wax Poetics
Prince and his band at Feijenoord Stadion in 1988 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. (left to right) Doctor Fink, Eric Leeds, Cat, Miko (in back), Prince, Boni Boyer, Sheila E., Atlanta Bliss, and Levi Seacer Jr. Photo by FG/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images.

Change of Heart

A night on ecstasy inspires Prince to change creative directions.

At the end of 1987, Prince had a sudden revelation and decided to pull his impending visceral release, The Black Album, immediately going to work on its replacement, an artful record about love and sex titled LOVESEXY, whose subsequent tour saw Prince at the height of his performance powers.

published online
Originally published in Issue 67, 2018
By Dan Dodds

“This is not music, this is a trip,” Prince chanted, like a mantra, to the encore of “Alphabet St.” At the close of 1987, stung by the relative commercial disappointment of his masterpiece, Sign “O” the Times—especially when compared to the triumphant, diamond-selling, Black-pop return of Michael Jackson’s Bad—Prince believed he still had much to prove, particularly with his original Black American fan base, who he felt had deserted him, not just to his archrival, but also to, in his mind, the ultimate pretenders of funk: the emerging rap and hip-hop stylists. Canceling The Black Album—the notorious, knee-jerk reaction to his opponents—Prince instead embarked upon the more personal, idiosyncratic Lovesexy project; a platform for his most ambitious show to date and, arguably, his greatest work. A theatrical testimony of good conquering evil, it was a tour from which his band, his management, and indeed his art would never recover. It was a trip all right.

“Thing is, I don’t believe in God, but when Prince asks you to sing ‘God is love, love is God’—you do that; you don’t question him,” explains Dutch fan Rob Bemelen, who was there to witness Prince at the Westfalenhalle Stadium, in Dortmund, Germany, on September 9, 1988. It was a televised event, broadcast live to the whole of Europe. “That’s the power he had over us,” continues Rob, still in awe of the experience. “It was like a collective togetherness, for all eleven thousand of us.”

The pivotal moment came at the end of the first act, when, having spent the previous hour wallowing in the filth of his most sinister classics—songs like “Sister,” “Head,” and “Jack U Off”—Prince struck up the solitary keyboard intro to the devotional epic “Anna Stesia.” Essentially a Euro-soul hybrid in sound design; stark like Ultravox’s “Vienna” before swirling into a rousing, twisted-gospel workout. Prince utilized the expertise at hand of his seasoned players who were primed coming off their concert film Sign “O” the Times—the all-star, rainbow-slop combo of she-funk heroine Sheila E.; bass player Levi Seacer Jr.; rhythm guitarist Miko Weaver; electric church powerhouse Boni Boyer; Madhouse sax player Eric Leeds; trumpet-musketeer Atlanta Bliss; triple threat Cat Glover (his greatest dancer, choreographer, and rapper); and of course, ex-Revolution synth-stalwart Doctor Fink (“Doctorrr!”). While the band members all stand guard, Prince, seated at the piano in the center of the round, is lifted two stories high on a hydraulic platform, his arms outstretched in worship, bathed in a sunburst of spotlight. The song’s impassioned performance matched its deeper meaning and significance, recounting the events of Tuesday, December 1, 1987, or “Blue Tuesday,” as immortalized in the Lovesexy ’88 tour program.

Perhaps Blue Tuesday is the most speculated night in Prince-lore for two reasons: firstly, it was when Prince met Ingrid Chavez, aka Spirit Child; “A beautiful girl, the most” is how he described her, in a verse of “Anna Stesia” (long before Mayte Garcia, Prince’s future wife, appropriated the title). Secondly, it was the infamous night when, inspired by an “epiphany,” Prince felt compelled to cancel The Black Album.

“Do you believe?” he asked, as the band played out the vamp; the crowd roared “yes!” in response. Prince then abandoned the microphone and dropped his instrument, uncommonly exposed for a brief moment. “There’s a new power in this house tonight,” he says, off-mic to guitarist Miko Weaver, visibly moved. “Take this with you forever.”

