Prince Makes Unique ‘American Bandstand’ Debut

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America’s oldest teenager interviews a coy Prince on American Bandstand on January 26, 1980

As a 19-year-old prodigy signed to Warner Bros. Records, Prince’s debut album, For You, released in April 1978, a few months before his 20th birthday, pretty much stiffed. But that’s besides the point. There aren’t many talents that a major label would entrust to produce, arrange, compose and perform an entire album, let alone a teenager. The album peaked at just #138 on the sales chart.

He went back in the studio and took a long time–by his standards–to record the follow-up. The self-titled Prince arrived in October 1979 and the artistic growth was evident. The album’s first single, “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” released two months’ prior, took off immediately, hitting #1 on the Hot Soul chart (as it was called then) and #11 on the pop charts, paving the way for the album’s success. Prince would reach #22, establishing him as a star on the rise.

The album’s second single, “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?”, was released on January 23, 1980 and the label scheduled an appearance on Jan. 26 for its young talent on American Bandstand. (Some reports note that it was pre-taped on Dec. 16, 1979.)

In between songs, America’s oldest teenager interviewed the wunderkind and it’s both fascinating and cringe-inducing to watch. Dick Clark’s first question–more of a statement, actually–elicits a simple “No” in response.

When asked how old he is, Prince says he’s 19. He was born on June 7, 1958, so he was actually less than five months before his 22nd birthday. Clark’s follow-up questions get only short responses like “Don’t know” and “Maybe.”

Our Classic Video is pretty grainy but well worth watching…

Related: Prince revealed his genius in 1981 interview

Amazing but true: neither “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?” nor any of Prince’s next five singles charted on the Hot 100.

Best Classic Bands Staff

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