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Thread started 12/24/05 10:49am

BananaCologne

ALAN LEEDS - THE QUESTIONS, THE ANSWERS & MORE BESIDES...



Alan Leeds IS cool.

You might expect a guy who has spent the better part of the last three decades hanging around rock royalty to be egotistical and unapproachable. But, Alan Leeds is generous, warm hearted, and real. He is so incognito, so chilled, he is more like your best friend from college. He has no need to boast or get puffed up, he's seen it all...the fans, the groupies, the superstar ego tantrums, the paparazzi, the bright lights, the cities, the drama, ad nauseum.

Simply listing just a few of the names in the social circles Leeds floated in over the years reads like a proverbial who's who of popular culture: James Brown, Jean Michel Basquiat Kid Creole, George Clinton, Parliament/Funkadelic, KISS, Prince, Bootsy Collins, Sheila E., D'Angelo, Maxwell, Renee Neufville, Raphael Saadiq and Meshell N'degeocello.

Raphael Saadiq, Jerome Benton & Alan Leeds at the Grammy Jam in L.A. 2004:

© Alan Leeds

Leeds managed Prince’s tours from 1983 through to 1990's Nude tour as well as helping co-ordinate movies, one-off shows, recording sessions, rehearsals - you name it, he was more than likely involved in some way with it. In 1990 Alan moved from being tour and production manager to studio executive and personal assistant and came off the road to run Prince's multi-million dollar studio complex Paisley Park. Leeds took a break from his almost ten year stint with Prince in 1992 and currently manages D'angelo amongst many others. Oh, and did I mention his brother Eric? He plays one mean saxaphone you know....

Dr Fink & Eric Leeds Family Jamm soundcheck 2003:

© Heaven Productions

Today, Leed's reputation as a trustworthy manager and superstar networker in the music industry precedes him. He is helping to guide the careers of R&B artists such as Maxwell, D'Angelo, Raphael Saadiq, and The Roots who have emerged on the tour scene in the last decade. They look to Leeds for his experience, knowledge and wisdom, hoping to be led down the same path as James Brown and Prince. Leeds has become a legendary music figure in his own right and is still leading the way.

Over the past couple of weeks, Alan Leeds has sat down and poured over the 20 best questions and answered them to the very best of his ability. I know for a fact that he dedicated a substantial part of his personal time to do this for both us and the Prince community at large, and approached it (as you yourselves will see) as a fellow music fan. So I would personally like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank him for not only doing so (and doing so with such dedicated vigour!) but also for graciously supplying us with numerous photos from his own personal collection.

Alan & Lisa Coleman - 2004:

© Alan Leeds

Congratulations to Orger JimmyNothing - whos question was chosen by Alan as his personal favourite. In the spirit of Christmas Alan has very kindly delved into his personal archives and donated something really special as a prize, I'll let Alan explain further:

'It's a one-of-a-kind, professionally dry mounted color print of a 1988 photo. While it could be framed, obviously the dry mount negates the need and it can be handsomely displayed as-is. It was originally part of a promo shoot and the photographer had several original prints dry mounted for us personally. It measures 14" x 11", has sharp, vivid color and looks a lot better than in my scan. Fact is, it's genuinely one-of-a-kind.'



Many congratulations Keith! clapping

Merry Christmas to all reading this in our diverse Prince community, enjoy.
BananaCologne x
PS: Alan's answer to Question 18 is very, VERY cool wink



ALAN LEEDS - PRINCE.ORG QUESTION & ANSWER SESSION (December 2005)

First of all, I'd like to thank Prince.Org and its many members for keeping the faith. That such an active and provocative site has thrived for so long is a testimony to Prince's lasting value as an artist and the loyalty of the myriad fans he's touched through the years. The music fan in me sees it as an honor to share my thoughts.

The questions I was submitted proved thoughtful and, in some cases, inspiring. The process of thinking about the answers is tantamount to sitting around a living room kicking around "old times" with dear friends...


QUESTION 1:
Firstly, it's an honour. Having been in the music biz for a few years myself and a fellow funky music fan for as long as I can remember, I can only image the historical music moments you witnessed and the fires you had to put out (I also managed musicians, so I totally empathize with you here). You've also written some of the most informative liner notes I've ever read, not only for Prince, but for countless other artists. You're truly a great musical historian.

With all of this in mind... Have you ever thought of writing a book about all of your experiences? Each chapter could be about a different artist or time in your career. Just a thought. I would certainly cherish a book like that!
Thanks!
(Orger: tbag)

Thanks for the kudos. I think my awe of those who create great music is what drove me into the music business in the first place and I've been very blessed to cross paths with many wonderful artists. In a sense, my career has been that of the ultimate fan because most of the artists I've been fortunate enough to work with are the very artists of whom I'd be fans of anyway.

Yes, not only have I thought about writing a book but I'm about two-thirds finished with a memoir that basically covers my early years, particularly with James Brown. The sub-text of the memoir is the oddity of finding myself - a young white fan - ensconced in the r&b world of the "chitlin' circuit" during an era when racial politics (IE civil rights, Viet Nam etc.) seemed to inflict itself into every aspect of our society. It was an exciting, liberating period of our history and to have found myself in the middle of it, from the perch of The Godfather of Soul, was a singular experience.

There have been several decent books that touch on that era, Peter Guralnick's Sam Cooke biography is an excellent example, but never a book from one who was actually on the inside. My goal is to capture the flavor and excitement of the period and hopefully give the reader at least a touch of how invigorating it was.

I'm not interested in doing any "tell all" books that cheapen or exploit the unique access I've had to artists. But there are other book ideas floating around in my head and if God and personal responsibilities ever provide me enough time, maybe I'll get one of them finished.