Prince at Feijenoord Stadion in Rotterdam, Netherlands, during the August 17–19, 1988, shows of his historic Lovesexy ’88 tour. Photo by FG/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images.
Prince at Feijenoord Stadion in Rotterdam, Netherlands, during the August 17–19, 1988, shows of his historic Lovesexy ’88 tour. Photo by FG/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images.

Blue Tuesday

In Minneapolis, sometimes it snows in April. In winter, it’s cold as hell.

On Tuesday, December 1, 1987, it was four below freezing outside. Poet Ingrid Chavez was in a bar called Williams Pub, waiting alone for a friend; thinking about braving the chill. “That’s when Prince walked in,” says Ingrid, gently, like rain is wet and sugar is sweet. “I had actually seen him before, at First Avenue, but I didn’t know then if he noticed me. This time, I could tell he was watching me, and so I sat at the bar and sent him a cute note,” Ingrid says, rolling her eyes and breaking into a chuckle. “Yeah, I know—classic.”

The note read: “Hi, remember me? Probably not, but that’s okay. Smile, I love it when you smile.” Gilbert Davison, Prince’s bodyguard, acted as the go-between. Prince was wearing little mirror-heart bracelets. He gave one to Ingrid, placed it on her wrist. “He asked me what my name was, and so I said, ‘Gertrude,’ and he said his name was ‘Dexter,’ ” Ingrid laughs. “That’s what we called each other.” It was a week before the The Black Album was due to be released—not that Ingrid was aware of that, being more into the Cure and Ryuichi Sakamoto. “I wasn’t really following him musically at the time,” she admits. “I was totally out of context in his life; I was like this person that just dropped in.”

Instead of going to his crib, which might have offered a more intimate setting, Dexter had Gilbert drive him and Gertrude forty-five minutes out of town to his new ten-million-dollar recording complex, Paisley Park. Upon arriving, Prince ushered Ingrid into a rehearsal room, which, she says, had been “pimped out in candles, drapes, and feathers.” Leaving her alone to write, he then disappeared. 

Alan Leeds—Prince’s tour manager and the management rep on behalf of managers Bob Cavallo and Steven Fargnoli—recalls, “I was awakened by a call from our [Paisley Park] office manager, Karen Krattinger. Karen worked very closely as a personal assistant to Prince, and he had called her in the middle of the night insisting that The Black Album be stopped.”

“I was actually there when he canceled the album,” says Cat Glover, who remembers being seated with Prince at the kitchen table. “He opened up his heart and told me things that I’m sure he had never told anyone before. He loved that album, but it seemed dark to him. Something hit him that night that made him change—an enlightenment, a higher power.”

The black dog of The Black Album, as a concept (though not necessarily the individual songs themselves, as Prince would include the gorgeous “When 2 R in Love” on Lovesexy and delight in performing selections on his next tour), appeared tethered to the negative feelings he was experiencing at the time, in both his life and his music. The desolate and as yet unreleased “Grand Progression”—recorded just weeks before The Black Album was compiled—perhaps offers the most meaningful insight into his mind-set at this point. Questioning his faith, Prince sings, “If there really is a God up above,” sounding like he’s four bars from cutting his ear off.

“He had shown signs of depression,” says Alan. “On the personal side, I believe he was reaching the point where he longed for a meaningful romantic relationship in place of the rotating girlfriends he was known for. The Black Album was also made at a time when he was struggling to find direction. For the first time in his career, he was feeling threatened by young artists and peers, and more significantly, the rise and crossover of hip-hop into the mainstream. In a sense, he was wrestling with maintaining his place at the cutting edge of music.”

“We all felt The Black Album would have been an interesting thing to happen for him,” says saxophonist (and Alan’s brother)  Eric Leeds. “Prince was an artist who was very determined not to be pigeonholed as an R&B act, but there was a feeling that he had been losing support from his Black base.” The competition was cranking up. Funk-lite, white-skinned British pop-start George Michael had unexpectedly conquered the Billboard R&B charts, an audience that hadn’t been quite as effusive in support of Sign “O” the Times (and by association, the R&B masterwork “Housequake,” a song many believe to be an unnoticed attempt to subjugate hip-hop). Michael Jackson’s number one crossover hit Bad had also retained its core audience.

