The day Prince made Apollonia Kotero cry
Bare-chested on stage, Prince swaggers, glistening with perspiration in the crimson glow of an American nightclub. A crucifix necklace adorns his slender body. As the languorous notes of Darling Nikki commence, the metamorphosis of the star into erotic icon is complete. This torrid scene, from the film Purple Rain – a spin-off from the eponymous album released a year earlier in 1984 – is a pure concentrate of the sex-symbol’s imagery in the 1980s. In this somewhat awkward movie – saved only by its insanely brilliant soundtrack – Prince gazes at a woman in the audience: the tune, Darling Nikki, he sings is addressed to a certain Apollonia Kotero, who betrayed the singer by joining his rivals, a band called The Time. His character, the Kid bursts into song: “I knew a girl named Nikki I guess you could say she was a sex fiend, I met her in a hotel lobby masturbating with a magazine, She said how'd you like to waste some time and I could not resist when I saw little Nikki grind.” Eyes brimming with tears, crushed by regret and humiliation, Apollonia gets up and rushes out of the venue.
In 1985, Parents Music Resource Center’s objective was simple: to contain the spread of indecent lyrics as much as possible.
In the USA alone, Purple Rain sold 13 million copies. And among those curious to indulge in Prince’s sixth opus, was a certain Mary Elisabeth “Tipper” Gore, married at the time to Al Gore, future vice-president of America. When she put the record on her turntable and discovered Prince’s track, she was mortified: her 11-year old daughter who didn’t miss a second of scabrous and provocative opening verse of Darling Nikki, was also listening. The mother went bonkers. She couldn’t believe these “embarrassingly vulgar lyrics” and worried that “millions of Americans would buy this record without knowing what to expect.” Tipper Gore was of a conservative leaning with deeply ingrained traditional values, and this time things had gone too far. It was simply unimaginable to her that young people could be perverted by the release of musical works (from heavy metal to porno rock) and movies (from horror to ultra-violent). But Tipper Gore knew she couldn’t lead this fight against the perversion of the youth on her own. In the 1980s, a new Christian right was emerging under the Reagan administration, using biblical texts to comment on the chasms in an immoral society with the aim of re-establishing traditional Christian values.