Despite a curriculum vitae packed to the edges with brilliant music, Prince’s recent legacy has been marred by his absolute need to control how he’s seen and heard on the internet.
The debate over how the wilderness of the web affects music isn’t exclusive to the diminutive soul genius from Minneapolis, though there are few artists who’d go as far as forcing fan sites to remove their high-heeled likeness.
Prince’s paranoia has repeatedly touched YouTube, beginning in 2007 when he threatened a lawsuit against the site for allowing the use of videos featuring his music. A year later, he raised the ire of Radiohead when he forced the removal of videos of his live Coachella performance of their song “Creep” from YouTube. The videos were reinstated in that case, though other have disappeared and reappeared in some bizarre cycle of friend versus purple foe.
But what’s getting lost in the ongoing battle between Prince and the fans who love him in spite of himself is just how incredible his music can be. Whether it’s video of him stealing the show at the Concert for George with a blistering solo during “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” in 2004 or shaking his ass at the Super Bowl in 2007, Prince has still got whatever it was that made the world fall under his spell 30 years ago. Whether anyone gets to witness any of that depends upon how quickly they get over to YouTube.
Witness a series of videos posted by a user called groovytv80. The sound quality is terrible, and the video a static black & white shot in a large, but dingy basement. It’s Prince and the Revolution rehearsing for a tour in support of Purple Rain, the album and film which cemented his reputation as a superstar. “When Doves Cry” is the obvious go-to video for the casual fan, though it’s on b-side “Erotic City” that Prince’s brilliance is most apparent, on guitar, on vocals, as a bandleader and composer. It drips with sex, no mean feat for something that looks like security footage from a shopping center in the ’80s and sounds like your next door neighbor playing their stereo louder than you’d like.
Run over to YouTube and check it out before Prince realizes it’s there. Or wait a week, and maybe it’ll turn up again. Such is the circular relationship between Prince and YouTube.