The Garden, 1986

Have you ever sat third row/center at a concert? I did, once. When you’re accustomed to seeing your favorite bands from the nosebleed seats a football field-length away from the action, the third row is an experience like nothing else. Exactly how my friend Faby and I managed to snag such prime seats for the Prince concert at Madison Square Garden in the summer of 1986, I honestly can’t recall. But I can tell you it wasn’t through the box office 😉

How can I describe that night seeing Prince perform live? Mesmerizing. Groovy sounds and glittering lights. A rush of adrenaline and shocks of electricity. Shiny instruments, colored smoke, thumping rhythms and sumptuous vocals. Prince’s female bandmates riffing, soloing, being utter badasses. Satin and lace. Funk and psychedelic. A legendary arena packed to the brim with the most diverse crowd of concert-goers I’ve ever seen; 15 year olds and 40 year olds, a Brooklyn Italian guy over here, a Bronx Puerto Rican woman over there. A Manhattan East Side professional, and a gaggle of girls from Long Island. Good kids and troublemakers. City and suburban. Screaming, perspiring, standing on seats and singing along with the lyrics. Prince was, in a word, spellbinding.  A 5’2″ dynamo of talent, charisma, and originality. 

_prince-performs-live-at-the-fabulous-forum-in-inglewood

But allow me to share the single most unforgettable detail of that night, one that I can easily replay in my mind like five frames of a film reel because, when you’re 18 years old, this kind of thing burns an indelible imprint in your memory, along with the thrills and chills that accompany it. Prince was dancing at edge of the stage. Faby and I, like I mentioned before, were in the third row. Prince was right there … so damn close it felt like if I had stood on the back of my chair I could launch right into him with one full throttle leap. The fabric of his jacket, the scarves, boots … right there .. right in front us. And then, on the downbeat of the music, he froze for two seconds .. and made eye-contact with me .. and smiled … and … WINKED!!!!! Yes!!! YES HE DID!! Faby turned to me, her mouth wide open, and the teenage girl-screams came forth in crazy shrieks. “Prince winked at you!!! Did you see that??!! Oh my God!!!!!!!”. Thirty years later I can still see it, vividly – Prince’s big brown eye looking directly into mine. Annnnndd … W I N K !!!!! It’s my giddy, cherished memory, and no one can take it away from me.

Lest you think that Prince was an indiscriminate winker, I was wearing a purple halter top with my boobs half hanging out, and huge dangly earrings, and 25 bracelets going up my forearm, and waving my hands in the air and blowing him overt kisses all night long. So I’m fairly comfortable saying that I :ahem: got his attention. Mission: accomplished 😉

PrinceWendy

When the news broke of Prince’s death, my Mom sent me a text: “Awful news about Prince. I know you loved him from the very beginning”. Mom is right, because “very beginning” for fans like me means pre-Purple Rain. When his fame blew up and hit the mainstream, we weren’t the least bit surprised. We had recognized his talents.

In the midst of all the “grief porn” flooding the Internet, and the pretentious “thinkpieces” being penned by “cultural critics” (or whatever we’re supposed to call these people) let’s have a different take and consider the impressive state of Prince’s life when he left us at the age of 57. He died having the staunch respect and admiration of his musical peers and colleagues. He died having the loyalty of his faithful, devoted fans. He died having found spiritual enlightenment and religious awakening. And, after the epic legal battle he waged against his record company Warner Bros, he died owning his own masters – no small feat in the notoriously rapacious music business. Although fiercely private, Prince revealed himself in the way all true artists do – through his art. Over the course of his long career, we witnessed him evolve from a raunchy, seductive lothario to a teetotaling Jehovah’s Witness, metamorphosing through the personal stages of his life with the same mastery and imagination with which he navigated all styles of music. And he remained, always, a consummate musician, prolific producer, arranger, performer and songwriter. Influential. Inventive. Enigmatic. Often mystifying. We know we won’t see the likes of Prince anytime soon, if ever.

Special condolences should be expressed, by all Prince fans, to the people in and around the Minneapolis area. They lost a fellow Minnesotan, a native son, a neighbor, a supporter of the community and its music scene. When celebrities reach Prince’s level of fame and success, many of them move to a mansion in Beverly Hills, a beach house in Malibu, or a penthouse in New York. But Prince stayed right where he came from.

And no there’s nothing wrong with your tablet or your computer …. this blog post is written in purple font. Your eyes don’t deceive you! Now you probably think it isn’t possible to “out-cool” Lenny Kravitz, but here’s Prince doing just that. (Sorry Lenny). Watch him shred at 5:24. This is Music Monday. Rest in Peace, purple one … and thanks for the wink 😉

10 thoughts on “The Garden, 1986

  1. Ruby LifeModel says:

    I grew up with Prince. My mother was a HUGE fan. My childhood memories of us diving around town (with my mother’s license plate: MsLoveSxy) listening to every single album still as clearly sticks to me. I was gutted to hear the news. The day before he died I was getting ready for work humming a Prince song that I remember liking as a little girl. At a young age Girl 6 was my favourite album then years later I was able to watched the film. That man was incredible. I saw him live in London in 2007 but nothing to compares to your experience! What a great story. Thanks for sharing it with us!

    xxo
    Ruby.

