Reporters thought they were getting another typical Super Bowl press conference when they arrived for the media event on Feb. 1, 2007. But with Prince, nothing was typical.

The Purple One was that year’s halftime performer, ready to bring his electrifying live show to the nation’s biggest stage. As is customary for every Super Bowl, the anthem singer -- that year, Billy Joel -- and the halftime performer would be scheduled for a press appearance prior to game day. There was just one problem; “I don’t do interviews,” Prince explained to halftime show producers.

The iconic rocker was notoriously wary of the media, a viewpoint which clashed with the Super Bowl’s desire for all-engrossing coverage. In a conversation with The Ringer, executive producer Don Mischer revealed the compromise Prince proposed. “He said, ‘I’m just gonna play for them.’ And we said ‘OK.’”

Exactly what Prince would perform for the media remained a secret, even to the members of his band.

“Once again, Prince being a master of just stirring the pot and really doing something different,” Prince’s keyboardist Morris Hayes remembered. “He had said, ‘We’re gonna have this press conference, but just be ready for anything.’”

As members of the media slowly made their way into the conference area of the Miami Beach Convention Center, murmurs of a possible Prince performance began to spread.

“I was there early,” recalled J.A. Adande, columnist for the Los Angeles Times and ESPN. “There’s instruments set up. So I think he really is gonna perform.”

After a brief introduction from Mischer, Prince strode onto the stage. The musician was flanked by his dancers, Nandy and Maya McClean, as well as his backing band.

“We hope we don’t rock your ears too much,” the iconic performer declared to the assembled press. “Contrary to rumor, I’d like to take a few questions right now.”

Someone began to ask. “Prince, how do you feel about performing…,” at which point he was cut off by a loud guitar riff. Prince then launched into a cover of the Chuck Berry classic, “Johnny B. Goode.”

“We didn’t know he was gonna do that,” Nandy McClean admitted. “I reacted and laughed when it happened. He’s keeping us on our toes.”

Prince followed “Johnny B. Goode” with a fiery rendition of “Anotherloverholenyohead,” complete with wailing guitar solo and even a snippet of the B-52's "Rock Lobster." “Get on the Boat,” from his 2006 LP 3121, closed the three-song set. The audience of reporters seemed stunned by what they witnessed.

“It was labeled a press conference, so people weren’t in concert mode,” Adande explained. “There was a smattering of applause, because journalists don’t applaud at press conferences. Folks stayed in their seats.”

Charles Coplin, then the NFL’s head of programming, thought the response was exactly what the artist had hoped for. “That was typical Prince,” Coplin noted, alluding to the rocker’s wry sense of humor. “I’m gonna fuck with you, but I’m gonna make you happy.”

 

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