QUESTION 2:
Without out a doubt, Prince is one of the all time greats and a unique artist without peer, yet it seems as if his back catalog, as well as existing concert footage/music videos is far from getting the royal treatment that has been given to other artists such as Bowie, Springsteen, Madonna, Michael Jackson,and The Beatles, etc. If it were up to you, what would be done to preserve Prince's legacy in terms of unreleased material, and re-mastering / re-releasing his existing albums and so forth?
(Orger: skywalker)

From a fan's viewpoint, the state of Prince's archive is a travesty. Unfortunately, Warner Brothers and Prince seem to share a lack of vision when it comes to legacy material. Of course their on-going legal differences don't help matters. From a musicologist's (note the lower case - no pun intended) point of view, all of his classic albums should be available in remastered form with relevant bonus cuts and detailed liner notes.

While the "Hits" 3 CD set was a welcome release, it should have been expanded into a proper box set with alternate takes, unissued material and, perhaps, some illustrative "live" tracks. I enjoyed doing the liner notes for the "Hits" package and Prince was very helpful and supportive during the writing process. But an expanded booklet (big enough to be legible without a magnifying glass) could have also contained essays from band members, recording engineers, if not the man himself.

I also believe a "Prince Live" career retrospective could make for a phenomenal box set. He had so many significant gigs professionally recorded that one could easily document every phase of his career with terrific concert material. Packaged with dignity, such a set could go a long way towards, once and for all, cementing Prince's place alongside the musical giants of our lifetime.

Unfortunately, all of these 'projects' would require a great deal of cooperation between Prince and Warner Brothers - something that doesn't seem the least bit likely.


QUESTION 3:
Can you please share with us one anecdote from your time working with Prince (which you don't think you've widely shared before in print) that you think will surprise or amuse us?
(Orger: langebleu)

I'm asked this a lot. I can't remember if I've shared this story before, but I frequently reflect on a conversation Prince and I had in Studio A at Paisley Park around 1988.

As a tour manager, I prided myself on having made the transition from the old school music business of a briefcase and an ounce of pot into the new school of computerized stage production, E-Mail and cell phones. The business had changed from a think-on-your-feet ‘street’ world into an increasingly sophisticated corporate entity. I had seen a lot of my old road pals from the 70's drop by the wayside, grumbling the proverbial "things ain't what they used to be". I was grateful to have been young enough to adapt. But this conversation with Prince showed me I still had a ways to go!

He had just spent the entire day in the studio creating still another funky masterpiece - I can't remember the song, it might have been something for "Lovesexy". Of course we were accustomed to him doing that. It wasn't unusual for Prince to show up at Paisley around 11 in the morning, gradually work his way through his mail, business matters that demanded his attention and finally into the studio an hour or two later. Sometimes he had a song in mind - perhaps a lyric he'd written the night before. Sometimes he turned on the tape and just let things flow. But it never ceased to amaze me that on any given day, by 6 or 7 PM he'd have a new song damn near finished! On this particular day, he called my office and said, "Hey, come downstairs a minute - I've got something to play for you."

Such calls weren't rare but he seldom volunteered to play something unless he was truly excited about it, so I raced to the studio. When he would play something new for you, he'd often dance around the studio, illustrating the songs nuances or emphasize certain parts by singing along in your ear so you wouldn't miss a lyric. On this day, by the third time through the high volume playback, he began shouting his concept for a video clip! I was astounded - not only had he created the song from scratch in a single day but he already had a video concept!

After the playback stopped he saw the puzzled look on my face and quizzed me about it. I said, "I can't believe you already have a video in mind".
He responded somewhat snidely, "Alan, don't you get it? These kids today don't hear music like we do! They have to SEE music. That's what MTV has done. I have to think that way."

In retrospect, it was hardly the most profound statement in the world, but it was an awakening for me - a reminder that the more experience one has in the music business, the more one's liable to get stuck in their ways of thinking. It was an eye-opener for me that served me well a couple years later when I gave up the tour manager role in order to take the helm of Paisley Park Records.


QUESTION 4:
What was your view of Alex Hahn's book, Possessed, which featured many quotes from you - did you find it an accurate depiction of the behind the scenes events in Prince's life?
(Orger: NightGod)

I think Alex Hahn's "Possessed" is the best Prince book of its kind to date. Alex devoted a ton of time and labor to get things as accurate as possible. I recognize that any Prince fan (including myself) can quibble with Alex's personal feelings about Prince and his music but that's what makes being a fan (and the book) so much fun! The book did get a little sketchy in the latter years, probably because Alex ran out of reliable sources. Those who have intimate knowledge of Prince's activities from the mid-1990's onward were either unavailable or unwilling to offer Hahn much insight.

I do think that any discussion of Prince books should include a nod to Per Nilsen for his tireless efforts to document the raw statistics of Prince's recordings, tours and day-to-day chronology. Nilsen's books will live forever as THE references on those subjects.


QUESTION 5:
Hello Mr Leeds,
Do you despair at the state of music now? With the exception of some true talent that is making music now, there really is nothing around. Who do you think will be the next big thing - who looks promising?
Many thanks,
Nichola
(Orger: Nichola)

Music today?!?! That's a more complicated subject than it should be. There is wonderful music being made today by wonderful artists. But there are several other factors that effect our awareness of it and our access to it.
First of all, the genres of music that my generation holds dear - r&b, funk, rock, jazz, salsa etc. - have all been DEFINED. Unlike the 1960's and 1970's when many of these music forms were being INVENTED before our eyes, today those forms and basic styles have been pretty much been explored. There are only so many notes, chords and rhythms...and only so many ways to combine them into song. It's pretty much all been done. On the other hand, the wild card is the individuality of the artist and the countless ways to mix these genres and develop music with a fresh flavor. That's where new music comes in. As long as artists keep their work honest and personal, there's going to be stimulating new music.

