Inside Prince’s Funky First Recording Sessions
Prince and Andre used to have contests of who could write the most songs. They’d just go off in different rooms of their house, because Prince lived with Andre. I don’t know what the situation was there, but when I met him, he’d moved away from his parents and was living with Andre. He just learned how to play music on his own. He didn’t know how to read music or anything. He just learned on his own.
At one of the rehearsals, I remember Prince stopped, took off his guitar and he went over to Linda, and he says, “Linda, this is what I want you to play.” And I was going, “Wow. He plays keyboards and guitar. That’s great.” Then he goes over to Andre and says, “Andre, let me hold your bass for a second.” And Prince starts thumping. And I was going like, “Wow. What is going on?”
I said, “Have you ever been into a recording studio before?” And Prince goes, “No.” And I say, “OK, look. I’m in the studio right now at Cook House Recording Studios.” I said, “I want you to come play guitar with my band 94 East.” And he says, “Oh, OK, great. Cool.” And I gave him a cassette of five songs that we were recording: “Games,” “If You See Me,” “I’ll Always Love You,” “If We Don’t” and “Better Than You Think.” I said, “Practice this with two leads,” and that was it. That’s basically what I’d done for everyone in the band.
“Prince played better than a professional session player.”
I had four hours of studio time, and we just kicked it off, right there. We did five songs in four hours. It was just unbelievable. I didn’t even know what they were going to play. We didn’t have rehearsal or nothing; I just trusted that everyone had their parts. Those recordings came out as The Cookhouse 5.
Prince played better than a professional session player, and I’ve been to a lot of sessions. None of the guitar players I’d worked with played as well as Prince for his first time in a recording studio. It just totally blew my mind. He was definitely a better guitar player than me [laughs].
He was kind of quiet back then. He didn’t talk much. When we was rehearsing with Grand Central and Morris and Andre and I would take a break. I’d say, “OK, let’s take 10 minutes, and just take a break, go have something to eat.” Prince would say, “OK, I’ll see you guys when you come back.” He would not leave. But we talked about girls and all this stuff, and we played basketball together.
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