Prince and me: 21 is the number of the feast

21 seems to be the recurring number in my history with Prince. The only time I briefly ‘met’ him was outside the American Embassy in London on 21 March 1995.

Prince (for it was he) had a little visa problem at the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square, and delighted in not saying Hello as I was walking past. That didn’t stop me shoving a copy of Crankin’ Out, a David Bowie magazine I was publishing at the time, in his hands. They were tiny.

Ullo Prince, got a new motor?

The second time I encountered him was on his 21 Nights residency at London’s O2 Arena, appropriately enough on 21 September 2007.

The third time was when I took Mike, my then partner, to see the diminutive one’s Piano & A Microphone solo tour de force when it stopped by the purple-lit-especially-for-the-occasion Sydney Opera House on 21 February last year.

That’s Mike taking a pic of the illuminated incomparable Australian landmark as we travelled into Sydney’s Circular Quay for the Piano & A Microphone solo concert on the Manly ferry. The pint-sized Purple One was cocky, coquettish, moving and in absolutely incredible voice.

It was so telling in this multimedia spectacle age how just real talent shone through a stage show that was one man, one instrument, a couple of lights and a few candles wafting in lavender smoke could be all that was needed to create a magical and electrically charged concert. What an incredible contrast to the Madonna concert a month later, which was all empty artifice and hollow retreads.

Mike and I had a tempestuous relationship with frequent arguments, but we both agreed it was one of the greatest shows we’d been lucky enough to witness. Just an hour after leaving the venue Mike almost lost his life due to a horrific accident when we returned home.

One day I might be in a position to write that up. Two months later on 21 April Prince wasn’t so lucky. Sometimes it snows in April too…

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Steve Pafford
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