With Ingrid Chavez still waiting in the rehearsal room at Paisley Park, Prince summoned ex-employee, recording engineer Susan Rogers to a late-night rendezvous. It was Rogers, talking to Per Nilsen, the editor of Prince fanzine Uptown, who noticed that Prince’s pupils seemed dilated. That it looked like he was tripping. According to Alan, “Everyone began speculating on what might have so dramatically changed Prince’s mind about the record.”

“Sheila E. and I were in Los Angeles, doing The Tonight Show with my brother Alan that night,” remembers Eric Leeds. “Early the next morning, at the airport, Alan said, all jaunty, ‘Okay, got some news for you!’ ” laughs Eric, “and my first reaction was ‘Oh shit!’ I was very disappointed that it was shelved for a very practical reason—I owned a song on that album!” To lose out was the brilliant “Rock Hard in a Funky Place,” including Eric’s nasty sax line (plucked from an unreleased, jazzy Leeds original called “Pacemaker”). “As time went on, we started to hear all the different stories about what had really transpired that night,” Eric adds. It was rumored that Prince—clean living and teetotal—had experimented with drugs.

“Yeah, he did do ecstasy that night,” confirms Cat, matter-of-factly. “I was with him. Ecstasy is a drug that—they give it to couples who are having marital problems—it makes you feel loved, it makes you feel sexy.” Despite the insinuation that Prince had suffered a “bad” trip on December 1, all of the accounts of what he actually said to people appear to suggest the opposite as being true: he was telling acquaintances how much he loved them, and that he felt he had experienced a spiritual awakening. So much so that in the new light of day, on December 2, Prince was still feeling the profound effect of what had happened the night before.

“It was romantic,” says Ingrid, who, incredibly, was completely unaware until this interview that there were rumors that Prince was on something. “We fell in love with the poetry of who we were in each other’s presence. We fell in love with words. I was not a great writer, but there was an innocence and rawness in what I wrote about that I think he felt he had lost. So when I think about the night we met, not knowing that he was high—though I can see it now—I think about the fact that the Ecstasy only acted as something that opened a door that he had held closed.”

“She was the inspiration to Prince. He told me he had met this woman,” Cat pauses, “and that her name was Gertrude.”

Ingrid Chavez and Prince from a publicity still of Graffiti Bridge (1990). Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Ingrid Chavez and Prince from a publicity still of Graffiti Bridge (1990). Courtesy of Warner Bros.


When Warner Bros. chairman Mo Ostin personally sanctioned the cancellation, and withdrawal, of The Black Album, Prince immediately began work on its replacement, Lovesexy. Not concerned about playing it cool, Prince sent for Ingrid only days after their first meeting. The first track by Ingrid was a poem entitled “Cross the Line,” recorded in the smaller Studio B. Spoken softly and sensuously, she recites: “In the distance, a light shines and someday he will touch it / Because it calls to him, says cross the line.”

“I can still clearly remember Prince’s face when he heard ‘Cross the Line,’ ” says Ingrid. “He went quiet, and his eyes were really wide. I think there was something in that original recording that helped him make sense of the path he suddenly found himself on.” Pleased with the initial results, Prince approved a full spoken-word project—with the working title 21 Poems—and would hold back “Cross the Line” for a special assignment the following summer.

The first proper session for Lovesexy was recorded on December 11, 1987, in Studio A: a double-header consisting of an original composition, album closer “Positivity” and the Crystal Ball outtake “The Ball,” reworked as the falsetto-led, jubilant album opener “Eye No.”

As Alan told Per Nilsen about Prince, “His attitude changed, it was joyous music and he clearly enjoyed making it.” Eric Leeds, who played saxophone on several Lovesexy tracks, recalls: “I did have an optimistic viewpoint in some of the sessions. Occasionally, I was able to hear some of the songs in their earliest versions and I was feeling, ‘Okay, maybe this is going to be a little simpler, a little less produced perhaps?’ But of course, that’s not what happened. It was among the first albums he’d done primarily at Paisley Park, and I think, being a forty-eight track studio, he seemed determined to use every track at his beck and call!”

