During one October weekend in 1991, not long after Prince released “Diamonds and Pearls,” his 13th studio album in as many years, hundreds of fans from across the United States and beyond, descended on Minneapolis for what would be the first and only Controversy Convention.
The call was put out by Eileen Murton, founder and editor of the London-based Controversy Magazine, which, since 1986, had been billed as the official publication of the international “Prince Fan Network.”
Those who made the trek participated in a full slate of events and many found their way to the sleepy suburb of Chanhassen just to see Paisley Park from the outside. They took in First Avenue, sought out other historic Prince-related sites, and were even hosted at Prince’s Glam Slam where they mingled with members of the New Power Generation, who also signed copies of the new record.
And, to their surprise and delight, the fans ultimately found themselves in the company of Prince, who was seated nearby as they took in a performance by The Steeles just around the corner at the Fine Line.
Among the fortunate souls in attendance that fall was Antonio Garfias. A native of East Chicago, Indiana, Garfias made the 533-mile drive from his dorm room at Purdue University. “At the risk of sounding corny,” he says of the experience, the weekend was “magical.”
He continued, “Fans from all over the globe coming together to celebrate our love for one man’s music. Prince literally brought us together. We all arrived as strangers, but that didn’t matter. We met new friends. Listened to amazing music. We danced, partied. We lived 4 love. And we did it all in Uptown! Yes, magical sums it up quite nicely.”
“Diamonds and Pearls” would prove to be Prince’s most commercially successful album since “Purple Rain,” and remains so to this day, having been certified multi-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, British Phonographic Industry, and several more international certifying bodies.
Now, just a little more than 32 years later, “Diamonds and Pearls” is being released in multiple formats as both a Super Deluxe (SDE) and Deluxe Edition, the fourth Prince album to receive such treatment since 2017.
Party Like it’s 1991
To mark the occasion, the Prince Estate and Paisley Park hosted a release party on Friday night, October 27. Just like in 1991, fans from far and wide made their way out to Chanhassen to celebrate.
The Super Deluxe Edition of “Diamonds and Pearls,” which is available in 12-LP or 7-CD sets and includes a Blu-ray disc with more than three hours of video content, was made available for purchase during the party, with an extra perk for those who bought it on site.
In addition, the originally remastered album, the 2023 version of “Diamonds and Pearls,” contains a total of 62 more audio tracks, including 15 single or b-side remixes and edits; 14 live tracks from the legendary January 1992 Glam Slam concert; and 33 unreleased recordings from Prince’s famed vault, which include outtakes, alternate versions, and at least 10 songs he later gave to other artists like Mavis Staples, Rosie Gaines, Jevetta Steele, Louie Louie, Martika and El DeBarge.
The festivities began with a panel discussion, moderated by award-winning audio engineer Chris James, and featuring former New Power Generation band members, keyboardist Tommy Barbarella, and emcee and dancer Tony Mosley.
James, who mixed the SDE of Diamonds in Pearls, one of the latest albums to be remastered using Dolby’s Atmos technology, led an interesting, insightful, and often hilarious discussion during which Barbarella and Mosley shared, among other things, how they came into Prince’s employ, the conditions under which they left the Prince camp, why it was so important for Prince to always give the fans something new, and what a typical day at Paisley Park was like.
“We used to call it mandatory fun,” explained Mosley, when recounting how after several hours of rehearsal, the band might be called into wardrobe, have to rehearse some more, and then have to stay for a late-night party. Or, in essence, how days often turned to nights, and then, into days again.
When addressing just how amazingly prolific Prince was, Barbarella remembers seemingly endless studio sessions, where they would record, record again, and record some more until it all became a “blur.”
“Most of the time we didn’t even know what the tracks we were working on were for,” he added, “The band spent a whole day in the studio completing song after song. When it was over, we’d recorded Carmen Electra’s entire album. We just didn’t know it ‘til we were done.”
One of the funniest moments was Mosley’s tale of how Prince docked his pay after he secretly arranged a hang gliding experience while in Brazil for the Rock in Rio festival after Prince explicitly told him not to do so.
“You guys are too integral to what we’re doing,” Prince told him, “I can’t have you jumping off of cliffs.”
Mosley scheduled his session for early in the morning, thinking he’d be back before Prince ever knew he was gone. Yet as soon as he got back to the hotel, Prince called and summoned Mosely up to his room.
