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Reader Letters

Before He Was “Formerly Known As” He Was Hot

Hi, Andrew,

I enjoyed reading your “Top Ten Albums of 1980” (1979, too), and wanted to add a contender. I’m not flaming—but I remember some of those records and thought of the possibility that you didn’t consider this one: Prince’s “Dirty Mind.” If you’ve never listened to it—oh, man. I (really, really) think it topped the Rolling Stone critics poll of that year. Musically and socially, it sounds nothing like anything else from that year; or in Prince’s entire catalog.

The album’s centerpiece, “When U Were Mine,” is a blueprint that Prince has followed successfully throughout his career. Forget for a minute that it’s damn near perfect. Here’s a black artist, fresh off of a R&B hit (“I Wanna Be Your Lover”) who can write catchy, cohesive songs that not only have “pop” appeal, but, technically, aren’t “R&B” songs. Check out one of its descendants, “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” from 1987’s “Sign of the Times”; same formula. Take out the easily-removable second half of that song, and the two are identical.

Last point: Prince had a big influence on European musicians with that album. His first European tour was 1980-81, and those cats were listening. It’s no coincidence that Thomas Dolby comes out with “She Blinded Me with Science” in 1982 and then says that Prince is the greatest keyboard player he’s ever known. Now, I don’t believe that Dolby saw a Prince show in 1980 and ran to the lab, but I do believe that he was already hip to Prince because of the promotion on that side of the Atlantic. Check it out, if you haven’t—but if you have, then, man, you missed one!

Looking forward to your 1981 list,
Arthur Turnbull

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