John Speice’s Prince origin story is a heartbreaker. I first heard Speice play with Hairy Apes BMX, Austin’s ass-shaking jazz punk insanity in the 90s. Since then, he’s added juggernaut credits to his résumé like Brownout, Grupo Fantasma and Golden Dawn Arkestra. And the man loves Prince.
“I guess it was ’82 or ’83. MTV had JUST gotten to Duncan, Oklahoma. Music videos were a brand-new medium, and it was then I first saw the video for 1999… Dez Dickerson’s samurai headband… Wendy and Lisa doing the lesbian pose and rocking that keyboard as one… The first time Prince falls into the splits and just crushes the James Brown mic toss thing… That still-unmistakable electronic drum syncopation from the intro.
My small-town ass was simply not ready. I HAD to have it from the drop. I was so thirsty for whatever this was. This sound… He’s gay, right?… People just don’t act like that… I don’t care… It’s the best thing I’ve ever heard. I’m gonna sit and stare at this TV until they play that video again. (This was before “they” had decided that 1999 had failed as a single and released Little Red Corvette as the hit.)
I’m 15. I’m working my first job ever… Kentucky Fried Chicken. I’m the only white kid working amongst a bunch of upperclassmen brothers. Tyler and Nate, they won’t give it up to him. They say he’s a “punk” (the proper gay pejorative in the brothers’ slang back then). I have a cassette of Controversy…because 1999 hadn’t gotten to our little record store yet. They wouldn’t let me rock it in the kitchen. They were about 3 weeks from doing a complete about-face on this position but “Not today, white boy, I ain’t listening to no punk in panties” was what I got.
I was obsessed. I had to know. I found out about The Time from the record store guy and heard 777-9311 for the first time. My friend’s lesbian big sister who was going to OCU dropped Nasty Girl by Vanity Six on me… ALL this was Prince and I had to have ALL of it. It was forbidden fruit… Many kids at my high school had Baptist parents who wouldn’t allow it. We listened in secret and learned how to do all those other secret things with each other, too. Sorry parents, this ain’t for you. This is OURS.
Then the bombshell… Big sister from OCU phones us…”He’s coming to the Myriad in OKC. Vanity 6 and the Time are opening!!!” Whaaat!… Phone line, busy signal (yes, that was a thing) for 2 hours, then boom!… She answers, “I need 4 tickets, please.” Snail mail, 2 weeks (!) later, they’re here.
I’m trying to gather a squad to go. My first megacrush, Kim. She was a southern girl from Alabama. I don’t know if I’ve ever wanted anyone more. Her dad likes me OK, but this music?… You wanna take my daughter to OKC to see this flamboyant n****er?! Somehow she is given permission, I guess by the mom. I get a double date going with my friend Chris. He’s one of the only others in school equally taken with this music and not embarrassed to admit it.
The big night comes. I’ve only been to maybe 5 or 6 concerts and was always driven by an upperclassman. Things like Nazareth, the real Van Halen, Foreigner, Journey. I thought I knew my shit. We get to the arena. This is the by far most black folks I’ve ever been around in my life. We’re catching shade and snickers from all sides. We’re not saying it out loud, but we’re scared shitless. We’ve got no real reason, it’s just our small-town prejudice spooking us. We hold hands tight though because we’re DOING this! We make way to the nosebleed seats. Everybody in the building looks like the freaks from the videos. We’re just trying to catch a breath and get comfortable in our little minds.
Vanity 6 comes to do their 30-min set. of course they close with Nasty Girl. It’s good. We wait… Now The Time come up. They are in PEAK form. Every song better than the last. Dance moves like I’ve never seen, and a band of pure killers careening through songs and closing with about 10 minutes of 777-9311. My jaw is on the ground. I’m actually thinking “There is no way Prince can follow that.” I’m literally worried about it for him, lol!
House lights up… the wait seems forever…. House lights down… the roar… the smell of Mexican weed… Red spot lights dance on the giant silver louvers. It’s like a Patrick Nagel dream (look it up, lol). A heart-shaped bed rises from beneath the stage, and here he is writhing in it with the mic. Pure sex… so pure I’m blushing. It’s…it’s… International Lover! He opens with a ballad?! A BALLAD after what The Time just did.
He’s screaming in a range still unimaginable. There’s Dez in the samurai headband! There’s the Doctor on keys! By the end of this song, the room is reduced to rubble. I can’t even remember The Time’s set. The greatest performer of all time is holding court and nothing else matters. I’m now changed… Life will never be the same.
THIS was Prince for me. A part of me dies today, too. I love you all and I love music so much. Thank you, Prince Rogers Nelson, for blessing the planet. A lot of people are here because of that man.”