“Prince made me stand in front of a mirror for eight hours”: This is what it was like being in Prince’s band at the height of the Purple One’s '80s superstardom

Prince on the Purple Rain tour
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Prince’s live band took on many different guises throughout the Purple One’s career but the finest remains his first – the Revolution. They were the crew playing with him when his career went supernova, appearing on the albums from 1982’s 1999 through to 1986’s Parade, a period that also included the humungous, era-defining Purple Rain. Live, the group hit new heights, quickly establishing themselves as one of the decade's must-see acts. It wasn’t an accident.

In an interview with The New Cue in 2022, Prince’s bandmates Bobby Z (drums) and Mark Brown (bass) recalled the lengths that their boss went to in the name of ensuring everything was perfect.

“Prince would be like, 'What are you doing with your baby finger of your left hand?',” said Bobby Z, recalling the choreography that went into the show. “There was no part of the body that didn’t have movement!”

His bandmate agreed.

“Prince lived what he was, that’s what made him different from a lot of musicians,” Mark Brown told The New Cue. “Prince lived and breathed the image, it’s not fake, he’s not putting on a show. He and Michael Jackson, in my opinion, are some of the most prolific artists of our time because they woke up in the morning and that’s just who they are. They lived and breathed every second of it. They studied every move that they made.”

Then came Brown’s big revelation:

“When I first joined the band, Prince made me stand eight hours in front of a mirror for the first week at his house.”

Sorry, what?

“I’d have to stand in front of a mirror and look at myself. I’m like, What is this, this is nuts! And he would leave the room and then I would sit down on the couch. I’d hear him coming back up the steps or down the stairs and I jump up and get back in front of the mirror to make him think I was doing something!”

Further explaining the situation, Bobby Z said it was all part of what made Prince and their live set so special.

“We’d rehearse in front of big ballet mirrors and you’d really find out what your left hand is doing, what your eyes are doing, but he was working the same sweat, he was pushing himself so hard that you rose to it on a kind of a supernatural level. We watched ourselves on tape, we listened to ourselves on tape, we’d practice in front of a mirror, this was our daily routine.”

It paid off, as you can see from this clip of Prince And The Revolution at the very top of their game. 

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer for The Guardian, Variety and Classic Rock, and co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former editors of Q magazine Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. Niall has written for NME, X-Ray Magazine and XFM Online and interviewed some of music’s biggest stars, including Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, St Vincent, The 1975, Depeche Mode, Radiohead and many more.