1986 was an important year. I turned 20 years old, moved to Amsterdam into a (spaceous) flat. I bought my first cd-player and on August 18th I went to a concert that would resound for years to come: Prince & The Revolution at Ahoy Rotterdam.
What happened in the world in 1986?
The biggest doom of the early eighties was slowly fading. Unemployment records were going down. Ever so slightly, but down nevertheless. No future seemed to be more nuanced than before. There were, however, enough worries:
- Ronald Reagan was President of the US;
- The Chernobyl disaster at the end of April made the danger of nuclear energry more palpable for a lot of people;
- The Challenger disaster; images of the exploding Space shuttle went (live) around the world (the disaster inspired Prince to writing Sign O’ The Times);
- Early February Swedish prime minister Olof Palme was assassinated;
- The Brain-virus emerges, the first computervirus in history. It spread through disks.
Also in 1986: Argentina becomes World Champion Football and computer network NSFNet is put into operation (what proved to be an indespensable link in, eventually, utilising commercial internet connections).
What happened in the music world in 1986?
Besides the absolutely top album Parade by Prince, a great number of other favourites were released that year: The Smiths The Queen Is Dead, Beastie Boys Licensed To Ill, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band Live 1975-85, Nick Cave Kicking Against The Pricks, Janet Jackson Control, Public Image Ltd. Album and David Sylvian Gone to Earth. Some Dutch bands also released great albums, in particular The Fatal Flowers Younger Days en Claw Boys Claw With Love From The Boys.
The Clash, Dead Kennedys and Wham! quit in 1986.
What was my world like in 1986?
I was a student in Amsterdam at d’Witte Leli (trying to become a teacher). The first half of the year I still lived at home with my parents and I commuted by train daily to and from Amsterdam. I went out a lot and played music all day and all night. Still listening to a lot of Japan, David Sylvian, Joy Division, Bauhaus, etc., however ever since May 1984 (upon first hearing When Doves Cry) Prince was becoming, more and more, a defining factor in my (musical) life. In 1985 I bought the (then still revolutionary and expensive) compact-disc Around The World In A Day (no player yet, but that didn’t matter then). For my 20th birthday I got the (then just released) singles Kiss by Prince & The Revolution and A Love Bizarre by Sheila E (which is ‘just another’ Prince song). At the end of March Parade was released. I also bought the compact disc of Parade. The cd-player came into my house later that year).
What happened before August 18th, 1986?
Mid July came the big news: Prince would come to the Netherlands for the first time since 1981. Dutch music magazine Oor just printed Hij komt! (He will come!) on the cover. But it was not just an announcement; he would be there within a month! Presale started on August 1st 1986. Together with friend Martin, I went to the Dutch tourist office (VVV) at the town of Alkmaar, early in the morning. Actual presale started at 09:00 and, with great relief, we were able to secure 8 tickets; two of them Arena (standing) tickets.
Every major newspaper and music magazine published articles before the great event. Every music lover in the Netherlands couldn’t wait for Prince to arrive. The genaral tenor, however, was: seeing he actually emerges on the stage of Ahoy, is believing.
What happened on August 18th, 1986 at Ahoy Rotterdam?
Because Martin and I purchased the tickets and managed to acquire two Arena tickets, it was decided that we should use the Arena tickets. Close to the stage on the right hand side (Wendy’s side!). The stage was obscured by big black curtains.
About 20:30 I heard the distinctive intro to Around The World In A Day becoming louder and louder. The lights switched off, Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Prince & The Revolution! Behind the closed curtain The Revolution started. Open your heart, open your mind… First refrain: curtains closed, second stanza curtains still closed. Second refrain: curtains fly open: Ahoy explodes. The Revolution at full strength and the undispured center Prince who seemd to be in the mood for a great evening.
What followed was a soulrevue, wherein Prince strung multiple songs together in extremely funky medleys and directed the band. The concentration of every member of The Revolution stood out. Not one moment did they let Prince out of their sight, for the smallest hand signal meant playing a certain coda or certain riff. With On the one! and Good God! the machine was effortlessly stopped and started. I was completely overwhelmed. I heard he was good, but this seemed to come from a completely different galaxy..
