I became a Prince fan at the grand age of 12. Propelled into a voyage of discovery by the global dominance of Purple Rain in 1984, and the dark, sensual mystery of lead single When Doves Cry in particular. Prince hadn't had much of an impact here in North East England until this point. I became intrigued and fascinated by his sensuality and air of uniqueness. There had been big pop stars in the past, but Prince seemed different. He operated in his own world and appointed followers who were worthy of inclusion. I would become one of these chosen ones.
The obvious first attraction was his music. He didn't follow rules, he created new sounds, broke boundaries and created a sub genre himself.
Prince himself was another matter - mixing femininity and sensuality with androgyny, camp and a hint of chauvinism, he was, indeed, not a woman or a man, and certainly appeared something I couldn't understand. Yet that itself became a fascination. He hid away from the media in general, only coming alive and exerting himself whilst on stage in electrifying performances. When he did speak, he appeared vulnerable and shy, in a way I could relate to, yet for a man short of stature, he projected confidence and power in a way that I (as a short man myself) embraced.
I absolutely loved the way he always seemed to be 'Prince' or a version of Prince wherever/whenever he was. Parts of his projected character would subconsciously morph into my own over the years, and I can directly relate parts of my character traits to him. I took huge inspiration from him and his non-prejudiced view of life.
Musically, if it wasn't for Prince I cannot think I would have encountered a lot of his influences and taken the direction I have. Soul/Funk is not something very many white, working class males had entry to in the North East of England in the 1980's.
Seeing Prince live has been the greatest musical experience of my life, one I was very lucky to encounter on 10 occasions. There was so much energy and excitement and a sense of individual brilliance. He could make you feel as if he were playing directly to you in a crowd of tens of thousands.
If I had to pick one track to sum up my relationship with Prince and his music, it would be If I was your Girlfriend. It eclipsed anything he, or anyone else, had done emotionally and sonically. Genre and gender boundaries extended to their limits, and beyond. He sang it as a duet with himself and played all the characters as dimensions of one persona. Unique, touching, and utterly captivating.
When Prince died, I was crestfallen. I had never met him, yet felt I knew him. He was always there - somewhere, inspiring, funktioning, performing and guiding. His music will always be there, and there is still the thirst to hear new/unreleased material - there will always be the thrill of 'a new Prince release'. Prince was an inspiration. He still is. He just isn't here.
All good things, they say, never last.
Geoff Bell lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, UK. He works in clinical trials administration at Newcastle University, and he is a dreamer.