Prince played the original version of the title track for Chairman Mo and Warner Bros. president Lenny Waronker out in Los Angeles, but they didn’t get it, couldn’t understand the lyrics. “We had put a horn chart on a song called ‘Lovesexy,’ which Prince took to L.A., and then a week or so later, Prince called us back to work on an entirely different song called, umm, ‘Lovesexy,’ ” says Eric, who preferred the second/album version. (Incidentally, Cat believes the title Lovesexy itself is a play on the word ecstasy. As a hidden message, Prince did place the word “Ecstasy” within the “Alphabet St.” video; he also put “Don’t buy the The Black Album” in another frame, but it’s interesting that he didn’t attach any such instruction to the ecstasy hint.)

“Alphabet St.,” recorded on New Year’s Eve eve, 1987, is one of Prince’s greatest-ever productions. It’s him trying to out-funk the recent “Faith” in a “Roll-over George Michael” electronic rhythm and blues. Prince mixed the song while watching Cat dance, and also asked her to contribute vocals: “Cat, we need you to rap.”

“He kept stopping me, saying, ‘Nope,’ ” says Cat. “Shaking his head, ‘Nope, nope. I don’t like it. You have to do it again.’ I started getting mad, so he said, ‘Who’s your favorite rapper? Salt-N-Pepa, right?’ ” Cat then adopts Prince’s jokey, pimp-like, Cloreen Bacon Skin voice: “ ‘Salt-N-Pepa ain’t gon’ like dis—you better rap like you mean it!’ ”

Ingrid features on “Alphabet St.” too, reciting the alphabet. “Everybody says to me, ‘What happened to G?!’ ” says Ingrid, laughing about the letter she missed. “He was trying to get me to steam it up, and well, I guess I got distracted.”

It was a beautiful winter for Ingrid, creative and spiritually uplifting. “It was like being in a bunker for three months. Sometimes, you’d come out for air and then you’d go back in.” Prince would take her to dinner, go clubbing, they’d go to the movies, play pool, and sometimes Prince’s dad, John L. Nelson, would accompany them. But Ingrid never really mixed with the band, as she sort of felt like Yoko Ono. Says Ingrid: “Nobody wanted me there. There was a bunch of [bitchy] stuff going on, and I just didn’t want to have anything to do with it. He never put me in that world, never exposed me to it.” After completing the album, Ingrid didn’t spend as much time with Prince, who turned his attention to the tour—Lovesexy ’88. Several of Prince’s staff still had misgivings about the new album, doubted its commercial appeal. “I remember Prince making a big deal about the record being played as a whole, in a complete suite, rather than sequenced into individual tracks,” says Alan Leeds. “Something I felt obligated to point out would be a problem at radio, but he didn’t care.”

The Lovesexy band: (clockwise from top left) Cat Glover, Doctor Fink, Miko (kneeling), Eric Leeds, Levi Seacer Jr., Atlanta Bliss, Sheila E., Prince, and Boni Boyer. Photo by Jeff Katz for an album promotional poster.
The Lovesexy band: (clockwise from top left) Cat Glover, Doctor Fink, Miko (kneeling), Eric Leeds, Levi Seacer Jr., Atlanta Bliss, Sheila E., Prince, and Boni Boyer. Photo by Jeff Katz for an album promotional poster.

This Is Not Music—This Is a Trip

Production designer Roy Bennett had been with Prince since Dirty Mind. “He was really the unsung hero of the Prince tours, because Prince trusted him,” says Eric. “Prince would go to Roy with abstract ideas about how he would like the show to look and Roy would flesh them out.” A year or so before preparations started on Lovesexy ’88, Roy had the opportunity to design Queen’s Magic Tour—which turned out to be Freddie Mercury’s last Queen tour before he died. Contractually, Prince had “first right of refusal,” says Roy, who would have to clear it with management. They said, “Okay, Prince is busy in the studio, so that’s fine.”