When, after the first half hour and the genius-like medley of Raspberry Beret / Delirious / Controversy / A Love Bizarre, the first moment for catching a breath came with Do Me Baby, overwhelmed was putting it (very) midly. What he did vocally was inimitable: so good, so perfect, so pure, so full of soul and gospel. The ease of dissing out one highlight after the other was something I had never experienced before. And When Doves Cry wasn’t even played yet! Just like all the songs it was played in a different version than the one I knew (something he would persevere until his untimely death) beginning with a nice and quiet build up and getting more and more rousing. The genius just didn’t stop.
A little bit later on one of my favourite B-Sides: 17 Days. The arena-lights went on and the party was complete. A great rendition of a great song. Head came next and was extremely funky. Up until 1999 a lot of songs from his latest two releases. America was the first, lengthy, encore. Prince got behind the drumkit and gave a short drumsolo, all kinds of chants were thrown into the Ahoy (The Roof Is On Fire, More Bounce To The Ounce). After Kiss the closer Purple Rain; I witnessed (for the first time) the entire audience singing along to the closing vocal coda of the song, which sounded impressive.
I clearly remember staring open-mouthed at the stage after the concert ended. I couldn’t believe what I had just witnessed right before my eyes. The beginning of a life-long admiration was born on this night.
Around The World In A Day / Christopher Tracy’s Parade / New Position / Manic Monday ¹ / I Wonder U / Raspberry Beret / Delirious / Controversy / A Love Bizarre / Do Me, Baby / (How Much Is) That Doggie In The Window? / Lady Cab Driver (instrumental) / Automatic / D.M.S.R. / When Doves Cry / Little Red Corvette / Under The Cherry Moon / Anotherloverholenyohead / 17 Days / Head / Pop Life / Girls & Boys / Life Can Be So Nice / 1999
America / Kiss
¹ It later turned out that this was the only time The Revolution played this song; a nice touch.
At the time of writing this story this photo emerged out of nowhere on Facebook. It’s funny how these things work. I recognized it instantly: the red railing, the items, that’s exactly how the merchandise stand at the Ahoy looked like. I bought a t-shirt and a tourbook.
(this photo was shot in Paris, prices are in French francs)
Press reactions to Prince & the Revolution
The Dutch press unanimously praised the concerts. The second show (‘ my’ show) was voted best of the three. Many Dutch artists were also present during the shows. Legend has it that Dutch rock ‘n roller Herman Brood left the Ahoy after half an hour. He couldn’t handle the exceptional level of musicianship and couln’t get a grip on his envy.
A selection of Dutch press:
A musical range which the Netherlands has rarely seen. […] Prince in the Netherlands is an unforgettable experience.
Leidser Courant, 18-08-1986
The show ran like a train, the timing was perfect, but still this wasn’t a typical smooth American show; the presentation was too loose for that. […] Prince dares to take musical risks, by not playing safe with a prebaked formula; it shows vision. With dance, music, sex, romance Prince transformed Ahoy into one big boudoir.
de Volkskrant, 18-08-1986
Because the little great man came, saw and conquered […] He was the undisputed Lord and master and effortlessly demanded all attention.
Muziekkrant Oor 17, 23-08-1986
What happened after August 18th, 1986?
After the concert I immediately bought every missing album and reacted to an advert which offered (cassette) recordings of the concert. I received them on November 17th, 1986 and I (literally) listened them to extinction. For months and months I didn’t listen to anything else than this show. I know every cue, sound, riff, etc by heart. The tape was worn so thin that my tape deck couldn’t play them anymore. Luckily for me, the cd version of the show became available shortly before that moment.
All next shows I saw after this one were measured against this show. Prince himself came dangerously close (in 1988 en 2001), but nothing has surpassed it (yet). Funk optima forma; even Prince himself has never sounded this funky ever again.
For Prince the Dutch concerts were the start of a (long) loving relationship with the Dutch audience. He, relatively, did many shows and aftershows in the Netherlands, which culminated in the TV-recordings in Germany on September 9th, 1988, with Prince specifically requesting to sell tickets to that show primarily in the Netherlands, ensuring a prominently Dutch audience during the Lovesexy show that night.
Six weeks after the August 18th concert The Revolution was disbanded: the end of an extremely fruitful and fertile period in Prince’s career, but also the beginning of a new one: within 5 months Sign O’ The Times was released and 1987 became an unmatched release year. More on that later perhaps.
For now: I will keep on listening to the bootleg recording of the show!
More on Prince?
Parade tour banner: princevault.com
News overview1986: various news/history sites
Album images: allmusic.com
‘d Witte Leli bag: marktplaats.nl
Merchandise stand: Facebook pagina
Press Netherlands: Oor magazine