How Much Does Detroit Techno Owe to Prince?


Freed made the trek to Detroit for the opening night of the tour, and the excitement was palpable. “It was electric,” remembers Freed. “The radio’s going nuts. It felt very big.” Freed says, adding that being in a different city made it feel like what was happening back home was real, “You don’t know a lot of people there, you’re not in a familiar environment. It was a form of validation.”

Prince and the Revolution returned to Detroit in 1986, for a pair of shows that included a show at Cobo Hall on the night of Prince’s 28th birthday. “Detroit is like my home town – I mean that. I could’ve stayed in my town and partied but I wanted to come down and party with you,” Prince said on stage that night. By then, Prince had moved on from mammoth tours and was starting to favor what would soon become one of his trademarks: the sneak-attack strategy. The Detroit shows were announced just days in advance.

In the audience at that birthday show was Detroit DJ Mike Servito. It was the first concert he ever attended; he was eleven at the time and was brought to the show by his older cousin. “I remember the room just being electric the entire time. The excitement level can’t be compared to anything. I was so young and so mesmerized and so aware.” Servito was also impressed by the scope of it all, with costume changes and skits leading in to songs. “There was so much going on because it was the extended Revolution. So many people on stage jamming and dancing. It was just incredible,” he says, and Prince himself did not disappoint. “He was jumping and spinning and doing everything I imagined. It’s insane to think he was only 28 at the time.”

On their way back home after the show, Servito and his cousin did what many Detroiters did that time of night; they tuned in to listen to the Electrifying Mojo’s show, where history was about to unfold. As one of Prince’s first and biggest supporters, Mojo had a very deep connection with a man who could be quite difficult to reach. That relationship was put on display when Prince called in to Mojo’s show after the Cobo Hall show for an interview, surprising even Mojo himself.

The first techno songs, created by Juan Atkins both as part of a duo with Rik Davis called Cybotron and eventually as a solo artist under the name Model 500, came out between 1983 and 1986. By the time those songs were released, techno’s pioneers had been receiving a heaping dose of Prince on Mojo’s show for years. He was one of Prince’s earliest adopters, but when it comes to techno music, he was the earliest adopter.

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