TRACK MARKS: “Kiss” by Prince

In April of 2001, the struggling Arizona Top 40 radio station 104.7 ZZP  was getting ready to relaunch as 104.7 KISS-FM. The station’s format was undergoing a transition from Mainstream Top 40 to Rhythmic Top 40, and the change would be punctuated by three days of “stunting.”  Stunting is a common radio practice of abruptly airing something unusual, often used when stations change formats or owners as a way of generating listener interest and publicity. From 6pm on April 20th to noon on April 23rd, 104.7 would play Prince’s “Kiss” on a loop.

I didn’t know any of this radio business background at the time. And I didn’t even really know much about Prince. Sure, I’d seen the Batman movie with his music, missed this Animaniacs joke going right over my head as a kid, and knew Purple Rain was a thing that existed, but I didn’t have particularly cool musical tastes and couldn’t have told you much beyond that. I’d flip around hunting for songs I liked on the radio, but I didn’t buy many albums or go see much live music. What I did do, as a high school senior in Apache Junction, AZ, was go to the park on weekend evenings to goof off and play racquetball with friends until the park closed. Then maybe we’d go back to my folks’ place and bake some cookies before watching a movie or SNL. I was Not Cool, I wasn’t particularly self-conscious about that, and this isn’t a story about how Prince changed my life or anything. But one thing that was really special about him was that he made a world that was cool and sexy and kind of dangerous accessible to even a square kid sitting in the parking lot at Prospector Park, listening to that song one more time (okay, maybe two more times) before getting out to play.

I left the dial tuned to 104.7 that entire weekend. “Kiss” is pretty immediately arresting, with its stripped down arrangement, that jangly guitar lick right before the last word in the chorus, and Prince’s slippery falsetto lead vocal. It was so different, and I admit I genuinely wasn’t even sure at first whether I was listening to a man or a woman. The song is funky as hell and doesn’t even have a bass line. It also felt sexier than anything I’d ever heard on the radio, and he was mostly just singing about getting a kiss.

I don’t know how many times I listened to that song in those three days, but I do know I was genuinely disappointed on April 23rd when the world went back to normal.