Prince in private: lascivious, relentless, exacting, remote

People who worked closely with the pop superstar paint a picture of a hard taskmaster who protected himself assiduously from the public gaze

Alan Edwards recalls the first time he did business with Prince in 1991 with amused lucidity. I got a call from Rogers& Cowan in America, the PR firm, asking if I would like to work with him, says the veteran publicist, whose clients have included David Bowie, the Who and Michael Jackson.

I was flown out to Minneapolis and picked up by a chauffeur. It was flat and cold and it was the middle of wintertime. We drove for miles and miles through the snow, then suddenly Paisley Park[ Princes record studio and headquarters] pops up. I was shown up to a suspended room merely hanging in the air, with a glass floor and everything in the middle. I sit there. No one even offers me a beaker of coffee. A button is pushed and an album starts playing. It was Diamonds and Pearls, and I had a sense I was being watched. So I put on a lot of foot-tapping.

At the end, the receptionist goes and gets me and says the cars outside. Id come halfway around the world and no one had spoken to me. I get in the car, and were driving along. The driver, this cool African American guy, says to me: What did you think of the album? What about this way? I was being questioned forensically, so I guessed it was being videotapeed, or played back to his highness. I got back to London, and 3 days later I was hired to work on Prince.

Edwardss story is typical of Prince, a human who lived a life in the public eye, while protecting himself assiduously. One of his habits was to ride a bike around Paisley Park, and even last Sunday, one local resident told the Guardian he had been out and about on two wheels. Julie Reid was getting a haircut when the salons receptionist told Prince was cycling around outside. Reid, foil in her hair, operated outside to assure. Prince waved to her, but wagged his finger in admonition when she created her phone to take a photo. In public, but private.

That Prince was out and about on Sunday having hosted one of his famed Paisley Park dance parties the previous night induced his death all the more of a shock. He had been in hospital briefly the Friday before, after his airplane made an emergency landing in Illinois following a gig in Atlanta. That incident has become the subject of supposition, with the celebrity gossip website TMZ which broke the news of his death on Thursday claiming he was treated for a drug overdose, rather than the influenza his representatives claimed.

The transcript of the 911 call made to the emergency services in Minneapolis shed no illuminate. The caller said someone identified only as the person or persons was dead, that the people are just distraught. Merely late in the bellow did the confirmation come from the caller: Yes, its Prince.

Prince performing on stage on the Purple Rain tour. Photograph: Richard E Aaron/ Redferns

An autopsy, which was scheduled to be performed on Friday, should uncover the truth, but Prince surely had a reputation for clean living. His biographer Matt Thorne told Prince was a vegan who rarely drank and who was vehemently opposed to drugs. He had sacked band members who had been saw employing medications, and Thorne saw it unlikely Prince had become a drug user. Edwards concurred. I was really depressed and disappointed when I find that tale, he told. I hope its not true. That was the opposite of my experience.

Edwardss former business partner Chris Poole was not so sure. Poole, who worked more closely with Prince on a day-to-day basis, told: I wouldnt be shocked[ if he had died from an overdose ]. There were gossips that he might dabble, though not in the hard stuff. If he supposed any particular medication might help him creatively then he might.

Perhaps the key event in the second half of Princes career was his wedding to Mayte Garcia in February 1996. Before then, the lascivious character of his songs was an indication of the real Prince. Poole recalled that on the Diamonds and Pearls tour, the convoy of vehicles would have to stop at motorway services, so the group of women in Princes private tour bus could be swapped for another group.

On that tour, he satisfied Garcia, eventually deciding to marry her. The bridal was a characteristically opulent affair, with specially made china bearing the logo Prince had taken to using in lieu of a name in the wake of his uprising against his record label, Warner Brothers( he was known publicly as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince at the time ). Though the wedding was short-lived the couples union was annulled on their third bridal anniversary the loss of two children had a profound effect on Prince. Their son Boy Gregory succumbed a week after his birth in October 1996, and a few days later the couple appeared on Oprah Winfreys TV show giving a tour of Boys playroom, pretending he was still alive. Garcia afterwards miscarried a second child. A second wedding, to Manuela Testolini, lasted from 2001 until she filed for divorce in 2006.

