Every day that goes by … every month that goes by … every year that goes by, we all move further away from our childhoods. A sad thought, I know. We all remember things from our past, but what sticks with us is different for each person. For me, I love the music from my high school days. I graduated high school in 1985, thus hairbands rank right up near the top for me. Quiet Riot, Bon Jovi, Ratt, Van Halen, Journey, and Def Leppard just to name a few. Yes, I did my share of head banging growing up, but during that timeframe, there was also another performer that I remember so well … Prince.
In 1984, I remember watching Prince’s movie, Purple Rain, which was loosely based on his life. The movie was like nothing I had seen before. Prince acted in the movie and brought
his unique style of music to the big screen. Thanks to Purple Rain, Prince had the No. 1 movie, No. 1 Album, and No. 1 song all at the same time. Quite an accomplishment.
Loss of a Giant
I must admit Purple Rain was the pinnacle of my Prince fandom. Sure, I followed his career over the years, but nothing like the time of Purple Rain. Prince would go on to a long and prosperous career. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. Unfortunately, stunningly, Prince passed away at his Paisley Park compound on April 21, 2016, at the age of 57.
Since his death, Paisley Park, the place where so much of Prince’s magic was created, has been turned into a museum for fans to see things they probably never thought they would see. I was lucky enough to visit Paisley Park in late October when it was still touch and go as to whether it would become a permanent museum or not. When I went, tours were still on a limited basis, but that all changed October 28th, when Chanhassen Mayor, Denny Laufenburger, designated it Paisley Park Day, also allowing the property to become a permanent museum.
Living in central Indiana, it is no short trip to Chanhassen, Minnesota. It’s about nine hours each way. On a late fall weekend, I had the opportunity to purchase a VIP ticket to tour the facility where Prince created so much magic. You can bet your ass I was going to do it, even though it meant some 1,300 miles in the car. All I can say is …WOW!
As I walked through the front doors, I almost got the feeling that I shouldn’t be in there. This was Paisley Park. Guys like me don’t get this kind of access. What would Prince think? He was so private. How could he be OK with all these people walking through his sanctuary? Well, it was reported that Prince had planned for Paisley Park to be a museum-like destination at some point. Unfortunately, that time came way too soon!
As you walk through the front door, you are greeted by Prince’s eyes above the entry hallway. They said it was as if he was welcoming you, but he also wanted you to know that he was keeping his eyes on you. As you continue down that hallway, you notice awards, photos, and a unique framed piece showing a ticket from each show of his 2004 Musicology Tour.
Oh, My …
You exit the hallway into an atrium that guides will tell you was Prince’s favorite room in the house. On the floor is the logo that represented Prince during a dispute with his record label. Also in that atrium, is a scale model of Paisley Park and within that model is the urn holding the remains of Prince, himself. I did not know that until I walked into that room. It was quite a somber experience.
We were not allowed access to the upper floor, but you could see a bird cage that held Prince’s pet doves, Majesty and Divinity. The tour guides mentioned that doves normally live to be 16-18 years old, but these doves were 24 years old. Prince was said to love the natural light in the atrium and that the glass pyramids above signified limitless creative possibilities. The atrium was the site of an interview that Prince did with Oprah back in 1996.
The tour also included a look at one of Prince’s mixing areas, a look at the kitchen area, and a walk through Prince’s office. You can bet Prince’s office wasn’t something you would see out of Office Space. Everything in that room was unique. His desk, the furniture in the room, the lighting, you name it, it oozed Prince.
Everything in the place was supposedly how Prince left it. There were a few areas that seemed to be created for the structure’s new purpose. One room, that I think used to house a basketball court, was turned into a Purple Rain room, which now houses one of the motorcycles used in the film, Prince’s iconic purple costume from the movie, and a copy of the script that looked more like a Bible than a script. As Purple Rain played on the wall, it was so surreal to think where you were standing.
We traversed many hallways, each one with something magical awaiting us. We saw two of Prince’s recording studios, one of which housed a ping-pong table. Through the glass, next to the mixing board, you could see Prince’s personal ping pong paddle that only he was allowed to use. It was unbelievable to be in the exact spot where so much creativity flowed.
Man, if These Walls Could Talk
From the recording studios, we were taken to a massive soundstage-looking room. Just to imagine the private concerts that place had witnessed. Large video screens blared Prince music, while there were little stages set up around the perimeter showing different Prince costumes and musical instruments. Upon exiting this colossal space, we made our way into a couple of more intimate performing areas. You could tell these were for Prince’s close friends. Again, If those walls could talk. There was a painting in one of the spaces that showed Prince peering from behind a curtain. It was said that he often did that to make sure everyone was having a good time.
As the tour wound down, it reached an emotional crescendo, at least for me. A large video screen played arguably one of Prince’s best live performances … the halftime show at Super Bowl XLI in Miami (not this exact video). As you watch this incredible show on the screen, you turn around and there are sections of the fence where mourning fans had placed trinkets, signs, bears, etc. to show the love for their fallen idol. I must say, I started feeling tears run down my face. NEVER would I have ever thought I would be standing in Paisley Park watching a video of the man who built the place, giving it his all on such a huge stage, all while being drenched in the pouring rain.
It’s been over six months now since Prince passed away. I still think of my time at Paisley Park. I will make it back again. This time, I want to take my wife to enjoy the experience as well. I have stumbled on a video on YouTube that makes me sad to watch. I realize Prince is gone. Never will I be able to watch this man on stage, playing to the crowd and wailing on that guitar. It’s still amazing to watch the joy he had giving the gift of his music.
Man, what a gift it was!