Something Wrong with the Machinery: How Prince Created and Was Doomed by the Sound of the ’80s

English: The Roger Linn LM-1.

While he’s grown into an internet-hating technophobe, in the ‘80s, Prince embraced new technologies with enthusiasm. He was one of the first to buy the LM-1, a $5,000 drum machine innovative for its use of sampled sounds.

The LM-1, designed in part by the drummer from Toto, was a revolutionary device. Previous drum machines made drums with electronic waveforms and white noise. The LM-1 offered different sounds and the chance to customize them (except for adding a crash symbol; that was another $3,000. No joke). The drums on “1999” and “Purple Rain” probably blew peoples’ minds.

Then everybody went out and bought an LM-1, and it became the drum sound of the ‘80s. There seems to be a signature Prince setting for it, too: a distinctive echo-ey mix of handclaps and percussion for the snare and a second line of electronic conga-like percussion that counterpoints the main beat.

Now, the “Prince beat” sounds like every single drum beat from the 1980s.

The one glaring exception is “I Would Die 4 U,” which has this pulsing electronic snare sound that would sound at home on a Daft Punk record.


Published by Mister Bulger

Adam Bulger is a frequent contributor to the parenting website He's written for the wedding site and the college student aide Less recently, he's written for The Believer, Forbes, The Atlantic's website, Suicidegirls, Inked Magazine and probably about a dozen other places that are too obscure or defunct to bother listing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: