Prince’s First Television Interview (1985)

By 1985, Prince had made appear­ances on Amer­i­can Band­stand and Sat­ur­day Night Live, toured the world sev­er­al times, and released sev­en stu­dio albums, includ­ing the ground­break­ing Pur­ple Rain and less-than-ground­break­ing accom­pa­ny­ing film, for which he won an Oscar. He had inad­ver­tent­ly helped launch Tip­per Gore’s Par­ents Music Resource Coun­cil after she caught her daugh­ter lis­ten­ing to “Dar­ling Nik­ki.” He was a bona fide glob­al super­star and one of the biggest-sell­ing artists of the decade. And he had yet to give a sin­gle inter­view.

Well, this isn’t entire­ly true. Dur­ing his Amer­i­can Band­stand appear­ance in 1979, the 19-year-old funk wun­derkind respond­ed to ques­tions from Dick Clark with a few guard­ed, one-word answers. He also gave an inter­view to his high school news­pa­per, telling them “I think it is very hard for a band to make it in [Min­neapo­lis], even if they’re good. Main­ly because there aren’t any big record com­pa­nies or stu­dios in this state. I real­ly feel that if we would have lived in Los Ange­les or New York or some oth­er big city, we would have got­ten over by now.”

Prince got over soon enough, but he didn’t seem at all eager to talk about him­self, one of the pri­ma­ry respon­si­bil­i­ties of a pop star. It was as though he knew he was so good he didn’t have to adver­tise. Soon after the release of his sev­enth album, Around the World in a Day—the source of such hits as “Rasp­ber­ry Beret” and “Pais­ley Park”—he gave an inter­view to Rolling Stone (who described the “Kung Fu Grasshop­per voice with which Prince whis­pers when meet­ing strangers or accept­ing Acad­e­my Awards.”)

He also agreed to appear on a new cable tele­vi­sion sta­tion called MTV. The inter­view, above, begins with the expect­ed ques­tion, “Why were you so secre­tive pri­or to this?” Prince, sur­round­ed by a cohort of young audi­ence mem­bers, says he was “home­sick” and pouts. Then we imme­di­ate­ly get a bet­ter answer to the ques­tion when the inter­view­er asks whether Prince’s need for con­trol came from a trou­bled child­hood. He sneers, calls the ques­tion “hor­ri­ble,” and answers a bet­ter one about how he found his musi­cal direc­tion and han­dled dis­agree­ments with his band­mates.

The tone remains strange­ly com­bat­ive and Prince remains eeri­ly calm, but his expres­sive face reg­is­ters irri­ta­tion and amuse­ment. “I strive for orig­i­nal­i­ty in my music,” he says. He also “remem­bers how he was influ­enced by James Brown after danc­ing on stage with him at just 10 years old, touch­es on com­par­isons to musi­cians like Jimi Hen­drix and answers provoca­tive ques­tions about ‘sell­ing out to white audi­ences’ with Pur­ple Rain,” writes the Vinyl Fac­to­ry. Watch the full inter­view above and see if you can bet­ter under­stand why Prince avoid­ed inter­views, or why inter­view­ers tried so hard to box him into stereo­typ­i­cal roles.

via Messy Nessy

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Read Prince’s First Inter­view, Print­ed in His High School News­pa­per (1976)

Aca­d­e­m­ic Jour­nal Devotes an Entire Issue to Prince’s Life & Music: Read and Down­load It for Free

Four Clas­sic Prince Songs Re-Imag­ined as Pulp Fic­tion Cov­ers: When Doves Cry, Lit­tle Red Corvette & More

The Prince Online Muse­um Archives 16 of Prince’s Offi­cial Web Sites, Span­ning 20 Years

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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