When Night Ranger ‘Pissed the Crap’ Out of Prince at the AMAs
At the height of his career, Prince was notorious for having strict rules regarding how he interacted with others. In early 1985, Night Ranger managed to break all of them.
“We’re at the American Music Awards, with Dick Clark - he asked us to be the presenters of the Album of the Year,” Night Ranger frontman Jack Blades explains to UCR. “We figured, ‘Okay, it’s going to be Purple Rain.’”
Blades wasn’t the only one who assumed Prince would take home the top honors. A week before the event, the Purple One’s management sent a letter to Night Ranger’s team, informing them of how to act when giving Prince the award.
“We understand that Jack Blades and [drummer] Kelly Keagy are going to be the presenters of the Album of the Year, and the possibility that Prince’s Purple Rain will be that record is very high,” Blades recalls the letter saying. “We want to inform you that in no way should Jack Blades or Kelly Keagy speak to Prince or touch Prince or in any way acknowledge him whatsoever.”
The instructions prompted a strong response from Blades.
“You tell somebody like me something like that [and I immediately want to break all of those rules],” the rocker admits.
At the awards show, the Night Ranger duo was seated directly behind Prince and immediately decided to interact as often as possible with him.
“Every time somebody won something, I’d lean over and tap him on the shoulder, ‘Prince, can you believe that, man?’" Blades recalls. “He’s turning around and looking at us. We’re like, ‘That’s unbelievable, man!’ We’re patting him on the back and everything. [Laughs] I’m sure, just pissin’ the shit out of him!”
The Night Ranger guys continued to ignore the rules when presenting Album of the Year.
“We get up onstage and we present the award. Of course, he won. Purple Rain, of course, won,” Blades explains. “He walks up. We’re not supposed to say anything. I hand him the thing and said, ‘Way to go, Prince, man! Good job! What do you think?’ We just started talking to him and it must have just pissed the crap out of those guys. But yeah, it was pretty funny.”
Watch Night Ranger Present Prince Album of the Year at the 1985 American Music Awards
While some artists may have been intimidated by Prince and his entourage, Blades insists he was never concerned about receiving blowback for their actions.
“What are they going to say? ‘We’re going to arrest you for touching Prince!’" he laughs. “‘You’ll never tour with Prince again.’ We never toured with him anyway. What difference does it make?”
Decades later, the band crossed paths with Prince again, this time at the Pollstar Awards where Night Ranger were once again presenting. “I said, ‘Prince, man. It’s crazy, 20 years ago, we gave you the award on the American Music Awards for the Best Album,” Blades recalls.
“‘Here we are ... 20 years later. Twenty years have gone by, and you’re getting the award for the best tour.’ He turned around to me and said, ‘Yeah, man, sometimes it feels like it’s been 20 days, doesn’t it?’ I went, ‘You know what? You’re right.’ I thought that was beautiful.”
Night Ranger are set to release a new album, ATBPO, on Aug. 6.