Recalls Roy: “A week later, I get a call from Prince’s managers, Bob Cavallo and Steve Fargnoli, and they’re like, ‘Can you fly to L.A.? We need to talk to you.’ So I get there and sit in Bob’s office and he goes, ‘Prince has decided that he wants to do something and that you have to back out of the Queen thing.’ And I said, ‘That’s really unfair!’ And we’re going back and forth, when all of sudden, the door opens and Prince walks in, where he must have been outside listening—‘So you wanna work with Queen, huh?’ And he said, ‘What’s the name of their single? “Princes of the Universe”?!’ And he just started laughing, turned around, walked out, and slammed the door.”

Prince intended to take the Sign “O” the Times show to the next level; wanted the Lovesexy ’88 stage to look like a playground for grown-ups, to be set in the round for stadiums, with a basketball hoop, a swing, a bed, a replica Ford Thunderbird car, a bridge, trellises and flowers, strobe lights and LED Plexiglas with multi-colored letters, with the entire production setting him back an alleged two million dollars. He also wanted a sailboat (for “I Wish U Heaven”), a waterfall, and a fountain; but after they couldn’t get the fountain to work in the Paisley Park car park—water was pissing out everywhere, not good for such an electronically powered production—it was decided to stick with what they had.

Rehearsals were tedious, each song taking as long as ten hours to set up, with over forty song arrangements to be learned just in case Prince wanted to alter the track list.

“We’d be on the first song and then, after thirty seconds of it, Prince would yell, ‘Stop!’ ” explains Eric, adding, “Then he and Roy would sit there for fifteen to thirty minutes, discussing the movements, lights, and all the effects. Then we’d do another minute and Prince would yell again, ‘Everybody stop!’—this was the process. I tell you, I was so done with that show before we had even played the first gig!”

Rehearsals took around four months. Other band members were showing signs of fatigue. Boni Boyer was arguably the greatest vocalist to ever work in a Prince band. Raphael Saadiq grew up with Boni (who, sadly, passed away in 1996) and had played in her band back in the Bay Area. “Boni Boyer was like the Queen of Oakland,” says Saadiq, “whether it was funk, house, or whatever.”

“Boni and I were really close,” says Cat Glover. “Duane [Nelson, Prince’s brother,] used to say, ‘What, are you guys like Wendy and Lisa now?’ ” Boni was not shy of telling Prince what she thought; used to give him lip. “We were doing a sound check,” recalls Cat, “and Boni came in wearing silk pajamas. She looked really cute in a silk two-piece, but Prince made a joke. Using that voice he does, he said, ‘You don’t come on my stayyge wearin’ no silk pajamas!’ And Boni said, ‘You got a nerve, you on this stage with a green jumpsuit wi’ alphabets all over it!’ ” Everyone cracked up laughing.

Ticket to the Lovesexy ’88 filming at Westfalenhalle Stadium on September 9, 1988, at Dortmund, Germany. Courtesy of Rob Bemelen.
Ticket to the Lovesexy ’88 filming at Westfalenhalle Stadium on September 9, 1988, at Dortmund, Germany. Courtesy of Rob Bemelen.
The Lovesexy ’88 tour program. Cover photo by Jeff Katz.
The Lovesexy ’88 tour program. Cover photo by Jeff Katz.


