The death of Prince (Minnesota, 1958–2016) left us without one of the most prolific, multifaceted and fascinating artists the world has ever known. Prince's career is so extensive - it is estimated that he could have written and recorded more than 1000 songs during his life - that we can find in it an unheard of alternation in any mass artist: in his work there are generational hymns that everyone knows and songs hidden among their 39 published albums. For every
Purple Rain, Kiss
When Doves Cry
there are dozens of works less known to the general public. Today we stop at one of them, which also brought Prince to Barcelona in his time of greatest popularity.
Terry Gydesen, their photographer and author, recalls for ICON from her home in Minneapolis that “Prince needed a photographer to cover his 1992 European tour and a friend of mine told me to send them my
. Prince saw my work and sent it back to me. In those years, the photos had to be sent physically ”. Over several weeks, those snapshots made the journey from Terry's studio to Paisley Park [the recording studio and concert hall where Prince lived], several times, as if they couldn't quite make up their minds. Prince was at a crucial moment in his life: after the success of
Diamonds and Pearls
(1992), got a $ 100 million contract with Warner Bros. A milestone that surpassed those of his contemporaries Madonna or Michael Jackson, of about $ 60 million each.
The new contract named Prince vice president of the record company, granted him an office at Warner headquarters, and committed him to releasing six albums.
The artist got his headline and was highlighted by the media that it was the largest contract ever signed in the music industry.
However, problems soon arrived.
Madonna during a performance in memory of Prince at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards in Nevada.Kevin Winter / Getty Images
The new contract specified that the artist could not release more than one album a year and, in the long run, that became unbearable for him, who wanted to publish when his inspiration allowed it and without any control over the material.
Gary Stiffelman, Prince's attorney from 1988 to 1994, summed it up for
: “He wanted to edit the music in a way that didn't fit the contract.
Whenever he wanted and how he wanted: be it with a three-song album or a 70-song album.
In addition, having transferred the
of the songs to Warner, Prince had lost control over his creations, which tortured him.
The unpronounceable symbol formerly known as ...
Less than a year after signing the contract with Warner, taking advantage of his 35th birthday and thus trying to avoid his contractual obligations, Prince decided to change his name to the unpronounceable symbol O (+>.
the album whose cover shows him in front of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, arrives in full conflict. When Prince realized that the name change was not going to work, he only had one option to be free: try to get as much material as possible as soon as possible and thus get rid of a commitment she hated.
the first of a series of albums produced in record time, often decades before taking advantage of
Singer Prince, in a 2006 promo image.
Prince was never very fond of the record.
He came to qualify it as "old material."
In an interview with Rosa Montero for EL PAÍS SEMANAL in 1994,
Little is said about
It is mentioned at the beginning when he tells that, since the cover of it showed Prince in front of Gaudí's Sagrada Familia, Barcelona had granted him the title of Friend of the city and in gratitude, the musician had agreed to give an interview to a half Spanish, the first in many years.
Few traces remain on the internet about the genesis of those images but, here in Spain, they have always aroused special interest.
"A freedom that no photographer ever obtained"
“One day they finally called me,” Gydesen continues, “and they said, 'We'd like to do a test session. Can you stop right now? It sounded strange to me. In addition, he had heard stories of people who had worked with Prince and who had run out of pay. So I told them I couldn't. I thought maybe my opportunity was gone, but about three weeks later they contacted me again and I took the job. I traveled to Europe a few days later. We were negotiating the contract until a couple of hours before taking off. I spent a whole month with him and had a freedom that no photographer ever got. They introduced him to me the first night and when I saw him I thought, 'God, he's really short!' It was all very correct, but we never really talked too much. We were both very shy. "
Prince in front of the Sagrada Familia in one of the images taken in Barcelona for the promotion of the album, 'Come'. Terry Gydesen / Courtesy of Terry Gydesen
Terry also remembers
the photo session that took place in Barcelona: “They called me around 10 in the morning to say: 'We will notify you today to take some photos in the Sagrada Familia'.
I waited all day and they finally told me about 4 in the morning.
We went together in the back of his limo, which was very rare, and during the trip [Prince] asked me about the glasses I was wearing.
We arrived at the Sagrada Familia and there was a very soft light, it was beginning to dawn and the towers were beginning to be seen a little, also slightly illuminated by the light of the streetlights.
The conditions were difficult to take a good photo and at the same time appreciate the building ”.
"He was taking different postures with little or no prompting from me," Terry recalls.
“I took about 30 photos and Prince got back in the car, so I assumed my time was up.
There was absolutely no one else on the street at that time.
We went straight back to the hotel.
I was terrified that no decent photos had come out, but luckily some of them were incredible. "
Gydesen's images also illustrated a book edited by the musician in 1994,
Prince presents The Sacrifice of Victor.
His cover photo, which also features Barcelona, hides another story worth remembering: “There was a blackout at the hotel, so Prince was bored and they called me to go take some photos.
On that occasion we climbed the Montjuic mountain, but we could not find a good place.
Suddenly, as we were descending, we found a good spot on a curve from which there was a beautiful perspective of the city.
We got out and Prince began to pose as he had done in front of the Sagrada Familia.
It so happened that there was a couple next door having a picnic.
We spent about a minute taking the photos and when we left I looked at them sideways and their mouths were open, they were stunned by what had just happened.
I wish I could find that couple! "
Who was she?
Beyond the anecdote of those photos in the Sagrada Familia and Montjuic, another detail of the album leaves material for the anecdote among his followers. The last song on the album is a curious piece of only 1:39 minutes called
(all the sense in an album entitled
, a verb that has several meanings in English and not all suitable for minors). According to legend, perhaps spread by Prince's publicists or even himself, the orgasm of the recording was real. It was speculated that its protagonist, who appeared in the album credits as
("She knows"), she could be one of the many lovers and friends Prince had had over the years. In the forums of Prince followers, rumors that attributed those moans to Madonna (magazines such as
assume a very brief romance between the two is possible in the mid-eighties), Kim Basinger, Carmen Electra or Apollonia.
The reality, however, is much more prosaic: the woman moaning in the song was one of his former partners and collaborators, Vanity. And those little screams had occurred in the distant summer of 1983, during the recording of a song that never saw the light and that would be called
. There is no doubt that the moans heard at the end of this song are the same. As for the guitar, it was an even older recording: Prince reused solos from the song
The final theme was created in 1993, combining the voice of Prince and the sounds of the sea with the old recordings. Therefore, and if we stick to this song, we cannot fail to agree with Prince when he declared to EL PAÍS that the album was “old material”. However, according to much of the critics, both
and other songs on the album, especially
, they are very interesting examples of all the twisted and complex paths, sometimes almost David Lynch's, that Prince's music could have taken and ultimately didn't. Given that, according to his closest collaborators, there is unreleased Prince material for many more albums, it is possible that a twist in this story still awaits us.
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