Shrine O’ The Times
For Baby Boomers there has long been a pilgrimage for fans of the greatest rock’n’roll star of their generation. Graceland opened in 1982, five years after Elvis Presley’s death. It is one of the most famous attractions in Memphis, Tennessee.
But now Generation X has its own music memorial mecca to journey to. Paisley Park is the former home and recording studio of Prince. The prolific artist was behind hits like 1999, When Doves Cry and Kiss. His career spanned 30 years and it’s hard to overstate his impact on popular music.
The star died aged 57 in April 2016 in the elevator of the property. In August the same year, Paisley Park opened for tours. It may seem a bit too soon, but staff assure me Prince always intended for Paisley Park to open to the public at some point.
Located outside Minneapolis in Minnesota, where Prince grew up and spent most of his life, Paisley Park was completed in 1988. The building itself seems nothing special – its somewhat bland rectangular shapes bring to mind a typical corporate industrial park building.
No liquids, no bags and no recording equipment are allowed and our phones have to be placed in locked security pouches. A guide is with you the whole time.
We start the tour by passing the stairs to the first floor. Upstairs, Prince’s private living area is still
He checks out how His Royal Purple Highness liked to live.
off-limits. But it doesn’t matter much – there is plenty to see.
We enter a large hall, with bright white tiles and colourful decor. Above us, a small replica of Paisley Park is mounted on the wall, topped by Prince’s iconic Love Symbol. It’s a shock to learn this model actually contains Prince’s ashes.
Within recesses in the walls are some of Prince’s outrageous outfits and guitars from different eras of his career, as well as hand-written notes and lyrics from some of his most famous songs.
Various rooms branch off from this space, including Prince’s private office, still full of his personal items. There’s also an American-diner style space where Prince would entertain guests and have staff cook meals.
Over the years dozens of major artists used the studios, including Stevie Wonder, James Brown and R.E.M. Our next stops are the two sound studios where we hear some excerpts from Prince’s last recordings – an unnamed jazz project. There’s a ping pong table in one studio – it’s the only item on the tour that visitors are allowed to touch.
From there, it’s the dance studio (which doubled as a basketball court) where choreography for music videos and concerts would be developed. It’s now home to some of Prince’s motorcycles, including the Honda featured in the movie Purple Rain. Prince also had his own sound stage, a huge performance space where he could record music videos or perform concerts. Here, a giant screen shows some of his best live performances.
Then there’s the New Power Generation Music Club, Prince’s personal nightspot that he would open to locals on a whim and occasionally perform. In the days before social media, the only way to find out that the club was opening for the evening was word of mouth and locals would queue for hours in freezing weather for a chance to get in.
Our final stop, before the obligatory gift shop, is a wall filled with messages, drawings and tributes from fans that were left outside after the star died. In the background, Prince’s legendary Superbowl half-time performance in 2007, where he performed his hits plays on a loop.
The writer travelled as a guest of Brand USA and Explore Minnesota.
The main hall at Paisley Park contains some of the musician’s hand-written lyrics and notes, his guitars and even his ashes.
Prince had many custom bikes at his home including the famous one from Purple Rain.
Paisley Park is a nondescript building on the outskirts of Minneapolis.
Prince died age 57 after a career spanning 30 years.