One of the biggest surprises of Purple Rain was how good a comedic actor Morris Day turned out to be. As the Kid’s rival, Morris was hilarious as he flaunted his ego and went through slapstick routines with his valet Jerome. The press especially singled out Morris’ performance as being exemplary. It is not surprising that Morris has decided to leave the Prince empire to start out on his own.
The first hint of trouble came in July when Prince played with The Time in Minneapolis. Morris was nowhere to be seen. Then at the premiere party for Purple Rain, Morris and Prince did not speak to each other. Soon after there was talk of Morris Day working on a movie deal with Richard Pryor.
Once again it came down to a talented pupil wanting to get out from under his teacher. Prince owned the name The Time, and he wrote some of their early hits (according to Rolling Stone), if not a great deal of their material. Morris claims Prince was actually bugged by The Time’s success. “It created a tension between ‘us,” he told Rolling Stone. “There used to be some arguments before going on stage about things that I would do that were conflicting with things that Prince would do. I was told not to do certain things, certain dances.”
Still Morris Day would not come out and say anything negative about Prince. After all, his part in Purple Rain had made him more popular than he had ever been before and he did owe much of his musical success to Prince for getting him started. “There’s a lot of negative things I could say,” he said recently. “But I don’t want to see these things in print. I still consider the guy my friend.”
According to sources in Minneapolis, The Time has now broken up for good. The remaining members are busy working on a new project, directed by Prince of course, called Family.
Prince is continually active. People that know say he has already recorded his next album and is working on the one after that. There are other projects as well.
“He’s married to his work,” Apollonia told Us magazine. “He’s incredible to watch. I’ve never before been in awe of anyone but God. He has a safe full of unrecorded material—hits from now to eternity.”
His latest lady, Sheila E., has a hit album on her hands with a top ten single “The Glamorous Life.” Sheila Escovedo is now known as Sheila E., but Prince met her years ago when he was working on his first album. She is the daughter of Peter Escovedo, a Latin-jazz percussionist who had worked with Carlos Santana, one of Prince’s earliest influences. Prince and Sheila have been writing songs together for years. Before she got her big break with Prince, she had toured as a back-up singer and percussionist for Lionel Richie, George Duke, and Marvin Gaye.
When Sheila recently played at the Ritz in New York City, Prince jumped on stage for an encore of “Erotic City,” which also features Sheila E. on the flip side of the single “Let’s Go Crazy.” He then launched into an audience sing-along on “When Doves Cry.”
Sheila won’t talk about her supposed relationship with Prince. She told Kurt Loder, “We’re just friends, but the public will assume what it wants.
“He’s a good person,” she added. “He’s changed somewhat; he’s really happy now.”
Sheila E. was lucky to be chosen as the opening act for Prince’s 1984 fall tour.
According to writer Jon Bream, Prince recently paid $450,000 for a huge warehouse in the suburbs of Minneapolis where he intends to build an ultramodern recording studio. There he will continue to write and record for himself and others.
Lately he has been letting other band members contribute more to the songwriting and arranging. Lisa and Wendy conducted a string section on three songs from Purple Rain. Sheila E., Apollonia 6 and members of The Revolution have each contributed to the others’ records as well.
“We play a lot together,” Wendy Melvoin explained to Musician magazine about the way The Revolution works. “When we jam we’ll get caught in a groove and, knowing each other’s style so well, we can create a song. That’s how a lot of stuff gets created and arranged. . . He hasn’t tried to tame us down at all, and he’s more willing to accept ideas from each of us.”
Since the release of the movie, Prince has become more secretive. His purple house in the Minneapolis suburb of Chanhassen is surrounded by a tall black fence and remote control-operated gate. Sometimes he is seen riding around town in a BMW sportscar or his chauffur-driven purple limousine. He now travels almost always with one of his bodyguards.
Meanwhile, the tourists are flocking to First Avenue to have their pictures taken in front of the club or to check out the building across the street that they believe was Apollonia’s hotel in the movie. Often Prince or The Time or other Minneapolis stars will do surprise shows. The promoter of First Avenue is a hard-working guy named Steve McClellan. Right now he is a little worried about some of the club’s newly found notoriety. He is concerned that the tourists are not really interested in seeing the bands, and that they might drive the real music lovers away.
“My biggest fear is that the tourists won’t listen to the music,” said McClellan. “I have no intention of turning this place into a museum for Prince. Sure we could have wax figures of the band and we could have a glass case with the first glove Prince ever threw into the audience. But that’s not why I got involved here. We’ll continue to use this place to promote exciting entertainment and to help launch the stars of tomorrow.”
Prince still comes by the place from time to time. He caught Tina Turner’s show which opened with her rendition of Prince’s “Let’s Get Married.’ He was so inspired by a set by funkster George Clinton that he raced right home, wrote and recorded the song “Erotic City.” When he has new material ready to be released he will often come down and have the dee jays at First Avenue give the material a test spin-Prince will then hop on the dance floor and see how his record rates.
He steers clear of the press now more than ever. His last interview was in 1982 in support of his album 1999. It was the first of four scheduled interviews, but after he did the first, he abruptly cancelled the rest. He has not made a public statement since.
In November of 1984, Prince began his first national tour at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Seven separate shows at the stadium sold out more than 130,000 tickets.
Where does Prince go from here? He will probably make more movies; there has been talk of him starring in a movie about the life of the 1950s rocker Little Richard. He will undoubtedly start his own record label; and at the rate he is going it could be the next Motown. He already has the musicians and a sound he can call his own. It will be interesting to see where it leads.
“The most important thing is to be true to yourself, but I also like danger’ he told Robert Hillburn in his last interview. “That’s what is missing from pop music today. There’s no excitement and mystery—people sneaking out and going to these forbidden concerts by Elvis Presley or Jimi Hendrix. I’m not saying I’m better than anybody else, but I don’t feel like there are a lot of people out there telling the truth in their music”
Right now Prince is burning, filled with more songs and ideas than most artists have in a lifetime. “He works such long hours — fifteen to twenty hours a day:’ said Peggy McCreary, an engineer who has worked on many of his projects.
At the rate he is going, Prince may prove to be the biggest star of the decade. You can be sure that he’ll keep on making hit records, way past the year 1999.