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When Doves Cry: My Memories with Prince

Prince and David Tickle (AP / David Tickle)
AP / David Tickle

I woke up Thursday morning. The first thing on my agenda was a 10 a.m. call with my partners, Tim More and promoter Donnie Frezell, to put together the guarantee fee for three shows with Prince in California this coming summer.

At the time, I was listening to the Alex Jones show. 10 a.m. hit, and I heard Alex saying that Prince had just died.


The phone rings — it’s Donnie. I just blurted out, “I just heard Prince died! I don’t believe it.”

We both then just checked the news, and there it was …

The night before, I kept having a short dream of Prince onstage, saying ”I’m not done yet!” — a line he would say on a third encore.

I am David Tickle. I had the absolute pleasure to have worked with Prince intimately to help him realize his visions. He hired me to produce everything on the sonic production side — from recoding, production, and live sound, to the design of his Paisley Park studios.

I want to express my saddest regrets that he has passed over so unexpectedly. R.I.P., Prince. I love you, my brother.

I just don’t understand. He was the healthiest artist I’ve ever worked with. Today in town, I heard someone say, “Oh he was big in the 80s, lot of coke, it’s hard on your heart.” I stopped, and said, “Sorry, not true.”

I never saw Prince EVER take ANY drug. In three years I saw him once drink half a glass of white wine. He was just driven by pure inspiration.

He would just call me in my room, and say, “David, are you asleep?

“Not now, Prince what’s up?”

“I’ve got a song, let’s go record it now.”

We would go into the studio and not leave till it was finished and mixed! That could take 24 hours, or 48, and — twice — 70-plus something hours until it was finished and mixed.

Every song was a piece of ART, a moment in time. Incredibly hard work sometimes — but we were making art!

Prince is the most amazing artist I have ever worked with as a single talent. As a writer, artist, performer — he could touch all the bases with sheer astonishment.

How we met: Prince came to a Peter Gabriel show that musicians Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman said he had to see. I was mixing the live front-of-house sound for Peter’s tour. Peter had hired me to do his sound, a. because I was a fan; b. I knew how to mix records on the exotic SSL console.

This is only important to the extent that with that technology live, we could create studio quality sound, live, for thousands of people. It sounded the same as the record, but bigger.

At the time, there was something else we could do with the console, which was compression and live gating of the sound. That meant I could cut off a background sound when the instrument was not playing. Instead of a buzz in the background, we had a clean sound.

I could put a reverb on a drum, for example, of 8 seconds, compress it and then cut it off at 1.5 seconds. That would make the sound very dramatic. That sound was what Prince was looking for his signature tune, “When Doves Cry.”

Prince heard that effect on the show. He was so inspired that night that he went to his place in L.A. and wrote “When Doves Cry.” The next day, he asked his manager, the late Steven Fargnoli, to track me down. After a few months he found me working at Genesis Studios in the UK. Steve said Prince wanted to meet me. I was on a flight the next day to Minneapolis — I had been a huge fan of Prince since his first album.

The moment I met him, history was being made. Oh — I have so many stories from there — it’s a whole book!

Prince, I love you, and rest in peace. Your presence and work will live forever!

David Tickle is a producer and engineer who worked with Prince on Purple Rain and other albums, and toured extensively with Prince and his band. Known for his work in the 1980s New Wave movement, he has also produced music by various recording artists, including Ringo Starr, U2, Mick Jagger, Belinda Carlisle, Blondie, Split Enz, Rod Stewart, and many others.


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