This morning I visited Prince's Paisley Park compound for the first time. The fact that this was my first visit is a shame. I've lived in Minneapolis all my life and for as long as I can remember, Prince was always around. He would throw late-night parties at Paisley Park, inviting his fans and sometimes even the public, assuming one could get there before the place reached capacity. People I know would go to the parties and once in a while Prince would feel the urge to entertain everyone with a private concert or even a little medley of rare tracks. I took all of this for granted. I never felt the need to go to one of these special events. I always told myself there would be another time and I felt like the supply of Prince and his music was never ending. Prince even stood behind me at a Sheryl Crow concert several years ago. Again, it seemed like he was always around and always releasing music. I don't doubt there are many of us in Minneapolis who thought the same thing prior to April 21, 2016 when Prince passed away from an accidental overdose of fentanyl. Suddenly our endless tap of creative genius was turned off and the chance of going to Paisley Park to see him was less than zero.
I drove out to the Minneapolis suburb of Chanhassen this morning to visit the newly opened Paisley Park museum. I honestly didn't know what to expect. I had heard Prince's urn was on display and a few other things, but I was pretty much in the dark about the whole thing.
Before getting into the details of what I saw, I want to briefly mention that Paisley Park wasn't really considered Prince's home. It was mainly a studio complex that had a small apartment for Prince and a guest quarters. Prince had houses all over, including one fairly close to Paisley park that he sold a number of years ago. I guess, calling Paisley Park his studio and residence is technically correct, but a bit misleading.
Anyway, walking into Paisley Park, the experience is similar to many recording studios. There are many awards hanging on the wall for gold and platinum albums and a very cool memento presented to Prince from AEG Live after his 2004 Musicology tour. This large memento has 88 ticket stubs from all the shows that year in a circle, representative of his in-the-round performances on that tour.
The Paisley Park tour gets much more personal as one walks into the main atrium area, just beyond the main entrance. Right in the middle of the large area is a small replica of the Paisley Park complex with a little purple urn inside that contains Prince's ashes. Seeing this urn, some of us in the group were hit with the reality and gravity of Prince's death. One person, in our small group of six, started to cry at the sight of the urn. Prince's music meant a lot to many people and it was very evident this morning.
Adjacent to the atrium is where Prince's office is located. Walking into the office I felt a little uneasy, as if I was invading his personal space or being disrespectful. I felt like, this is his stuff, what am I doing in here? Prince's office, according to people working at Paisley Park, has been left untouched since the day he passed away. In the office are several CDs and vinyl albums. Most notably, the vinyl release of Cookin' With The Miles Davis Quintet sits unopened on a table. Next to the album is a notebook with a page full of handwritten notes, not quite readable from the allowable viewing distance. Near this table is also a small cat carrier, where Prince's cat Paisley used to rest. Perhaps the most eerie part about the office was Prince's luggage still sitting next to his desk. A small suitcase and briefcase sat there as if he was going somewhere soon or was ready in case he wanted to take off in a hurry.
After visiting his office we saw his video editing bay, followed by Studios A, B, and C. Studios A and B are still full-functioning studios that may be opened for recordings at a later date. There will certainly be a vibe to the studios for artists coming in to record at Paisley Park. Of note in Studio A were two isolation rooms. One room had a granite floor and granite walls, and contained a piano with a couple microphones inside. Prince loved the sound of the piano reverberating off the granite. Another, even smaller room, contained the purple Rickenbacker guitar that an 18 year old Wendy Melvoin played in Purple Rain. In addition to the guitar is series of effects pedals and two mic'd amplifiers. In the control room of Studio A is a really nice microphone placed at the console. This is because Prince liked to record many of his vocals while sitting / standing at the console. He used to prefer recording by himself, playing most of the instruments, and telling people to get out of the studio because he didn't like the way he looked while singing.
In Studio B I had a really memorable experience. I played ping pong on Prince's personal ping pong table, that was left in its exact location following his death. Some readers may be interested to know Prince was a big fan of ping pong. I'll post a video below of Jimmy Fallon paying tribute to prince and reminiscing about playing ping pong with him in New York City. Also in Studio B is a purple piano and guitar, placed conveniently in the only location in which photos are allowed at Paisley Park. The photo is $10 and is placed on a purple USB
flash drive for people to take home.
Studio C has been converted into a Purple Rain room. Inside this room are a few items I think are really cool. 1. One of the purple motorcycles used in the filming of Purple Rain. Apparently this motorcycle, and the others from the film, were converted to automatics. Prince and his friends would take the bikes out behind the studio complex and rude them around for fun. What's priceless memorabilia to some people is just another toy to others. 2. Prince's personal copy of the Purple Rain manuscript in a leather bound cover with his name written on it, is in this room. 3. His Academy Award for Purple Rain, also in this room. 4. Prince's small purple piano / keyboard is also in the Purple Rain room, with visible scuffs from him dancing on top of it. Neat stuff.
The last part of the tour enabled us to visit his gigantic sound stage and personal nightclub, the NPG Club. The sound stage is where he would host his parties and semi-public performances at Paisley Park. This is also where he prepared for tours by setting up an entire stage and running through dress rehearsals. This room is also where some of the movie Graffiti Bridge was filmed. It was in this space that prince hosted his last party on April 16, 2016. Doors opened for the party at 10:00 PM. After midnight on the morning of April 17, Prince emerged to show off his new purple Yamaha piano and purple guitar created just for him. He played chopsticks for the crowd and said a few words, and that was it. The piano and guitar are still in this room for all to see. Both are beautiful. Exiting the sound stage area, we entered the NPG private nightclub. This is where Prince would have much more private gatherings and very private concerts. Last time Madonna was in Minneapolis for a concert, Prince invited her and her dancers to NPG for a private concert. Word on the street from back when I was in high schools is that Lenny Kravits played a very short show in Minneapolis, suggesting to the crowd that he was ill. After his shortened show, he went to the NPG club and jammed all night with Prince. true or not, the fact that it would have taken place is pretty cool. Prince did stuff like this all the time.
Perhaps it was all the stories, both true and fictional, and all the presumed access to Prince and his music that lead many of us in Minneapolis to wait for the next time to visit Paisley Park. I'll probably kick myself for the rest of my life for not pursuing the music genius that was Prince.
Here are some memorable Prince videos:
Incredible guitar solo at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction.
One of the best Super Bowl halftime shows ever. Sorry for the bad video quality. If someone has better please let me know.
Jimmy Fallon talking about prince and his ping pong match.