Unfortunately, the "evolution" of the music BUSINESS doesn't encourage that. It's equally significant that music plays a somewhat different role in today's cultural landscape than it did 30 years ago. Compared to today, the access to music 30 years ago was limited to radio, records, concerts and the mere handful of television programs that hosted the artists we favored. In plain language, it took a lot longer to get tired of a record or a musical style because we weren't assaulted with it everywhere we went.

Music also did not have the competition in the marketplace that it has today. We didn't have computer games, cell phones, DVD players to bring movies into the home, and hundreds of 24 hour cable TV outlets to (a) occupy our time, (b) attract our dollars, and (c) offer alternative access to music. Today we hear contemporary music everywhere we go - in the stores we shop, our ring tones, video game soundtracks, movie soundtracks and even the airplane headphones when we travel. In this age of rabid competition for the entertainment dollar and youngsters who have to "see" music, not just hear it (see Question 3), music has become like wallpaper. Music today is a constant and visual soundtrack to our lives....as opposed to something we have to seek out and appreciate with our ears and imaginations. To all but the diehard music fans, listening to music has become an almost subliminal exercise.

The result of all of this changing culture is a music industry that has forgotten how to creatively market anything "left of center" and can no longer afford to take chances on artists and music that don't lend themselves to ring tones and the red carpet.

All of this to say, the changes have been sad but inevitable. If you want to attack today's music, you have to attack today's mainstream culture and that's a hopeless (and pointless) task.

Meanwhile, support your record stores! Look behind the displays in the front of the store and don't be afraid to go beyond your usual categories. It's so arrogant to call anything non-western "World Music", but go there anyway. The same technological shrinking of the globe that has hurt the American music scene, has brought new ideas and influences to other cultures. Some of the most exciting music today is in languages other than English.

And God forbid we actually learn something about cultures other than ours. Isn't that what white Americans did in the 1950's and 1960's when they discovered soul music? There is some terrific music hiding in the bins deep inside your record store - you gotta spend the time to dig - but it's there.


QUESTION 6:
When was the last time you spoke to Prince - did you part company amicably?
(Orger: metalorange)

I've spoken to Prince briefly a couple of times when he visited shows on tours I managed such as Maxwell and D'Angelo. While I've heard from mutual business associates that he wasn't pleased about any of his former employees cooperating with Alex Hahn's book project, in 1992 Prince and I certainly parted company amicably.

By then, Prince's differences with Warner Brothers had infected everything we were trying to accomplish with Paisley Park Records. It became clear to me that Prince's frustration had turned into confusion about what to expect from the label. Realistically, the label's mandate was always unclear. What WAS clear was that Prince wasn't taking the responsibility to produce competitive records and turn the label around. As a result, Warner Brothers' support and confidence waned and I was caught between a rock and a hard place - understanding the very real frustrations and agendas on both sides. I could see it was never going to work.

Meanwhile, Prince was developing some creative and innovative ideas for alternative marketing - in effect, wanting to release records that bypassed Warner Brothers and the standard industry pipeline. Despite what he thought, I sympathized with Prince and found some of his ideas fresh and challenging. Unfortunately, it was also my job to remind him that he was about 5 years ahead of time (personal computers and internet usage wasn't yet commonplace) and that there was a legal obligation to Warner Brothers and the funding they had provided Paisley Park Records - not to mention a contract!

We agreed to disagree and parted ways. However, I was happy to get a call a couple years later to consult on a brief Japanese tour - help negotiate the promoter deal, put a crew together and baby sit logistics. And, of course, I was called on for the "Hits" project.

I have nothing but fond memories of my 10 "purple" years and my life was forever changed by the experience and knowledge I was afforded by being part of his world.


QUESTION 7:
Since you managed Prince's tours from some the highest points of his career, what were some of the extremes girls went to try and get to Prince at his hotel?
(Orger: Astasheiks)

Strangely enough, girls weren't the "problem" on tour one might think. In part due to the efficient security we carried and our extremely detailed relationships with hotels, travel agents, club managers and venues. We carefully orchestrated his discreet comings and goings and made every effort to secure as much privacy as humanly possible. So despite his sexy reputation, Prince wasn't often accessible to the typical groupies who regularly hounded artists. He might extend himself to meet a seemingly interesting young lady at a club but let's not forget that he tended to tour with ‘in house’ female companions so there was nary a lonely night.

QUESTION 8:
Hiya! Thank you for doing this, it's a nice gesture on your part.

My question is about Kylie Minogue. I understand there is a song called "Babydoll" that Prince wrote either for or with Kylie, could you please tell me if he wrote it for her or with her, if this was ever actually recorded?

Thanx again!
(Orger: MonEl)

Thanks for the kind words. Unfortunately, I'm of no help at all on this one. I have no knowledge about the song or Prince's collaboration with Kylie.

QUESTION 9:
Dear Mr.Leeds,
Knowing that you were the road manager for Prince, James Brown and others, the list is impressive, working with those talented, diverse artists. My questions are and I'll try to be breif: you write the liner notes to all James Brown's cd's, etc., is Universal/Polydor planning new, unissued live J.B. cd's in the near future? The Godfather of Funk in concert is the real deal. I hope someday U Music will release the complete show in Zaire, Africa 1974, the Rumble in the Jungle.1974 I think is Brown's most productive period.
(Orger: DarylB)

Universal does not own the tapes of the much bootlegged 1974 James Brown concert in Zaire. Hopefully the owners will someday negotiate a proper release of this great show.

However, I'll jump the gun a bit and share what we hope will soon become exciting news. 2006 may see the official DVD release of two recently discovered James Brown concert videos from 1966 and 1967. Both are complete shows and are the earliest known videos of actual Brown concerts. (Only the T.A.M.I. Show and several brief TV appearances precede them). Suffice-it-to-say the shows are historically fascinating and musically thrilling. There have also been conversations about issuing official DVD's of Brown's 1968 Boston and 1971 Paris shows - both of which have also been widely bootlegged.

