I wish there was someone mega-massive who was more peculiar, that there was a sense of that neurosis in their music. And that they’d be number one in the charts, not that they’re neurotic and number 7,000 in the independent charts — that doesn’t interest me.
Prince is the closest one who makes records that reflect that… I want somebody to make the music as glorious and gorgeous as, say, ’Little Red Corvette’. That’s why I write things: I want to be number one, but with something that’s strange, so people think, What’s that all about?
It’s the song that I most wish I’d written. Basically, sex is the hardest subject about which to write with any class. How many – people do? And it’s not like he’s just lewd . . . he‘s pantomime . . . he’s Popeye. It’s cartoon sex but at the same time it’s incredibly gorgeous and funny.
So what if Prince is out of touch with the world, when he’s so clearly in touch with his music? There’s a capacity in him, or in Jackson, to astonish, to tip over the paintbox and come out with something you’ve never seen before.
Every story I ever hear about him I find pretty tedious – you know, like he’s got another eight million bodyguards, or won’t go out without the entire US army with him, but one thing that outweighs all that is his records. He can carry it off. At his best he’s phenomenally talented, much more so than almost anybody else I can think of. From ‘Around The World In A Day’ I love ‘Condition Of The Heart’, although I’m not that struck on the singles that’ve been taken from it. ‘International Lover’ from ‘1999’ is just brilliant and ‘I Would Die For You’ and ‘When Doves Cry’ from ‘Purple Rain’. “When I first heard ‘When Doves Cry’ I thought they were mad to release it because it’d never sell –which shows how much I know about hit records! – but from a musician’s point of view it’s so sparse it’s brilliant. What I really like about Prince is that he’s adventurous- he’s got all the showbiz ingredients, but underneath it all he’s likely to still surprise you. There’s not many people who can do that.
What bothers me about him is the speed at which he works. He just won’t wait for the time it takes the tape machines to sync together, he’ll go around them. Or if a desk is set up for a mix of one song, he’ll record a new one through it, without changing anything. That wilful abandonment of a structured way of working that’s good if you can do it.
The mistake Prince imitators make is to plan which rules to break, and that never works. “They’ll say ’oh, Prince has used a lot of wah-wah lately so maybe that’s permissable now’. I shouldn’t think the idea of it being permissable ever entered Prince’s head. He just went ahead and did it.
I mean, with that voice Prince can do anything he wants… Prince’s writing doesn’t seem to bother, it’s pretty slapdash, and I’m enormously envious of him…
With Prince and Madonna, there’s a personal involvement in the thrill of the whole thing, that extends to the way in which they lead their life. Most of the mega- people are perceived to have that involvement, the limousine, Hollywood Boulevard, those relishable moments…