Prince’s Sign O’ The Times: celebrating 30 years of genius | British GQ BY GEORGE CHESTERTON, 07 Aug 2017
Thirty years ago, Prince released his ninth album, a collection of extraordinary songs that became the greatest record of its generation. The pop prodigy’s postmodern magnum opus obsessed with sex, death and faith remains a milestone of Eighties culture – and the late singer’s ultimate legacy
Prince’s need to distance himself from the past is evident in his 1986 side-project Camille, in which he assumed an androgynous alter ego, recording his vocals at a slower speed then speeding up the tape to feminise his voice (an old trick of Clinton and Wonder). The electro-R&B songs were a calculated move away from the pop of The Revolution. The idea for Camille came from the 19th-century journals of the French hermaphrodite Herculine Barbin, who was in vogue among American Francophiles (of which Prince was one) thanks to the writings of philosopher Michel Foucault. Like Dream Factory, this would become one of the building blocks of the near-perfect album to come. Prince felt able to shelve Camille as easily as he retired several albums’ worth of material with The Revolution. Producing so much music meant he could always move on to something new – there was no need to see everything through to the end. For him there was no end.