Dyes Got the Answers 2 Ur ?s is celebrating 35 years since the release of Prince's first studio album “For You,” with a series of stories featuring readers who have been fans from the very beginning.
|Courtesy of Natasha White-Smallwood|
It all started when Warner Brothers Records released “For You,”on April 7, 1978, with the album's first single, “Soft and Wet” being released approximately two months later. The album was not a runaway success, reaching only #163 on the U.S. Billboard Pop Charts and #21 on the U.S. Billboard Soul Charts. Yet, Prince wrote, produced and recorded the entire album, (except “Soft and Wet,” where Chris Moon received credit for co-writing the lyrics,) and laid the groundwork for his legendary career, according to the Web site princevault.com.
Natasha White-Smallwood, 49, of San Francisco, became a Prince fan in the summer of 1978, when she was 14 years old. She has an Associate's Degree in Fashion Merchandising and worked in retail and fashion for 16 years. She recently did a telephone interview with K Nicola Dyes where she reflected on being a Prince fan for nearly 35 years, including how his music has impacted her life, her favorite concert moments and meeting her favorite artist at the "wreka stow" at the very beginning of his career:
"I was a Prince fan before Prince was really Prince! When he was trying to get it going..."
?: Can you remember the first time you ever heard Prince sing? Tell me how it made you feel?
NW: I am a loyal, old, patient, back-in-the-day “wrecka stow” fan... How it all started was hearing "Soft and Wet" on the radio (in June 1978), not knowing who was singing that song and being intrigued...Truly intrigued because it something different, new, fresh; (it) didn't sound like everything else. It was (the) falsetto, a hell of a falsetto. And whose name is Prince? Who names their son Prince?
Then, (I heard) the "tell me that you that love me girl" (part of the song) and his (natural speaking) voice was so deep. He wasn't your average run-of-the-mill brother in the record industry. It wasn't like Cameo or George Clinton and all those folks on stage (at the time) who I always loved. It like somebody from the old school like David Bowie, Little Richard and who was that who he said influenced him... “Narcotic,” you know who I'm talking about...Ike Turner!
He was like a one-man show. He couldn't do that on stage, of course,...but, knowing him, he would have tried. You had all these groups: The Jacksons; The Sylvers; The Commodores; The Bar-Kays. There were so many groups at that time it was ridiculous.
When you heard “Soft and Wet” that was the jam, that was the summer jam. He was old school, just like his dad was from the old school. (I was) just joyed that I could hear something new and different. I didn't catch the name for a long time. But, finally I heard them say Prince, (I thought) "Who the hell is that?" I had never heard that name before...
?: Have you ever met Prince? If so, tell me a little bit about it.
NW: [W]hen I heard he was going to be at that record store, (the now closed Evan's House of Music in San Francisco), I broke my neck trying to get there-- so much so I forgot my camera! I was like “I am going down there to see him.” (I) had gone to see George Clinton and Cameo (at that record store). I finally found out (the record signing) was on a Saturday (and I) didn't have to be down there worrying about running into a whole bunch of people because nobody knew who he was ...
I cleaned my room really fast, ate my breakfast and couldn't keep my breakfast down. I don't know why I was nervous, I didn't even know this man. It was like a first date. That was almost what it felt like. I was only 14. My cousin was late and I was afraid he was going to leave...and I forgot my camera...and she didn't even remind me. She was taking all long to get there...I wish I would have brought my mother...
|Courtesy of Princevault.com|
(When we got there) I saw this man with this corduroy jacket and the hugest Afro you think you've ever seen. He had his back to us, so we still had to walk around (the table) to see what he looks like...Then I saw his face and I was like “damn, he is fine!” You have to remember that I only 14. That's almost hot mama time. It's as true as I am telling you. I (was) standing in awe.
He had the crease in the corduroys, you know you banging when you got the crease in the corduroys! He was looking nice and succulent, like fine wine, fine champagne, you know, like the finer things.
He was signing autographs. He was putting his name on the ("Soft and Wet") 45s. He was giving those away and he was giving away the (For You) album cover with nothing in it. He's sitting, doing his thing, sitting there smiling. I was standing there salivating...I'm almost salivating at the mouth just talking about it.
He hands me the record and I'm holding his hand, touching his hand. And I said “can I have a kiss?” and he just looked at me like “girl what is wrong with you?” But, he just smiled. He put his hand down to finish signing something and I just gave him a peck on the cheek. (After leaving the table), my cousin was like "what is wrong with you?" I was like "I didn't kiss him on the mouth!" I had to go for know for what I know. I was just mad at her that I didn't bring my camera. He didn't say yes, he didn't say no. I knew I had to do it, because I knew that I would never have the opportunity again. I knew he was going to blow up. I just knew it. It took a minute, it took a couple minutes...
Rick James might have snuck a couple songs in that summer, but, I couldn't tell you what songs. (I said) “whatever Rick James, I have to go see what this dude (Prince) is doing.” It's funny that they toured together...
?: How many times have you seen Prince in concert? When was the first time? The last time?
