I was 13 years old, and I begged my Mom to take me to the Prince show. I grew up in Florence, Alabama, where my Dad managed a local radio station and always got comps for the big concerts at the Von Braun Civic Center in Huntsville, about an hour’s drive from us.
Back then, all the good shows were in Huntsville. Muscle Shoals, neighbor to Florence, may have been “The Hit Recording Capital of the World,” but as a live music venue it came up short. Best we could do was Hank Williams Jr. and Orion, who proved he wasn’t the reincarnation of Elvis Presley when he sang his first note.
Anyway, Purple Rain the album-movie-lifestyle hadn’t exploded yet, but Prince had just released 1999. The title track and “Little Red Corvette” were getting a lot of airplay on the then-new MTV, which I watched religiously. Plus there was this kid at my high school that always walked around with a vinyl copy of the 1999 LP clutched to his chest. He wasn’t quite right in the head, but in retrospect, he had excellent taste in music. We called him Longbow Tanner, but I don’t think that was his real name.
Prince had already captured my fancy when he appeared on Saturday Night Live during the 1980-81 season. This was after the original cast and producer and Harvard-educated writers had called it quits and before Eddie Murphy rescued the show from the cancellation heap. Still, I’d stuck with the program through the (at the time) worst season ever and thought anyone that had anything to do with SNL was cool.
Since none of the other Bible Belt kids’ parents would allow them to see the Prince show (they were way ahead of their time, Tipper Gore fans), my Mom reluctantly agreed to drive me to the show. She had planned to wait out in the car, but I convinced her to come in and witness the future of rock ‘n roll. And funk. And slow jams. And guitar wizardry.
Needless to say, my mother was horrified at the spectacle presented on the stage. I’m talking about the supporting act, White Lion, who inexplicably opened for every band that performed at the VBCC in the 1980s. I think I’ve seen White Lion more than any other group in my 40-plus years.
Prince, on the other hand, mesmerized the entire crowd. Sure, his stage show back then was raunchy, but my Mom was pretty forward thinking and didn’t run out of the venue screaming. Besides, Prince’s on-stage simulated sex acts were nothing compared to those movies I watched on Showtime After Hours during the same period.
Okay, so this story is a little embellished. I never saw Prince in concert, unfortunately, but my friends and I did sing “Darling Nikki” loudly in the back of a church van a few years later.
I wanted to write about my Mom for the Mother’s Day issue, but I also wanted to write about Prince, yet another gone too soon music legend. Most of what I wrote here is a lie, but I’m sure if I’d wanted to see Prince, Mom would have driven me.
Which is why when she calls me now and asks me to drive her to, say, a medical appointment, I never hesitate to answer:
Geez, Mom, I’m kinda busy today…
Anyway, happy Mother’s Day to the great Pauline Manson, who is way more awesome than any of your moms.
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