Category Archives: memories

That time I almost saw Prince perform

Generatpurplerainion X, we are in mourning. David Bowie, Phife, now Prince. All impacted my view of the world through music. Seeing Bowie on Soul Train, wondering if I was the only person who didn’t know he was white and British. Phife and A Tribe Called Quest, him holding it down on Midnight Marauders’ cut “God Lives Through Music” (. . . if my partners don’t look good, Malik don’t look good . . .).  Now Prince Rodgers Nelson. The short muthafucka with the deep voice (his description).  “Adore,” “I Feel For You,” “DMSR,” “Delirious,” “Musicology,” “Gett Off,” “Pop Life,” and of course “Purple Rain.” We will never see his (or their) like again.
Obligatory Prince story: Like most every other kid in America, I’d been transfixed by seeing Purple Rain, listening to the sound track (and the B-sides!), and the ancillary related content (The Time, Apollonia 6, music videos). The theater where I watched it the first time, people were dancing in the aisles during the last 20 minutes of the movie. My high school senior class prom theme was Purple Reign. So, yeah, it was kind of a big deal.
Not actual radio. Image from Jersey Shore Pickins,
Imagine my surprise when I found 15 tickets for the Purple Rain tour at the Capital Centre in Landover, MD. My brother was moving stuff from his grad school place back home. One item was an antique radio the size of a gas oven and range. It was beautiful junk that big brother didn’t have space on his way to a new job. I hauled as much stuff as I could in my 1980 Honda Accord hatchback, including the radio. Inside the cabinet of the radio was an envelop with 15 tickets–cheap seats, but seats all the same for a series of shows that sold out in hours.
One of his roommates managed to get a block of tickets, probably put them in the cabinet for safe storage before my brother moved. Chuck (don’t remember his name) called my home asking if I could check the radio and see if the tickets were in there. I did; they were. Chuck was relieved.
I naively asked Chuck if I could get a couple (as a reward, or to buy, if necessary).  He said he’d committed the tickets to people, at what I’m sure was above face value. My brother suggested that a couple of tickets should have come up missing before I confirmed the number, but I was a straight shooter and thought I might be rewarded for my good deed. Per usual, no good deed goes unpunished and there I sat/in my lonely room/looking for my sunshine*, not at the Capital Centre wearing something ridiculous.
Eventually, I’d see Prince at the Capital Centre. I sang all of the songs (to the chagrin of my girlfriend) and was much better dressed than in 1984. Sadly, I missed him when he was in DC last. Had I known it was the last time forever, I might have tried harder.
*Lyrics from “17 Days” slightly modified.