NW: I would say at least 25 times. First concert was at (Bill Graham's) Civic Auditorium (in San Francisco) in February 1982 with The Time...that was thirty years ago. (I was) ecstatic because we were up front, we were drunk, we were high, we were groovin'. (We got the tickets from) some off -brand radio station. The man was asking the silliest questions: where was (Prince) from, when was (Prince) born? But, I was like that's okay, we're gonna get all your tickets.
We went (to the concert) on two nights. It was hell of a lot of us and we (were) all the in front. We all kind of bumrushed the front of that stage. It was general admission, we had (those) tickets and you couldn't tell us nothing. Prince fans from way back...(there) were seven of us. We only got two tickets for the first night. Then we told (friends and family) to call. He was only supposed to be there one night (but, a second night was added). People were buying his tickets fast back then.
(The last time I saw him in concert was) 2004 in San Jose (at the HP Pavillion). [H]e looked like an ant, because I had jacked-up seats. I remember him dancing saying he didn't have no booty. I remember that. That was hilarious to me.
?: What is your favorite Prince song and album? What is your least favorite?
NW: I have to pick one album and one song? Can we (say) old Prince album and song and newer Prince album and song?
(The album) 1999... I want to say For You...because that had a lot of good of songs on it, too. This is difficult. Damn...you know how many songs that man has?
Okay can I have five? Can I have five on it? (starts singing "I Got 5 on It" by The Luniz): "For You," "It's Gonna Be Lonely," "Automatic," "Do U Lie?," "The Dance," man that song...I know I'm forgetting some, but, I'm just gonna go with (those songs).
You know, I don't I like (the songs) "Cream" and "Diamonds and Pearls," but, I really don't like "Sometimes it Snows in April"...it (sounds like) an old dude in the woods in Minnesota with the bears.
My least favorite album? You know what album I don't like? Planet Earth. I only bought it just to have it. I tried--I really, really tried--but, I just couldn't get into it.
|Courtesy of digitalbusstop.com|
?: What's your favorite Prince movie?
NW: Under the Cherry Moon. Why? Because it's different. It's not the greatest movie, of course. I liked Purple Rain, who didn't? (But), everybody was trying to jump on Prince's you-know-what. I think he did a pretty good job (in Under the Cherry Moon), not knowing what the hell he was doing. I see movies today that are not better than that and they ragged on him so bad. And that music was impeccable...except that one song ("Sometimes it Snows in April").
?: Who is your favorite protegee/ associated artist? Why?
NW: Sheila E... She's one of the most talented ones. She never wanted to sing and she did pretty good to get out there and do that.
?: Was there anything that Prince has done that, as a fan, you did not understand?
NW: He's a strange being...But, when he signed that contract (with Warner Brothers Records) and kind of reneged on it...Then he changed his name to his symbol and I thought that was kind of crazy. But, then I thought about it and that was smart. He was still able to do his music and not be obligated to them (Warner Brothers Records).
The main thing I didn't understand that was why he was getting all these non-talented females (to record albums)...but, then I realized he was trying to get the booty. He was trying to get some tail. He has done some strange things that we don't understand...
?: How is being a Prince fan is important to your everyday life? How has it influenced your everyday activities?
NW: (Prince's work) makes me skeptical about some of these (artists) that are out today... (it's) not real music. I have always been into music. My mother was a musician, and my brother was a musician. My son is (also) into music.
(Prince's) music has brought me into my whole entire youth through today... He had a song for everything...he had a song to lift you up or let you “boo hoo”. My personal opinion is that he helped me through a lot with his music and his music has always been impeccable to me. He has enlightened my life with his music. His music has always been a great soundtrack to me.
?: What is the most unique piece of memorabilia you own or have owned in the past?
NW: My damn 45 (record) that (Prince) signed! I don't think, I know for a fact, that someone lifted it from me, someone took it from my home, (sometime) between 1980 and 1983. I still have all my buttons that I had when Purple Rain came out and a (7-inch) purple vinyl of ("When Doves Cry" backed with) "17 Days". And one picture I actually took (of Prince onstage) myself when he was in concert in 1982.
?: How have your family and friends responded to your love for Prince?
NW: My mother was always supportive of everything. I even dragged my poor mother to a Prince concert in 1993. We had a ball...We were ushers, got paid and we got to see Prince. My brother worked for Bill Graham Presents and we did security for the Lovesexy concert at the Oakland Coliseum. I met Stevie Wonder, Pete Escovedo and Narada Michael Walden... That show was awesome.
|Courtesy of Billboard.com|
?: Why do you think you're still a Prince fan after nearly 35 years?
NW: The love of him and his music, from the first time to right now today. I don't think his (current) albums are as good as they could be. (But), the point I'm making, is he's is a phenomenal musician. Point blank. Period.
?: What are you hoping for as a Prince fan in 2013?
NW: To see him get groove his on and that I can I get my groove on with him... (with) a great seat. I want to see him this year and this my 5-0 (50th birthday)... I need to see him righteously...You know, that old school feeling. You know that song...(singing "You've Lost that Loving Feeling," by The Righteous Brothers)... that old Prince feeling...I need that in my life...
?: What message do you have for new fans who might have just discovered Prince?
NW: You have tuned in to one of the greatest artists of all time. Be patient and love him for who he is.