“Clap your hands, stomp your feet—everybody,” said Spirit Child, introducing the TV broadcast from Westfalenhalle Stadium, the thirty-first night of the world tour. The crowd, made up of predominantly Dutch fans, duly obliged. “They were massive fans of Prince, and were the best crowd ever,” says Roy, “so we bussed a ton of them in from Holland to create the vibe for the live recording.” Dutchman Rob Bemelen, who had already seen Prince twice that summer, had all the LPs: Madhouse, Sheila E.’s albums (“A Love Bizarre” had been a number seven hit in the Netherlands), and even owned an actual copy, not a bootleg, of The Black Album. “Yes, of course,” states Rob, “I can’t remember the name of the shop, it was in Nijmegen [Netherlands], a record store, or—wrecka stow.” Rob laughs at his own fortune/ingenuity in referencing the film Under the Cherry Moon. His countrymen and women also knew all of the music, and were with Prince from the get-go as he rode into the arena, with Cat and Sheila E., on the Ford Thunderbird. “Snare drum pounds on the two and four,” hollers Prince. “All the party people get on the floor—bass!” The band launches into “Erotic City,” the first song of Act 1: “The Dark,” the section of the show almost entirely dedicated to the sleazier, more lustful, sexually themed work in Prince’s canon. Sequenced like a long suite into a rich tapestry, incorporating old standards with new contemporary material, the songs fit like a Lovesexy vs. the Black Album super project—a story of good overcoming evil. “No one had ever attempted a theatrical show like that, an arena show in the round,” says Roy Bennett. Prince strode onto the stage wearing a white suit with polka dots, his long black hair tied back behind his head, large hooped earring on his right ear—every step, every movement, every facial gesture, every flick of the hair carefully choreographed in an elaborate dance. “Prince was inspired by a guy named Moses Pendleton; he gave me a [video] cassette and told me to go to the hotel and watch it,” explains Cat. “Moses was a dancer that worked in the theater who had a different way of doing everything. When he got out of bed in the morning, he made it a dance. He was awesome.”

The potential for pretension tempered by the humor on display, like when Prince shushes the crowd as Cat sings to his crotch during “Head,” then implores the audience to sing along to his most salacious lines, leading them astray. “I know you’re nasty—say it.”

The two additions from The Black Album are performed in their entirety. The dark ’n’ freaky, S&M-themed “Superfunkycalifragisexy” is a debauched precursor to the funny, caustic, showstopper “Bob George,” with Prince dressed in flamboyant shades and an alligator coat that, according to Cat, George Clinton gave to him. The song itself allegedly named after manager Bob Cavallo and music critic Nelson George. “I flew out for a Purple Rain gig and was disappointed that he seemed like he was trying very hard to replicate the movie onstage, and I wrote that in Billboard,” explains Nelson George, adding, “I believe that’s the genesis of ‘Bob George.’ I went and saw the Purple Rain show later in D.C., and I know he was aware I was in the building. He started that show in total darkness, jamming for several minutes, before doing a stellar show that had the fresh feeling of his earlier tours. I always thought the D.C. show was a bit of a ‘fuck you’ to me. But then I thought, ‘I’m giving myself too much credit.’ Then, years later, ‘Bob George’ comes out, so I definitely pissed him off at some point.”

As the end of Act 1 nears, Prince—the old Prince—symbolically dies onstage as Eric Leeds, Atlanta Bliss, Miko Weaver, and Levi Seacer Jr. point their musical instruments at him and shoot. Then the emotional rendition of “Anna Stesia” signals his rebirth, bringing Act 1 to a close. Meanwhile, under the stage, Cat is getting ready for the next number. “I had to wear outfits under my outfits, which really wasn’t a lot of clothes, as it was just underwear mainly,” Cat laughs. “That wasn’t my choice, but I’d be under the stage taking down a pair of thigh-high stockings and adding on another pair right above them, jumping straight back onstage. It was just energy.”

For the “Intermission,” Prince produced a specially made track, splicing an excerpt of a Jill Jones recitation from Romeo and Juliet. “Wow, flashback,” says Jill. “We did that originally for ‘Modernaire’; we had a whole [Shakespeare] soliloquy!” “Intermission” also used the aforementioned “Cross the Line” by Ingrid Chavez, adding samples of stunning Clare Fischer string arrangements from the vault. “In the distance, a light shines…,” recited Ingrid over the sound system, while Cat danced a ballet.

“ ‘I Wish U Heaven’ was like a nightly relief,” admits Alan Leeds, “a moment when we could all exhale, partly because the bulk of the show was behind us, and particularly because the lyrics were so inspiring. My wife, Gwen, was my assistant on the tour. She and a couple of the wardrobe staff might only watch that one song and often returned to the production office with tears of joy in their eyes.”

