Paul Stanley Recalls Prince Not Playing His Famous Songs Live
The Kiss frontman first caught a Prince show in 1979 and went backstage to meet him; but even then, he tells Ultimate Prince, the contrary characteristics that would become notorious were apparent.
“Fame allows you to be who you are,” Stanley says. “People say fame changes you – I say fame just allows you to be the dick you are. In Prince’s case, he wasn’t at the point where he could indulge himself quite as much. I just went back with our manager and said we wanted to meet him. He came out and he was very, very complimentary – and shy, but accessible.”
In Stanley's view, Prince never managed to settle with the idea of public acclaim. “I guess as time went on he became more remote and removed himself from most social situations,” Stanley says. “He didn’t have that luxury then – or maybe didn’t need it.
“I saw him when he was in the midst of denying, or avoiding, his real musical popularity. He was out on tour playing the piano. I remember going in with my wife, and I think the first thing he said on stage was, ‘If you came to hear 'Little Red Corvette,' you’re in the wrong place!’ And I thought, ‘Well, I’m probably in the wrong place!’”
At various points during his career, the creatively restless Prince focused almost entirely on new material onstage, leaving off some (or all) of his most famous songs from live set lists. His infamous mid-'90s battle to win freedom from his Warner Bros. contract — and regain ownership of his master recordings — may have also contributed to these decisions.
On New Year's Eve 1999, he "retired" his 1982 hit "1999" after a pay-per-view special, but the song returned to his shows seven years later. During his 2002 One Nite Alone... tour, most of Prince's biggest hits were confined to an extended solo piano medley near the end of the evening.
In a 2004 interview, Prince said he had learned not to let fame go to his head: "The epiphany is where you see God, where you live at the level humanity is. You don’t let money, fame, the illusion rule you."
Stanley saw Prince again later, when he’d reconnected with his most successful compositions. “He came back full steam,” the singer-guitarist recalls. “Just amazing!” But this time around, Stanley didn’t feel the need to go backstage. “I had no reason to; I’m not the kind of person who wants to go and hang out with people I don’t know, famous or not famous.”