On a recent road trip to Virginia, I must have stumbled into a time warp because I found myself in a record store. They sold a lot more than records now, and I briefly checked out some t-shirts. Nothing I needed there.
However, in the new release section was a CD that had been on my radar – Piano & a Microphone 1983 by Prince. I could have downloaded it from iTunes a while back, but I’m still old school and like to have a physical copy of my music. On sale for $7.99, I decided to grab it.
As you’re probably aware, Prince died a few years back. I wrote about his death on an old blog site, which you can find here. It’s one of my all-time favorite pieces, written in one night and by request.
The background of Piano & a Microphone 1983 intrigued me. The title is literally what is happening on the album. Prince had an old upright piano in the basement, and he recorded himself trying out ideas. This wasn’t today’s Garage Band on a MacBook recording. This was on an old cassette recorder. Once the session was finished, Prince may have listened to it again or played it for others. Eventually, though, the recording found its way to the mythical Prince vault, never intended to be heard by the public.
After his death, the estate of Prince started going through the vault, trying to figure out what, if anything, should be shared with the public. This recording is one of the first pieces to make it out.
I found it fascinating. The album is not long, around 35 minutes, and is divided into nine tracks. The first 23 or so minutes is divided into seven of these, and I’d call them noodling or tinkering. It’s Prince trying different things, little snippets of lyrics and musical experimentation, an inside look at his creative process. The songs of this first section kinda run together (maybe like that last sentence), and about the only thing a casual Prince fan would recognize are some of the lyrics to “Purple Rain.” The version on this album is nothing like the final version the world knows. The last two cuts are full songs, totaling about 11 minutes.
When I finished listening, I thought there have to be lessons in there for everyone. You know, something along the line of writing/singing/playing like no one will ever hear or just emptying the noise in your head. But after thinking about it, I decided there was one other lesson, and it was just for me.
See, I have items in my “vault”, too. Not songs, like Prince, but unfinished stories, abandoned on old flash drives or cloud storage. It would be a shame for me to take these to my grave because I doubt anyone’s going to search for them after I’m gone and complete them for me.
So it will be up to me. Hopefully, I have plenty of time to finish these, but I guess I should start sooner than later. Stay tuned.
Thanks for reading,