Sign 'O the Times

Some musings after just listening to the 7th episode of the official Prince Podcast and enjoying some wonderful stories on the Sign O’ the Times Tour in Utrecht. That second night in the Galgenwaard Stadium, Saturday the 20th of June 1987 was the first Prince concert I attended, actually, it was the first substantial concert with an audience bigger than a few hundred people.

I have grown up listening to my father’s (dutch) rock’n roll singles and LP-collection. The very first years in my teenage life I started buying my own music but this was all over the place. The first single I bought was Under Pressure by David Bowie & Freddie Mercury, followed by Stray Cat Strut. Had my Doe Maar period and when Thriller took the world by storm I listened to that quite a lot too. But I was never a particular fan or follower of anyone or any type of music.

When Doves Cry

Suddenly, in August 1984, I was 14 years old, we were looking at Top Pop on dutch TV and this was the first time I noticed Prince. This guy was cool, this music ( When Doves Cry) really interesting. I was hooked on from the very first time I saw this videoclip on TV. Bought the Purple Rain album on the day it was released (as I would do so with many Prince albums in many years to come) and of course went to see the Purple Rain movie on the day it premiered in the Hoog Catherijne movie-theatre.

By the time Prince released his subsequent album (Around the World in a Day) I had already bought (by special order) the whole back catalog and transcribed all the lyrics which I kept in a big (purple) folder. The first time that we were aware of Prince coming to The Netherlands was in August 1986 (which was actually his second time). I was 16, but these were different times somehow and travelling on my own to Rotterdam for a concert did not seem like a possibility.

Sign O’ the Times

Sign O’ the Times was released early 1987, bought it on the first day and started listening. Like many of Prince’s albums, I took me some time to get acquainted with the different songs and genres but I loved it.

<em>Sign &lsquo;O the Times</em> album cover <em>Sign &lsquo;O the Times</em> compact cassette sleeve <em>Sign &lsquo;O the Times</em> album 12-inch single

Then the first news items appeared about an oncoming tour which would even visit our hometown of Utrecht. By then I met (my current wife and) girlfriend Daniëlle and this was a no-brainer; we will be going to attend that concert!

Ben Noz

Buying tickets for a major concert was a whole different thing back in the day. The tickets would go on sale on Saturday morning May 9th, at 9:00 at a store called Ben Noz. Ben Noz, actually the name of the owner, was a cigarette store at the Amsterdamse straatweg in Utrecht that had specialised in ticket sales.

On the Friday before, at about 13:00 and just after school, I took the bus to the Amsterdamse straatweg to be in a waiting line for the ticket sale starting next morning, carrying a folding chair, a sleeping bag and some food while fully expecting to sleep on the street in front of the ticket shop. When I arrived at the shop there were maybe 10 or 20 people already in line so I was quite early and should be able to acquire the tickets when all went well. If I remember correctly, we kept sort of notice of the order in the line like “I am after you and you are after me”, while it quickly became more crowded on this main road with heavy traffic. During the afternoon it just became too busy and noisy, the police showed up a couple of times etc.

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First Night at Galgenwaard

While I do not know if this escalation scenario already existed, or was even used on previous ticket sales for other artists, but early Friday evening we got the message that the ticket sale by Ben Noz would be moved to De Galgenwaard soccer stadium (with the start of ticketsale still scheduled next morning at 09:00 AM) because the situation at Amsterdamse straatweg was getting out of control.

Someone from the shop came outside and started to hand out numbered ticket stubs to (at least) the first group of people that were in the waiting line. Ticket sales would start next morning in the order of the numbered stubs. In theory I could go home, sleep in a bed and show up on time at De Galgenwaard next morning. But I did not, maybe I did not trust the sale to be this organised or maybe I did not want to leave the excitement of the waiting line with all this Prince fams. This must have been the first time I actually met other people that were as much, or more, into Prince’s music as I was.

So most of us moved a few kilometres to the parking lots of Stadium Galgenwaard, on the outskirts of the city of Utrecht. There was space and opportunity for a lot of people to gather during the night without bothering the other inhabitants of Utrecht too much.

