*This article was originally published in February 2009*
How was your Saturday night? Get up to much? I spent quite a large portion of mine staring at some Bounty kitchen towel.
Not any Bounty kitchen towel, mind. This was Bounty kitchen towel in the kitchen of Prince’s Beverly Hills mansion. Yes, Prince. That Prince. ‘When Doves Cry’ Prince. The artist currently known as Prince. And he uses Bounty. These are the sort of moments that can short-circuit the feeble mind of a music journalist.
Why was I in Prince’s kitchen? I wasn’t entirely sure myself, but it definitely had something to do with the launch of his new website. Six goggle-eyed journalists and three dangerously excited competition winners received a mysterious email invitation to take a “journey through the galaxy”, and well, here we all were, munching mini-bruschetta served by smiling staff at 77 Beverly Park.
In my head, I’d envisaged some kind of purple space-station inhabited only by supernaturally gorgeous women, and the biggest surprise was how… un-weird his place is. The kitchen is as homely as a multi-million dollar Tuscan-villa style palace can get, all warm wood, pink granite and enormous copper pans hanging from the ceiling. I boggle at a sweeping, custom-made black grand piano that looks like one Bruce Wayne might tinker on.
Suddenly, a suited minion asks us to make our way downstairs to the ‘screening room’. As I walk to the head of the stairs, I am broadsided by cognitive shock. Prince is standing there, smiling knowingly.
Now, I’m fortunate enough to have a job where meeting pretty famous musicians is par for the course. But Prince isn’t a pretty famous musician. He’s FUCKING PRINCE! To see him in the flesh makes no sense. I attempt something approaching a smile and scutter down to a plush, paisley-upholstered private cinema. Prince’s pet web designers nearly do themselves an injury from excitement, guiding us through lotusflow3r.com.
It’s all very impressive and everything, but fancy Flash animations are a paltry precursor to what happens next. We walk, awestruck, through a blue-lit corridor flanked on either side by glass-fronted rooms containing customised motorbikes, similar to the one in Purple Rain. Gawping, we shuffle into a low-lit room carpeted with Turkish rugs. There, we’re treated to a private gig with a full band and – I shit you not – guest vocals from Anita Baker.
The epic show (the first set is at least two-and-a-half hours long, then he comes back for more) takes in classics (‘I Feel For You’, ‘Alphabet Street’, ‘Controversy’) newer tracks and covers including Chic’s ‘Le Freak’, Sly And The Family Stone’s ‘Everyday People’ and – too, too brilliantly for words – The Rolling Stones’ ‘Miss You’. I know, I know – I kind of hate myself a little bit as well. The band are loose, lithe and astounding: “real music by real musicians,” as the man himself puts it, mesmerising in his cream floral suit and red-flashing LED boot heels. At one point, everyone starts doing the electric slide (not me: I know my limitations) and Prince wryly declares “Y’all done tore up my carpet. I ain’t never inviting y’all back”. You can almost see everyone in the room trying to cram as much of this incredible moment into their eyes and ears as they can fit. It’s just too much.
Hours later, as I leave, still giggling manically, to get a lift with some fellow partygoers, one turns to me and says “I suppose this kind of thing is pretty normal for you, hey?”
Er, no. Not so much.