For several years we have kicked around the idea of a "STARTIME LIVE" box set, comprising both well known and previously unissued concert material. The powers-to-be at Universal have yet to give this ambitious project the green light so keep your fingers crossed.


QUESTION 10:
How did meet Prince? What was your first meeting like?
(Orger: slm4m)

I met Prince in early, 1983. I had been managing a KISS tour which was winding down. It turned out that production manager, Tom Marzullo, split his time between Kiss and Prince's 1999 Tour which had also been on the road for several months. Marzullo asked me if I'd be interested in the Prince gig since they'd been through several tour managers without success. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I left the Kiss tour after a show in Phoenix and joined Prince in San Diego. (Ironically, their next show was back in Phoenix and the same limo company that had carried Kiss was hired to pick up the Prince entourage two days later. The look of confusion on the driver's face when I met him in baggage claim was priceless).

I didn't know a soul in the Prince camp besides Marzullo but was quickly introduced to manager Steve Fargnoli and bodyguard Big Chick (Huntsberry). I was quickly warned not to approach Prince - to wait until he spoke to me. After a quick, introductory shake of the hands, we didn't speak more than 4 or 5 words a day for at least a week. Any question I needed answered was funneled through Chick or Steven.

At one point I needed to review some hotel choices for upcoming cities and wanted to get Prince's input in case he had any favorites in those areas. So I asked Chick to tell Prince I needed to see him. After I explained my reason, Chick replied, "Buddy, don't do that. If you ask him about hotels he'll only think you don't know what you're doing. That's what he hired you for." It was beginning to occur to me why Prince went through so many tour managers.

A couple of weeks passed without incident. Then one night, after a show, I was in a hotel lounge with most of the Revolution when we spotted Prince and Chick walking towards our table. As luck would have it, the one empty seat was next to me and Prince dropped himself into it. I got up and motioned to Chick to take my seat but he waved me off. Suddenly all of the spontaneity at the table disappeared as even the veteran band members waited to see where Prince might take the conversation. Instead, without any greeting or political nicety, Prince simply turned to me and said, "tell me some James Brown stories". And that opened up ten years of more conversations than I dare to remember - LOL.
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #1 posted 12/24/05 11:53am

BananaCologne

Alan Leeds, some musician guy, and German promoter Roland
Fackel arriving in Belgium for a Parade tour show - 1986:



QUESTION 11:
Of all the things you were a part of, what makes you most proud? What is your biggest work-related achievement?

I adored the liner notes you wrote for both Star Time and The Hits/The B-sides. I must admit I am rather envious of all the inside information you have about Prince's music. For most of us, lines notes like yours make all the difference. I loved reading so many great inside stories on both JB and Prince, that I want to thank you for those jobs. I certainly hope that if Prince ever opens that vault, you will be involved in writing the liner notes.
Again, many thanks!
(Orger: HamsterHuey)

Wow, thanks again. It's really gratifying to know people actually read those liner notes and credits. We try to put as much care into them as possible, under the assumption that musicologists, and fans alike, will turn to them as reference in years to come. Which segues into your question of "what makes me the most proud". In 1992 I shared a Grammy Award with James Brown, Universal producer Harry Weinger and writers Nelson George and Cliff White for our essays in the James Brown STARTIME box set. While I'm proud of the Grammy, I'm more proud of the inscription James Brown wrote in the box set booklet I passed around to him and his musicians like a high school yearbook. Brown wrote, "Thanks for helping with our Grammy" (his underlining). If my office ever catches fire, that booklet is what I’ll grab first.

QUESTION 12:
If you could go back and change something about your time with Prince, what would it be?
(Orger: babynoz)

I'm not much for hindsight, because there are usually reasons why things turn out the way they do. For example, I would have loved if Paisley Park Records had turned into a ‘real’ record label - in the sense of seeking talent with legitimate and competitive market potential - but it was never meant to be.

Warner Brothers' original interest in the joint venture was based on Prince's success as a producer of acts such as The Time, Vanity 6 and The Family. Unfortunately, by the time he had authority over his own label, Prince's ambitions as a producer had changed. Some of the early signings were obscure acts that Prince's managers handled. Unwisely, Prince failed to disguise his lack of interest in most of these projects from Warner Brothers.

Signing icons like George Clinton and Mavis Staples were admirable gestures. Prince made some very nice records with Mavis, but trying to market her in a contemporary fashion - IE "Melody Cool" - didn't make sense to me. As for my friend George, his affairs were then in disarray and we inherited an unfinished album that was already dated. Warners and George had both hoped Prince would devote more time towards working with him but it never really happened. Soon the label became known as a playground for Prince girlfriends as albums by Jill Jones (whom I adore - a more talented lady than the album suggests), Taja Seville, Ingrid Chavez and finally an unknown Carmen Electra, came and went.

The fact is, unlike those who are primarily producers by trade, Prince's interest in working with other artists usually hinges on their ability to fit into an alter ego role or some other aspect of his own orbit. It worked like a charm with Vanity and Morris Day, but if an artist was married to his or her own ideas and concepts, Prince would often lose interest. And when he lost interest, that usually transformed into a lack of enthusiasm in the Warner Brothers promotion and marketing departments. I ended up spending several very frustrating years trying to get Warners and the industry to take Paisley Park Records seriously when Paisley Park Records simply didn't want to be taken seriously. Without competitive product and Prince's consistent enthusiasm, it was a no-win.

I hesitated citing this example because I don't want it to appear as sour grapes - I learned a lot and appreciated the experience of running a label. But I think the real tragedy is Prince's lost opportunity to build a legitimate, respected forum for his extra-curricular output.


QUESTION 13:
Is there a concrete plan for Prince's music once he passes away?
(Orger: Graycap23)

I have no idea if Prince has a will or any other legal contingency for what happens to his archive in the case of his death. I hope he does.

