May 03, 2004

Sign O' the Times, Mess With Your Mind,Hurry Before its too Late...

I have an album that changed my life. Everyone does I think. You know that album that you buy and you just can’t stop playing. The album that makes you rethink just what music means to you. It’s the album that you always come back to eventually. For me it was Prince’s Sign O’ the Times. It was 1987, and I had turned 13 the December before. I was just learning that the world existed beyond my Nintendo games. I wasn’t really a music person either. I owned exactly two albums that I can remember: Thriller (which everybody owned) and Journey. Where I went to school, everyone had Journey too. I really liked the song “U Got the Look”, so I scraped together my allowance and bought the album it came on. I got it home, plunked the tape into my giant yellow Sports Walkman, and it hit me like the not-so-proverbial thunderbolt. The first line of the title track: In France a skinny man died of a big disease with the little name, by chance his girlfriend came across a needle and soon she did the same. It blew me away. I know now how much these lines mirror the opening of great literature. Then it was a song that made me think.

It seemed every song on the album opened a new door for me. The gospel of “The Cross”, the throbbing funk of “Hot Thing”, the driving “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man”, and the prototype slow jam “Adore”. I loved every song on the album, for a while I even memorized all the lyrics. Excuse me, not every song on the album. There was “If I Was Your Girlfriend” a very odd song sung almost exclusively in an eerie falsetto. I didn’t like the song then, and haven’t heard it in ages. Then yesterday I listened to it, probably for the first time. I nearly cried. The lyrics tell the story of a man who really wants to as much a friend to his woman as he is a lover. It seems he’s failing. One lyric that wraps it up: Would you run to me if somebody hurt you even if that somebody was me? I didn’t understand it at 13, but I do at 30. I’m married now, and sometimes I do hurt the Mrs. And yes, sometimes she runs to me anyway.

Seventeen years later, Sign O’ the Times is still speaking to me.

The odd thing about all this? I never bothered to buy the album on CD. I probably should.

Posted by Frinklin at May 3, 2004 07:02 PM
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