I don’t want to butcher this story so I’ll try my best. I’ve heard it told – and I can’t remember where – that when Prince originally played a cassette of “When Doves Cry” for Morris Day that Morris threw the tape back at him and said something like, “If it ain’t funky I don’t wanna hear it.” While I’m sure that’s not exactly what happened, that’s the gist of it. That’s kind of how I feel when I hear “The Morning Papers.”
“The Morning Papers” was the fifth and final single off of Prince’s 1992 Love Symbol album. There’s a lot to like here. I love Prince’s vocal performance and the songwriting is beautiful. There’s a killer guitar solo late in the song. Yet, it doesn’t quite work for me. I’m guessing Morris didn’t like this song because it didn’t have the funk. On an album that gave us “My Name is Prince” and funk masterpiece “Sexy M.F.” “The Morning Papers” is tame musically. I just can’t bring myself to love this one even though I feel like it’s a sleeper favorite among Prince heads…or at least the commenters on YouTube.
I have one thing that jumped out at me in the video that I’ve been waiting to comment on. Prince’s guitar solo starts at the 2:49 mark in the video above. Then at the 3:20 mark he throws his guitar in to the audience. I guarantee he either didn’t throw the guitar he was using during the solo or, if he did throw that guitar, someone was there to catch it. Prince heads probably know this story well, but I’m going to share what I know of it now anyway.
I was fortunate to take the Paisley Park V.I.P. tour in early 2019 and one of my favorite parts of the tour was the story of his famous Hohner Custom guitar. The story was that Prince was on his way to a gig sometime in the 1970’s and during a gas station stop they came across a guy selling a guitar out of his van or camper. Prince bought the guitar for $30 and it ended up being his favorite guitar. You can see him playing this guitar in video after video, as well as many performances, including the legendary “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” performance at the 2004 Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame Ceremony. I enjoyed the guitars so much during the tour that I purchased the Paisley Park Archives Guitar & Bass Exhibition Tour Book. While I was given the impression during the tour that Prince used that same $30 guitar throughout his career, the guitar contradicts that and says that he had many replicas made. I recall our tour guide even going out of her way to say that when he would throw that guitar – like he did during the “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” performance and “The Morning Papers” video – he always had someone there to catch it. While many of his other guitars looked pristine, the Hohner guitar on display in Paisley Park looked like it had taken a beating over the years. I was led to believe that it was the exact guitar he purchased 40+ years ago. Maybe my memory of the tour is a bit hazy since it was nearly 18 months ago. Or, maybe both are true and he still had the original as well as some replicas. Either way, my favorite part of the story was that Prince made point of performing frequently with that $30 guitar to prove that the tools don’t make the man. A cheap instrument was no excuse. He could outplay anyone on the planet, and he’d do it on a guitar he bought for $30 at a gas station. Keep your eyes open when you watch Prince perform from now on. You’ll see that guitar frequently throughout his entire career.
As for “The Morning Papers” it’s a nice song, but I just don’t dig it like I do a lot of his other stuff. I’m looking for something with some funk tomorrow.