With nearly 40 studio albums over his career, it’s not an exaggeration to say that Prince had an outsized catalog. He needed a place to make his music that was just as big, just as expansive as his work, and he had one: Paisley Park.
The 65,000-square-foot building in Chanhassen, Minnesota served as a recording and production studio as well as private residence for the musician. And shortly after the singer’s death in 2016, Paisley Park was opened to the public.
Visitors can now see the complex where Prince recorded several of his albums, and artists including James Brown, Neil Young, and Madonna came to record as well. Also on view are memorabilia from the artist including instruments, artwork, motorcycles, and rare recordings. And, oh yeah, the actual sounds of doves crying.
Prince envisioned Paisley Park, built in 1987, as a place that wouldn’t just enable him to produce his musical work, but be a creative space for film and commercial productions, performance, and clothing production. So what should fans of the late performer making the trek to the Minneapolis suburb expect?
Well, for starters, as you enter you’ll hear the sounds of Majesty and Divinity, Prince’s pet doves. You’ll see an urn, shaped like Paisley Park and decorated with white doves, crystals, and a replica of his purple piano. And yes, that urn contains the singer’s ashes. Depending on the level of access you choose on the tour, you can also enjoy a vegetarian meal at the end.
Although close to Minneapolis, a city whose musical culture was influenced by Prince, Paisley Park wasn’t as much a part of that city’s musical scene as you would think. “If someone wants action and an exciting, dynamic night life, they are probably going to be disappointed,” studio manager John Dressell told the New York Times three years after the complex’s opening. “For people who are serious about making records, this is a great place to come.”
The complex has been host to concert rehearsals from artists as diverse as Kool and the Gang and Barry Manilow. Albums by R.E.M., Stone Temple Pilots, Mavis Staples, and George Clinton were produced or recorded (at least in part) in the Paisley Park studios. At one point, the amount of production work being done at the complex lead to the Minneapolis region being ranked fourth in “film and video production revenues, behind Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.”
With the musician’s death, there’s little chance of recapturing the exact feeling that must have pulsed through the building at its peak. But the museum offers a glimpse into his life, and an opportunity to remember his musical legacy.
Know Before You Go
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