, he has avoided all the self-indulgence that sort of freedom often inspires in an artist, but 1999 has its lapses, such as a tedious funk-guitar coda appended to a trivial tune called 'Lady Cab Driver' and a vague slap at some of his most enthusiastic supporters in a diatribe called 'All the Critics Love U in New York.'"
Ken Tucker, Philadelphia Inquirer

Purple Rain (Warners, 1984)
Let's Go Crazy
Take Me With U
The Beautiful Ones
Computer Blue
Darling Nikki
When Doves Cry
I Would Die 4 U
Baby I'm A Star
Purple Rain

"In many ways, Prince is to 80's dance music what Hendrix was to 60's rock -- a figure of great talent, showmanship, imagination and animalistic charisma."
SOUNDS

"While his previous albums established Prince's musical creativity, driving sense of syncopation and passion for sexual lyrics, Purple Rain serves as an affirmation of his versatility and substance as a performer and composer. This finely produced album, which doubles as a soundtrack for the film Purple Rain, pulses with rhythm and sizzles with steamy sensuousness."
Miami Herald

Around The World In A Day (Paisley Park, 1985)
Around The World In A Day
Paisley Park
Condition Of The Heart
Raspberry Beret
Tambourine
Pop Life
America
The Ladder
Temptation

"Around the World in a Day . . . may suggest that Prince's long of session with s-e-x is beginning to make way for other concerns -- we'll doubtless be hearing that in getting away from that adolescent humpa-hump stuff, Prince has grown up. Maybe it's my hormones, but to me Around the World is if anything more childish sounding than any of its predecessors. Prince has traded what he does know for wide-eyed, goofy philosophizing that can be ugly . . . as well as lovable."
John Pareles, Rolling Stone

"His dip into period mysticism corresponds with a drop in libidinous punch, even as it ties in with his conversion to God."
New Musical Express

Parade (Paisley Park, 1986)
Christopher Tracy's Parade
New Position
I Wonder U
Under The Cherry Moon
Girls And Boys
Life Can Be So Nice
Venus de Milo
Mountains
Do U Lie
Kiss
Anotherloverholenyohead
Sometimes It Snows In April

"Prince takes stock of the various directions he has explored during his eight-year recording career and integrates them into an intriguing and, ultimately, entertaining work. He brings his music back to the dance floor of Dirty Mind and 1999 without getting trapped by the same old steps. He also retains the psuedo-psychedelic edge -- and makes better use of it -- than he did on last year's album, Around the World in a Day. And he checks any pretensions by managing to keep his sense of humor and fun throughout the record. The only thing missing is the hard rock guitar pyrotechnics of his breakthrough record, Purple Rain, but they wouldn't really fit here, anyway."
Detroit Free Press

"Parade is simply magnificent. From the winking horns and lemonade of 'Christopher Tracy's Parade' . . . to the completely unstoppable romperama 'Anotherloverholenyohead', this whole creation is shiveringly compelling."
Smash Hits

Sign O' The Times (Paisley Park, 1987)
Sign O' The Times
Play In The Sunshine
Housequake
The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker
It
Starfish And Coffee
Slow Love
Hot  Thing
Forever In My Life
U Got The Look
If I Was Your Girlfriend
Strange Relationship
I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Boyfriend
The Cross
It's Gonna Be A Beautiful Night
Adore

"Three years ago, with his album Purple Rain perched atop the charts and his movie of the same name racking up boffo box office, Prince appeared to be poised on the verge of some Great Statement -- some grand new synthesis of black and white musical forms, of sexual redefinition and spiritual devotion. He seemed, in short, to be about to put it all together. But in the wake of Purple Rain, he has drifted. . . . Whatever the case, with the subsequent Around the World in a Day and Parade, he has been backing away from that peak ever since. Now comes Sign o' the Times, and the Great Statement remains unmade."
Kurt Loder, Rolling Stone
"Most impressive is that, as disparate as the selections are, for the most part they seem to belong together. Even the title track fits in, despite being very sober in its reference to AIDS and the Challenger disaster . . . . The cohesive factor may be the detached tone of both the lyrics and music. Prince seems to be able -- on his records, anyway -- to avoid taking himself too seriously. Give the man credit: While all that posturing can be a royal pain, there is an accomplished musician behind the eye shadow."
Ralph Novak, Time

Lovesexy (Paisley Park, 1988)
Eye No
Alphabet St.
Glam Slam
Anna Stesia
Dance On
Lovesexy
When 2 R In Love
I Wish U Heaven
Positivity

"Lovesexy finds new ways of saying the same things and only occasionally does it reflect life outside Prince's hermetically sealed world of fetishistic love and attendant guilt. Playful and perverse, he remains a willing sinner whose Purple prose and indulgent pop still triumphs over the best of the rest."
New Musical Express

"Lots of the songs seem to be as much about loving God as about making love to other people (though he seems quite partial to both)."
Smash Hits

Batman film soundtrack (Warners, 1989)
The Future
Electric Chair
The Arms Of Orion
Partyman
Vicki Waiting
Trust
Lemon Crush
Scandalous
Batdance

"This is far more of a Prince album than it is a movie soundtrack. Although each of the nine songs are attributed to characters in the film, Prince's obsessions far outweight the Caped Crusader narrative tie-ins. And oddly, it's a more committed dance album than anything he's done in recent years."
New Musical Express

"While painting a picture dark enough for Batman in the late '80s, this is Prince's most cohesive work since 1999. Spooky basslines and keyboards provide the gloom, while the paranoia of nervy shrieks of guitars and brass is kept on a jangling edge with stop/start editing. Then, by refusing to noodle around being creative, it reminds us why Prince is special: instinctive funk and ballads, tweaked above the pack by pitching in snatches of ideas that nag away but never get fully formed enough to become obstructive."
Q


In 1990, Prince is presented with a Special Award of Achievement at the 17th Annual American Music Awards.

The following year he is named Best Songwriter in the annual Rolling Stone Reader's Picks awards. In 1992, he is named Best International Artist at the 11th Annual BRIT Awards. (He'll earn that award again in 1996.)
In 1991 DC Comics publishes the first Prince comic book.
In 1993, on his 35th birthday, Prince announces he was changing his name to a symbol, and the media resorts to calling him the Artist Formerly Known As Prince.
In 1994, Prince signs an agreement with Warner Bros. permitting the label to finally release the so-called Black Album.
Prince marries dancer Mayte Garcia at a Minneapolis church on Valentine's Day, 1996. In 1999 the marriage is annulled -- and then Prince remarries Mayte.
In October, 1996, the media reports that Prince's child, born with severe birth defects on the 16th, died a week later. This is not confirmed by the Minneapolis county medical examiner until the following year.
An acrimonious split with Warner Bros. in 1996 leads Prince to be seen in public with the world "slave" written on his face. He subsequently signs on with EMI-Capitol Music Group. His first album for EMI is called Emancipation.