My biggest regret: I had tickets to a secret Prince gig – but was too tired to go

·3-min read

It all started with an email from my friend Matt: “Prince is playing a secret gig at Koko in Camden. Tickets on sale at 10am.” Attending a secret gig had always been top of my bucket list. I’d come close once, when I turned up late to a mid-90s club night to discover that Philly rap legends the Roots had just finished playing an impromptu set. I was gutted. So when I got Matt’s email, I knew what I had to do: get tickets for my wife and me, book a train to London from Birmingham, find a hotel, and wrangle a grandparent to look after our two kids, who were then four and seven months old. With that sorted, we could do a leisurely hop down to London and have a power nap in our hotel, before heading off to see Prince and party like it was … well … 2007.

That was the plan.

The problem wasn’t, as you might expect, getting tickets. After 10 minutes of constantly refreshing my browser, I bagged two. Job done. We were going to a secret Prince gig! However, my euphoria was short-lived. For some reason, the date on the tickets was for that day. My stomach lurched as all the key stages of the morning suddenly flashed before me. Had anyone actually said the gig wasn’t today? I called Matt: “I thought you knew,” he said.

I couldn’t believe it. I had the hottest tickets on the planet but no babysitter; my wife was still breastfeeding our youngest; and I had a meeting first thing next day. Even if all the other obstacles could have been overcome, one remained – and it was a big one. According to the tickets, the doors didn’t open until 9pm. “What sort of gig starts that late?” I asked Matt. “The sort where the performer comes on stage at 11pm,” he replied. “Prince is notorious for it.”

So, say we got a babysitter, say my wife spent the day hooked up to a breast pump, say I managed to move my meeting and get us down to London. What were the chances of two sleep-deprived parents staying awake until the Purple One came on stage? I flashed forward 24 hours: even the thought of how tired I might be was enough to make me feel ill. And so, with a heavy heart, we gave the tickets away, consoling ourselves with the idea that we’d see Prince some other time, when life wasn’t quite so fraught.

But we never did. There was always something more pressing. And now, of course, we never will.

By all accounts, the gig was amazing, even though Prince didn’t come on stage until 11.30pm. To compensate, he played everything from Girls and Boys to U Got the Look and even threw in a cover of Amy Winehouse’s Love Is a Losing Game. Years later, whenever I think of that time, it’s always with regret. Yes, it would have been a logistical nightmare, and we’d have had to consume our body weight in Red Bull to stay awake, but at least we would have been there. As parents of young kids, it’s easy to feel like you couldn’t take on one more thing without falling apart, but I’ve always wished we’d embraced the spirit of Prince and let ourselves “go crazy”.

The Museum of Ordinary People by Mike Gayle is out in paperback on 16 March