I don’t have it in me to go into what Prince’s music has meant to me and the impact it had in my life when was younger. I do have a story about how his music came up in a very unexpected way for me many years ago.
My favorite Prince song is “Baby, I’m a Star”. I first heard it while watching “Purple Rain”. It was a pretty emotional movie. Sure, the acting wasn’t the greatest, but it wasn’t full of actors. But boy, did that movie have heart.
When Prince & the Revolution played this song at the end, I heard it as a joyful expression of just playing music. The joy of music. Of performing. It was like everyone in the audience of that live recording was all in sync with Prince. Being a part of his joy. You can see it in this video.
So. I used to be a club DJ. Back in 1985, I was working in San Antonio. I was the DJ at the Hyatt, down on the Riverwalk. It was a slow night, in winter. Most of the customers around that time, were folks who worked in the bars, hotels, and restaurants on the River. It was super slow, as it was the downtime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and a ‘school night’ to boot.
Normally, I stuck to a lot of the regular Top 40 dance tunes, but also a lot of my fave funk/freestyle tunes like Debbie Deb, Shannon, Freestyle, Trinere, Sheila E, Dazz, Gap Bad. On those slower nights, I also mixed in Lena Lovich, Nina Hagen, King Creole & the Coconuts. As long as the bar was full of “river rats” aka the folks who worked in hospitality, I could play what I wanted. After all, they were spending LOTS of money on drinks.
Anyway, so that December night, there was a KISS concert in town. There were heaps of young women and teenage girls running around the area. Apparently, they were staying at the Hyatt, I think? A lot of women tried to come into the bar, but since they weren’t 21, they were turned away.
I was playing some tune and folks were dancing. Until these two ROCK GODS walked in. I quickly saw it wasn’t Gene Simmons nor Paul Stanley, which were the only two KISS people I knew on sight. They were taken to a table with some security dudes and groupies.
Of course, the whole crowd wanted me to start playing KISS music. I figured that was the last thing they would want to hear. And the only song I had from them was “Lick it Up”. Yuck.
I put on a long song and went over to talk to them. ‘Hey, I’m the DJ here and everyone wants to hear some KISS. I’d rather play what YOU want to hear, and I’ll make a dedication or some shit”.
One of the dudes, “BABY, I’M A STAR! PLAY THAT!”
I was so jazzed and excited. Except, you gotta slam that one in right. Remember, this is Ye Olde Vinyl Dayes, so I have to be super precise on how I put this one in, for a couple of reasons. First, it comes very quickly after I Would Die 4 U. Essentially, you have a downbeat to knock it in on Baby’s first note. When mixing vinyl, you have to have a precise touch for matching the beats, which 12″ dance singles are made for. You match the beats, adjusting so it’s seamless. (gods, I miss this). With this one? You basically have to have your finger ready in the exact place, to hit the exact beat of the song already playing. You “slam” it in there. BAM. The song just HITS you.
I don’t even remember what I was playing, but I was talking over a part of the music with the “hey folks, this one goes out to you from KISS” and then SLAMMED IT.
Hard and loud.
It wasn’t what the crowd expected. But they went wild. Like jumping up and down wild. And that one dude from KISS…came out and dance in the middle of it all. People weren’t trying to do the best moves. They weren’t trying to show off, hook up, or anything.
For those few minutes, people were simply dancing joyfully. The feeling of oneness between the DJ, the crowd, and the song is one I simply cannot describe. It’s a feeling I think that Prince would have loved.