Peggy McCreary was working as a sound engineer at LA's Sunset Studios when she met the artist forever known as Prince.
“Well, I had no idea who he was,” Peggy recalls, “and I know that the [studio] receptionist was worried about me working on the weekend because there's not a lot of people around and she said he writes really dirty songs about giving head, and I thought 'ugh, god, who am I going to be working with all weekend?'.
“So my impression of who I was going to see and who actually walked in were totally different. He was always very polite and considerate and quiet, and just got down and started working.”
Over a career spanning four decades, Prince recorded volumes of material both for himself and for other artists he respected. Earlier this month saw the release of 'Originals', an album of songs that were written and recorded by Prince but released by other artists.
Prince is remembered and admired as a prolific songwriter whose creativity and musicality knew no bounds; even sleep was no barrier – Peggy remembers how the song 'Manic Monday' (released by The Bangles in 1986) originally came about. “He dreamed that song, 'Manic Monday',” she reveals.
“We got off at 6am and he called the session that night for 6pm, which gave me 12 hours off. I'd go home and go to bed, and I got a call at 10am that he's coming in at noon.
“He walks in and he waves these papers in my face and said 'I dreamed another verse'. So 'Manic Monday' was actually a song he went home and dreamed and couldn't wait to get in to the studio and cut it. I always thought that was so great because he was constant music [sic] and even in his dreams he was constantly composing something.”
How does that song go again? 'Six o'clock already / I was just in the middle of a dream...'; the man was a freaking genius.
As the sound engineer who worked with Prince on at least half of the tracks on 'Originals', Peggy got a rare insight into his often chaotic creative process. “He was different than anyone I had ever worked with,” she says.
“I had never worked with anybody like this before, and you always had to be ready for anything with him. I always had a blank 24-track tape, any machines ready, I had microphones all set up ready to go [because] it could change mid-song. [Prince] could stop and go out into the studio, he'd say 'put in a clean tape' and we'd be on to another song.
“Some of them went unfinished and I never knew where they went or what they were; I figured they'd be on tracks for the next decade because there was so much stuff we cut that never came out.”
The songs on 'Originals' have been pulled from the mysterious Prince vault, guarded closely by the Prince Estate and containing an untold wealth of music even Peggy hasn't heard since it was recorded.
“Just for instance, for the record company and the studio you had to have a title for what you had worked on that day and... there was never a good morning or a goodbye, [Prince] just left, so sometimes I would be doing something and he'd be gone so I didn't have a name for the song we were working on.
“This one night he was getting ready to go and I said 'stop, stop, stop – I need a title of the song that's unfinished for the record company and the studio'. He looked at me and said 'what's your middle name?' and I said 'Colleen' and he said 'write that down'.
"So there is actually a song called 'Colleen' – they just sent it to me and I heard it the other day,” she laughs, “that's what it was like working with him.”