A selection of wildly elaborate guitars, clothes and shoes. A purple pool table. Lots of old computers. Pill bottles — some containing vitamin supplements and aspirin, others prescribed. Pamphlets for a California rehab clinic. A festively decorated kitchen. A Bible, a dictionary, hard drives. Envelopes containing thousands of dollars in cash laying out in the open. A cluttered makeup table. Luggage. An almost comically plush bed with a fuzzy canopy. CDs by Joni Mitchell, Missing Persons and the Chambers Brothers. A motorcycle like the one in “Purple Rain” parked casually against a wall. A dove in a white cage. And seemingly acres of shelves loaded with tantalizing tape boxes — Prince’s much-vaunted vault, in a condition that makes an estate advisor’s claim that priceless recordings were in a state of deterioration seem very plausible.
This chaotic combination of opulence and everyday — which provides a glimpse into Prince’s life at his 65,000-square foot Paisley Park complex, his primary home and work base for nearly 30 years — is on display in the hundreds of photos of evidence that became public after Carver County authorities announced that there will be no criminal investigation into the artist’s death almost exactly two years ago, on April 21, 2016.
It’s a “Citizen Kane”-like scene that’s both enviable and very sad, snapshots from a life of nearly limitless talent and wealth, yet also chemical dependency and the desultory, discarded detritus you see from anyone who’s lived in the same place for almost 30 years. At times it’s uncomfortably voyeuristic.
Yet what’s most likely to be picked apart by fans are the contents of the vault. Most of the photos are too low-resolution for the writing on the tape boxes to be legible, but one box in the background of a different shot apparently contains the master for “Can I Play With U?,” a song from the mid-1980s that features Miles Davis (neither the jazz legend nor Prince were happy with the song, so it remains unreleased). The recordings have since been moved to a climate-controlled storage facility in Los Angeles, where the first results of the restoration project was released by the estate yesterday: Prince’s original version of “Nothing Compares 2 U.”
As for the countless items remaining at Paisley Park? Lots of them are probably still sitting there — the company recently posted an ad for an archives supervisor.