Though no lawyer, I assume his tape archive would be viewed as part of his general estate. On the other hand, anything that was recorded during the years he was under contract to Warner Brothers couldn't technically be released without Warners approval or involvement.

I recall Prince expressing his distaste for what happened to the Jimi Hendrix archive and even some reservations about the James Brown reissues I've been involved with. He once sarcastically asked, "Does James know you have all these out-takes and unissued songs?" I assured him that JB was cool with how we were treating his archive (and even cooler with the bucks he was raking in) but I don't think Prince was convinced.

Despite legitimate arguments to the contrary, when it comes to catalogue - compilations and reissues - I've found that many artists lack the overview to understand what the audience for these projects really wants. Some artists are simply too close to their songs - which frequently end up meaning something entirely different to their audience. And their memories are often less accurate than a researcher's homework.


QUESTION 14:
Did the members of the Lovesexy band and touring entourage really understand the whole concept behind the album , was it explained to you all by Prince or were you all just going along with the ride ?
(Orger: moonshine)

I don't think Prince ever directly explained Lovesexy. But casual conversations with some of us revealed a lot. It had been a dark time for him. There was the lingering frustration over SIGN O' THE TIMES and then the BLACK ALBUM fiasco. He was juggling relationships with several ladies - each of whom seemed to bring out a different side of him. There was the explosion of hip-hop, an art form he didn't initially relate to and saw as a threat. And there was the sting of some critics who suggested his music was no longer "black" enough.

As usual, Prince's answer to an unpleasant reality was to construct a reality of his own. Thus: LOVESEXY. No matter how complicated or controversial he seemed to make it, the story was basically just old fashioned good over evil. Infusing a spiritual context to sexuality turned off some listeners and confused many more. But I think that was needlessly complicated too. I think all he was saying was that anything as good as sex can't be evil. If it had been the 1970's, it would have been an easy sell. But in the midst of the 1980's A.I.D.S. explosion, the timing was challenging to say the least.


QUESTION 15:
Who in the world chose the singles from SOTT? Do you think If I Was Your Girlfriend was the right choice as second single from SOTT? Do you know if tracks like Housequake, Hot Thing or Adore were EVER considered for release as singles on their own? ...Basically - what happened?!?
(Orger: Scrambledeggsaresoboring)

Prince ultimately chose the singles. He'd solicit opinions from some us but at the end of the day, he called the shots. "SIGN O' THE TIMES" was a no brainer for the first single but the release of "Girlfriend" stopped radio in its' tracks - homophobes misinterpreted the lyrics and it's charming eccentricity simply didn't fit a format. Meanwhile black radio was clamoring for "Housequake" which was already surfacing as the club/party jam of the year. We all felt it should have been the obvious choice for the second single. So did Prince. TOO obvious.

I can't say if Prince was knowingly pushing the envelope or naively believed that "Girlfriend" could be a radio hit, but he (and the album project) were devastated by its failure. That we were touring Europe instead of helping the album in America didn't help (also his choice).

Of course "Housequake" was the third single but as the "B" side to the hugely successful "U Got The Look". Despite the 3rd singles success, the album's momentum had been sidetracked by the failure of "Girlfriend" and lack of a U.S. tour. For the record, "Hot Thing" was the "B" side on the 4th single, "I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man". For whatever reason, Prince was usually shy about releasing a ballad as the plug side of a single. "Adore" could have been a huge hit.

The subject of selecting singles goes back to the issue of an artist viewing his or her music differently than the public does. While Prince always hated anything too obvious, selecting singles is not the time to be clever. If you accept singles as a marketing tool for an album, then obvious is what the party calls for! Some wheels don't need reinventing.


QUESTION 16:
Other than Prince, who have been your favorite people to work with?
(Orger: DirkFunk)

I think each was my favorite at the time I worked for them. It may sound evasive but they're all favorites in their own ways. The James Brown years were exciting, learning experiences. His professionalism and respect of show business tradition gave me a foundation that many of my peers today weren't lucky enough to receive. The Bootsy Collins/George Clinton period taught me there is always another way to do things and to have fun doing it. The Prince years, and particularly the PURPLE RAIN phenomenon, provided a glimpse of super-stardom in the modern, media-driven world that few people ever get to experience. And the more recent years with Maxwell and D'Angelo provided me the opportunity to apply what I've learned and to pass it on to the youngsters I find myself working with. Both artists were new to the touring end of the industry and I'm very proud of what we accomplished in each case.

QUESTION 17:
What do you feel when some people don´t consider Prince as great as some of the famous (and "serious") american songwriters like Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Cole Porter, etc, but see him as a pop star only? What would you say to them?
(Orger: GustavoRibas)

I'd say they're tone deaf! LOL

On a serious note, I'm not sure we need to distinguish between "pop" art and "serious" art when it comes to non-classical music. Anything "pop" needs to be judged within its' own context. For example, Cole Porter, Duke Ellington and the Gershwins were all considered "pop" in their eras.

In a sense, Prince has been his own worst enemy when it comes to being judged on musical merit, because of his career-long obsession with image and celebrity. When one thinks of the skimpy clothing of "Dirty Mind", the mid-1980's fixation on all things purple, the ever-changing wardrobe and hair styles or the very public evolution of his spirituality, it can become a distraction from the music. Of course, those factors often illustrated or accented aspects of his music and represented his "show biz" instincts as a performer. But it can be argued that he sometimes went overboard in placing more attention on the wrapping than the contents of the package.

I remember a conversation we had back in the late 1980's during which he expressed his frustration at not being taken more seriously as a musician and composer. I suggested that since he always embraced extremes, why not throw away all the props and do a tour in a turtle neck and a pair of jeans where he and his band simply sang and played.

