Driving to the recording studio I had stopped channeling Helen Keller and was back to my chatty and somewhat loud self. We girls from Michigan tend to be that way. Just plain LOUD!!!
So as I was zipping along through the Los Angeles streets in my little cream corvette [baby your much too fast!] I was feeling like I was living a dream. A rather loud one at that...
The night was crisp and seemed so bright although it was the wee hours of the morning. The streets we pretty empty but I was full. Full of excitement and desire and amazement. The moon glowed and the stars twinkled. Or maybe it was just the shine coming off my new found friend.
My mind was racing with millions of thoughts.... I wondered what would happen next. I wondered why he wanted us to come with him.Why us??? Why not the masses who approached him at the bar??? I was after all just a young, inexperienced and unsophisticated girl from Michigan. Yes, just a girl, not even a woman yet. Not even close. Growing up in middle America allows one to grow up more slowly than in L.A. And I had only been here a few months. My head kept spinning trying to figure it all out.
There must be something I was missing, I thought. We are following this man to the recording studio? Not stalking like the crazed fans that we were, no, we were invited??!!! I surmised from my eternally boring lack of self worth place that PRN must be into my friend Judy. A beautiful, statuesque mil ado woman with exotic features to match no other. Yes, she was my brothers girlfriend but they were not exclusive. I have to admit she was cool but there was the eternal haze of Valium around her which I found unattractive. But most did not notice, they just thought she was really mellow. It was the 80's after all and most people were high on something.
I am fond of using peoples initials. PRN stands for Prince Rogers Nelson. Yes, it is his birth name. His father was a musician, a funny, funky and at times volatile man. Purple Rain is quite autobiographical and was meant to be about he and Vanity. Replaced by the awful [my opinion] Apollonia. Even though the name comes from Godfather II where Micheal Corleone goes to Sicily and marries a young woman who gets blown up in a car shortly there after, to me she was still, just, Yuck. Also the film contains the ever present added ingredient of Hollywood "based on a true story" bullshit.
To be with PRN in his environment is to enter a kingdom like no other. From the inside of the limo to the decor of his Minneapolis home. Or a temporarily inhabited hotel room to a recording studio. His unique mark permeates all time and space. All 5 senses are engaged. There are gorgeous colors, pillows, silks, feathers. Candles everywhere day or night, a habit I cannot shake myself. Incredible smells of perfume, incense and beauty. In this place,yes, beauty actually has a smell. Dark, warm and inviting colors. And, of course, the funky back beat from the very soul of the man.
We took the right off of Sunset on Cherokee and an immediate left into a private, gated parking lot that Chick motioned for us to follow them into. As I shakily parked, a feeling it took awhile for me to conquer being around him, PRN waited patiently. He immediately shared that he had been here recording for days . Sometimes he'd record all night and come back right after a brief nap or a trip to a local club for inspiration as was the case tonight. This was what I affectionately came to call Princetime. And it was odd hours.
I recently heard that Micheal Jackson would keep similar hours. And was said to believe that when God gave him a song if he didn't write it down immediately, God would give it to PRN. I believe that it is the other way around actually. But I guess I am biased. Chris Rock has a funny rif about this. He said that in the 80's everyone would fight about who was cooler, PRN or MJ. Well, guess what, he says.... Prince won!!!!! I agree completely. RIP-MJ.
It was an old red brick building where many high level musicians came to record over the years. We went through a series of locked, gated doors to get to the entrance of an outdoor corridor that had 4 or 5 different door leading to separate recording studios. This area had a few benches and a basketball net that PRN would frequent . He loved basketball and once confided that he played in school until everyone kept growing taller than he so he had to stop much to his dismay. To release some energy, or just have a break he'd go out there and play. Like any guy, right?
Only what he was taking a break from was a kind of genius that is rare. One that I was soon to observe firsthand. He taught himself to play every instrument as a young teenager. At this point he was recording for his next album. Or maybe it was for The Time, one of the many bands he created. He also has an unlimited vocal range. Who knows if this devotion and drive came from the disappointment of having to quit basketball or the pain in his life at home or just the deep human need to be creative and connect with people.....I don't know. But I was deeply moved by it all.
As we entered his particular studio, the first one on the left, his music filled the room. He would over the years use the same studio, a creature of habit like myself. The technician had been hard at work editing the track they had been focused on to PRN's specifications. He was a perfectionist as you might have guessed, clear and clean. He did not indulge in drugs at all and barely drank. Only a little Remy Martin sometimes.
It was in this moment that I first glimpsed the professional musician who demanded the same of others as he did himself. The techie had NOT listened to what he had been told to do and was instantly corrected and put back on task. PRN knew what he wanted it to sound like and did not want this techie's input. Not offensively, just TRUE to his vision. An example for me of a commitment to his voice/his truth and a work ethic that influenced the rest of my life. He simply did not need to be liked by this man. It was an amazing level of self respect.
Of course, I had gone mute, again. But it never seemed to bother him. Like he could see a me inside that I had not even discovered myself. Years later he would say to me....."I would put you in a movie and make you a star, but I am having too much fun watching you do it all by yourself." I guess he watched me blossom in a lot of ways into a woman and a professional one at that. As I write, I am discovering what a deep effect he had on me on all of these levels. I am excited to continue to realize more.
The technician back on track, it was time to add the drums to the track of guitar PRN had recorded before meeting us at the bar. He sat and played, I watched...... It was not a complex beat but just right. He never seems to feel the need to over do it. It is so interesting to watch and hear a song come together. To feel the pieces fitting and complimenting each other.
The drums complete, it did not take long it was on to the next piece. They had a few cokes bottles with different amounts of liquid in them and he tapped them with silverware for the next track. It was simply amazing. It sounded so great. In remembering, it was for a song for The Time. Listen to "Cool" and you will hear it. It is immediately recognizable if you know what to listen for.
This went on a few hours what with recording and editing and all. Much to my frustration Judy was going down and wanted to go home to bed. I could've stayed all night but in my muted state, I just shrugged and followed her lead. So we said our farewells and left. Was it disappointment I was seeing on his face? I could not tell. He did not seem to resist or try to encourage us to stay.
I felt sick to my stomach. I was certain this was the only time I'd ever see this magical man again in my life. It made me sad. I walked as slowly as I could to the car ignoring the complaints of Judy and her withdrawal shakes in the cool air. We climbed in my car and I went to back up when Chick appeared at my window and knocked.
"Prince wants to know if he can call you, Sherri?" Uhhhhh, of course. I stammered and fumbled for something to write on. I was all thumbs and nothing about me was cool. Thank God Chick had all bases covered. He smiled amused at my behavior, no doubt he'd witnessed it before in countless others. And he handed me a pen and paper. Uhhhhh, [next problem] I almost could not remember my phone number but at least my voice had returned.... Although now my brain was MIA. Uhhhhh...... Then Judy came out of her haze and saved me. She gave my number and we were off into the night. In my little cream corvette.
We sang together blasting my now declared theme song. "Little red corvette, baby your much to fast, yes you are." The sky starting to wake up with gorgeous shades of orange and red. I loud and proud from Michigan. Judy a little hazy but fueled by the fact that she'd be home soon so her Valium supply could be refreshed.
Many adventures to follow......before and during..... when in a year or so I met my very first true love and very first long term 3 1/2 year committed relationship with "The world's sexiest man" according to People mag. To me, he was just my Johnny and we were just two young people from small towns with stars in our eyes and dreams of becoming actors. We met through our agency and were cast in an AFI film.......directed by Laurie Frank. She is fond of saying,"There is casting. And then there is DIVINE casting."
But that is another story.....