From PR guru Alan Edwards landed his dream job to represent Prince – after the weirdest job interview ever.
The Outside Organisation boss tells the Mirror about his trip to Paisley Park, where he expected to meet the superstar himself.
Alan tells the Mirror: “I got a call from someone in LA who asked if I’d consider being Prince’s UK PR. I said: ‘Of course, yes.’
“I was flown out to Minneapolis – it was winter, pretty bleak – and there’s a driver waiting there. He takes me, and it feels like the middle of nowhere, there’s endless fir trees, then suddenly, out of the snowy landscape, up pops an extraordinary white, space age building – Paisley Park.
“It was like something out of E.T. or Star Wars. This was the 1980s, I’d never seen anything like it.
“I knocked on the door, someone answered and sent me up to a room upstairs where I sat down. But when I say a room, it wasn’t a normal room. It was sort of suspended, and it had a glass floor. It was like being in a see through cage.
“Nobody had said anything to me yet. It wasn’t even as if anyone brought me a cup of tea.
“Then a button was pushed and music starts coming out – and it’s fantastic. It’s Prince’s album Diamonds and Pearls, which hadn’t been released yet. So I’m just sitting there, completely on my own, in this see through room, listening to this album.”
But despite being in an clear, empty room, Alan wondered if he was being watched.
“I had a sensation that I was being observed,” he continues. “You get that feeling. I couldn’t work out what it was, but I thought I better really put some energy into listening to the record.
“I was tapping my feet, moving my head, but I think I stopped short of getting up and playing air guitar.
“I was really getting into it, which wasn’t hard because it was truly a lovely album and I still think one of his greatest and slightly overlooked albums.”
The entire album – all 65 minutes – were played without interruption as Alan sat by himself.
“Nobody had come in, nobody had said anything,” he continues. “Then it finished and someone says: 'Your car’s outside.’ And I leave.”
Returning to the airport, he wondered if his Prince experience had come to an end, but was startled when his stretch limo driver struck up an unusual conversation.
“We’re driving back through the pine trees and snowy landscape and he said: 'Well, what did you think of this song?’ And: 'What did you think of the vocals there?’ He really peppered me with questions – it was like a school exam.
“It dawned on me quickly that this was maybe not casual conversation. The driver was cross questioning me like a music journalist, forensically, about the album.
“It occurred to me very fast that in one way or another, maybe this was being relayed back to someone. For a minute I wondered who was under that cap!
“I was questioned all the way to the airport. It was a lot easier than my O Levels because I had a passion for it, and I’d just heard a great record. I didn’t have to ham it up too much.”
Returning to London, Alan heard nothing from Paisley Park. He began to think he might not have got the job.
But, he says: “Then in the office three days later, and the phone rings and a voice says: 'You’re hired.’ And that was that.”
For the next few years, Alan would represent one of the most iconic performers of our time. Of course, the role came with its quirks.
Alan continues: “My partner at the time, Chris Poole and I were in a very small office in Charlotte Street, and even though we had some great clients the entire operation was in one room.
“Prince was very shy, he was not a very chatty person. And one of his prerequisites was that he insisted that we had a phone installed for his use.
“It was pre-mobiles, so it was a bigger deal to go to Telecom and get a phone installed, and you paid for the line. It just sat there for weeks.
“We were never allowed to use it, and nobody else was given the number. Only Prince had the number. Whenever he wanted to call, he knew he could get straight through, and wouldn’t have to talk to anybody else.”
Press events were equally as unusual – and Alan’s first face-to-face encounter with the singer wasn’t as direct as his usual interactions with new clients.
“I was given the task to take 10 journalists to Rotterdam, where we were told Prince was going to appear at a club,” he says.
“He was the biggest thing in the universe at that moment. I stood there in this half empty club with journalists including the Mirror’s 3am team for one hour, then two hours, and I had to keep saying: 'He’ll be along in a minute.’
“I had Fleet Street’s finest – the most powerful columnists in the UK – what’s going to happen? It was pre-mobile, so there was no texts from management - we were just stuck there.
“It got to 4/5 o'clock in the morning, then there was a kerfuffle, and Prince comes upstairs with his manager and I was taken over to have a conversation with him about whether or not he’s going to perform, and whether the club is good enough for him, and who this mob is with me at the bar.
“He was a few feet away from me. The manager was on my left, one foot away from me. Prince addressed all the questions to the manager, who then asked them to me. I answered the manager, who then told Prince what I’d said.
“This thing went on for about 10/15 minutes – the whole conversation. The manager was just repeating it: 'Alan says there are 10 journalists here, and they want to review the concert.'”
Alan has nothing but fond memories of the superstar, and heralds his former client as a “genius”.
“Prince was a very gentle, soft spoken, and a nice person to deal with. He’s just shy, he really was shy. It was really extraordinary for someone so flamboyant, such an amazing performer to be so quiet one-on-one. You could hardly hear his voice at times.
“He broke the rules racially, sexually, musically and business wise. This word 'genius’ is overused, but it definitely applied to this man.
“All his approach was a few hundred years ahead. You had the record industry dispute and him painting slave on his face.
“He was a business pioneer, and now all artists expect to own their catalogue and have a control over their careers. To a degree, they need to thank Prince.”
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