When Prince Rocked the Revived ‘Arsenio Hall Show’
Although the early-'10s reboot of The Arsenio Hall Show was short-lived, it featured one very memorable occasion: an entire evening dedicated to Prince.
Recorded March 4, 2014 and airing the next night, the episode featured everything that made the Purple One so magnetic: engrossing live performances, fascinating conversations and plenty of witty humor.
“Prince is here all night long,” Hall boasted in the episode’s opening moments. “And to get things started is his rocking group who considers themselves an astral traveling explosion of awesome. Performing ‘FUNKNROLL,’ give it up for 3rdeyegirl.”
From there, a troupe of dancers hit the stage, backed by an infectious drum beat. Prince quickly emerged from behind a satin sheet, launching into the tune’s funky lyrics. The highly energetic opening performance set the tone for a night of revelry which was more like a house party than a television taping.
At this point, Prince and Hall had been friends for many years, a bond that stretched back to the early ‘90s. The Purple One appeared on the first iteration of Hall’s TV show multiple times. And, as the host revealed, Prince was the first person to call and congratulate Hall following the announcement of his return to late night.
As such, the 2014 TV appearance had a casual air, more like friends catching up than a stuffy Q&A. Indeed, the usually guarded Prince seemed more at ease talking to Hall than he did in almost any other interview.
Following the opening performance and Hall’s monologue -- one of the only non-Prince moments of the night -- the two men sat down for their conversation. The topics spanned the gamut of music and everyday life.
Early in the discussion, Prince admitted he did not own a cell phone, a confession which shocked Hall. “How do you survive in this world without a cell phone?” the late night host inquired. The Purple One simply smirked and replied, “Everybody I know has one.” Despite his aversion to cell phones, Prince admitted he’d embraced social media, even joking that he was trying to get “Prince-stagram.”
Later, Hall presented the music icon with a hypothetical: “If you weren’t Prince, what would you do for a living?” The question garnered a memory from the singer’s youth. “When I was 16 I was completely broke and needed to go get a job,” Prince recalled. “So I got the Yellow Pages out and I couldn’t find one thing that I wanted to do. So I decided I was going to push as hard as I could to become a musician and went at it.”
Upon further reflection, the icon later added that he’d want to teach music to others if he couldn’t play himself, a response which garnered cheers from the studio audience.
Following a commercial break, Prince returned to the performance space, delivering an electric version of “She’s Always in My Hair,” the track originally released as the b-side to “Raspberry Beret.” The rendition was highlighted by searing guitar solos and powerful vocals, with Prince encouraging the crowd to rock along with him.
Next, fans were given the chance to interview the legend, as Prince answered questions from members of the studio audience. “Have you ever bought anything off of an infomercial?” posed a smiling man dressed in purple, to which Prince flippantly replied, “What’s an infomercial?” “Everybody has a pet peeve,” noted the next audience member. “What really, really annoys you?” After pausing for a moment, Prince responded, “Strangers touching my hair.” When another fan asked what household chore the singer attended to himself, Prince revealed that he could cook, but was limited to just one dish. “Omelets. All my friends have high cholesterol.”
Arguably the most unique -- and unusual -- moment in the show came next. An audience member claimed his out-of-state girlfriend had been cheating on him and he wanted to end it. The fan enlisted Prince to break up with his girlfriend live over the phone. “I have a message for you,” Purple One proclaimed to the woman on the other end of the line. “In this relationship, things are much harder than in the single world,” Prince dryly remarked, echoing the famous intro to his hit song “Let’s Go Crazy.” The legendary musician then made the breakup official, telling the woman, “In this life, you’re on your own.”
Prince closed the evening with a performance of “Mutiny,” a track penned originally for the Family’s self-titled 1985 LP. Backed by the New Power Generation, including its mighty horn section, the funked-out tune exploded off the stage. Prince, wearing his third outfit of the evening, danced and strutted his way across the floor. The audience, no longer in their seats, grooved along to the performance mere feet away from the vaunted star. For a brief moment, the Purple One turned a Hollywood soundstage into his own personal dance party, and everyone in attendance was happily along for the ride.
The Arsenio Hall Show would be canceled on May 30, 2014, less than three months after Prince’s appearance. While the revived version of the late night show left only a blip on the television landscape, the Purple One’s enthralling episode remains as a celebration of Prince’s unparalleled charisma.