Incredulous at my hubris, he replied, "What? And look like you instead of a star? Nobody will pay to see someone who looks like an everyday guy!"
To put it simply, the idea scared the velvet pants off of him.

Ironically, that's why I found the ONE NITE ALONE tour so refreshing and it's a shame that the "live" box set and Las Vegas DVD don't quite capture the unique charm of that tour. Given the critical acclaim of the tour's early months, I found the set list and sequencing on the box set very curious. The pacing and song selection just didn't make me feel the way the shows had. Since the box set and DVD will be the lasting impression of that tour, maybe it means he's still afraid.


QUESTION 18:
Dear Alan,
Can u remember the most poignant story from ur time 2gether with Prince, which made u think something along the lines of, 'he is human, after all', and can u please share this little-known emotional story with us?
love,
Anji
(Orger: Anji)

I can think of several. Believe it or not, like most people whose outward extremes contradict their opposite inner extremes, Prince is a genuinely sensitive man. Playing amateur shrink for a moment, I suppose his rejections as a youngster inspired a stony surface as a protective device - actually, not a bad thing to have in the music business.

One story that comes to mind took place in a limo en route to the Hollywood premiere of PURPLE RAIN. Big Chick was riding up front with the driver and I was in the back with Prince who was holding a single flower he had impulsively plucked from a garden in front of our hotel. The ride was tensely quiet. Remember this was a movie nobody thought would ever get made. "Who is this singer Prince who thinks he's all that to make a movie", said most in the industry and much of the media. We all knew this was either going to turn Prince into a major star or be one of the most embarrassing flops of all time.

We had carefully plotted a caravan of limos so as to orchestrate the arrivals of the various figures in the movie. One by one, limos deposited Billy Sparks, Morris Day and Jerome, The Time, Apollonia 6, Wendy & Lisa, Bobby Z, Dr. Fink and Brownmark. And they each worked their way up the red carpet, stopping for waves to fans, quick TV interviews and hundreds of photographers. The idea was, of course, that Prince would be the last to arrive and be met at curbside by a group of our security guys with whom we were in touch via walkie talkies (remember, this was before everyone had cell phones).

We had pre-arranged a spot a block behind the theatre where we would temporarily park and wait for the cue to pull around and make the "grand entrance". At that point I would also jump out of the car and run ahead to make certain everything at curbside was just the way we wanted and then give the driver the final "go". When we reached the appointed spot and parked, Chick turned on the walkie-talkie as Prince anxiously asked him, "What's going on there? Can we go yet?"

Chick turned around toward us and reported, "the guys say there's a traffic jam 2 blocks long, more fans than the police can handle and more cameras than a photography store!"

At that point Prince suddenly lost it. Just for a flash, but like any mortal human being, he lost it. He suddenly gripped my hand in a desperate vice and his voice broke as he strained to whisper in a tone that sounded like a petrified ten year old, "Whhh..aa..tttt d-diid he saayy?"

I was stunned too, but instinct took over and I hung onto his hand firmly and said calmly, "He said we're gonna have a day to be proud of and it's gonna be fun. Now let me get to theatre and I'll meet you there."

It was touching and revealing - probably the only moment through the whole, tedious making of the movie that he showed any doubt or vulnerability. And just as quickly, he caught himself....probably frustrated that he had let his guard down....and said, "Yeah, hurry up over there. And don't let them mess this up!"


QUESTION 19:
Dear Mr Leeds, I'm a Prince fan from India.
Behind that public persona, I have a gut feeling that Prince is a really simple man with a simple lifestyle, how right am I? Does he really have an extravagant lifestyle of a rock star or is he a well-grounded person?
(Orger: armybrat)

I think he's somewhere in the middle - neither extravagant by celebrity standards nor grounded in an every day sense. He certainly has the sense of entitlement that most celebrities are susceptible to. When he wants or needs something, the word "no" is missing from his dictionary. But he's never been about "bling" for bling's sake - preferring to design his own clothes and privately acquire the things other wealthy celebrities publicly spend thousands of dollars on. His homes, both in suburban Minneapolis and in Beverly Hills, have generally been exclusive and in good taste (only one was painted purple) without being garish. He's been through the gamut of luxury cars from BMW's to a Rolls but you won't find him on MTV showing off a parking lot-size collection. Most of his indulgences, such as corporate jets, limos on 24 hour call and exclusive hotel suites have more to do with his privacy than opulence.

Like most anyone who would find themselves with his resources and access, Prince enjoys the many conveniences and privileges of wealth and celebrity. On the other hand, his personal taste isn't particularly sophisticated. He enjoys movies, playing certain sports and, more than anything else, playing music.


QUESTION 20:
Hi Alan. Thank you for doing this.
In your liner notes for The Hits you said '...our wildest imaginations couldn't conjure up what a collection like this might contain in another 15 years.' What are your opinions on the output of the past 15 years and do you believe that that statement rings true today for the next 15 years?
(Orger: JimmyNothing)

I guess I have to eat my words as I've found the last 15 years somewhat disappointing. It's not surprising that Prince no longer rules the charts in the trendy, youth-oriented world of pop music, but that didn't have to have any bearing on the quality of his output. Unfortunately, the reality of his aging didn't seem to sit well with him until recently. His insular lifestyle discouraged the kinds of life experiences that could have expanded his palette and some of his music during much of the 1990's suggested an inner turmoil.

Obviously, none of us can (or should) speak for him, but in my opinion, Prince's music in the 1990's suffered because, for the first time, he allowed outside trends to influence his work. While I doubt he would admit it, whatever the hip-hop explosion meant to him failed to believably translate to his music. He tried incorporating rap but the "keep it real" hip-hop community wasn't buying Tony M or a gun-shaped microphone from a guy Prince's age who had grown up in a relatively middle-class Midwestern environment. Then he went retro, as if he had stubbornly decided that if he couldn't regain street cred, he'd go the opposite direction and resurrect artists like Chaka Khan and Larry Graham. It made for some entertaining music but nothing that really stuck to the ribs.

