Prince Wrote Half Of Sign O’ The Times On A Three-Hour Plane Ride

One of his finest albums emerged during a plane ride.

December 08, 2016
Prince Wrote Half Of <i>Sign O’ The Times</i> On A Three-Hour Plane Ride Chris Graythen / Getty Images

GQ has assembled a massive roundtable of Prince stories from friends, bandmates, girlfriends, journalists, and business partners. If you're a fan, the entire thing is required reading for all the hilarious, heartbreaking, and inspiring new dimensions it provides into Prince's life.


One of the standout moments concerns not his eccentricities, but the sheer magnitude of his genius. According to Gilbert Davison, onetime president of Prince's compound Paisley Park, the artist began writing 1987's Sign O' The Times on a plane ride. By her account, the artist had written the first two sides of the legendary double album at the end of the three-and-a-half hour plane ride, and dove into recording as soon as they landed.

Read Davison's story below and read the whole thing here.

"We were on a flight from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, about a three-and-a-half-hour flight, and we'd been up pretty late the night before, but he wanted to go out to record. On the plane [he's] asking for pads and paper, and so I get him a notebook and pen and he starts writing, and he writes a poem, and he hands it to me. And I read it, and I go, 'Well, you know, that's nice…sounds clever, good.' I hand it back to him. Ten minutes, fifteen minutes later, he hands me another poem. I'm, like, 'Oh yeah, that's just as good as the first.' And I'm like, 'Why does he keep handing me these poems?' This goes on for the whole flight, and we land, and he says, 'Do you mind if we go to the studio?'—he was always cordial—and I'm like, you know, 'You can do whatever you want to do.' And he says, "Well, I'll just be there for a few hours and then we'll head to the house.' And so we go to the studio. We were in there for three days, almost four days, straight. When he's finished, I go into the studio and I'm listening to the music. I asked him on the way home: 'Did you have all that in your head? Not just the lyrics, not just the music, not just the melodies, but the arrangement, everything?' And he said, "Yeah, you know, I have to get it out when it's in there, or I can't sleep.' He had written [the first two album sides of] Sign o' the Times. He had basically written an album in a three-and-a half-hour plane ride."

Prince Wrote Half Of Sign O’ The Times On A Three-Hour Plane Ride