Faber & Faber
This is pretty wonderful – a book about Prince, and about being a Prince fan by a huge Prince fan. It’s also daunting, and – at times – hard work. I’ll admit to having a huge false-start, I shelved the book for the best part of a year before I could get past the introduction. Something told me I wasn’t going to cope, wouldn’t handle it. But on a second attempt, with time to hype myself up, I loved this book.
Obviously the first half of it is the dazzling part – because that’s the same with Prince’s career, that first decade of music – and there was so much, the side-projects, the protégés, the pseudonyms and then still the unreleased material. It’s frightening actually to consider the depth and breadth of all that work released and created while he was one of the world’s biggest pop stars. No resting on laurels.
We don’t get to find out much about Prince the man – because the author tells us straight up, immediately, that this is a fan book, a geek guide; it never really lapses into hagiography though. Well, toward the end, twice the author actually mentions that word, excuses himself as he gushes. And that’s when he’s talking about attending 19 of the 21 shows in London as documented in the 21 Nights book/CD. The writer also made it to most of the after-show gigs too.
You realise long before any of that that Thorne is a bit moisty-palmed and mouth-breathing when it comes to Prince. He still manages, if not the balance of a critic/biographer, at least an honesty – we feel his rants and raves, he’s as happy to dismiss weak tracks and albums as he is to gush over the important stuff.
Crucially, he’ll have you going back through all that work – looking for clues, finding a new favourite album. I couldn’t agree with some of his analysis, nor his opinions. That just made me sink deeper into the book, the pages turning faster. I was caught. Hooked.
I don’t at all agree that the acoustic abomination The Truth – served up as a bonus disc as part of the Crystal Ball set is one of Prince’s finest works. I consider it one of his weakest, a dud. An embarrassment. But Thorne’s raving made me listen to it again when I’d sworn off it. So that’s something.
Elsewhere though – and frequently, most often – he really gets it right. There are spot-on assessments of the big albums and the interesting periods and the attention to the details around the Madhouse and Family and The Time side-projects and the work of some of Prince’s protégés might scare off any casual reader. And that would be fair enough.
You can get more – in a sense – from less. Sure. That’s what I loved about Toure’s book, a slim volume unpacking the talent, assessing the reasons for Prince’s pop-star triumph. But that can only part-satiate. Here with this tome I received answers to questions I’d not even considered asking.
And, happily, I still don’t know a lot about Prince’s personal life. I know as much as he’s ever hinted and – of course – obfuscated in the songs, movies, shows and interviews. I know as much as he’s allowed, and from there it’s all speculation.
Reading this – finishing this – now I was saddened only to think that Thorne didn’t get to write about the current 3rdEyeGirl side-project/main-show; he ends the book with a brief speculation around what he’d like to see – and you have to wonder if some of that hasn’t already come true in what Prince is doing with 3rdEyeGirl.
You also know that Thorne will update this at some stage. A revised edition will chart whatever happens between now and then.
Nice to have that sort of lengthy bio – although whether you’d even really call this a biography could be up for debate – where you sink back into the music; you’re lured in by the writer’s words. And of course by their passion.