One of the great enigmas of the last 30 years, Prince has a few tales to tell. Here's a selection from this new biography featuring Michael Jackson, Yom Kippur and table tennis...
In 1976, Prince’s sound engineer Chris Moon pretended to be Stevie Wonder’s manager in a desperate attempt to try and get a record deal for Prince. He finally nailed a meeting at Atlantic Records, after telling a record executive over the phone, “If you like Stevie Wonder, you’re gonna love my artist. He’s only eighteen, he plays all the instruments, and he’s not blind!”
In 1985, while filming Under the Cherry Moon, Prince met his pop rival Michael Jackson in LA and challenged him to a game of ping-pong in front of everyone. They softly hit the ball to each other until Prince said, “Come on, Michael, get into it” and then: “You want me to slam it?” Jackson raised his hands to cover his face but the ball slammed into his crotch. After he left, Prince started strutting around like a rooster, asking “Did you see that? He played like Helen Keller!”
Released in February 1986, Kiss was one of Prince’s biggest hits, but the A&R executive at Warner Bros hated it. “We can’t put this out,” he said, “There’s no bass and it sounds like a demo.” Prince told them, “You’re not getting another song. That’s the one we’re gonna put out.” The label wasn’t thrilled but he basically forced them to release it. Prince was proved right though, as his fans rushed to buy the single, and it went to no.3 in the US pop chart.
“If you like Stevie Wonder, you’re gonna love my artist. He’s only eighteen, he plays all the instruments, and he’s not blind!”
Quincy Jones told Prince that Michael Jackson wanted to do a duet with him on his new song, then called I’m Bad. Prince considered the idea until he heard Jackson’s opening line Your butt is mine…on the demo tape. “Now who’s gonna sing that to who?” Prince joked on VH1, “’Cause you sure ain’t singing it to me. And I sure ain’t singing it to you.” He backed out, telling Quincy Jones, “You don’t need me to be on this. It’ll be a hit without me.” It certainly was, and Bad became one of Michael Jackson’s biggest hits, with an iconic video directed by Martin Scorsese.
Prince met his first wife, Mayte Garcia, when she was only sixteen. Her family had attended Prince’s show in Spain, and her mother enjoyed the Arabic feel of his song Thieves in the Temple. Since then, she kept telling Mayte, “You have to make a tape of your dancing and send it to him.” After seeing the tape, Prince arranged to meet Mayte and her family. He complimented her moves. She mentioned she could flip coins on her stomach, and he called in band members to watch. Soon, he had to leave, but he asked her father if he could keep in touch. A band member reportedly joked, “There’s your future wife.”
One day in early October 2003, according to Entertainment Weekly, Prince knocked on the door of a suburban home in Eden Prairie. He introduced himself as Prince Nelson, and entered with his band member Larry Graham. The homeowner’s wife thought: Cool, cool, cool. He wants to use my house for a set. Instead, they started “on this Jehovah’s Witness stuff,” she remembered. She interrupted him. “You know what? You’ve walked into a Jewish household, and this is not something I’m interested in.” “Can I just finish?” Prince answered. Graham pulled out a tiny Bible and read scriptures “about being Jewish and the land of Israel,” the woman recalled. They left a pamphlet and got out of there after twenty-five minutes. “He was very kind,” she said of Prince.
Outside, Prince and Graham re-entered a black truck where a woman—thought to be his second wife Manuela—waited. Prince left without knocking on other doors. He realized that he had just tried to “convert a Jewish family hours before the start of Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar,” Entertainment Weekly explained.
Prince: Inside The Music and the Masks is published by Aurum Press, February 17th
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