In order to properly pay homage to the late great musician Prince, soulhead staff recently paid a visit to Paisley Park in Chanhassen, Minnesota. Since Prince’s untimely and tragic death on April 21, 2016, legions of fans have made the trek in order to show love and respect for the musician who provided the soundtrack for lives dating back to the late 1970s. Completed in 1988, the studio with the same name as Prince’s label (closed in 1994) contains two live music venues which have been used as rehearsal spaces for various Prince related acts and bands.
When our staff visited Paisley Park, it was with heavy hearts and minds. Prior to arriving, we spent a lot of time preparing by asking questions of other who had been there as well as the many articles that had been written on the studio, which had been converted to a museum after the artist’s death. However, nothing could prepare us for what we actually saw and experienced when we arrived. Throughout the VIP tour we took, we took note of several aspects that we felt needed to be noted for future visitors. We have solicited feedback from other Purple Army soldiers and have indicated them where relevant. If you are visiting Paisley Park this week for the Celebration 2017 series of events or in the future, consider this an evolving companion guide that we hope will enrich your experience.
Last Update: April 17, 2017
(Note: Given the restrictions on phones and cameras within Paisley Park, we recommend that you print out this guide for your experience.)
1. Prince’s Urn
One of the first areas of the tour is the expansive atrium after the main entrance to Paisley Park. After surrendering your cell phone to security and having it rendered useless during the tour, you will wait with your tour group in a short hallway. After naming your group (note: our group was named “Adore”), you will be led into the atrium that is lit by an enormous skylight and features an giant sized Prince symbol on the floor along with a kitchen/room that he used to watch Minnesota Timberwolves games.
Near the center of the area, a table sits with a small model of Paisley Park Studios. At this point, the tour guide explains that this, in fact, is Prince’s urn and his some of his ashes are inside the small purple piano which sits inside. (UPDATE on April 19, 2017 from soulhead Nancy Moyer, the urn is now on the wall next to the little kitchen/room mentioned above and is in frosted glass so it is difficult to see the urn.) Our guide gave everyone some time to process the urn in their minds and hearts. Needless to say, the thought of this being Prince’s final resting place and having that introduced at the very beginning of the tour is startling to say the least. Although we had been emotionally prepared for this at some point, we did not expect this to occur at the beginning of the tour. From that point, it was challenging to rebound and we all had hoped it had happened much later in the tour.
2. Hidden Entry Wall to THAT Elevator
As you wait for your tour to begin, there is an area at the end of the hallway at the entrance of the lobby/atrium mentioned above. On the left, there is a note from the President Barack Obama offering his condolences for Prince’s death. Across from that note, there was a framed commemorative piece from 2004’s Musicology Tour, which includes ticket stubs from the 42 shows from that tour. While a great work, this piece of the wall used to be used as an entry way to the elevator from the ground floor to the top floor. Given the change, we suspect this was done to conceal the location where Prince was reportedly found dead on the morning of April 21, 2016. In retrospect, it is a bit eerie to know that we were standing at that spot without knowing its significance.
3. Themed Rooms
Within the atrium/lobby area (to the left on entry), there are a number of rooms that are set up to pay tribute to various periods of Prince’s career. They are separated by album and include artwork, costumes and other memorabilia. While we were there, we visited smaller rooms for Sign o’ The Times and Dirty Mind and larger rooms for Purple Rain, Graffiti Bridge and Parade. According to our tour guide, another room will be added in 2017 for The Black Album. Finally, be sure to check out the glass case outside of the Sign o The Times room for hand written lyrics by Prince.
4. Prince’s Office Proved He Was Quite “Woke”
One of the most interesting parts of the tour was of Prince’s office. Replete with a stereo system, “old-school phone”, DVD Player and a lot of artwork (including a drawing of Jimi Hendrix), this space is stuck in a state of suspended animation reflecting the last time Prince used it. In addition to the aforementioned items, Prince had a collection of books covering various topics. Clearly, this brother was very aware and proud to be unapologetically Black. Among other things, we were pleasantly surprised by his interest in history, in particular, Egyptian history. Here are a few that we were able to note (Thank you to Jennifer McZier and Amaris Rai for the assistance on this one):
a) Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream by Lerone Bennett Jr.
b) In Praise of Black Women, Volume 1: Ancient African Queens by one Schwarz-Bart
c) Complete Rhyming Dictionary by PaulPaul ZolloZollo
d) Egypt: Gods, Myths and Religion by Lucia Gahlin
e) The Greatest Story Never Told: A Scientific Inquiry into the Evidence of the Fall of Man from a Higher Civilization in Antiquity by Corrine Cantrell
f) Pharaohs of the Sun: Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Tutankhamen by Rita E. Freed
In addition to these books, Prince had a number of photographs of family, friends and babies including a photo of Minneapolis born and TV-show Black-ish co-star Yara Shahidi, whose Iranian-American father Afshin Shahidi was formerly Prince’s personal photographer.
