If you, the reader of clubplanet.com, are wondering what the greatest reason why the late Prince Rogers Nelson is worthy of your respect is, it's this... Prince legitimized the drum machine for the entire industry.
Lots of artists used drum computers of varying quality in the late '70s and early '80s for demos, and European artists in the New Romantic, synth-pop, and industrial fields had already embraced the possibilities that these mechanical marvels had to offer. But the rock world was, well, the rock world. Clinging to their guitars and their drum kits and refusing to acknowledge anything that didn't play by their terms as 'real music.'
So when Prince, an incredible musical polymath (capable of playing twenty-seven musical instruments) first started experimenting with the Linn LM-1 on “Private Joy,” back in 1981, he may not have known he was laying the groundwork for the sounds of today. But there's not an artist in dance music today who doesn't owe the man a purple word of thanks. “Little Red Corvette,” “Let's Go Crazy,” and “Something In The Water (Does Not Compute)” treated the LM-1 as a musical instrument, utilizing its sounds with innovation and finesse that even the rock establishment had to acknowledge 1) that Prince was amazing in his musical skill set, and 2) that drum machines were a valid form of musical expression.
More often than not, for the 12” mixes of his jams, Prince would do the do himself. Sometimes, the 12” would be where the full track as he'd initially conceived it would surface, with the album and 7” versions being differing edits (examples would include “Let's Go Crazy,” “Another Lonely Christmas,” “Feel U Up,” and the first 12” of “Gett Off”). Sometimes, he'd get in the studio, by himself or with the band, and record all new grooves , vamps, and sections to lively up the extended version (like “Little Red Corvette,” “Mountains,” “Paisley Park,” or “Kiss”). He'd dabble with name remixers for a time, like Shep Pettibone (“Glam Slam,” “Hot Thing”), William Orbit (“Batdance,” “The Future”), and Steve “Silk” Hurley (“Gett Off,” “Gangster Glam”). Or you'd have something like “America,” where the 12” version is 21+ minutes long, limited by both what could fit on a side of vinyl and that the tape during the recording session ran out.
Prince understood 12”s. He knew the club and DJ game, and even had his own nightclub, Glam Slam, in the late '80s/early '90s. He knew the value of jams that made the body have to shake it, as well as the grooves that made dancers get loose. (Note: there are Prince songs called “Shake” and “Loose!” because that's how well he knew the game.) In 1987, he even had an album called The Black Album ready to be released that wasn't even going to have his name on it. He just wanted to send promos to Club DJs and see what happened. Things didn't go exactly as planned with that project, but never let it be said that Prince was unappreciative of clublife. And he, unlike many dance artists, made a point of making jams for all kinds of clubs- no strip club worth their salt doesn't have “Darling Nikki,” “Peach,” “319,” and “Erotic City” within arms' reach of the DJ booth at all times.
Even during and after his religious reawakening , he would still go out and dance sometimes at clubs, or even open up his studio Paisley Park for a giant dance party for fans and friends. For his ultimately final tour, the man performed seated behind a piano, stripping all the material down to the basics of voice and keys. He spent so many years dancing his ass off, as well as making the music that let the listener do the same, that there's something fitting about that. Nobody can dance forever- but Prince came close. Respect to his purple memory. To read more from writer/critic Jason Shawhan, please check out his incredible blog.