World of music gets a sexy Prince

Jon Bream

A lot of people don’t know what to make of Prince. They don’t understand his music, they don’t understand the unusual outfits he wears and they don’t understand how such an extraordinary young talent could come from Minneapolis. “That tripped me out when Dick Clark asked how I could come from Minneapolis, of all places,” said Prince, recalling his interview and performance of his hit single, “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” on television’s “American Bandstand.” “That really gave me an attitude for the rest of the talk. TV personalities are hard to talk to. They come out of certain bags. Music is music. A place is a place.” Yet, Prince’s recent appearances on “Bandstand” and “The Midnight Special” have people asking who is this guy and where is he coming from?

The 20-year-old musician (who doesn’t use his last name) is from Minneapolis, where he will perform Saturday at the Orpheum Theater. He plays more than 20 instruments; has written, performed and produced two entire albums by himself, and his “I Wanna Be Your Lover” climbed to No. 1 on the soul charts and No. 11 on the pop charts this winter. In short, Prince is the most important young recording wiz to emerge since Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. Like Wonder’s music, Prince’s material seems to elude classification. When he took his band on a brief concert tour this winter (it was cut short by illness), the audiences and critics didn’t quite know what to make of Prince, he says.

"They didn’t understand that we are trying to bridge the worlds of rock, funk, jazz and whatever,” Prince explained this week. “The critics were led to believe we would be laid-back because of the albums. The albums are not as fiery as the concert. Older people found it hard to get into us. The kids were the smartest. They are ready for a change. you have to tell them the truth, whether it’s politics, lyrics, music, school, busing. Kids are a lot more aware.” Offstage, Prince is shy. He says he would rather listen than talk--he learns more that way. Onstage, however, he is dynamic, energetic and undeniably sexy. Just ask the teen-age girls, who make up a large part of his following. Yet, for older, second-generation rock fans, Prince says he is “shock treatment.” “They thought we were gay or freaks. We’re wild and free. It’s no holds barred.” Part of the stir is over Prince’s outfits, which have been described as tight, scanty and provocative. “We can’t dress in three-piece suits or glitter outfits or raggedy clothes. It’s (the outfits are) basically us. I wear what I wear because I don’t like clothes. this is what’s most comfortable. “People should wake up and not worry about what people think about them. Like it was in the ’60s.” The crowds at concerts were wilder than the acts sometimes. It was live. Now it’s all commercial and cool. We’ll suffer a slow death like that.” Now that Prince is comfortable with his image, he says, he has become more comfortable onstage. Last January in Minneapolis’ Capri theater, when he gave his first performance since high school, the recording studio wizard was nervous. Now, he says, he “can find fire” with the young Minneapolis musicians in his band (with whom he may even record parts of his next album). And he is looking forward to his concert Saturday, even though few people in the Twin Cities have heard his hit. Only one local radio station--a disco-oriented one --regularly played the record, but Prince didn’t expect much air play here anyway. “Until radio programmers wake up to the fact that we are far behind here, people will probably want to leave if they can,” he says. “I’d play their (programmers’) record even if its wasn’t good music. If it’s good music, it’s good music. I’m not saying mine is good. But if it’s charted, it must be good. “It surprised me that it (’I Wanna Be Your Lover’) became a hit. I basically make songs I like. And I like excitement and surprise.”