Tune in to KEXP 90.3 FM on Friday, May 6 from 2:00 to 6:00P.M. PST to hear Prince as you have never heard him before. Listen as KEXP Afternoon Show host Kevin Cole pays tribute with Nothing Compares 2 U: A Celebration of the Life and Music of Prince.
Prince is a multi-Platinum-selling artist that is beloved around the globe, and many are still processing his sudden death on April 21st. There has been an outpouring of remembrances since then, yet so many stories remain untold. DJ Kevin Cole was deeply involved in the Minneapolis scene that launched and nurtured Prince’s career in the early 1980s, and he had a front row seat as this artist found his voice and style.
Minneapolis in the late 1970s and early 1980s exploded with musical creativity. Prince, The Replacements, and Hüsker Dü all emerged from the Twin Cities to shape and redefine American music. And future KEXP Chief Content Officer Kevin Cole was right in the thick of it. He was a part of a small group that turned Uncle Sam’s disco into First Avenue, which then became a fertile breeding ground for punk, new wave, and funk acts.
Cole watched as Prince went from giving tickets away to try to fill an early show at the Orpheum Theatre to performing a legendary sold out show at Sam’s (soon to be First Avenue). It was there on March 9, 1981 where, according to Kevin, “Prince really connected with his hometown audience for the first time. You could see it and feel it. It was one of the greatest live shows I’ve ever seen, with Prince in total control, blowing away the crowd, but at the same time, feeding off all the love and acceptance in the room. It was euphoric and joyous.”
As house DJ at First Avenue during those years, Cole kept the dance floor moving with an eclectic mix of cutting edge records. His taste in music caught the ear of a young Prince who would regularly hang out at the club and listen.
As CNN recently noted, during these First Avenue years, Prince would sometimes give Kevin unreleased recordings to play and test with the audience at the club.
“One night in the middle of a DJ set at First Avenue, I felt someone gently tap me on the shoulder. I turned around and it was Prince, holding an acetate, asking “Will you play my record?” When I worked it into my set later that evening, I saw Prince run down to the dance floor. He didn’t dance, but stood out in the middle of the floor and just listened. It was the first time any of us heard “Erotic City.”
Prince also asked Cole to DJ for numerous private parties and events around Minneapolis from the release of 1979’s Prince through 1986’s Under the Cherry Moon. This included Prince’s 30th birthday party, and the Purple Rain wrap parties. As such, Cole had a unique view of the world that Prince created in Minneapolis in the 1980s. Some of these stories and songs have never before been shared.
Prince is well known to be one of the most prolific musicians of all time. Shows and after parties frequently stretched late into the night, and recording sessions could go for days on end. Thanks to Kevin Cole’s connections to that world, and his obsessive collecting of Prince’s output, Friday’s show will contain many rarities, b-sides, live recordings, interviews, and personal stories for an intimate tribute to what Cole calls, “an Artist with a capital ‘A’.”
KEXP’s public gathering space will be open, and some of Cole’s extensive collection of original Prince memorabilia, rare recordings, and signed promotional items will be on display. Purple attire encouraged. Please also join us online at kexp.org where we will be streaming the show live. Post your favorite Prince memories and memorabilia using the #KEXPPrince hashtag.