As with any creative superstar, Prince’s career had several distinct phases—the video that makes up the subject of this post comes from an ill-defined stretch that is bracketed by his astounding successes of the early and mid-1980s (ending around Sign o’ the Times, perhaps) and his feud with Warners, which started in 1993. That period is marked by The Black Album, Lovesexy, the Batman soundtrack, his work on Madonna’s album Like a Prayer, and the Graffiti Bridge movie and album, among many other things. It is also the period in which Paisley Park Studios was constructed and launched as an ambitious hub for music production—which is not the identity it had for Prince’s fans in the years to follow.
This corporate sales video touting the virtues of Paisley Park as a location for a wide variety of audio and video production uses probably dates from 1991. It can’t be much earlier, as it incorporates footage from Prince’s 1990 appearance at the American Music Award and features plentiful shots of Paula Abdul and MC Hammer, both of whom were topping the pop charts around that time. And it can’t be much later, because it wouldn’t be long before Prince became obsessed with his grievances with Warners.
Paisley Park was completed in the town of Chanhassen, Minnesota, in 1988. Today we think of Paisley Park as somehting almost analogous to Charles Foster Kane’s Xanadu in Citizen Kane, a thoroughly private and whimsical domain overseen by a single eccentric genius, but for those of you who think of Paisley Park in those terms, this video is startling indeed—as it comes from a time when Prince wanted to fashion the music production complex as an authentic commercial rival to Nashville and Los Angeles.
Prince in 1991
The video, which lasts seven minutes, is as bland as any other corporate video you’ve ever seen. This is a document intended not to ruffle any feathers, unmistakably designed to appeal to the dollars-and-cents mentality of music production professionals across the nation. Barry Gibb is on hand to murmur a few words about Prince’s extraordinary music production standards, and the video ends with a cheesy shout-out to one of Prince’s most enduring hits: “Paisley Park Enterprises, the model for the next century—or at least ‘1999’! It can be in your hands today!”
The ambition implied by the video would founder just a couple years later on his feud with Warners, which had a distribution deal with Prince’s Paisley Park label. Prince would change his name to an unpronounceable glyph and take to scrawling the word “SLAVE” on his cheek. While Prince’s tactics may have won him some autonomy from his corporate overlords, they also exacted a cost on his ambitions to create a new hub for music production. As Stan Hawkins and Sarah Niblock write in Prince: The Making of a Pop Music Phenomenon, “In 1994, Warner Bros. ended its distribution deal with Paisley Park, effectively closing it down.”
More after the jump…