One night in my 20s, the radio woke me up with an alarm clock bell. Wondering, what the hell? I swam to consciousness during the beginning piano chords of “Starfish and Coffee.” The song was years old already but I’d never heard it before, as I’d stopped listening to Prince about 6 years earlier. (I started losing interest around Sign O’the Times — believe it or not — and fell off entirely before “Diamonds and Pearls” came out, I guess.)
I already had a history of waking up to hear bizarre things on the radio (Once, as a kid I woke up to hear an entire BBC radio play of “The Hobbit,” and couldn’t even go to school the next day), so I was transfixed by the story of Cynthia Rose, her classmates and her bizarre lunchbox contents. I lay there in the dark, staring at the ceiling, seeing the classroom, the mismatched socks, the butterscotch clouds — and wondering if I should give Prince another listen. Such odd imagery — why ham? just because it rhymed? — but such a goddamned catchy chorus.
When the song ended, I was thrilled but not surprised to hear my friend Torrance Gettrell’s voice back-announcing the song. Of course he would play “Starfish and Coffee” at 3am! I saw him a few days later and we talked about the song, and all the reasons Prince was still relevant to people who had ever liked his music. After Torrance and I parted ways, I went to buy a lunchbox.
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