Then there are his on-going differences with the music industry and how music is marketed to the public. He has good points in his arguments and tons of sympathy from other artists, young and not so young, but for a while it seemed like he spent more energy in promoting his views and marketing concepts than creating the music itself. When the music did seem to step up a notch, such as on the RAINBOW CHILDREN album, it was compromised by a few curiously disturbing lyrics and the hugely annoying segues.

Despite all of the above, the last three years have given reason for hope that the Prince legacy is anything but complete. Now that he's obviously grown secure with his age and established his spiritual beliefs for all who care to know, there are indications that his music may cleanse itself of the extra agendas. I have no doubt that he can still stumble on a brilliant new song in his sleep. His effortless command of the stage and awesomely rich catalogue will always lure ticket buyers into any venue he chooses to visit. We music fans will always be richer for his presence.


L-R: Gwen Leeds, Alan Leeds, Sheila E., Pete Escovedo, Juanita Escovedo,
Juan Escovedo, Miko Weaver, Tristan Leeds (kneeling)


© Alan Leeds

To round off the edges somewhat, I grabbed the proverbial bull by the horns and posed a couple of further questions to Alan that have cropped up from time to time on message boards across the community - such as the sad demise of the much-missed 'Controversy' fan magazine, and what REALLY happened between Prince, Wendy & Lisa and 'that comment'... as well as asking him to inform us what his future plans are and what D'Angelo is currently up to, etc.
- BananaCologne


I can't knowingly comment on the 'Controversy' fan club situation. I'm a bit old school when it comes to fan clubs, believing that they ALL deserve respect and support to at least some degree. But in today's music business, fan clubs (to use the term broadly) have become a huge revenue source thanks to the internet.....downloads, merchandising etc. Big revenue breeds control, so there you have it.

For many years Prince's desire to control fan access had more to do with his privacy and the marketing of his "mystique" than anything financial. But now that's changed and his cutting edge efforts through his own website speak for themselves. I believe most fans are capable of understanding this, after all they're of the internet generation too. But Prince's legal gripes with 'Controversy' seemed extreme to me and certainly, from a public relations standpoint, the situation was badly bungled.

As to Wendy and Lisa, I know Prince has genuine respect and fondness for them both. That he invited Wendy to appear with him on the Tavis Smiley Show was probably a gesture aimed to those harboring the same feelings as yours. Having said that, their relationship is personal and deserves to stay that way. Wendy and Lisa certainly don't need me or anyone else to express their feelings, nor does Prince. Analyzing their relationships and suspicions about Prince's sexual politics are issues better left alone - until and unless he finds reason to publicly express himself on the subject(s). No matter what I, or any fan, might suspect personally, unless any of the three "go public", I choose to consider it a non-issue.


Wendy, Sheila as Morris, and Alan at The Family Jamm 2003:

© Heaven Productions


MY WORLD:
D'Angelo is continuing to work on his next album - he's got enough amazing material for ten albums by now - LOL. Unfortunately, due to an on-going dispute with Virgin Records, there's still no deadline to deliver a finished record - much less a release date. I could do another number on the pitfalls and limitations of today's music industry and how they inhibit a pure artist such as D'Angelo, but I'll spare you the pain. Sooner or later, an album will find its way to the public and, God willing, D'Angelo will be motivated to find his way back to the stage. And then we can re-start our mission to share this young man's true stature. At his core, he probably IS the most gifted and exciting artist and performer since Prince. I live for the day when the rest of the world can discover what a few of us already know about the depths of his gift.

Beyond D'Angelo, there is RENEE NEUFVILLE who is an equally astounding talent of great versatility and depth. Her success as half of ZHANE and more recent recording and touring exposure with Roy Hargrove's RH Factor has only scratched the surface of the delightfully rich music she can bring to the world. To those who wrote in asking about new music, I hope 2006 is the year we can talk about Renee in the same breath.

I am also involved, as an Associate Producer, with a Paramount Pictures film project based on the life of James Brown. It's in the earliest of stages, the first draft of the script isn't even delivered yet. But it's an exciting project that I'm looking forward to as a challenge and a new adventure.



FINAL THOUGHTS:
In summation, I find it difficult to do this much thinking and writing about Prince without adding some final thoughts. Personally, I find it discouraging that Prince's proselytizing in recent years even hints at religious, racial or sexual prejudices that he never represented back in the day. When Prince burst on the scene in the early 1980's I saw him as an appealing liberator of sorts. He offered liberation from the wimpy disco era that came before him. He offered liberation from the racial and sexual constrictions that the Reagan years seemed to symbolize. Those of us who felt we understood his music only saw bold truth and honesty. Songs like "Bambi", "Dirty Mind", "Controversy", "1999", "Little Red Corvette", "Erotic City" and even "Darling Nikki" seemed so poetically realistic and timely that they couldn't seem any "dirtier" to me than they did to him. The biggest disappointment of Prince today is that he no longer feels the same way.

This has been huge fun for me. I haven't forgotten what it was like to be a fan before I set foot in this business. Listening to the music I loved took me places my feet couldn't. It made me feel ways I couldn't otherwise feel. And it made me forge thoughts I couldn't otherwise think. One of the many blessings of a gift such as Prince's is the ability to take fans outside themselves. He should be grateful there are so many of you along for the ride. I hope sharing some of my memories will inspire you to put on some music, close your eyes, open your mind and take one of those magical rides. It's never been about me - it's always been about the MUSIC!

Have a great holiday season and a wonderful 2006!