    • artmodel says:

      Ruby,

      So great that you got to see him live! Be thankful for that. There are a lot of people kicking themselves now for having missed him. I know I would be. Kudos to your Mom for being a big Prince fan!

      This is a truly shocking loss, not just for ordinary fans but the music industry overall. Prince had an impact on so many aspects of the business. And as for live performing? He was unmatched. Huge gaping hole now with Prince gone. The man was electric.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences and your comments!

      Claudia

  2. Derek says:

    A great loss another of my generation leaves the earth life is too short, he reminds me of Hendrix when he did his famous guitar solo on “Purple Rain” which is like an 1980’s version of Little Wing and The Wind Cries for Mary. I was also fortunate to see him loive with my children back in the 1990’s in Sydney and he was fabulous and in 1986 in Wembley with his band The Revolution which I thought was one of his greatest bands with all due respects to the musicians he has played past and present// It was like watching Jimi all over again another one who I greatly missed. Peta was sad about it as many of us about this great man gone so soon at 57. He was very much howard Hughes like very intensely private rarely gave any interviews his music does the talking.
    here is a song that defines the old chap this is from the movie of that classic “Purple Rain” this song gives me chills watching it especially that cathartic guitar solo and very emotive song

    The next is a guitar solo he did at the George Harrison tribute at the hall of fame induction which he stole the show

    Rest in Purple Prince Rogers Nelson 1958-2016 we miss you in Down under

    • artmodel says:

      Derek,

      First Bowie, and now Prince. 2016 is taking music icons from us, and it’s only April! Tough stuff. Hard to swallow.

      Prince’s guitar solo in the Hall of Fame video you posted is phenomenal. It’s being shared quite a bit around the internet, and rightly so. He totally stole the show. And I think the Hendrix comparisons are apt. Too many people are unaware, or are just discovering now, what a superb guitarist Prince was.

      Fantastic that you saw him live twice! Tremendous performer. I’ve been to my share of concerts (though not nearly as many as you!) and I’ve been saying for years that the Prince concert at the Garden was absolutely the best.

      Thanks for your comments and the videos!

      Claudia

  3. Bill says:

    Excellent posting. (You’re probably getting tired of hearing me say that.) I essentially missed Prince — that whole scene took place while I was trying to get a family and a career kick-started — but I can see what I missed.

    There are those magic nights that you remember from your teenage years — for me, it was a similar night within arm’s length of Jim Morrison — although he was too spaced out to wink at anyone — and I don’t recall wearing a halter top — not that it would have mattered much. (Although the effect would have been quite striking in an entirely different way, I suspect.) He was dead at what? 27? And Hendrix and Joplin. And you’re left saying to yourself, “That can’t be right.” And it isn’t.

    But you still have the music — and the memory.

    • artmodel says:

      Bill,

      I would have thought that even in a spaced-out state Jim Morrison would still be able to wink at adoring female fans in the audience 😉
      But let me tell you, I earned that wink from Prince! 18 years old, halter top, making a total spectacle of yourself … you “work it” you get it. Of course, the being 18 part is key. Ahh, youth.

      Thanks for your comments! Glad you enjoyed the post!

      Claudia

  4. robert Bent says:

    Wonderful post…awesome experience to share. He was the best in what artistic, creative humanity has achieved,,,I think he left with the doors wide open for those who wrestle with what it means to be alive and how it is possible to grow.

    • artmodel says:

      Robert,

      Well put, thank you. We can say that Prince was unique, but it still feels like an insufficient word to describe him. Just a huge loss, and tragic, sudden end to a beloved, artistic figure.

      Great to hear from you!

      Claudia

  5. Brian says:

    What a great memory Claudia! I can just imagine you (and Faby!) at that show…especially having known you around the same time (a little later I know). It is true another great incredible artist is gone – sadly not a good year for the 80’s. As to the question of 3rd row center – yes (most recently The Police with Elvis Costello in 2008) – alas my concert going days are far and few between these days. Take Care.

    • artmodel says:

      Brian,

      You knew me very close to that time, yes! Not far off at all, just a teensy bit later. Prince concert was the summer before I started college. Fun times … the heart of the 80s!

      My concert-going days are few and far between too these days. I attempted to see Robert Plant at the Brooklyn Academy of Music last year but, alas, couldn’t get tickets.

      Absolutely great to hear from you! Hope things are well. Thanks for commenting on this nostalgic post 🙂

      Claudia

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