#10 – Prince, Controversy
“Life is just a game, we’re all just the same”
Sex. Like booze, it’s a great leveler. Of class, of society. If you’ve ever wondered what links the aristocracy to the proletariat, ask them about their drinking habits and their sexual preferences.
Will there be an individual as sexual as Prince to ever walk the earth again? I doubt it. I recently argued that ‘L.A Woman’ by The Doors could make you feel cool even if you weren’t. ‘Controversy’ on the other hand, will make you feel horny, desirable (to men and women, whether you like it or not) and just downright sexy. And not just from the track names that don’t leave much to the imagination – ‘Sexuality’, ‘Do Me, Baby’, ‘Private Joy’ and ‘Jack U Off’.
What else could have followed ‘Dirty Mind’ as a 3rd album? Musically, it’s what we’ve now come to expect from the master whose brilliance should never be taken for granted – inspired fusions, limb-shaking beats, snaking and striking melodies, horns and synthesizers combining to make extraordinary music to make you feel extraordinarily sexy.
The tone of his voice (urrrhhhh). The brashness of the lyrics. The production, the seduction. He has an inexplicable way of making you feel like he’s singing just to you, like he’s actually hitting on you, taking you home right there & then. The complexity of the rhythm on the title track makes you walk with just the right kick of knees. The funky-ass punch of the bass-line on ‘Let’s Work’ magnetises your hips back and for uncontrollably.
Incidentally, Prince and I have more in common than you might think. We both had unusual problems with our hips for our age – his apparently from wearing high heels, mine allegedly from…sports (I’m sticking to it). We were dependent on opioids to function and to sleep, for him, tragically, fatally so. We both play(ed) lead guitar. He supported the Rolling Stones on their 1982 tour, the year after ‘Controversy’ was released. I supported them by going to their 2015 tour.
As the name suggests, ‘Controversy’ dabbles in religion and politics. And with prayer, gun control, nuclear war and Russian relations it does so in a way that it’s as relevant today as it was 35 years ago. Prince sadly never lived to see Trump in the White House, but I suspect if he had he’d have done more than sing “Donald, Talk to Russia” in response, ironically or otherwise.
One of the things I’ll always love about Prince’s music is the sudden insertion of the deep notes of his voice interjecting with the floating highs, hitting you like a slap on the arse, with just the right firmness and suggestiveness. The album oozes funk and soul while keeping it all highly sexual, as it should be – we’re mammals after all.
There are many noteworthy facts surrounding the album, the interest of which will depend on how much you love Prince or how in awe you are of him. For example, it was the album which began his association with the colour purple. He plays most of the instruments on here, with the exception of some keys and backing vocals (mainly on ‘Jack U Off’ because of course he couldn’t do that alone). It’s when you listen to how incredibly accomplished the musicianship is, you reflexively bow to what a talent we were graced with, and how sad and tragic it was that he passed away last year.
Whatever your politics, your background, your beliefs or your preferences, we could all do with having more music like this in our lives from time to time. And just be a bit more…Prince.