During a conversation with David Bowie in 1984, I attempted to solicit the great man’s views on Michael Jackson, then in the process of morphing from pop idol to cultural demigod. Bowie did not so much dismiss the question as vaporise it. He was, he retorted, far more interested in Prince. This was, after all, during the decade when Prince was one of the quartet of solo megastars who dominated the American popscape, alongside sweatily heroic everyman-writ-large Bruce Springsteen, professional bad girl Madonna and fleet-footed Peter-Pan-with-issues Michael Jackson. Canny as ever, Bowie was already keenly aware that his previously unchallenged position as the brilliant magpie at pop’s cutting edge was about to be usurped by that (self-styled) ‘skinny motherfucker with the high voice’.
Pete Townshend compared him to Mozart; Robert Christgau, the self-styled (but justifiably so) ‘Dean of American Rock Critics’, anointed him as the ‘most gifted recording artist of the era’ and ‘our greatest popular musician’. Now in his mid-
fifties with a recording career stretching back almost three-and-a-half decades, Prince Rogers Nelson