“I figured he wanted to talk about a new song or something,” said Mosley, unable to contain his amusement, “Somehow, he already knew. I don’t know how he did that. But he always knew.”
When asked about some of the things they remembered most about their former boss, Mosley spoke to his trepidation in adding the hip hop element that he brought to the band.
“How were his hardcore fans going to respond to this,” Mosley thought, “those who’d been around since “Dirty Mind,” since “Controversy,” while also remembering that Prince himself had once dissed rap in his 1987 track “Dead On It.”
“Prince always said to me, ‘Tony write for yourself. If they like it, they like it. And if they don’t, so be it. But at least you’ve told your truth.’”
And that was another thing Mosley emphasized, the opportunity Prince gave people to stretch out beyond their own comfort zones, to accomplish things they never imagined they could.
“Call the Law,” the b-side to “Money Don’t Matter 2 Night,” featured Mosley on lead vocals. Prince loved the song and wanted to make a video, which Mosley soon found out he was expected to direct. Not knowing where to begin, he remembered Prince’s advice and decided to live his truth.
“I called Spike Moss, we got our crew together and headed over North,” noted Mosley, “We filmed along Plymouth Avenue, North Commons Park. People and places that were familiar to me, that meant something to me growing up. I never thought I’d direct a video. But it all worked out.”
As for Barbarella, one of the things he thought about often after Prince’s passing, and even talked about with his daughter, was the special place he had in his heart for those who were misunderstood.
“He was so brave,” says Barbarella, “And he was unabashedly himself. At all times, always.”
He added, “But it was more than that. Prince always made space for the outcasts, the misfits, the ‘Strays of the World’ so to speak (a reference to the 1993 Prince and the NPG song). Prince made it okay to be different. What’s more, is that he made it cool.”
After a short break, fans were treated to the complete video presentation of Prince and the NPG’s aforementioned impromptu gig at Glam Slam in January 1992, which is also included on the blu-ray of the “Diamonds and Pearls” SDE.
A slightly abridged version of the show was screened at Celebration 2022, and the audience response on Friday night mirrored that of those who first saw the video in the Paisley Park soundstage some 16 months ago.
The energy, both onscreen and in the room, was electric as fans were able to relive that night Prince and the NPG previewed their upcoming tour and ripped through nine of the 13 songs on “Diamonds and Pearls,” as well as earlier hits and a couple of songs that wouldn’t appear until the next record later that year.
A requisite to playing with Prince, everyone on stage that night was at the top of their game. However, next to Prince himself, perhaps no one shined brighter than the one and only Rosie Gaines, whose vocal prowess was showcased repeatedly during the performance, and in particular, on the album’s title track and her duet with Prince during “Nothing Compares 2 U.”
To be sure, the highlights from the concert were far too many to mention, but the 10-plus minute rendition of “The Sacrifice of Victor,” which heavily featured Minnesota’s Family of Gospel, The Steeles, and the five-piece force of nature known as the Hornheadz, definitely stands out among them.
You could always leave it to Prince to add some levity to any situation. As he and the band ran afoul of the Minneapolis City ordinance at the time that prohibited live music past the hour of 1 a.m., Prince playfully taunted the officers who’d arrived to shut him down.
“Where the police at?” he blurted into his microphone – which drew audible laughs from those watching on the big screen at Paisley Park – before continuing on with the finale and disappearing into the night once he decided it was over.
Following the screening of the 1992 concert, fans mingled in the NPG Music club, browsed the gift shop, and danced in the soundstage as one of Prince’s longtime resident DJs, Lenka Paris, spun her purple music magic late into the night.
Much like Antonio Garfias did three decades ago upon the original release of “Diamonds and Pearls,” another Prince super fan shared his thoughts on the album’s SDE release and the amazing night he’d just shared with so many friends.
Known by friends as Peter Bravestrong (one of the pseudonyms Prince famously used when traveling), he tells the MSR, “As a fan for more than 40 years, one of the things I cherish most are those ‘special’ days where there is some sort of Prince-related event. Today was one of those days.”
“I’ve been eagerly anticipating the Super Deluxe Edition of Diamonds and Pearls. And just as I bought the original album the day it was released in 1991, I did the same today. Then, to spend the night at Paisley Park, surrounded by so many purple friends, feeling Prince’s spirit. The panel, the concert, the vibe. It was magic. And it’ll be purple bliss for me these next several weeks as I take in everything on this amazing box set.”