mark-makers on creativity
In this series we’re asking mark-makers to reflect on their relationship with their craft and what inspires them. We start with mark-making*s co-founder and Creative Director, Steve Turner
…way back in 1987 I was first introduced to Prince by my best friend and best man to be, Danny. He’d left me at his house listening to his new Sign ‘O’ the Times album (on vinyl) while he set off to do his Sunday morning paper round. When he returned, over two hours later, I was still listening and absolutely hooked.
As a teenager this discovery was important to me, mostly to establish some sort of ‘cool’ status amongst my friends and secretly hoping some of Prince’s pulling power would rub off by association. But on reflection this mysterious pop star had much more of an effect. He was a hugely gifted musician and brilliant showman, but it was his creative ideas and innovative approach that were most influential to me.
He was passionate and dedicated to his craft
He wrote, composed and produced his own music. He learned to play hundreds of instruments. On his first album, For You (1978), he wrote and performed everything himself. He was just 19 at the time.
“He had total command of not only the songs but the production and the ability to do it all on his own”
Music Producer Lenny Waronker
He was famous for his marathon rehearsals, all night recording sessions, impromptu concerts at small venues immediately following big arena performances. Looking back, this helped me to believe that with passion and hard work I could achieve anything I set my mind to.
But he didn’t just stop at the music. His creativity came through in his album cover art, stage sets and outfits. His use of colour, typography, photography and illustration were always inspiring, preparing you for the music that you were about to hear.
His use of language with songs like the Purple Rain track, I Would Die 4 U, anticipated the style of texting eight years before the first text was sent. And the infamous changing of his name to be an unpronounceable glyph pre-dated the first emoji by five years.
He created “Prince” the brand and it was authentic
He owned purple and always will. He even smelt like purple:
“The thing that was funny was you never saw Prince [ﬁrst], you smelled him. He always smelled like lavender. And you knew when he was there because you’d turn around and go, ‘Holy shit, I smell Prince.’ And then, ten seconds later, you’d see him.”
Corey Tollefson (Minneapolis-based entrepreneur and fan; attended events at Paisley Park for over 20 years)
For me though, one of the best examples of the power of the Purple One’s brand was his legendary performance at the 2007 American Super Bowl XLI in Miami. He completely owned that night and even the rain was under his command. I cannot imagine how surreal it must have been to go from that half-time performance to the last two quarters of the game.
He wasn’t afraid to take inspiration from many places and create something that was unique to him.
You just have to look at his fashion aesthetic, a unique and unforgettable mashup. Tousled curls and ruffled shirts from the style of 18th century England. Latin-inspired tight pants and Cuban heels. Embellished trench coats and rock star shades with feather boas in a nod to Hendrix and to drag. It was a look only Prince could get away with. (I didn’t even go there!)
He showed that a creative idea doesn’t have to be exclusive to one form of expression. He released the single Purple Rain at the same time as the movie and the album, ensuring the narrative of the music was expressed visually via the film and the single was in context of the complete album. Don’t forget, back in the day, songs were written in the context of an album, and an album was designed to be listened to in its entirety.
I was lucky enough in 1988 to see the Lovesexy Tour. Prince used a number of elaborate props on a moving, circular, multi-tiered stage. There was a basketball hoop, a fountain, trellis fences and a full-scale replica of his Ford Thunderbird car to create a theatrical, fully immersive experience. His set list was brilliantly crafted to cover old classics and the new Lovesexy material to take you on an incredible journey. It wasn’t a gig. It was a full show that would have rivalled anything on Broadway.
He nurtured creativity in others
Prince prided himself on being the foundation of talent. Over the years he made a point of nurturing young musicians and praised them on tour and in the press. This is something that still resonates with me. At mark-making* nurturing the talent of the team is something that I facilitate on a daily basis and is one of the most rewarding aspects of my role.
He was an innovator
Prince was curious about everything. That drove him not only to learn musical instruments and explore other musical genres, but also into acting, fashion, dance and religion. It all contributes to a broad base of knowledge from which he could innovate and this is something I have taken with me throughout my career as a designer. He did it all with a sense of humour. This tweet to Justin Timberlake says it all:
— VH1 (@VH1) October 24, 2014
Prince Rogers Nelson, composer, performer, creative innovator and creative inspiration to Steve Turner.
Born 7 June 1958; died 21 April 2016