Despite Madonna’s penchant for controversy and Michael Jackson’s increasing eccentricity, Prince Rogers Nelson was always the most maverick superstar out of the holy trinity of 80s pop. Even 30+ years into his hugely prolific career, the man in purple still has the power to bewilder the public with his idiosyncratic behavior. Here’s a look at some of his most bizarre stunts.
Trench Coat and Bikini Briefs
Prince has never exactly been one for casual high street fashion. From the assless catsuit which looked like it was made from macaroni cheese at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards to the Edwardian blouse he sported in the iconic video for “Purple Rain,” his flamboyant sense of style has often made even Lady Gaga’s attire look conservative. But perhaps his most daring outfit was the trench coat and bikini briefs ensemble he bravely wore right at the beginning of his career whilst opening for The Rolling Stones in 1981. The 100,000 fans, many of whom pelted him with rubbish, certainly weren’t ready for such a sight, but it was one of the first indications that this was an artist unafraid to go against the norm.
The Black Album
In a reaction to concerns he was going too mainstream, Prince attempted to regain some of his African-American audience with 1987’s The Black Album, a straight funk record featuring everything from hip-hop parodies to a track dismissing himself as ‘the skinny motherf****r with the high voice.’ But in a last-minute crisis of confidence, he recalled all 500,000 copies that had been pressed on the eve of its release after becoming convinced that it was a work of evil, resulting in the less-than-cryptic ‘Don’t buy The Black Album, I’m sorry’ message in the video for 1988’s Alphabet Street.
The Artist Formerly Known As Prince
Not exactly a stranger to the concept of the pseudonym, Prince had already written and recorded material under the guises of Joey Coco, Paisley Park and Christopher in the 80s. But he took things to a new level in 1993 when in the midst of a legal battle with his Warner Bros label over the artistic and financial control of his output, he adopted the character that appeared on the cover of 1992’s Love Symbol Album as his stage name. A combination of the male and female symbols, the unpronounceable moniker led to most fans calling him The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, whilst in a further act of rebellion, he also appeared in public with the word ‘slave’ emblazoned across his cheek.
After being converted by Sly & The Family Stone’s Larry Graham in 2001, Prince became a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, resulting in the rumor that he refused to undergo surgery for a double hip replacement because of the faith’s aversion to blood transfusions. However, it was his admittance in an interview with the Daily Mirror that he occasionally knocks on people’s doors to discuss their religious ideals (“sometimes I go in disguise. My hair is capable of doing a lot of different things. I don’t always look like this”) that was the most surprising by-product of his new-found belief.
Wages War On The Internet
Explaining the never-ending array of home-made cover versions and parodies that pop up every time you type ‘Prince’ into YouTube’s search engine, Prince once threatened to sue the video-sharing site due to their inability to filter out unauthorized film and music content. He also refused to allow his songs to be sold on iTunes because of the lack of advance fees, whilst in 2007, he declared that the internet was ‘over and outdated.’ His militant viewpoint on the internet is all the more unusual due to the fact he was the very first artist to release an album online way back in 1996 and even won a Webby Lifetime Achievement Award as recently as 2006.
Wages War On His Fans
Proving he’s all about equal opportunities when it comes to lawsuits, Prince has continued to alienate much of his fan base with his drastic attempts to take as much control of his body of work as is humanly possible. In 2007 he forced YouTube to take down a home-movie uploaded by Stephanie Lenz simply because it contained a snippet of “Let’s Go Crazy” in the background. Whilst he’s also taken legal action against several operators of fan sites for apparent copyright infringement, leading to the formation of a protest group named Prince Fans United.