Sheila E. was big in Holland in her own right, and the audience would chant “Sheila E.! Sheila E.! Sheila E.!” So Prince would let her know that it was his stage by performing the duet “A Love Bizarre” on his own. 

“He would go, ‘You gotta sing “I Wish U Heaven” [his new single], and Sheila would go, ‘Which one? Was that a hit?’ ” remembers Cat. “We’d be like, ‘Uh-oh, here they go again!’ ” At the end of “Glam Slam,” after another punishing routine, Prince gave Cat a handshake. “He said, ‘Good job. You tore it up tonight,’ ” says Cat.

The piano break was a highlight of the show: Prince took to the stage solo, dressed in a black eighteenth-century gentleman’s frock coat with a cane, like an uptown Amadeus Mozart. Just Prince, a microphone, and a grand piano. A recital of beautiful renditions of “When 2 R in Love,” the instrumental “Venus de Milo,” and the audience-assisted “Condition of the Heart.” He also righted the wrongs of the concert-film version of Sign “O” the Times by playing songs that weren’t included in the film like the adult nursery rhyme “Starfish and Coffee” and “Strange Relationship”—at his most charismatic and relaxed, shamelessly showing off his virtuosity. At one point, he teases the crowd for being too mawkish and singing “I think I love her” on “Raspberry Beret.” Michael Jackson was never this good, and Mozart couldn’t dance.

Integrated into “The Light” act of the Lovesexy set, the encore/hits are elevated to musical nirvana. The hit “1999” finds a natural setting, as the mother of all concert finales, “I got a lion in my pocket, y’all,” Prince sings. “Her name is Boni B.”

Still on high from becoming soccer champions of Europe earlier that summer of ’88, the Netherlands beating West Germany on their own patch, the crowd sings, “Olé, Olé, Olé, Olé!” essentially taking over Dortmund: a reverse invasion, lapping up every riff, the sax line from Madhouse’s “Three,” and singing along, en masse, to a concise—truly stunning—four-minute version of “Purple Rain.” With Prince’s spirituality reborn, he forsakes his “let me guide you” messiah-like aspirations by dedicating the song, wholeheartedly, “One time for the man above.”

“That was the one, of all the shows I’ve seen,” says Rob Bemelen in astonishment. “The way he played the guitar. That was the one.”

Sheila E., Prince, and and Cat at Feijenoord Stadion before the show. Photo by FG/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images.
Sheila E., Prince, and and Cat at Feijenoord Stadion before the show. Photo by FG/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images.
Prince (background), Sheila E., and Cat during a Lovesexy ’88 concert on July 28, 1988, in London, England. Photo by FG/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images.
Prince (background), Sheila E., and Cat during a Lovesexy ’88 concert on July 28, 1988, in London, England. Photo by FG/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images.

The Aftershow

The Lovesexy tour aftershows were legendary. “Me and my friend Raymond van Oosterhout tried to go. We had gone to the previous Rotterdam [Netherlands] shows, but for the third show, on the nineteenth [of August], we didn’t have a ticket,” explains Rob. “We thought, ‘What if we just get a car, go to Rotterdam, and see what happens?’ So we waited outside the stadium, and when it was done, a black Mercedes with blacked-out windows left with high speed. Our Subaru Justy, one of those little Japanese cars, kept up for about two or three miles, but when he got onto the highway, he was gone!”

Eric Leeds missed the aftershow with the most infamy—because of its heavily bootlegged status—at the Paard van Troje, in the Hague, Netherlands. “Everybody asks me, ‘So, where was the saxophone that night?’ And I say, ‘I’m afraid the saxophone was in bed asleep.’ ” Eric pulled a sickie because Prince unnecessarily arranged a photo shoot earlier that day. “If he was bugged about something then the rest of us had to be bugged about it too!” Eric laughs. Prince made his point though—gave everyone a bonus that showed up that night, except Eric. “It was money well spent from my perspective.” Prince was in a bad mood that night, as captured by the bootleg. When performing the stripped-back, Rhodes-laced “Still Would Stand All Time,” he can be heard reprimanding Boni Boyer for getting a lyric wrong. “Who’s the fool singing ‘Will’? It’s ‘Would’!”

