Thursday, January 3, 2013

Prince's First Appearance on American Bandstand

The two hour Dick Clark tribute show that aired on New Year's Eve counted down the top 30 moments/clips from his career, an eclectic selection of highlights that showcased Clark's versatility, ad-libbing skills and peerless ability to connect with artists (and fans) from several different generations. Choosing such a list is inherently subjective because Clark's multi-decade career cannot be summarized in just two hours--or, to be more precise, his career could be summarized in several different ways if only two hours are available to do so.

One clip that did not make the cut is Prince's American Bandstand debut, a performance that became as infamous for Prince's brief answers when being interviewed by Clark as it did for Prince's precocity; Prince's debut album, "For You," contained this soon to be famous declaration on the cover: "Produced, Arranged, Composed & Performed by Prince." Clark explained that Prince turned down several record deals until he obtained the right to make that declaration not just a dream or a boast but a reality. Although Prince was in fact 21--not 19, as he told Clark--when he appeared on American Bandstand, he was just a teenager when he put together "For You."

Here is the complete version of Prince's January 26, 1980 American Bandstand appearance:

American Bandstand ~ January 26th 1980 from Irresistible Rich on Vimeo.

Creative and financial control over all aspects of his work has always been critically important to Prince, which has led to some wonderful results and some bizarre moments; the highlight of Prince's career happened just four years after his appearance on American Bandstand when Prince became the first person to simultaneously have the number one movie, album and song in the United States (the Beatles previously pulled this off as a group): "Purple Rain" was both the number one movie and number one album and--even though the title track stalled at the number two spot--two "Purple Rain" singles reached the top of the Billboard charts ("When Doves Cry" and "Let's Go Crazy"). Prince's determination to control every aspect of his career later resulted in him changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol because he wanted to release his music on his own time frame but as Prince he was still under contract to Warner Brothers, a company that felt that he was diluting the market with too much product. Prince told the New York Times' Jon Pareles, "The music, for me, doesn't come on a schedule. I don't know when it's going to come, and when it does, I want it out. Music was created to uplift the soul and to help people make the best of a bad situation. When you sit down to write something, there should be no guidelines. The main idea is not supposed to be, 'How many different ways can we sell it?' That's so far away from the true spirit of what music is. Music starts free, with just a spark of inspiration. When limits are set by another party that walks into the ball game afterward, that's fighting inspiration." Prince has never been afraid to confound record company executives, so-called experts, the carping critics and even his adoring fans while he remains true to his vision of how his art should be created, performed and distributed.

Theater director Peter Sellars--who staged a critically acclaimed series of Mozart's operas--compared Prince's creativity to Mozart's and many other highly respected musical artists speak of Prince in the most reverent tones. Prince explained to Pareles that new songs are constantly flowing fully formed through his mind: "You hear it done. You see the dancing; you hear the singing. When you hear it, you either argue with that voice or you don't. That's when you seek God. Sometimes ideas are coming so fast that I have to stop doing one song to get another. But I don't forget the first one. If it works, it will always be there. It's like the truth: it will find you and lift you up. And if it ain't right, it will dissolve like sand on the beach.''

It would have been fitting for Prince to be included alongside Michael Jackson, Madonna, Elvis Presley and the other 20th century musical icons featured in the New Year's Eve tribute to Dick Clark.


  1. I was on this episode of Bandstand and it's still so vivid. I remember sitting next to Dick Clark and him asking my age (to his left). Thanx for having this!!!!!!

  2. Anonymous:

    Dick Clark and Prince are two of my favorite entertainers. That must have been so exciting for you to meet Dick Clark and to see a young Prince perform live. If I may ask, what is your name? I am sure that many people watch clips like this one and are interested to know more about the people who Dick Clark interviewed. If you want to tell the story of how you got the opportunity to appear on American Bandstand I would love to interview you and share your experiences with my readers.


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