Warner Bros. Records, October 27, 1982
Track Listing: 1. 1999, 2. Little Red Corvette, 3. Delirious, 4. Let’s Pretend We’re Married, 5. D.M.S.R., 6. Automatic, 7. Something in the Water (Does Not Compute),
8. Free, 9. Lady Cab Driver, 10. All the Critics Love U in New York, 11. International Lover
I see the fingernail on my left thumb, which is sliced in half from the base all the way up through the tip. A Doberman Pinscher had taken a chomp, when my hand ended up in the dog’s mouth, in the way stupid accidents happen every single day. How never matters—only that one of its teeth tore my big nail into two and that permanent disfigurement was my immediate concern.
There was a lot of blood and pain; the wound sure looked ugly. My digit was puffy, jagged and crusted. I was hurt. Skies were worse than purple.
Weeks passed fretting over whether or not the nail would fall off and how the thumb might scar. Fortunately, the music took my mind away. Prince’s 1999 was recently released, and the album was a doozie, a celebration of pop, rock, R&B, soul and funk, inducing a generation to forget about disaster. Everybody have a good time! I looked from my thumb to the album cover and tossed the disc on the player each day for the next twelve weeks.
“I was dreamin’ when I wrote this
Forgive me if it goes astray
But when I woke up this mornin’
Could’ve sworn it was Judgment Day”
-from the song “1999”
Waiting for a new plate to grow took less time than arriving at the year marking the imminent end of the world, which, according to the song, was 1999. Turning to an album alluding to world destruction, in order to get over a broken nail, was brave in retrospect, but the formula worked. Thumping beats and provocative lyrics overshadowed any sense of doom from minute to minute, and the party grew larger.
A year into recovery/Judgment Day countdown, I watched Risky Business at Woodfield Mall Theatres, mesmerized. The song “D.M.S.R.” shook the house. At first, I thought it was an involuntary reaction to the distress of the situation. Joel Goodsen, the film’s hero, was behaving very badly, flushing his future down the drain by turning his house into a brothel, while his parents were away visiting an aunt. Then, I realized Joel and I played the same tune.
“Say everybody, get on the beat
We’re gonna show U muthas how 2 scream
Loosen up your hair
Take a deeper breath and sing along with me”
The music played on and on. I made it through. For seventeen whole years, Prince warned about a limited opportunity to make the most of days on earth. I danced with my hands in the air.
A new nail. 1999. Both are inconsequential afterthoughts in 2007. Perhaps Prince’s pumping jams inflated events bigger than they were; however, I cannot imagine getting through one without the other. The music effectively erased calendars plotting life’s milestones.
“Don’t sleep until the sunrise, listen 2 the falling rain
Don’t worry ’bout 2morrow, don’t worry ’bout your pain
Don’t cry unless U’re happy, don’t smile unless U’re blue”
My fingernail is not disfigured by any stretch. It is changed in the twenty-first century. Visible scar tissue formed below where the cuticle permanently dips in the area of the initial puncture. The sagging skin is aligned with an almost undetectable ridge through the nail, tracing where the “quick” tore. Most thankfully, the end of the world did not arrive with the year 1999.
With age, larger challenges loom, but the song, the album, is available to play through every interim. The lyrics shout out the same as when I was first bitten.
“I don’t wanna die
I’d rather dance my life away (1999)
Listen 2 what I’m tryin’ 2 say
Everybody, everybody say party!
Come on now, U say it (Party!)
That’s right, everybody say Party!”