Finally, we noticed that Prince had music from protege‘ Anna Moura prominently sitting among the belongings in his office. According to a 2011 New York Times article, “Carving Out a Bold Destiny for Fado,” Prince, a fan of Portuguese fado music, expressed interest in collaborating musically with Ana (note: they performed onstage together at the Super-Rock Festival in Lisbon Portugal in 2010. Given the timing of this article, it is likely that the album in Prince’s office was either 2007’s Para Além Da Saudade or 2009’s Leva Me Aos Fados.
Prince and Anna Moura Performing Together at 2010’s Super-Rock Festival in Lisbon Portugal
5. Prince Had Pets
While in Prince’s office, we noticed a small pet carrying case, which could have been for a small dog or a cat. The tour guide confirmed that Prince had at least one cat (a Maine Coon breed named Paisley) near the early days of Paisley Park and also had at least one dog if not more (rumors claim four dogs). Photos with his ex-wife, Mayte, confirm that fact that they had a lap dog named Mia prior to trying to conceive a child. Reports indicate that Mia was Mayte’s dog for the most part but lived with the couple. In fact, many fans believe that Oprah may have been bitten by one of their dogs during their now infamous 1996 interview which occurred shortly after the death of their first son Amiir (Arabic for Prince).
In addition to dogs and cats, it is well known by ardent fans that Prince owned two doves, Majesty and Divinity. The doves, credited for singing on Prince’s album, “One Night Alone,” were in a large cage on the second floor of Paisley Park near the entrance to the aforementioned elevator, the ground floor entrance of which has been concealed since the artist’s untimely death in 2016. Although several reports claim that the doves had been silent since Prince died, we were fortunate to have heard some subtle cooing when we toured Paisley. Unfortunately, a little more than one month after our visit, we learned that Majesty had passed away.
6. One of Prince’s Pianos is Doing The Most
Everyone knows Prince had impeccable style and class. From his clothes to his home, he exuded a supreme fashion sense. Even some of his instruments like the famous “cloud guitar” from Purple Rain and the instruments he created, the Tamboracca and his own custom keytar, he has always had a flare for the unique and funky. That said, towards the middle of our VIP tour of Paisley Park, as everyone rounded the corner from the very artistic “Influence Wall,” (shout out to Sam Jennings) we all stared with awe at Prince’s incredible Schimmel Pegasus Grand Piano. Prince’s model differs from the standard units in that his instrument has been customized with the Prince’s “Love Symbol,” instead of a Pegasus (i.e. winged horse) found on most models. Touting other owners like Eddie Murphy and Lenny Kravitz among others, these curvy wonders command prices in the low-mid six figures, if not more. Having no square edges or corners, the amazing piano required significant attention when being tuned or moved. It was truly a marvel to behold and is one of the highlights of the tour, despite not being able to photograph it.
7. Prince’s Video Editing Room Has a Lot of Surprises
After checking out the themed rooms, the tour group is led into Prince’s video editing room. In this area, we were privileged to view some rare and unreleased footage from a Prince concert tour. In addition to the footage, our group was surprised to learn that after Prince’s death, his staff discovered a secret room with more rare material. Also, in that room, Prince had his own collection of videos including a VHS tape of the legendary 1960s era concert film, Woodstock and, surprisingly, a copy of Eddie Murphy’s stand-up comedy classic, RAW.
8. Prince’s “Galaxy Room” Felt Like The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia Designed It
After leaving Prince’s video editing room, we entered the “Galaxy Room,” which adjoined Studio B. This room was a bit eccentric and felt like a room you would expect in the basement of a 19 year old college student in Berkeley, California or Eugene, Oregon. Completely dark, except for glow in the dark wall designs, this room had a 1960s opium (or sex) den vibe that felt completely spacey with symbols and other black light effects. The biggest surprise about this room was the prominent presence of a framed photo of protege Andy Allo, who had worked with Prince as a part of the New Power Generation beginning in 2011. She began writing with Prince while on tour, collaborating on three songs, “Superconductor”, “The Calm” and “Long Gone”, which appear on Allo’s album, Superconductor.
8. Prince Has a Ping-Pong Table in Studio B
After visiting the “Galaxy Room,” we were led into Studio B, where VIP tour visitors were treated to photo opportunities with the large Prince Art Official Age-era photograph that adorns the wall. Once in the space, Prince’s music was being played on an iPod and filled the room with a positive Purple vibe. Incidentally, when our staff settled in, Prince’s (most recent) favorite song (and one that consistently brings us to tears), “The Breakdown” played on the loudspeaker as though he was speaking to us from above. Unlike our tour, visitors who had come a couple months earlier during the initial celebrations during the Fall of 2016 were able to take photos with one of Prince’s pianos that was in the room but now behind a velvet rope. Also in the room is a ping-pong table that is available for visitors to play while others are having their pictures taken. This is the only sanctioned opportunity for photos during the tour.
9. Paisley Park Studio A Tour Includes a Secret Song
Once the tour winds its way to the main studio for production, the group is shown the famous Linn Drum machine that is responsible for so many of Prince’s signature hits like “Automatic,” “When Doves Cry” and countless others. In addition, midway through viewing the various parts of Studio A, the group is able to preview a track that Prince was working on called Ruff Enuff by MonoNeon, the pseudonym of American bassist and experimental musician, Dywane Thomas, Jr. MonoNeon is widely regarded as one of the last musicians to ever work with Prince and several reports indicate that MonoNeon was being groomed as the bassist for a new group Prince was forming.