And what a night this became, I met so many Prince fans, we discussed lyrics, we listened to Sign O’ the Times and many other albums over-and-over on boomboxes and we all kept awake this night. Facilities started to arise there, people selling (illegal probably) food and drinks, Brooklyn Gym (where I would spent many hours a few years later) became the place to be for warm coffee or a toilet-visit. At some point someone showed up in a (little) Red Corvette, that was received extremely well by this particular crowd.

That night I met this guy in dreads named Rop who thought me for the first time and in detail about bootlegs and how to find them, and promised to lend me his bootleg LPs in the coming weeks (which he followed through, I remember Chocolate Box and Charade).

There was live music by people that had brought guitars, tambourines and drums, singing together around a small campfire. This was an unreal night of fun. Next morning, at 09:00 AM, things went pretty nice and organised and it was almost a shame to leave this place once I got the tickets. But nobody slept that night and we got the tickets we came for, so most people said goodbye and I went home.

One of our tickets for the Saturday, June 20th, 1987 show with the request: <em>&lsquo;Wear something Peach &hellip;or Black!&rsquo;</em>

Beautiful Night at Galgenwaard

We had tickets for the second night, June 20th (somehow I did not occur to us to buy tickets for more than one night nor would I really have had the money to do so) but the whole Prince frenzy started in Utrecht on the Friday night before, when the first of 4 concerts in Utrecht materialised.

If we listened carefully on the balcony, we could hear the faint music and noise from audience at the concert. This first ever pop concert in Galgenwaard was all over the news on TV and all over the morning papers that Saturday morning. Hours before the concert we would leave for Galgenwaard which was like a 20 minute bicycle ride from home. We were dressed in “Peach and Black” like Prince asked us to do and we got our first goosebumps when (I think it was at Ledig Erf) this house had this a peach-and-black banner covering most of the facade, saying “It’s gonna be a beautiful night”.

The concert organizer was spreading this flyers about the chairs that were placed on the field Sign &lsquo;O the Times Tour in Stadion Galgenwaard (source: unknown) A promotional flyer for the originally planned european tour dates. Eventually the Wembley Stadium concerts would be cancelled and replaced by 3 more concerts in Holland at Ahoy, Rotterdam. Mainstream magazine raving about Prince in Utrecht

And so it was, a beautiful night. Other people are way more capable or informed to describe the actual concert, but to me it was then, and it still is, the best concert I ever attended.

What a show, what a mind-blowing decor, what perfectly performed music with long stretched version of Forever in my Life, one of my favourites, and the energy between the stage and the audience during a never-ending encore of It’s gonna be a Beautiful Night. But this encore did end eventually and we went home completely buzzing.

Over the years I’ve heard a lot of other people stating similar; but this was the best concert I would ever see, and it would spoil all the other concerts afterward just a tiny bit, because I would always compare those to Sign O’ the Times in Galgenwaard.

The following summer we could relive the experience when a concert movie was released that we went to see on the day of the premiere obviously.

<em>Sign &lsquo;O the Times</em> movie poster Ticket stub from viewing the <em>Sign &lsquo;O the Times</em> convert movie in the Hoog Catherijne movie theatre in Utrecht on the night of the dutch premiere

Sign O’ The Times - 2020 Super Deluxe Edition

Now we’re in 2020, we lost Prince a few years ago, and this September his estate released a so called Super Deluxe Edition of the remastered Sign O’ the Times album. This set contains an integral recording of just one concert out of that illusive Sign O’ the Times tour

Saturday, June 20th, 1987, Stadion Galgenwaard, Utrecht … our first ever Prince concert !

In the 2020 a remastered set was released as the <em>Sign &lsquo;O the Times Super Deluxe Edition</em> and contained a DVD recording of our very first <em>Prince</em> concert in 1987 An outtake of the original photosession for the <em>Sign &lsquo;O the Times</em> sleeve was used as the cover of a massive book included in the <em>Super Deluxe Edition</em> (what&rsquo;s in a name)