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Prince Talks: The Silence is Broken

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How do you feel about people calling the record "psychedelic"?
I don't mind that, because that was the only period in recent history that delivered songs and colors. Led Zeppelin, for example, would make you feel differently on each song.

Does your fame affect your work?
A lot of people think it does, but it doesn't at all. I think the smartest thing I did was record Around the World in a Day right after I finished Purple Rain. I didn't wait to see what would happen with Purple Rain. That's why the two albums sound completely different. People think, "Oh, the new album isn't half as powerful as Purple Rain or 1999." You know how easy it would have been to open Around the World in a Day with the guitar solo that's on the end of "Let's Go Crazy"? You know how easy it would have been to just put it in a different key? That would have shut everybody up who said the album wasn't half as powerful. I don't want to make an album like the earlier ones. Wouldn't it be cool to be able to put your albums back to back and not get bored, you dig? I don't know how many people can play all their albums back to back with each one going to different cities.

What do you think about the comparisons between you and Jimi Hendrix?
It's only because he's black. That's really the only thing we have in common. He plays different guitar than I do. If they really listened to my stuff, they'd hear more of a Santana influence than Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix played more blues; Santana played prettier. You can't compare people, you really can't, unless someone is blatantly trying to rip somebody off. And you can't really tell that unless you play the songs.

You've got to understand that there's only so much you can do on an electric guitar. I don't know what these people are thinking – they're usually non-guitar-playing mamma-jammas saying this kind of stuff. There are only so many sounds a guitar can make. Lord knows I've tried to make a guitar sound like something new to myself.

Are there any current groups you listen to a lot or learn from?
Naah. The last album I loved all the way through was [Joni Mitchell's] The Hissing of Summer Lawns. I respect people's success, but I don't like a lot of popular music. I never did. I like more of the things I heard when I was little. Today, people don't write songs; they're a lot of sounds, a lot of repetition. That happened when producers took over, and that's why there's no more [live] acts. There's no box office anymore. The producers took over, and now nobody wants to see these bands.

People seem to think you live in an armed monastery that you've built in honor of yourself.
First off, I don't live in a prison with armed guards around me. The reason I have a guy outside is that after the movie, all kinds of people started coming over and hanging out. That wasn't so bad, but the neighbors got upset that people were driving by blasting their boxes or standing outside and singing. I happen to dig that. That's one reason I'm going to move to more land. There, if people want to come by, it will be fine. Sometimes it gets lonely here. To be perfectly honest, I wish more of my friends would come by.

Friends?
Musicians, people I know. A lot of the time they think I don't want to be bothered. When I told Susannah [Melvoin] that you were coming over, she said, "Is there something I can do? Do you want me to come by to make it seem like you have friends coming by?" I said no, that would be lying. And she just put her head down, because she knew she doesn't come by to see me as much as she wants to, or as much as she thinks I want her to. It was interesting. See, you did something good, and you didn't even know it!

Are you afraid to ask your friends to come by?
I'm kind of afraid. That's because sometimes everybody in the band comes over, and we have very long talks. They're very few and far between, and I do a lot of the talking. Whenever we're done, one of them will come up to me and say, "Take care of yourself. You know I really love you." I think they love me so much, and I love them so much, that if they came over all the time I wouldn't be able to be to them what I am, and they wouldn't be able to do for me what they do. I think we all need our individual spaces, and when we come together with what we've concocted in our heads, it's cool.

Does it bother you that strangers make pilgrimages to your house?
No, not at all. But there's a time and a place for everything. A lot of people have the idea that I'm a wild sexual person. It can be two o'clock in the afternoon, and someone will make a really strange request from the call box outside. One girl just kept pressing the buzzer. She kept pressing it, and then she started crying. I had no idea why. I thought she might have fallen down. I started talking to her, and she just kept saying, "I can't believe it's you." I said, "Big deal. I'm no special person. I'm no different than anyone." She said, "Will you come out?" I said, "Nope, I don't have much on." And she said, "That's okay."

I've lectured quite a few people out there. I'll say, "Think about what you're saying. How would you react if you were me?" I ask that question a lot: "How would you react if you were me?" They say, "Okay, okay."

It's not just people outside your door who think you're a wild sexual person.
To some degree I am, but not twenty-four hours a day. Nobody can be what they are twenty-four hours a day, no matter what that is. You have to eat, you have to sleep, you have to think, and you have to work. I work a lot, and there's not too much time for anything else when I'm doing that.

Does it make you angry when people dig into your background, when they want to know about your sexuality and things like that?
Everyone thinks I have a really mean temper and that I don't like people to do this or do that. I have a sense of humor. I thought that the Saturday Night Live skit with Billy Crystal as me was the funniest thing I ever saw. His imitation of me was hysterical! He was singing, "I am the world, I am the children!" Then Bruce Springsteen came to the mike, and the boys would push him away. It was hilarious. We put it on when we want to laugh. It was great. Of course, that's not what it is.

And I thought the Prince Spaghetti commercial was the cutest thing in the world. My lawyers and management are the ones who felt it should be stopped. I didn't even see the commercial until after someone had tried to have it stopped. A lot of things get done without my knowledge because I'm in Minneapolis and they're where they are.

It's a good and a bad thing that I live here. It's bad in the sense that I can't be a primo "rock star" and do everything absolutely right. I can't go to the parties and benefits, be at all the awards shows, get this and get that. But I like it here. It's really mellow.

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Song Stories

“Long Walk Home”

Bruce Springsteen | 2007

When the subject of this mournful song returns home, he hardly recognizes his town. Springsteen told Rolling Stone the alienation the man feels is a metaphor for life in a politically altered post-9/11 America. “Who would have ever thought we’d live in a country without habeas corpus?” he said. “That’s Orwellian. That’s what political hysteria is about and how effective it is. I felt it in myself. You get frightened for your family, for your home. And you realize how countries can move way off course, very far from democratic ideals.”

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