The instrumental track, “Ruff Enuff,” features Prince as producer and on keyboards. According to the liner notes “You may recognize Kirk A Johnson on drums, Mono Neon on bass and Adrian Crutchfield on sax and electric woodwinds as the house band 4 Prince’s Paisley Park After Dark Jam Sessions. Well, that’s not all they do. 4 the past week they’ve been cutting basic trax 4 their as yet untitled debut album. With Prince producing and handling the keyboard & guitar duties, the set promises 2 b picking up right where Judith Hill’s BACK IN TIME left off. These brothas murder the funk! Normally they wouldn’t let a track out until it’s finished, but this one had 2 go! It was ruining everybody’s good loox. If U think U can resist the funk, check out the key change of Mono’s bass solo at near 4 o’clockmark.”
Check out the track, “Ruff Enuff” below:
10. Paisley Park Has Hosted Many Artists You May Not Have Known
While Prince’s successes at Paisley Park are very well known, many are not as aware of all of the artists who have either rehearsed or recorded (full or partially) at the famed studio. Here is partial list:
a) Sheila E.
b) Carmen Elektra
c) Stevie Wonder
e) Barry Manilow
f) Neil Young
g) Kool and the Gang
h) Paula Abdul
i) Fine Young Cannibals
j) Taja Sevelle
k) Mavis Staples,
l) George Clinton
m) the Replacements
n) Stone Temple Pilots
o) Soul Asylum
p) Warren Zevon
11. Prince’s Car Game Was On Tight
While it is hard to imagine that Prince actually drove anything other than a little red Corvette, his daddy’s 1967 White Thunderbird from Alphabet Street or his custom 1981 Purple Honda CM400 Hondamatic from Purple Rain, this brother had two serious baller rides on display during the tour. We peeped a deep purple 1999 Plymouth Prowler and a 2006 light blue Bentley coupe. Apparently, this was only scratching the surface as there are many reports that he had a number of luxury car brands through the years including Mercedes Benz and Cadillac but was partial to BMW.
12. Prince Memorial Fence
Towards the end of the tour, you will see a rotating portion of the memorabilia that many fans placed on the Paisley Park fence in the days immediately following Prince’s untimely death. These items included photos, artwork, poems and other items that were left in tribute for the late artist. We were very fortunate to see pieces from friends of soulhead including famed Seattle artist (and creator of the Le Petit Prince figure), Troy Gua. Try to spend some time with these items as they express sincere devotion to Prince’s life and contributions. We recently learned that Paisley Park has erected a new fence in anticipation of a new wave of visitors celebrating Prince’s life.
13. Paisley Park’s Own Graffiti Bridge at The Riley Creek Underpass
One of the most important and memorable experiences one will have when visiting Paisley Park will be to visit the makeshift fan curated “Graffiti Bridge” (really, an underpass) area that is adjacent to the front fence of the famed studio. In order to get to the area, we suggest that you let the security guard at the gate next to the parking lot know that you are looking for the graffiti area. In order to get there, walk out of the gate, make a right and then another immediate right where the gate turns and then walk down the concrete path so that Paisley Park is on your right. Follow that all the way to the end and then you will notice the fan created area. Although we were fortunate enough to have found a purple marker in order to leave a memorial for Prince, we would suggest that visitors bring their own markers or other materials in order to leave their own memorials. Please keep in mind that there are a lot of existing memorials so you will need to look carefully for an area to make your mark.
14. Paisley Park Serves Up Some of Prince’s Favorite Foods
One of the final experiences at Paisley Park comes at the gift shop, where you can purchase t-shirts and other memorabilia. In addition, visitors can purchase food from a menu that includes a large selection of healthy items that Prince liked. The food is all vegetarian or vegan and includes appetizers, main courses and desserts. While we enjoyed most of the food we tried, we really loved the Tropical Smoothie and went back for seconds on that one. Check out the full menu below:
15. Paisley Park Employees Are Key
Although not all of the employees are super Prince fans or extremely knowledgeable, many are insiders and long time affiliates of Paisley Park. Many have had direct experiences with Prince and his associates and are full of juicy insider information if you know who and HOW to ask. For example, we learned that one of the gift shop cashiers is related to drummer and long time Prince friend and confidant, Kirk Johnson. In addition, many of the employees have secrets or other tidbits of information that really complete your trip there so be sure to be extra nice and open to their input about Prince, Paisley Park and Minneapolis in general. There are employees throughout but especially the tour guides and people who work in the gift shop.
As you will see when you visit, Paisley Park is an amazingly emotional experience for fans of Prince and we look forward to evolving this list as the experience evolves. If you would like to add additional items or make correction to existing items, please send them to [email protected] Finally, please be on the lookout for other soulhead guides include a the most comprehensive guide to visiting Minneapolis for Prince fans which will be coming soon.