There’s something about you, baby
It happens all the time
Whenever I’m around you, baby
I get a dirty mind
It doesn’t matter where we are
It doesn’t matter who’s around
It doesn’t matter, I just want to lay ya down
~ Dirty Mind, Prince
Dirty Mind is my anthem. Surprised? Hey, I know how to pass when I must. Actually, I doubt it surprises those of you who know me because you guys get me. In fact, maybe Dirty Mind is your anthem, too, freaks.
Let me go ahead and warn you, this post is self-indulgent, nostalgic exhibitionism. But that’s what I’m feeling as I savor the deep playlist of Prince songs that’s on in the background right now.
Prince’s death Thursday evoked a powerful reverie for a long closed chapter of my life – my teenage years in the 80s. His music was the soundtrack of my becoming. Rebellious lyrics challenging convention and affirming embracing your sexuality and individuality. There was nothing more appealing to a wild-hearted, stubbornly independent, teenage girl.
Dirty Mind, Controversy, I Wanna Be Your Lover, Let’s Pretend We’re Married, Delirious, and Erotic City were favorites, not to mention the Purple Rain album. My sister and I wore it out playing it constantly in our shared room, music posters covering the walls, guy friends lounging on the floor patiently letting us pierce their left ears with a long needle and an ice cube.
By 1984, my 15-year-old, hormone-addled brain was drawn to anything that gave off even a whiff of sex or taboo and watching Prince on MTV thrilled. His performances were like listening to someone fluently speak a foreign language I wanted to master but could only yet manage “Hello, my name is…”
He was compelling, all 5’2″ of him, half-dressed in high-heeled boots and a trench coat, owning whatever stage he was on with the energy of 4 people, suggestively stroking the neck of his guitar. To quote a lyric from Mike Doty’s song “Pretty Wild”, Prince was like a drop of plutonium in a nuclear reactor.
I wanted to drive a truck through the safe, familiar walls of the somewhat-conservative household my parents had provided me and see what technicolor life lay beyond. Aside from Prince’s obvious musical talent and creative genius, his unapologetic boundary-pushing aligned perfectly with my longing to roam free.
So, yeah, I was fifteen, a swirl of hormones, and relatively unsure I was all that appealing to guys. But then things started to change. Slowly, I began to notice the world responding differently to me. My body was developing and I could feel the startling, unanticipated power of it. The energy of desire from teenage boys (yay) and older, married men (gross) was palpable.
True gross story: in the middle of a Saturday afternoon, as I handed him his wife’s dry cleaning from behind the counter where I worked, a married, 40ish father leaned in toward me and said in a slightly guttural voice, “you have an amazing body”, as his two children looked on from either side of him. I was both repulsed and oddly flattered.
All of a sudden, the world, which had generally paid me very little attention, sidled up next to me and wanted to get to know me better. Nascent sexuality is a potent, double-edged sword. The moment I started to truly understand the power of what I possessed was when it also dawned on me that I was the kid who’d just gotten a Ferrari for my 16th birthday – I was strapped into the seat of something I had no idea how to drive.
Prince was also a catalyst for one of my pivotal moments, marking the head of a new path, and searing white-hot memories forever into place. On December 9th, 1984, my sister, Jeannie, and I were camping out for Prince tickets with a crowd of teenagers in front of Turtles Records and Tapes in Marietta. Purple Rain had been out for a few months dominating the air waves and the tour was on.
It was a cold night for sitting in front of a record store under blankets, so a few of us went to our friend Pat’s house during the wee hours of the morning while friends held our spot in line. That was the night I met my first love. I’d lusted after him from afar for months but couldn’t come up with a plausible way to meet him because he was a couple of years older and we ran in different crowds.
As fate would have it, he showed up at Pat’s house with a friend that night and things went the way I hoped they would. We hit it off and, for a while at least, we were a thing and I was in love. But that’s another story entirely. I will say that I have Prince to thank for helping develop and embrace my sexuality, and because he was the accidental catalyst for me meeting my first love. So, yes, his passing took me back to things I haven’t thought about in a long time, and the stroll down memory lane wasn’t half bad.
The 80s were full throttle, and so was I – concerts, the freedom of a driver’s license, working parents who were never home, parties, boys, and fumbling through hazy sexual exploration among other things. Thankfully, I managed to get through unscathed. I guess the upshot is that I sure as hell know what high looks like, so my kids won’t be pulling anything over on me.
I’ll leave you with a couple of my faves.
“Let’s Pretend We’re Married”:
Here were the lyrics I couldn’t ignore as a teenager:
“Excuse me but I need a mouth like yours
2 help me forget the girl that just walked out my door
Let’s pretend we’re married and do it all night
I won’t stop until the morning light” …
Look here Marsha, I’m not sayin’ this just 2 be nasty
I sincerely wanna fuck the taste out of your mouth
Can you relate?”
Erotic City is still a favorite. I first heard it late at night on the radio around Christmas ’84 in Sacramento, California driving from the airport to our hotel. I still don’t know how they could play this on the air back then given the dirty lyrics.
And just because this kicks ass so hard I can barely stand it, here you go. What’s better than Dave Chappell doing Prince?