Prince, with Mayte Garcia. Photo: John Stillwell/ PA

After his relationship with Garcia, and under the influence of former Sly and the Family Stone bassist Larry Graham, who had joined his band, Prince became interested in the Jehovahs Witnesses, with his conversion becoming public in 2001. He was committed to his new faith; in October 2003 the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported the case of a woman whose Sunday afternoon was interrupted by a ring at the doorbell, which proved to be Prince and Graham proselytising on behalf of the members of the Witnesses. My first believe is Cool, cool, cool. He wants to use my house for a situated. Im glad! Demolish the whole thing! Start over! said the homes proprietor, identified only as Rochelle. Then they start in on this Jehovahs Witnesses stuff. I told, You know what? Youve walked into a Jewish household, and this is not something Im interested in. If his faith remained devout, it would seem to foreclose the notion of a drug overdose.

Religion, which had been a piece of stagecraft to Prince in the 1980 s, became part of his art in the 2000 s. Following the death of his child he was searching for answers in faith, Thorne told. He recorded The Rainbow Children album[ in 2001 ], which dealt with it. He would talk on stage about going to the Kingdom Hall. In 2002 he was doing 15 -minute jazz numbers about his belief. He was really threatening his career with it.

Control of his career had been part of Princes modus operandi from the beginning. His first record contract had awarded him an unprecedented level of artistic control for a new artist, and his battle with Warner Brothers in the 1990 s was caused by his longing not to release albums according to a schedule dictated by the label. That need for control induced him a demanding taskmaster.

He operated through people, Poole said indeed, Poole and Edwards ceased to be his UK publicists several years ago. There were one or two who didnt work again after working with Prince. He was relentless. Id get calls at two in the morning, after he had slept the working day. Its untrue to say he wouldnt listen he would if you stood up to him but he could be very intimidate in his behaviour. Edwards recollected occasions when his band would be assembled, immediately after a prove had ended, to watch a video of their whole performance. Everyone who played a bum note was reprimanded. Poole would be charged with finding a recording studio at no notification, so Prince could be ready when inspiration struck, or with finding a venue on the working day for an intimate show.

Prince was equally in control of his public persona. Journalists were not allowed to record interviews with him, after he was distressed when one early interview recording began circulating as a bootleg, and for a period were not allowed to take notes either. Edwards and Poole were told to install a special phone in their office, for which merely he had the number, so he could be sure merely of talking to them, and so they would know it was him and they needed to pick up.

He didnt like to do interviews, Edwards told. He saw the whole experience painful. But he did understand visuals, so once a month a package would turn up from Minneapolis, a white envelope with 20 or 30 transparencies[ of photographs] Prince in front of a purple Rolls-Royce; Prince in front of a purple house. He would say, Do what you want with them. Wed give them to the tabloids, and the narratives would get bigger and bigger Prince has paid $100 m for a purple mansion.

His innermost circle the musicians, the managers were rarely people who could challenge him. Thorne told Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman, the duo who worked with him in the 80 s, were dispensed with for that reason. They said themselves they felt he had given up control and had to wrench it back. He wasnt a massively collaborative musician, but he did like to be surprised. He was like Mark E Smith of the Fall, which voices an unlikely comparing: he found people and then he developed them up.

That applied to the backroom staff, too. He did construct some bizarre choices, especially on the management side, Poole told. He didnt go for the mega lawyers and reputation hunters that operated the business as a lot of other people did.

He recruited one director from his fanclub, according to Thorne. He merely didnt am worried about the industry, Edwards told. So he would pick someone who was a bodyguard and set them into management. It was almost childlike he was always putting people into different jobs.

For all that he was a remote figure who found it difficult to trust people, Prince elicited a store of good memories in Poole. I did an aftershow party at the Melkweg in Amsterdam I had to organise his aftershow parties. I told him not to get there until 1am, but he arrived early and I stood on the balcony with him. He seemed across the room, and told: This was one of the first gig I did in Europe. There was a wistful tone in his voice. He had gone so far, but he still had a nostalgia for how simple it was in the beginning. He used to phone up at midnight if he was in town and not working. Im at Tramp. Come down. And Id sit there, and there would be 10 people there. Hed be sipping a port and lemon through a straw, which always amused me. I get truly fed up one time and told: Can you tell me what were doing up there? There was one stunning daughter, alone on the dancefloor. He pointed at her and told: Thats what were doing here.

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