“Yeah, Boni flipped him the bird one night!” remembers Roy Bennett, who laughs. “It was like, no matter how good they were, it was never good enough, and he had no qualms about calling you out in front of the audience if you screwed up, in front of everybody.”

Back home in the U.S., tensions were mounting. Ticket sales had not been great and the tour was losing money, especially since the show was in the round and there were hundreds of obstructed-view seats that couldn’t be sold. “During the course of the tour, Prince’s relationship with managers Steve Fargnoli and Bob Cavallo had seriously soured,” Alan notes. “He tended to blame them for every empty venue seat, as well as the less than spectacular reception given the album and its singles. I became a ping-pong ball between them.” (Prince even tried to withdraw the second single, “Glam Slam,” at the last minute; but this time, Warner Bros. weren’t having any of it.)

Prince and his management stopped speaking, and eventually Fargnoli and Cavallo were replaced. “We all appreciated that the show was brilliantly creative and technically innovative,” says Alan. “But it was our first real U.S. tour since Purple Rain. Whereas on that tour, we might sell out a major-city arena for four or five nights, on Lovesexy, we barely sold out one or two nights.” On returning to Chanhassen, Minnesota, Alan became vice president of Paisley Park Records. Lovesexy ’88 would be his last tour with Prince.

Most of the band had reached burnout with Prince and left after Lovesexy ’88. Only Miko, Levi, and Doctor Fink stayed on. While Cat remained close with Prince (he worked on her unreleased Warner Bros. project, I Am Energy), she left with Steve Fargnoli after refusing Prince’s request to fire him. Ingrid Chavez reconnected with Prince and would go on to star in Graffiti Bridge, his next movie project, with her debut album, May 19th, 1992, released on Paisley Park Records (following Madonna’s platinum-selling “Justify My Love,” a song cowritten by Lenny Kravitz and Chavez, who went uncredited until she sued Kravitz).

“I had an apartment in Minneapolis city center above a barbershop on Lyndale and Twenty-fifth—or something,” Ingrid says, straining to remember. There was a jazz bar below, and I saw Prince go in. So I went down, spoke to Duane Nelson outside, and gave him a six-song cassette of some new music. About a week later, I came home and I couldn’t get in my apartment—it was filled with flowers, addressed to ‘Gertrude.’ ”

Cash-strapped and having to take on the soundtrack to Tim Burton’s Batman movie, Prince would never again hit the peak of the Lovesexy ’88 show, his greatest achievement, nor would he make art as brilliant as “Alphabet St.” or “Anna Stesia.” The Lovesexy ’88 live broadcast would be released on VHS, but in a commercially motivated switch would have Act 2, “The Light,” released first as Livesexy 1 followed by Act 1, “The Dark,” as Livesexy 2; denying those fans unable to attend of the sheer brilliance of the original concept.

“I remember telling my parents, ‘Please set the VCR at nine, the show starts at nine!’ ” says Rob, adding, “So I went to Dortmund, by bus, by coach, and when I got back, it was the middle of the night, around 2:00 AM, but I couldn’t sleep. So I went into the living room, put on the TV, my headphones, and I watched the entire show again.”

this is part of "Prince" Story

Wax Poetics commemorates one of the most prolific artists of our time. Our Prince connection features Q&As with collaborators, related Re:Discoveries, and remembrances from the Purple One’s friends and associates.


The Master

At just eighteen years of age, Prince self-produced his debut album, 1978’s For You, writing all the music and playing every instrument himself.

Written by Chris Williams

The Master


The Mountain

Purple Rain is considered Prince and the Revolution’s peak, but Prince never went backwards. Parade climbed mighty heights as the Revolution’s final album.

Written by Chris Williams

The Mountain


Why Prince is hip-hop

Take a journey through Questlove’s mind as he argues thirty-three reasons why Prince is hip-hop.

Written by Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson

Why Prince is hip-hop

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