- Alan Leeds (Minneapolis, December 2005)

L-R: Bobby Byrd, Vicki Anderson-Byrd, Universal Records' Harry Weinger,
the late great Lyn Collins, Alan Leeds, Martha High & Marva Whitney:


© Alan Leeds


© Fruity Parfume Inc. for prince.org wink
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Reply #2 posted 12/24/05 1:46pm

AvramsDad

FUCKING AWESOME!!! Thanks BC!!
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Reply #3 posted 12/24/05 1:55pm

psykosoul

fantastic read worship
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Reply #4 posted 12/24/05 2:02pm

Delegaatti

Very interesting indeed
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Reply #5 posted 12/24/05 2:19pm

PurpleKnight

avatar

Goddamn, that was just wonderful. I absolutely love the way he summarized the problems with Prince's more recent output. Great read.
The world is a comedy for those who think and a tragedy for those who feel.

"You still wanna take me to prison...just because I won't trade humanity for patriotism."
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Reply #6 posted 12/24/05 2:20pm

Handclapsfinga
snapz

oh my goodness...words can't express how i feel about this. HUGE thanx to both alan and 'nana for taking their time to put this together to share with all of us. it's stuff like this that makes me happy to be a prince fan.

hug
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Reply #7 posted 12/24/05 2:27pm

NightGod

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That was amazing, and by far the most riveting thing I've read on the Org. Thanks to Alan and BC for sharing this wonderful treat with us!
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Reply #8 posted 12/24/05 2:29pm

Xpertlover

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Very, very cool. Thanks!!!
"How embarrasing to be human!"
- Kurt Vonnegut, 'Hocus Pocus'
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Reply #9 posted 12/24/05 2:33pm

MuaPetahl

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Awesome read!

Thank You!
~When you understand why you dismiss all other gods, then you will understand why I dismiss yours~
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Reply #10 posted 12/24/05 2:52pm

Stax

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clapping Thanks!
a psychotic is someone who just figured out what's going on
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Reply #11 posted 12/24/05 2:55pm

JudasLChrist

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WORD!!!
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Reply #12 posted 12/24/05 2:56pm

sosgemini

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thumbs up!
Space for sale...
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Reply #13 posted 12/24/05 2:58pm

interpret

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thumbs up! Thanks Nana kotc U Da Man!
Alan clapping
?Cause me and u could have been a work of art

BE BLESSED!!
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Reply #14 posted 12/24/05 3:02pm

NouveauDance

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Absolutely fantastic. Thank you, thank you so much for this interview to everyone involved - fascinating, insightful and thought provoking.

A great Xmas present from the org and Mr Leeds thumbs up!
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Reply #15 posted 12/24/05 3:07pm

DJ506

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clapping
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Reply #16 posted 12/24/05 3:11pm

SensualMelody

Thanks!!!!
For all the info and...
Especially for the photographs!!! thumbs up!
So...how's everybody doing? smile
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Reply #17 posted 12/24/05 3:20pm

lilgish

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yea clapping bow
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Reply #18 posted 12/24/05 3:26pm

piemel

awesome

job well done

congrats
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Reply #19 posted 12/24/05 3:29pm

CinisterCee

The org fuckin' rules.
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Reply #20 posted 12/24/05 3:34pm

katt

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the above thank you Alan and 'nana. smile
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Reply #21 posted 12/24/05 3:43pm

Snap

Sad that we often relegate our best friends to mere acquaintances. Alan knows of what he speaks. Some would do well to listen. There is much truth here.
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Reply #22 posted 12/24/05 3:43pm

sy72

Fantastic reading! Great questions and brilliant, thoughtful answers.

I saw a documentary on Prince and listening to Alan Leeds in that was great. Now after reading his answers here.....I can only imagine that if his memoirs get published it will be an awesome read.

Thank you Alan.

Steve

Melbourne,Australia
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Reply #23 posted 12/24/05 3:48pm

Ifsixwuz9

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Good read. Thanks to Mr. Leeds and 'Nana.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I'll play it first and tell you what it is later.
-Miles Davis-
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Reply #24 posted 12/24/05 4:00pm

UndercovaBroth
a

avatar

That was an absolutely fantastic read. I can't say how greatful I am for someone such as Mr. Leeds to do something like this out of his precious time. I can't say thank you enough.

Thanks for putting this together 'Nana and Alan!
Ooh, little darlin' if you're
free 4 a couple of hours (Free 4 a couple of hours)
If U ain't busy 4 the next 7 years (Next 7 years)
Say, let's pretend we're married and go all night
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Reply #25 posted 12/24/05 4:20pm

purplecam

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That was simply incredible. Truly for me the highlight of the org for me in 2005. Thanks to Nana for such a great interview with someone as insightful and incredible as Alan Leeds. I'm so glad to still be a Prince fan after this.
I'm not a fan of "old Prince". I'm not a fan of "new Prince". I'm just a fan of Prince. Simple as that
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Reply #26 posted 12/24/05 4:43pm

Bfunkthe1

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Great gift for x-mas! I loved the way Alan broke it down on Prince's output the last 15 years. Agreed with Alan on so many points especially how Prince's "views" have changed since the early days on things such as race, religion, sexuality etc. Kinda sad when you think about it but Prince doesn't seem to be the open-minded all inclusive person he use to be. Just my opinion. I Still have much love though.
Fantasy is reality in the world today. But I'll keep hangin in there, that is the only way.
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Reply #27 posted 12/24/05 4:57pm

CHIC0

brilliant. woot! thank you for sharing.

i really enjoyed question 5 and 15 thumbs up!
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Reply #28 posted 12/24/05 5:14pm

Jude

What an AWSOME gift!

Thank you Mr. Leeds and EVERYONE here at the Org.

Peace in '06
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Reply #29 posted 12/24/05 5:21pm

mynameisnotsus
an

Didn't expect such forthright responses and I'm in total agreement. Thank you so much for your honest insights.

Happy Holidays, the org rocks!
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